The “What, Where and How” of Barley Provenance


Single malt Scotch whiskies have traditionally been presented accompanied by age statements, but Bruichladdich have long argued that while age is interesting it is by no means the only determinant of quality and style.  Other factors that have a huge influence are the quality, type and location of the casks in which the whisky is matured, and also the provenance of our fundamental raw material, barley.

We have pioneered the creation of variety and nuance in whisky by treating barley in a manner similar to the way that winemakers treat grapes.  That is to say that winemakers too are interested in the  What, Where,and How – the varieties, origins and growing regimes they employ to bring home their harvests. We are used to seeing grape variety, origin and vintage specified on bottles of wine as a result – and we now often see “organic” or even “bio-dynamic” designations on wine bottles as well. We have recently released two more single malts that illustrate how we embrace this approach.

Adam tells us of a “Honey-soft texture with rich and malty sweetness and great depth”.

The first is ‘The Organic 2009’ which was distilled using grain grown organically by William Rose at his ‘Mid Coul Farm’ near Inverness.  This whisky is certified ‘organic’ from barley to bottle by the Biodynamic Association and is described as being “deliciously creamy with the barley notes very much to the fore” by our head distiller Adam Hannett.

The second release is “Bere Barley 2008:Islay Grown” which was distilled from a grist prepared from an ancient six-row variety of the grain grown by Dunlossit Estate on Islay.  Adam tells us of a “Honey-soft texture with rich and malty sweetness and great depth”.

The aim with all these uber-provenance releases is not to ask whether one is better than any other, but simply to demonstrate that there are flavour differences and that these are interesting for their own sake.  There is also an increasing awareness that modern petrochemical-based agricultural systems combined with intensive selective breeding regimes are threatening the sustainability of farming and undermining the breadth of the gene pool.

So while the original motivation behind these releases may have been sensory exploration, there is also a wider environmental context that deserves our attention. These new single malts join our growing family of uber-provenance single malts. These include drams created from; (What) six-row and the more familiar two-row barley varieties; (Where) barley grown on the Scottish mainland, Islay and Orkney; and (How) grain grown using organic, minimal intervention and conventional farming techniques. 18,000 bottles of each of the new whiskies have been released for sale in specialist outlets all over the world.  They are also available on-line from the Laddieshop.

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