5 surprising things about soil

Why should we even care about soil?
At Bruichladdich, where we’ve always espoused a version of the French idea of “terroir” for whisky, it’s been a progression from asking “how do we achieve differences in flavour?” – to “how is whisky affected by where and how the barley is grown?” – to “why isn’t whisky an industry that traces and cherishes its main raw ingredient…?” Then we set about reinventing our supply chain with greater transparency and understanding, putting the farmer first. That has led us to learning that we have the chance to make a difference here, not just to whisky, not just to individual farmers, but to the global future that agriculture is contributing to, for better or for worse.
Soil is remarkable stuff in its own right! If producers of barley or of whisky, and those people who enjoy those things, want to keep growing and making and consuming them long into the future, then we should appreciate soil and look after it.
Richard Gantlett shares some facts about soil that he’s discovered in his career as a farmer. First, he turned a conventional farm organic, and then biodynamic. Then he made soil the subject of his academic doctorate. We asked him for his top 5 discoveries, in layman’s terms.
1. Soils store serious quantities of carbon: 10 times more carbon than forests.
2. Soils are teaming with life: 1g of soil can contain 10-100 billion bacteria, 6,000-50,000 bacterial species, and 200 metres of tiny branches of mycelium – the fungus kingdom’s equivalent of roots.
3. Soils can store water like a sponge: agricultural droughts can be avoided by storing water in soil during dry spells.
4. Soils can store water like a sponge: it can also reduce flooding, by reducing storm water flow, allowing time for rivers to cope with storms.
5. Agricultural soils are everywhere: they occupy roughly 37% of the earth’s surface.
We look forward to releasing our first biodynamic whisky, grown on Richard’s farm, where he is fully committed to non-chemical techniques that maximise the life and health of the soil. We hope that making these connections with the soil that grew it will add another layer to your appreciation of that dram!
You can watch a fuller discussion about Whisky and Agriculture and a promising future recorded last night here: “Panel: Whisky In A Changing Climate”

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