Barley exploration – Exciting Times Ahead


To the principals of the nouveau regime that kick started the moribund Bruichladdich back in 2000 terroir was a cultural concept embedded in their very DNA. These men were wine merchants whose professional lives had been devoted to understanding the nuances of fine French wines – and of Burgundy in particular.

The concept of terroir, is wedded to the idea that the quality of an agricultural product is uniquely related to where it is grown. It encapsulates a belief that local conditions contribute to the character of wine, (or cheese, or meat or honey). It implies that climate and soil are important, as is geographical aspect and plant variety. In the world of wine, nobody simply grows ‘grapes’.

Wine also embraces the concept of vintage, accepting that climate varies year by year and that this is inevitably reflected in the quality of the end product. The Old World vineyards, often nurturing tiny pockets of vines which have been carefully and painstakingly classified according to terroir, produce a sometimes bewildering variety of vintages and styles. Nowhere is this complexity better illustrated than in the vineyards of Burgundy.

The priorities of modern Scotch whisky production were very different. Instead of celebrating differences in barley type and origin, the grain was simply purchased on the open market with the main criteria being not flavour profile, but the yield of alcohol per tonne. Nobody cared where it came from, who grew it, or even when it was grown. To the Scotch whisky industry, barley was just a commodity, a raw material to be obtained as cheaply as possible – only subject to scientific analysis by men in laboratories who would strive to squeeze the last drop of ‘value’ from one of the world’s most flavour-complex grains.

The fundamental aim of the big industrialised whisky companies was to produce a ubiquitous, homogenised, standardised product that the consumer would recognise wherever they were in the world.

At Bruichladdich we have a fundamentally different approach. Rejecting standardisation, we have embarked on a journey of barley exploration, of its variety, and provenance. Of terroir. It is a journey, just beginning, that has introduced us to Chalice and Optic, to Concerto, organic and Bere. It has taken us to ten Islay farms, to farms on the Scottish mainland and Orkney; even to individual fields such as Ceannacroic, The Ministers and many more. We have started to explore the Scottish regions, the Black Isle, Aberdeenshire, Fife and the Southern uplands, treating some separately, combining others, always enquiring, questioning and challenging conventional thought. To the connoisseur of single malts, this contributed to our years of diversity, producing a fascinating catalogue of often frustratingly limited releases and a diverse contemporary portfolio that is simply unmatched.

As the combines start to roll across Islay in 2014, it is good to reflect on the fact that our exploration of terroir is now well over a decade old. What this means is that our warehouses are full of the future. While our back catalogue has been an exciting roller coaster of interesting and provocative releases, the diversity of spirit we have maturing now is of a completely different order. There are exciting times ahead.

Popular articles from the newsdesk

Bruichladdich Distillery
Due to regulations in your own country of residence, you cannot access this website

By entering our website, you agree to our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and the use of cookies to enhance your user experience and collect information on the use of our website. For more information about deleting or controlling cookies, visit

We encourage you to enjoy our single malts responsibly.