Utilising an innovative finishing process, Brother Justus, a distillery based in Minnesota, has successfully crafted the world's inaugural cold-peated American single malt whiskey, marking a groundbreaking achievement.
Brother Justus Whiskey Company has filed patent applications in multiple countries, including Scotland and Ireland, for an innovative whisky-making technique. Unlike traditional methods that involve smoking malted barley, their process introduces peat during the finishing stage. This cold-peating process effectively eliminates impurities while imparting unique terroir flavours. As peat is not burned, the resulting taste is characterised by a subtle and refined peat expression, setting it apart from anything available worldwide.
Utilising the innovative Aitkin County Process, the distillery has successfully produced its whiskey by incorporating Torv Rök peat, an exceptional granular peat product for spirit finishing. This groundbreaking method is made possible by American Peat Technology (APT), located in Aitkin County, Minnesota, and involves utilising peat sourced from previously drained peatlands that no longer possess wetland characteristics. During the final stages of ageing, this unique infusion imparts a transformative touch, yielding spirits that boast a rich and flavorful profile, reminiscent of the distinctive essence found in the northern Boreal landscape. APT's remarkable ability to stabilise peat without chemical alteration or combustion ensures its integrity throughout the entire process.
“We worked with APT to develop this, and it’s a homage to the Lincoln County Process in Tennessee, which uses maple charcoal filtration. That was literally the simplicity of my thinking about this – what if we take a traditional whiskey ingredient – peat – and a traditional whiskey process such as the Lincoln County Process, and just put the ingredient into that process, and see what happens? That’s the Aitkin County Process.” ~ CEO of Brother Justus, Phil Steger
The Cold Peat Flavour?
“Flavour-wise, instead of tasting the heat, we like to say you taste the peat. It’s very herbal, it’s earthy, and has a minerality to it. I like the umami quality, kind of like mushrooms. It’s a dual-filtering process; by taking a finished product out of the barrel and then treating it with the peat, it infuses flavours but also removes flavours. Peat is really absorptive, so it removes heavy metals, like iron, which is really going to help the sweet flavours from the wood and the barley shine. It is really fun to watch people taste it because it really is unlike anything else.” ~ ~ CEO of Brother Justus, Phil Steger
During his teenage years, Phil Steger developed a growing fascination with boglands and peatlands, captivated by their mystical allure and unattainable nature. While not initially interested in whiskey at that time, the enchantment of these landscapes stayed with him. As he travelled and explored different regions, he realised that while humans inhabit diverse environments, the bog remains uninhabited—a landscape shrouded in folklore and danger. This fascination persisted as he returned home to Minnesota, a place where unique ecosystems converge, including the Great Plains, eastern Hardwood Forest, and the Boreal Forest. With one-third of the land being bogland or peatlands, this characteristic lingered in his thoughts. It was during a distillery tour in Kentucky that the idea sparked to create a whiskey in Minnesota. Comparing the water sources, he couldn't help but feel that the natural purity of Minnesota's lakes and waterways held something special, igniting the vision for a whiskey that would embody the essence of his homeland.
During the distillery tour, the guide divulged that their grain was sourced from Indiana and Illinois, and their oak barrels hailed from Missouri. As Steger absorbed this information, a realisation dawned on him. Minnesota had the potential to provide all the necessary ingredients for whiskey production. With its native white oak forest, the northernmost in the country, and the ability to grow barley for single malt, Steger saw an opportunity. However, he acknowledged that barley, water, and oak alone wouldn't be enough to set Brother Justus apart. Recognizing that Minnesota possessed six million acres of peatlands, more than Ireland or Scotland, Steger's imagination ignited. The prospect of crafting whiskey with Minnesota peat from ancient bogs became the driving force behind starting the distillery. Steger understood the significance of this unique ingredient, propelling him to pioneer a new path in the whiskey industry. He reflected on the legacy he wanted to establish, knowing that being the first meant setting a precedent that would shape the future.
The Brother Justus distillery offers their cold-peated American single malt whisky, bottled at 43% ABV, in convenient sizes of 375ml and 750ml. These exquisite bottles are currently obtainable for purchase at the distillery itself, as well as various retailers located throughout the enchanting state of Minnesota.
About Brother Justus Distillery
Brother Justus is a renowned distillery based in Minnesota, USA. Founded on the principles of craftsmanship and innovation, Brother Justus is dedicated to producing exceptional spirits, particularly their cold-peated American single malt whisky. With a passion for quality and an unwavering commitment to their craft, Brother Justus pushes the boundaries of whisky-making through their inventive techniques and meticulous attention to detail. They are known for their unique approaches, such as the use of the Aitkin County Process and their collaboration with American Peat Technology (APT) to infuse peat flavours during the finishing stage. Brother Justus distillery has gained recognition for their ability to create whiskies that capture the essence of the northern Boreal landscape, offering enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike an extraordinary tasting experience.