Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2009 UHI Orkney Farms


Weyland & Watersfield, Richmond Villa, Quoyberstane and Northfield farms, Orkney. Distilled in 2009 at Bruichladdich on the Isle of Islay, the grain for this release was grown in 2008 on Orkney and has produced a single malt of quite singular character.
We believe terroir matters.

Since we first resurrected this fantastic distillery from years of neglect, it has been our mission to pursue the ultimate pedigree, provenance and traceability of our raw materials in order to push the boundaries of the concept of terroir in artisanal single malt whisky.

Chief amongst these ingredients is our barley. Bere is the ancient landrace from which the illegal spirit uisge beatha was distilled back in the 18th century and from which modern whisky was to evolve.

Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2009 is:

— Unpeated Islay single malt Scotch whisky

— Very limited release

— Distilled using 100% Bere barley from Orkney

— Multi-farm single vintage

— Rare and ancient barley varietal

— Matured in American oak casks

— 50% vol. for maximum mouth feel

— “Melons and pear on a drift of marine freshness”

Bruichladdich whisky is always:

— Matured entirely on Islay

— Bottled on site using Islay spring water

— Non chill filtered

— Colouring free

A multi farm
single vintage

The Bere supply chain was co-ordinated for Bruichladdich by Dr Peter Martin & John Wishart of the Agronomy Institute at Orkney College UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands).

Distilled in 2009, this release uses grain from the Institute’s Weyland & Watersfield Farm, and also from Duncan Cromarty at Richmond Villa on South Ronaldsay, Sydney Gauld at Quoyberstane in St. Ola and Magnus Spence from the Northfield on Burray.

Orkney - UHI farm map

A multi farm
single vintage

The Bere supply chain was co-ordinated for Bruichladdich by Dr Peter Martin & John Wishart of the Agronomy Institute at Orkney College UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands).

Distilled in 2009, this release uses grain from the Institute’s Weyland & Watersfield Farm, and also from Duncan Cromarty at Richmond Villa on South Ronaldsay, Sydney Gauld at Quoyberstane in St. Ola and Magnus Spence from the Northfield on Burray.

Orkney - UHI farm map

Uisge beatha and the origins of Scotch whisky

The antecedents of Bere reach back to the dawn of Scottish agriculture, around 4,500 years ago. Grains similar to Bere have been found in the proto Neolithic landscape of Orkney, now a World Heritage Site.

Used by our ancestors to make bread, beer and bannocks, Bere was a staple part of the Scottish diet for thousands of years. By the end of the 15th century, and possibly long before that, it was being used to distil uisge beatha, the ‘water of life’ that was to eventually evolve into the single malt Scotch whiskies that we know today.

Bere Barley

Barley is not just barley. As Progressive Hebridean Distillers, Bruichladdich are fascinated by its potential for variety. We have made it our mission to explore the most flavour complex cereal in the world.

Particularly suited to the challenging environment of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Bere was especially important to early distillers. It’s hardy and grows quickly in the light sandy soils of Orkney, taking advantage of long summer daylight hours to ripen early.

Ancient Bere looks very different to modern barley. It has a long straw, carrying six rows of small grains on each ear compared to the two rows of larger grains on modern varieties. The crop can be difficult to harvest being prone to ‘lodging’ or falling over. Yields per acre are desperately low. Farmers can expect 50% less grain from Bere than a modern crop.

Securing the supply chain for Bere

Our ten year collaboration with the Agronomy Institute won the “Innovation” category in the prestigious Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards 2015.

John wishart and peter martin

Dr Peter Martin & John Wishart of the Agronomy Institute, Orkney College UHI, Weyland & Watersfield Farm

58°59’07.5”N 2°56’26.3”W

Collaborating with Bruichladdich since 2005

The Agronomy Institute is a research centre at Orkney College, an academic partner in the University of the Highlands and Islands. The Institute co-ordinates the Bere supply chains for Bruichladdich and also harvests its own crop of the ancient barley from around 20 hectares at Weyland and Watersfield Farm near Kirkwall.

Its mission is to establish an internationally recognised centre for the research, development and promotion of northern temperate plants and their products

which contributes significantly to the sustainable economic, social and environmental well-being of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

Apart from Bere and other early maturing cereals, plant research includes biomass projects, and natural products derived from species such as sweet gale, sea buckthorn and elder.

Magnus Spence, Northfield Farm, Burray

58°51’51.5”N 2°54’19.2”W

Growing for Bruichladdich since 2008

John Wishart with Magnus Spence. Magnus (right) lives and works a small 63 hectare farm called The Northfield, on the island of Burray. His aim is to create a sustainable enterprise which reflects his attitudes and principles in regard to life’s basic essentials of energy and food production. In addition to beef farming and growing Bere, Magnus is a shareholder in an entirely locally owned company who erected an 850kw wind turbine on his farm back in 2004. This was the first ‘community’ project of its kind in Scotland.

Magnus dives for scallops part-time and has an outdoor activities business where he invites folk to come paint balling, light gunning and clay shooting, or take a boat trip around the famous Royal Navy harbour at Scapa Flow. The presence of two Iron Age brochs indicate that the area around Northfield has probably been farmed for at least 2,500 years and is therefore of considerable historical and archaeological interest.

Duncan Cromarty, Richmond Villa, South Ronaldsay.

58°49’29.7”N 2°57’21.7”W

Growing for Bruichladdich since 2008

Duncan Cromarty is a creel fisherman from St Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay. His main catch is brown partans (Orcadian for edible crabs), velvet crabs and lobsters. For a number of years he also rented a ten acre field near the village, half of which he planted with potatoes for the local market. The remaining five acres were planted with Bere barley for the UHI/Bruichladdich supply chain. Duncan and his wife Margaret also run a bed and breakfast called Richmond Villa, which is the name given to their Bere field. Our photo shows Duncan in 2009 with his old 1954 Massey Ferguson tractor, which is now being restored by a local enthusiast.

