In a hyper-local, terroir-driven take on our signature single malt whisky, Head Distiller Ari Klafter and Founder Andrew Howell visited a private family-owned bog along the banks of the Mississippi River in western Illinois, where they hand-cut blocks of peat. We then dried our peat at the distillery for five months before handing it off to our good friends at Sugar Creek Malt Co., a third-generation family farm.
True to our mission of using local ingredients as much as possible, we partnered with Sugar Creek, a family-run craft malthouse that sources grain from other local family farms and does everything by hand, including hand-turning their floor-malted germinating barley.
For the base grain, we chose a Pilsner malt for its soft, round character. The malt was kiln-dried and then cold-smoked using our local peat to delicately pass on the floral, earthy flavors that make this ingredient so unique. We then went to work making whisky using traditional single malt techniques we employ day-in and day-out — mashing by hand, fermenting off-grain, and double pot-distilling on our pair of copper stills.
Studying whisky-making in Scotland, you could say Ari has a passion for peat and considers it among the truest expressions of terroir in whisky. Peat is partially decomposed plant matter found in bogs that often takes thousands of years to accumulate. Historically used as a fuel source, peat has been used in Scotch whisky production for hundreds of years to smoke malted barley and contribute to the signature smoky, phenolic flavors associated with many Scotches.
Requiring very specific anaerobic conditions, peat bogs can be few and far between, and the flavors from peat can vary wildly, mimicking the environment in which it developed.
We’re fans of Grain to Glass, but we love Bog to Bottle! This has been a project several years in the making — now we’ll just need a little more patience as our Illinois peated whisky matures in our rickhouse.