A shortage of a key peated whisky ingredient could make Islay spirits even rarer. Peated malt, which gives select Scotches their distinctive smoky flavor, are becoming increasingly difficult for distilleries to locate.
Port Ellen Maltings, a historic facility on Islay, has provided peated malt to seven surrounding distilleries since 1973. It’s currently owned by spirits conglomerate Diageo, which uses the malt at some of its own distilleries.
High demand for peated malt is lowering the supply available to Scotch producers, according to an Oct. 12 article from Master of Malt. An anonymous source tells the publication that increased demand at Port Ellen may be to blame.
According to the source, Port Ellen’s current clients will receive a less-than-usual supply this year, with non-Diageo client sales restricted in 2023 and beyond. This hasn’t yet been confirmed by the spirits conglomerate; however, Diageo’s head of corporate relations Ian Smith tells Master of Malt that the company is working with affected distilleries.
“We can’t comment on the detail of commercial supply contracts, but it is the case that we have seen significantly increased demand for malted barley from our Port Ellen maltings,” Smith says. “As a result, the maltings are operating at full capacity and we are managing supply accordingly. We deeply value our relationship with our fellow distillers and customers and are doing everything we can to assist them within the supply constraints, alongside considering potential future solutions.”
Malting in general will prove difficult in the coming years as international stock wanes and supply chains endure continued stress.
Peated malt, used in select styles of spirits and beer, is a natural material created from decomposed vegetation. While historically burned as a source of energy, modern-day applications of peated malt focus on its distinctly rich flavor. It provides an earthy wisp of smoke to ales, stouts, whiskies, and other beverages.