Duncan Cromarty
Sydney Gauld

Sydney Gauld, Quoyberstane farm, St Ola

58°59’32.3”N 2°56’04.7”W

Growing for Bruichladdich since 2008

Sydney Gauld is the fourth generation of his family to farm at Quoyberstane, St Ola, near Kirkwall. He is an enthusiastic photographer and natural historian who also manages the Orkney Wildlife Information and Records Centre, Sydney has taken an interest in the wildlife around his farm all his life taking note of what he sees in his note book.

Bere is a crop that is well suited to a farmer who has an interest in the preservation of biodiversity. Both Sydney and his fellow Bere farmer Magnus Spence on Burray favour ‘minimum intervention’, minimising the application of fertilisers, an approach which is of considerable benefit to wildlife. When sowing Bere Sydney only gives the land a drop of fertiliser and then leaves it completely alone till the day it is harvested

2007 & 2008 HARVESTS.
2007 & 2008 HARVESTS.
2007 & 2008 HARVESTS.

Thought provoking

In the world of fine wine, terroir is a concept that reflects the influence of soil, sub-soil, exposure, orientation, climate and micro-climate on the grape harvest. The great vineyards revere terroir for the subtle nuances of traceable character, flavour, lineage and integrity it bestows.

The effect of terroir varies not just at a regional level but also from farm to farm and from harvest to harvest.At Bruichladdich, we believe terroir matters. We believe it imparts subtle nuance and variety to sensory experience. It will have an effect on any food or drink. The more complex the flavours, the more profound that effect. Single malt Scotch whisky is the most flavour complex spirit in the world.

Industrial producers of both whisky and wine would rather their ‘consumers’ concentrated on image rather than addressing more challenging concepts such as terroir. Our work with Bere, which we present as individual vintages, is an example of our barley exploration series. As with a fine wine, each vintage is a vehicle for change. There were major differences in growing conditions on Orkney in the lead up to the harvest of 2008 when compared to the harvest of 2007 which produced our previous release.

Our graphs show how the key growing month of June 2008 saw four times as much rainfall as the previous year, even though average temperatures and sunshine hours were similar. This was followed by three months that were relatively dry with higher temperatures and longer hours of sunshine. When a crop experiences major changes in weather patterns from year to year it is not unreasonable to expect there to be differences in the characteristics of the spirit distilled from it. At Bruichladdich we choose to celebrate those differences. Each vintage is limited, finite, unique. It can never be repeated.

Orkney Bere 2008 crop

Sown 17th Apr – 5th of May
Harvested 29th Aug – 15th Sep

Weather variation 2007 – 2008

Rainfall &Temperature data, Kirkwall airport

58°57’20.0”N 2°54’09.0”W

Sunshine data, Loch of Hundland (With thanks to Keith Johnson)

59°07’05.9”N 3°14’06.0”W

A sensory experience
to challenge
commercial diktat

“There is no point pretending that Bere is easy to work with. We are very aware of the efforts made by the farmers and maltsters simply to get it here – and thats before it tests our mashmen and stillmen to the limit.”

Distillery Manager Allan Logan


Malted grains of bere are too small to be graded or ‘dressed’ by our traditional Boby Dresser, so the malt presented to the mill has to be ground into grist in its raw state. The high proportion of husk in Bere means that the grist it produces is very dense. This initially played havoc with our ancient Victorian machinery because it drains very slowly. We had to reduce the weight of grist per mash from 7.2 tonnes to just 5 tonnes. Also the yield of alcohol we can expect per tonne of Bere is much lower than from modern varieties. We rarely achieve more than 350 ola (original litres of alcohol) per tonne compared to conventional grains from which we can expect over 400 ola.

Distilling Bere then makes little sense in a world of industrial distilling, but at Bruichladdich efficiency is not what drives us. Our distillation of Bere is about uncovering a world of sensory experience that has become buried by commerce in its quest for ever faster, easier returns. Our exploration of the flavours held in this ancient grain is more time consuming, but this is not about efficiency. This is about quality, subtlety, nuance.

Bere Barley 2009

Tasting Notes

Character — The exquisite balance between the mellowness of the oak and the butterkist sweetness of the rare malted barley is impressive for one so young. It’s very much alive and the taste buds are responding with joy to the rarest barley on the planet today.

Colour — Hebridean winter sunrise.

Nose — An orchestration of heather flowers, gorse, primrose, rose petals, sea pinks on a drift of marine freshness. Absolutely delightful and they set the olfactory system to cruise control. On the second rise you can detect lemon and honey, grilled pink grapefruit sprinkled with Demerara sugar gliding in on a zephyr of wild mint and ferns, which further highlights the purity of spirit. This is followed by an interfusion of pomegranate, cantaloupe melon and ripe strawberries.

Palate — The spirit is rich, full bodied and full flavoured opening on a brilliant combination of warm honey drizzled over toasted oak staves, with a hint of coconut and ginger followed by barley sugar over melon and pear. They mingle beautifully with the biscuity malt sweet flavours of the barley and this creates a vanilla wafer backnote.

Finish — It is pure refined delicious flavours last forever. It oozes finesse and authenticity this is deliverance from e-numbers and chill filtration. This is the walk of life.

Mood — It is mesmerising, fresh clean pure spirit. It is like walking in sunshine with the gentle heat from the spirit uplifting the senses and the soul as you go deeper into the glass.

Bruichladdich Distillery
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