Akkeshi Distillery extracts first local peat

Hokkaido’s Akkeshi Distillery continues their work towards creating an all-Hokkaido version of Islay’s peaty malt whisky. This week they’ve gone and pulled their first load of peat from the ground in Akkeshi.

Peat is obviously one of the things you need to make peaty whisky. Specifically, it’s used to add smoky, vegetative, and briny notes to the distillate. You do this by burning the peat as you dry your malt(ed barley).

Per Hokkaido NP, this first load for Akkeshi Distillery is from within Akkeshi-cho. They’ve yanked some 5 tons–as a 1m thick layer–of the stuff from a 5m² plot of private land. After drying, they plan to use it alongside Akkeshi-grown malt from summer 2021, yielding around 5000L of peaty distillate.

Burning peat isn’t super friendly for the environment, given it’s a fossil fuel apparently even crappier than coal. But you can’t deny it adds something unique, profoundly changing a whisky regardless of how long it spends in a cask.

Up until now, Akkeshi has relied on imported peat to add peatiness to their malt. For Hokkaido peat, Nikka may have beat Akkeshi to the punch: they’ve been pulling peat from the Ishikari Plain for several years to use at Yoichi.

But it’s good to see another whisky maker going local. Now that the Akkeshi Distillery has Akkeshi malt, Akkeshi peat, and Akkeshi mizunara all lined up, they’re on track to achieve their goal of making all-Akkeshi whisky.

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