A group of six farmers who grow barley for Bruichladdich on Islay accompanied distillery manager Allan Logan on a fact finding trip to Bairds Malt in Inverness last week.
The purpose of the trip was to promote greater understanding of the process and show how the grain performs during malting. There was much discussion over how to achieve consistent levels of quality using different varieties of barley.
Every year Baird’s plants demonstration plots on a farm – sowing up to 20 different varieties. Only four or five of these may be currently used for malting barley but trials are constantly being run for future development. New varieties are added on an almost annual basis, with others falling by the wayside.
The different varieties are planted simultaneously in adjacent strips in a single field. Each strip is treated in exactly the same way, with exactly similar applications of fertiliser for example. Each strip is constantly monitored throughout the growing season for variables including resistance to diseases, moulds, insect attack, yields and resilience to weather. How do the different varieties react to wind and rain? What are their different propensities for ‘lodging’ (falling over) prior to the harvest?
All these questions and many others were addressed during what was a fascinating trip for all concerned.
Everyone involved in the visit would like to thank Bairds for their hospitality. We are all looking forward to many more years of working together.
Our photo shows Eddie, Douglas and Ian from Bairds with Islay barley farmers Neil McLellan (Kilchiaran), Ian McKerrell (Island), Raymond Fletcher (Dunlossit), Hunter Jackson (Cruach), James Brown (Octomore) and Raymond Stewart (Sunderland).