With so much good stuff going on at the grassroots, you might wonder why Bruichladdich has been a bit quiet about this longstanding relationship and its legacy of maturing biodynamic whisky stocks?
The reason is that we wanted to champion local sourcing and have greater traceability and accountability for our principle raw ingredient, which led to a declaration that we would proudly use only 100% Scottish barley. At that time, we felt it necessary to take a stand against the norms in the Scotch industry, even though that position entailed a risk – harvests may fail, alcohol yields may be inferior to that from imported grain – and a self-imposed restriction. There were no biodynamic farms in Scotland growing barley.
The traceability is not just a theoretical exercise; what we actually seek is meaningful partnerships with growers who are progressive and who are interested in the destiny of their produce, just as we are interested in its origins. In terms of de-anonymising the barley’s source, establishing a single farm and being able to be transparent about that is the ultimate prize. So not working with Richard and the flavour potentials of his biodynamic barley began to feel somewhat arbitrary.
Yatesbury are on the journey to become officially B Corp certified, which we managed to accomplish this year, a move which enshrines and mandates the positive impacts of a business on people and society, as well as the environment. Perhaps this single farm could be the exception that proved the rule? In 2018, Allan Logan, our Production Director, picked up the phone to Richard again.
Says Allan, “As distillers, we have the purchasing power to support the local economy. This industry should be electively supporting a culture of progressive farming methods, which might mean making other sacrifices. To make the best spirit we can, we choose to work through the challenges and advances of our growers, we want to learn from them. We are proud that we can take their produce through to releasing a whisky, with all the detail and also the understanding of what we have gone through to make this, as a community.”
And so, we can reveal that we currently have 5 years’ worth of spirit made with biodynamic barley grown in Wiltshire maturing in our warehouses on Islay, and are hotly anticipating a 6th from this year’s harvest. Our maltster, Bairds, are excited as well, reporting that it malts brilliantly, “it has so much extra life about it.” In 2011 and 2013, biodynamic barley represented about 2% of everything we made (from the previous years’ harvests). In 2012, that proportion was 7.4%, and in 2019 and 2020, it made up just a little over 3%. “It is very exciting to have biodynamic spirit in the warehouses,” says Adam Hannett, who will ultimately be responsible for the creation and release of our first biodynamic whisky, whenever he deems it ready. “There isn’t a huge amount of spirit but what we have is developing nicely. Texturally it is really rich. Most is maturing in ex Bourbon barrels so picking up lots of vanilla and toffee notes, the citrus element comes through, stone fruits developing nicely…”
Watch this space.
>> More about Bruichladdich’s focus on sustainable agriculture
>> More about biodynamics in wine in this interview
>> An example of Alex Podolinsky’s teaching