Peat and Whisky

Whisky BOOK review: Peat and Whisky by Mike Billet

Writing a review of a bottle of whisky during Passover does not feel like a correct use of time. But I have no problem relating about a magnificent book that I finished recently.

Peat and Whisky – The Unbreakable Bond by Mike Billet. Published  2023 by Saraband

This book is not a history of the whisky industry. This book does not tell you how whisky is made. The author does not take you on a geologists guide to peat. And this is not a map of the peat lands of Scotland. And yet, after 350+ pages of riveting descriptions, you feel that all of these topics have been covered, and in depth.

We learn that peat covers up to about 15% to 20% of Scotland. It was formed about 10,000 years ago. And unlike other fossil fuels, it can be repaired. Different peat farms tweak the whisky in different ways. And the same can be said about the depth of the peat as which it is dug.

Peat’s relationship with the whisky industry begins as a fuel – to warm the workers and to heat the stills. The induction of smoky flavours soon followed. By the second half of the nineteenth century, it was being exported to Australia. However, its usage in the  Scottish whisky industry today only represents about 2% of its output.

Billet is a brilliant raconteur. He has literally walked around most of the peat bogs in Scotland. He knows the towns, villages, the best place to pitch a tent for the night, and the best pubs. You can almost drop into any chapter of the book and happily start reading.

However, I offer a word of warning. You cannot quick-read this masterpiece. It is literally like a great dram. It must be sipped slowly in order to appreciate fully its contents.

Billet also considers the future of the Scottish peat industry, as it cautiously welcomes conservation. Distilleries are increasingly wary of their carbon footprint, particularly the newbies. Smokey may come to mean something very different in the coming decade.

I will definitely be rereading parts of the this book. Whether geek or just generally interested in whisky, you will enjoy reading it. Recommended!



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