Talnua's Aries Series is an ongoing series that features experimental whiskeys from our distillers. Get inside our distiller's head and learn more about the thinking behind experiment 001 in the Distiller's Notes below.
Aries Series: Vol. 001
Written by: Patrick F Miller, Founder & Head Distiller, 2023
In 2020 peated casks from Scotland were not available due to tariff related conflict. Talnua’s Peated Cask whiskey has traditionally been finished in Laphroaig barrels from Islay, Scotland, Suddenly, the source for peated casks was cut off. In an effort to continue the product line, the following experiment was conducted at the distillery.
Can a cask be smoked with peat turf and impart the same quality of flavor as the barrels that aged peated Scotch whiskey?
Does the use of Irish peat impart a different flavor profile than peat from Scotland?
Soaking barrel staves and cold smoking them will impart a balanced peat profile that will replace the use of Scottish peated barrels at the distillery. Furthermore, the use of Irish peat will produce a flavor profile equal in quality to casks used to age peated Scotch whiskey.
Irish peat turf was imported to the distillery through Glynn Brothers Traditional Irish Turf in Boston, Massachusetts. An ex-bourbon barrel was used as the vessel for the experiment. It was decided that the best method for smoking the barrel staves was to soak the staves for 24 hours in water, and then cold smoke them in a vertical smoker. The staves were smoked over the Irish peat fire for 12 hours.
The whiskey that was used was from our Continuum Cask. The barrel with smoked staves was filled on November 2nd, 2020 with Continuum Cask that had an 18 month age statement at fill date.
Observations & Conclusions
Samples were pulled every 9 months for taste testing. The first two tastings were concerning for the direction of the experiment. The peat smoke registered as harsh with a strong “ashy” flavor. It was astringent and the smoky elements lacked the desirable peat elements extracted from the Scotch barrels. We were hopeful that more time would soften the harsh elements present, but we were unsure if the whiskey was ever going to shed the more undesirable flavors. The third tasting yielded a very unexpected result. All of the harsh flavors had completely dissipated, but so had the flavors of peat. Both on the nose, and on the pallet, the peat barely registered. The whiskey was really tasting nice at an age statement of 3 years and 9 months, but we were disappointed that the whiskey had taken such a huge swing in the opposite direction.
We decided to continue on with the experiment and give it another 9 months. On the final tasting we were all extremely surprised that the peated flavor elements had not only returned, but had become incredibly well integrated into the whiskey. We have no explanation as to why this occurred. We believe that the oxidation happening in the cask combined with the temperature fluctuation through the passing seasons in between tastings, yielded the perfect balance of time and chemical composition. We also notice a unique taste to the Irish peat, but it has all of the desirable characteristics also present in the peated Scotch whiskey barrels.
We now know that with the appropriate amount of time, smoking our own casks on-site with Irish peat turf is both a viable and desirable way to continue on our Peated Cask American Single Pot Still Whiskey.
After all of the ups and downs of this experiment, we are proud to present this amazingly well balanced and bold smoked whiskey to the world!