Tillering in Islay barley


Tillers are the side branches that may develop after the initial shoot has grown from a single seed.  Tillering is therefore a system of vegetative propagation (involving multiple offspring from a single parent plant) as opposed to sexual reproduction (where two parent plants are involved). It is encouraged in a barley crop because the tillers are likely to develop into additional ears of grain, very significantly increasing the potential yield..

There are various factors that affect the extent of tillering including the moisture content of the soil. Seeds germinating in dry connditions will tend to put down deeper roots in their search for water, which will limit tillering, whereas those planted in moist soils will tend to develop their root systems laterally, forming a dense surface mat encouraging their formation.

Light Grazing Of Young Barley By Sheep

Light grazing of the young barley by sheep is a technique often employed by farmers to encourage tillering early in the growth cycle.  Sheep nip off that early growth, which stimulates the tiller, the key being to remove the animals at the optimum point to ensure that no lasting damage is done.

There has certainly been plenty of moisture this year to encourage tillering in the Islay barley.  Too much in fact.  A small proportion has been permanently damaged by the wet conditions but the majority seems to have benefited in that most of the farmers are reporting dense crops.  Now we badly need a few weeks of warm sunshine to take us through to harvest.

Islay Grown Barley And Uber Provenance Single Malt Whiskies

We use Islay-grown barley to produce a number of uber-provenance single malt whiskies.  Some of these are distilled from the consolidated harvests of several farms, such as the Port Charlotte Islay Barley.  Others can be distilled from grain grown on a single farm, even a single field such as this Octomore 6.3

With thanks to Craig and Tony Archibald at Craigens, James Brown of Octomore  and Andrew Jones at Coull

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