What does PPM Mean?

The total phenol parts per million (ppm) of the malted barley is one of the malting specifications required by the distiller. At a malting’s laboratory, samples of malt are analyzed for phenols, moisture, nitrogen content, and predicted spirit yield. Having malted barley peated to a higher ppm can contribute to a peatier-tasting whisky, but the ppm of the raw material is not a measurement of peat or smoke flavor in the bottle. Using the malt’s phenol ppm to predict final flavor (see below) is like trying to judge the value of a used car based on nothing but its original purchase price. It disregards the brand, underlying quality, mileage, and skill of the driver. Similarly, the ppm of the malt pays no heed to the art of making whisky; the milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation cuts, and maturation of which can each exert an effect on the degree of smoke and peat flavors that make their way into the bottle. Putting the peaty brinkmanship of Ardbeg Supernova Advanced Committee Release (100 ppm), and Bruichladdich’s Octomore 6.3 (258 ppm) and 8.3 (309 ppm) behind us, recent labels on whiskies from Ailsa Bay and AnCnoc have taken a lead in showing the ppm measured in the final liquid.

10 Whiskies Packing Peat

8 ppm—Hakushu 12 year old, Japan, $80
15 ppm—Tomatin Cù Bòcan, Highland, $60
20 ppm—Connemara 12 year old, Ireland, $75
22 ppm—Talisker 10 year old, Islands, $70
30-35 ppm—Paul John Peated Cask Strength, India, $100
35 ppm—Jura Prophecy, Islands, $80
55 ppm—Westland Peated Single Malt, America, $70
55-65 ppm—Ardbeg 10 year old, Islay $45
67 ppm—Benromach Peat Smoke, Speyside, $50
167 ppm—Bruichladdich Octomore 7.4, Islay, $250