We enjoyed our best barley harvest ever here on Islay in 2012. The weather on the west coast was very good for the first part of the year, and reasonable for much of the summer. The only real difficulties we had were actually bringing the harvest in when the rains started in September. Despite this, ten Islay farms brought home a total of around 930 tonnes of quality grain. A tremendous achievement. Unfortunately, our colleagues on the Scottish mainland were not so lucky. They had to endure a very poor year of weather throughout 2012, a cold wet and miserable season which badly affected the productivity of many farming operations – including the crops of malting barley.
Particularly hard hit were our heroic organic farmers who have made such a huge commitment to producing organic malting barley for us. The good news is that their crop was brought in, eventually – the bad news is that it was not suitable for malting without screening out an unsustainable amount of the grain. Every cloud has a silver lining however, and that was certainly the case in this instance. The bad weather and poor harvest meant that the cost of feed barley has been very high – the resulting shortages inevitably being reflected in higher prices. So the farmers who worked so hard to deliver our organic barley have at least been able to find a ready alternative market. The downside is of course that we will not be able to produce organic spirit this year. This will not be an issue in the long term as we have lots of lovely organic whisky slumbering in our warehouses on the banks of Loch Indaal from our previous successes. It does mean however that we are going to be distilling 100% Scottish, conventionally grown, barley this year alongside the Islay crop. At Bruichladdich, we share many things with our Scottish organic barley farming friends. We share a passionate interest in the land and the people who work it. We are tough enough to take the tribulations along with the triumphs – and we are eternally optimistic. We are certain that 2013 is going to produce a great Scottish organic barley harvest – and we look forward to working with it again. Land and dram united!