Future Prospects: Maltings by 2023, Renewables Soon After

IN

Over the weekend, we broke the news of our intentions to close the loop on our all-Islay process. Speaking exclusively to the Herald on Saturday, CEO Douglas Taylor announced our plans to install maltings on-site and push forward our sustainability agenda.

Our Production Director Allan Logan has long spoken of his desire to have onsite maltings at Bruichladdich. Given that we grow 42% of our barley locally, and mature and bottle 100% on the island, it’s the natural next step for us. And while we’ll likely never get all of our barley from Islay, it’s great to know that these installations will help us to be more flexible and more environmentally sound for years to come.

Allan is still going through the planning stages for the maltings; if all goes well with permissions, they will be in place by 2023. In the first instance, we hope to malt all our Islay-grown barley here, and our small-batches of traceable malt from within Scotland. This includes organically grown from Mid Coul – Inverness and Pitgaveny – Elgin, Bere barley grown on Orkney in partnership with the Agronomy Institute, and single-estate regional trials grown in Lothian, Aberdeenshire and the Black Isle.

Two-row barley, Newton - Islay

As many of you will know, our current malting process sees our barley sourced from inside Scotland through malting partner Bairds, based in Inverness. Our partnership with them has been incredibly fruitful; they’ve fully supported our desire for provenance and traceability. They’ve provided us with 100% Scottish barley for over a decade and are even rumoured to have played a part in the conception of Octomore. Their willingness to help us separate and trace small batches of barley has been integral to the success of many of our bottlings, and we’re incredibly thankful for their determination to help, now and in the future.

While some of the malt that currently goes through Bairds will be brought in-house, we’ll continue to use them for our mainland Scotland barley, wherever it makes practical and environmental sense to do so.

When our Islay barley is malted on the island, we’ll immediately reduce our carbon footprint and increase our ability to experiment. Building on our current work, we hope to further investigate alternative varieties out-with the UK’s recommended growing list and test the viability of long-forgotten varieties. The ability to deal with these micro-batches onsite is crucial to our barley project going forward.

Our on-site energy consumption will increase with the installation of the maltings. In order to offset this, we’re seriously looking into a combination of renewable energy.

The feasibility of tidal, water turbine and biomass technologies or potentially all three are still being assessed and will likely take some time to implement. This tech would complement our existing attempts to be more environmentally friendly in all that we do. We’re currently reusing the hot waste water from our condensers in a central heating system, and we have two fully electric vehicles for zipping around Islay – they only have a range of 100 miles, so we have to make sure we’re never too far from a plug!

Neil (right) and son Scott farm at Kilchiaran each year. Scott has recently returned home to farm after a stint offshore. Neil is delighted, clearly.

We hope to look into testing sustainable farming practices on Islay too. Our purchase of Shore House Croft in 2018 will give us the opportunity to plant several trial plots of barley varietals – some of which may well be more suited to Scotland’s west coast. Each will be assessed for its ability to survive under our unique conditions and, of course, for its flavour. Hopefully there will be much more to share with you along the way in this regard – you can read more about Shore House Croft in our previous announcement.

Alongside these new projects, a large proportion of our investment historically has been put behind Islay warehousing. To keep all of our casks maturing on the island, we’ve completed two new warehouses in the past three years, with the scope to include another four in the coming years, whenever needed.

Inside our first new warehouse, Coultorsay

This commitment to an Islay process, with new warehouses, new maltings, and being adamant about bottling on the island, will continue to increase employment prospects locally. As a result of our business’ choices, we currently employ 80 people here, making us the largest private employer in Islay, despite being the second smallest whisky producer.

Combine that with the 18 farming partners we currently work with locally, and our business’s contribution to the extended community is undeniably significant.

Speaking on all these elements, our CEO Douglas:

“Running a business from an island makes us distinctly aware that our social, economic and environmental impact must be a positive one. We feel strongly about our responsibility to the island and the people of Islay.

“In recent years, we have endeavoured to be more sustainable in our operations and more environmental in our actions. Some have been straightforward, like stopping using bottled water and introducing the use of electric vehicles, or more complicated, like habitat protection, wildlife corridor agreements with landowners for barley growing or engineering a solution that re-uses the hot waste-water from distillation.

“These actions are just the beginning of a long-term vision; to be more sustainable in all we do, and to leave behind a bright future for generations to come.”

Leading the charge of our 100 strong team, Douglas Taylor.

If you have another five minutes to spare, Douglas appeared on Good Morning Scotland with Andrew Black, Radio Scotland. Hear his take on sustainability (and inevitably, a bit of Brexit) here:

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