We’ve just finished distilling the barley from three discrete regions of the Scottish mainland for the fourth year in succession. Our Regional Trials are a long term project…
Production Director Allan Logan says he is delighted by the quality of the new make spirit that’s coming through. “Every harvest we we can see clear differences between each of the geographical regions. We are also seeing differences from year to year so we are assuming that annual variations in the weather are also having an influence. It’s just trying to build up a kind of archive of knowledge; if there are patterns, the more years we get the more it’ll become clear. So it’s all very interesting but we’ve got so much work still to do!”
The 200 tonnes of grain for each of these regional trials comes from three farms. In the south, Lothian, we have John and Tom Lawrie at Ransfield Farm. Colin Tough at Barnyards Farm, Turriff Aberdeenshire in the east, while Donald Jack farms at Kilcoy, Black Isle, in the north. If you think of Islay as our western region we have a complete geographical spread!
All the farmers have been sowing the same variety, Concerto, including some of the Islay farms that we’re handling separately. The Islay barley harvest last year was more than 1300 tonnes, up to 30% of all our production, so, “The day when we’re doing similar amounts from the three other regions is hard to imagine… But you never know…”
“The growers are all very proud to be able to see the results of their work right through to the end product.” says Allan. “Because it’s not very often that happens in Scotland; generally farmers just grow barley that disappears into a big black hole! They don’t tend to know what it goes into or where it ends up.”
In terms of whether our whiskies will ever form individual releases with this extra layer of provenance information, Allan says: “It will be great if we get to somewhere between 3 and 5 years’ maturation and there are still clear differences. Obviously, over three years is very important (for the legal definition of ‘single malt whisky’). But the influence of the cask will start to tell in the spirit and it will get to the point where it’s harder to trace these subtle variations.”
“Even the fact that we’ve just made whisky from the four regions of Scotland is quite unique… Nobody’s ever done anything like this before…”