Aberdeenshire Regional Trials


Today our Production Director Allan Logan welcomed Colin Tough of Barnyards of Delgaty to the distillery. Those familiar with the old bothy ballads from the northeast will recognise the farm from the old labouring song. Representing the Aberdeenshire contingent of our regional barley trials, around 200 tonnes of Colin’s malt travels to our malting partners Bairds, in Inverness, before being delivered here for distillation.

A further two farms in Scotland grow the same varietal of barley on their home soil. Jim and Tom Lawrie at Ransfield Farm grow in the south, Colin in the east, while Donald Jack farms at Kilcoy up north in the Black Isle. Our Islay farmers represent the western contingent, meaning we have quite a geographical spread for comparison. Based in Turriff, Colin puts an impressive 900 acres of land to malting barley each year. His father and grandfather have owned and worked the farm since the 1940s, growing barley for as long as he can remember. Like many of our Islay farmers, he also raises beef cattle and boasts grain drying facilities on site.


Inspecting the grist proportions

The majority of Colin’s barley will go to commercial malting, “disappearing in a lorry.”

The majority of Colin’s barley will go to commercial malting, “disappearing in a lorry.” This is the closest he’s come to seeing how his barley is used after harvest. Whilst here, Colin had the opportunity to taste and compare whisky from each year his barley has been harvested for Bruichladdich, including with those in the other regions. It is the first time he’s ever knowingly tasted whisky from his crop.

This is a significant reminder to us that building relationships with farmers, and indeed our malting partners is incredibly important. Without the connection we have with Mark Kinsman at Bairds, we wouldn’t have been introduced to Colin, who plays a small yet essential part in our exploration of terroir. We were fortunate to find Bairds in the early days of the distillery’s renaissance. Not everyone is willing to take on the task of tracing each pocket of barley from the source, ensuring that it is all 100% Scottish and thereafter, malting in small batches where necessary. They have been instrumental in supporting our journey towards ultimate provenance and traceability.

Head distiller Adam Hannett with Mark Kinsman

We have been distilling regional trials since 2014, which our head distiller Adam admits is ‘a bit late’ by Bruichladdich standards. Every part of the production process is kept the same so that the only difference in flavour from the spirit must come from the location, or the terroir, of each individual farm. In an earlier article, Allan mentioned that weather may also influence the flavour.

This year, we’ve been distilling Concerto barley harvested in 2017. The last mash of Barnyard’s malt will be filled into our wooden washbacks today before we start with Black Isle on Sunday evening and Lothian in two weeks time.

These three new make spirits will be kept separate and mostly filled into first fill bourbon casks. There are no plans as of yet to release these whiskies from the warehouse but Adam teases that an eight year old could eventually be on the cards.

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