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Might “Cold Peating” Offer a New Approach for American Single-Malt Whiskey?

Granulated peat—pulled from American soil and driven by environmental concerns—is different from the peat moss traditionally used in the production of Scotch. At least one distillery is experimenting with cold infusions that add a different dimension to single-malt whiskey.

Sailor Guevara Mar 19, 2024 - 8 min read

Might “Cold Peating” Offer a New Approach for American Single-Malt Whiskey? Primary Image

In Aitkin County, Minnesota, a couple hours’ drive north of Minneapolis, American Peat Technology isn’t necessarily focused on producing anything for distillers. APT’s product—granulated peat—is a natural fertilizer, and the company aims to sell farmers a successful alternative to environmentally harmful chemical treatments.

Just the same, APT is partnering with one distillery—Brother Justus in Minneapolis—to produce a single-malt whiskey that is peated in a decidedly untraditional way.

Brad Pieper, CEO of APT, says the peat found in Aitkin County is unique. The company uses central Minnesota’s reed-sedge peat—meaning it’s lake peat, made from reeds and sedges—found in low-lying depressions at the bottom of former glacial lakes. Glaciers helped to shape Minnesota, after all, “the land of 10,000 lakes.”

“Reed-sedge peat has different characteristics than sphagnum peat, which is the type of peat that is abundant in Northern Ireland and Scotland,” Pieper says. “Sphagnum peat is very flammable, so it was a great heat source in places like Scotland for many years.” That’s also why people used it to dry the malt for making whiskey.

However, burning peat comes with real environmental concerns—it releases even more carbon into the atmosphere than coal does. “Romance aside,” Whiskey Magazine wrote in 2021, “a dug-up peat bank is a sign of significant environmental degradation.”

Thus, some distillers have been looking into alternatives.

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Sailor Guevara is a spirits specialist, hospitality veteran, published author, podcast host, and award-winning mixologist who’s been involved with the spirits industry for 30-plus years. She won the Icon of Whiskey Award in 2020, bestowed on the individual who most capably advances understanding and appreciation for the craft of whiskey-making.