What is ‘terroir’and how does it affect the taste of Whisky?

Terroir is how a particular region’s climate, soils and aspect (terrain) affect the taste of whisky.

At Bruichladdich, we appreciate the centuries of experience and knowledge held by the great vintners.


In the world of fine wine, terroir is a concept that reflects the inter-action of soil, sub-soil, exposure, orientation, climate and micro-climate on the growth of the vine and the harvest of the grape.

The great vineyards revere terroir for the subtle nuances of traceable character, flavour, lineage and integrity it bestows.

Terroir varies according to place. It varies not just at a regional level – but also from farm to farm, from one field to another, from harvest to harvest and from one vintage to the next. Its effect will inevitably vary from plant species to plant species and from crop to crop.

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 inherent in that food or drink, the more profound that effect – and single malt Scotch whisky is the most flavour complex spirit in the world.

Perception


We are aware that casual whisky drinkers have, on the whole, not previously considered terroir, just as terroir is not high on the list of concerns for casual wine drinkers.

This is at least partly because industrial producers of both whisky and wine would rather that was the case and is why they concentrate on promoting image rather than espousing more challenging concepts.  At Bruichladdich we produce some of the most thought-provoking spirits in the world.  They will not be for everyone.

We believe however, that the Scotch whisky industry has hidden behind the smokescreen of brand image because that is easier than getting a grip on the esoteric micro-influences that come to play on the development of its fundamental raw material, barley – the most flavour complex cereal in the world.

As soon as we re-opened this distillery in 2001 we placed the concept of terroir at the centre of everything we did and worked towards.  “We believe terroir matters”, is a statement of intent – a central pillar of our philosophy.  It defines who we are, what we do and how we do it.

Where we are now


We label and trace, parcel by parcel, different barley varieties, from different farms, even different fields.

We distil different varieties of conventionally grown barley separately.  These include Optic, Propino, Concerto, Chalice, Publican, Golden Promise and Maris Otter.  There are others.  We also distil organically grown barley, and the ancient Bere Barley.

On Islay, nineteen farmers have grown barley for us, some of which have been distilled separately, some consolidated.  We have varied the programme from year to year to explore a wide range of combinations and permutations.  The great uber-provenance whiskies that are now emerging from our warehouses are the direct result of this work.

Since the resurrection in 2001 the barley we have used has been 100% Scottish. Taking this pledge further we now have a large current portfolio of uber-provenance whiskies that are distilled from the produce of named Islay farms. These are the single malts from ‘Islay Barley’ editions of Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore.  We have released Bere Barley whiskies from grain harvested from farms on Orkney and Islay plus organic whiskies from farms on the Scottish mainland.

The future


We believe we are way ahead of the curve. The future is a very exciting prospect indeed.

For the past four years we have been additionally conducting a giant experiment by distilling malt derived from 50, then 100 and now 200 tonne batches of theoretically identical, conventionally grown, barley that has been harvested from three different regions of mainland Scotland, Aberdeen, The Black Isle and Lothian. The results have been fascinating because they are not identical at all.

We are increasingly able to demonstrate that the subtly nuanced characteristics of these different terroirs are retained directly in our maturing whisky stocks, depending on harvest, yield, weather and crop rotation.

As the years have moved forward we have become more organised, more radical and ever more militant in our commitment to the concept of terroir. As a result, our warehouses are now full of whiskies of extraordinary variety and provenance.

We believe we are way ahead of the curve. The future is a very exciting prospect indeed.

Articles on Terroir


Terroir

Pots of Terroir

16th May 2019/by Bruichladdich
Bruichladdich Organic Mid Coul Farm red admiral butterfly
Terroir

Mid Coul Organic Farms, Dalcross, Inverness

1st September 2017/by Carl Reavey
Waste flour from Bruichladdich's mill is useful for the sheep on the croft
Terroir

Kevin’s Sheep

22nd November 2016/by Jane Carswell
Steve Percival, ecologist, on Islay - a wild goose chase
Terroir

A Wild Goose Chase

7th November 2016/by Jane Carswell
Greylag geese in flight on Islay
Terroir

New Research Into Islay’s Greylag Geese

2nd November 2016/by Jane Carswell
maritime romantics
Terroir

Maritime Romantics

13th May 2016/by Carl Reavey
Hole and Corner
Terroir

Hole and Corner Magazine

8th April 2016/by Carl Reavey
Laminated meta-siltstone with veins of quartz - A little slice of Geology
Terroir

A little slice of Geology

5th November 2015/by Carl Reavey
Barley field, Dunlossit Estate, Islay - We Believe Terroir Matters.
Terroir

We Believe Terroir Matters. And we are proving it.

26th June 2015/by Carl Reavey
Big boys - Islay Beach rugby 2015
Terroir

Eat Sand! Islay Beach Rugby 2015

15th June 2015/by Carl Reavey
Frazer Matthews, Mary McGregor and Simon King
Terroir

Simon King on Islay

17th March 2015/by Carl Reavey
No Rain - An Torran Reservoir, September 2014
Terroir

The rain is dead.

25th September 2014/by Carl Reavey
Craig and Tony Archibald - Craigens combines
Terroir

The combines are rolling. We salute you.

25th August 2014/by Carl Reavey
The perfect Summer - Kilchiaran farm, Islay
Terroir

The Perfect Summer?

13th August 2014/by Carl Reavey
Curses. My Personal Terroir.
Terroir

Curses. My Personal Terroir.

18th June 2014/by Carl Reavey
Fashion is Flowers is Everything - Nick Knight
Terroir

Fashion is Flowers is Everything – Nick Knight

26th March 2014/by Carl Reavey
Researching Islay's Barnacle Geese
Terroir

Researching Islay’s Barnacle Geese

30th October 2013/by Carl Reavey
The geese have arrived
Terroir

The geese have arrived

15th October 2013/by Carl Reavey
We Believe Terroir Matters
Terroir

We Believe Terroir Matters

30th September 2013/by Carl Reavey
Mackerel at Port Charlotte
Terroir

The Mackerel are in

23rd September 2013/by Carl Reavey
Evidence for Scotland's first people?
Terroir

Evidence for Scotland’s first people?

26th August 2013/by Carl Reavey
Andrew Jefford - Peat smoke and whisky
Terroir

Peat Smoke and Spirit

15th January 2013/by Carl Reavey
Bruichladdich Distillery
Due to regulations in your own country of residence, you cannot access this website

By entering you accept the use of cookies to enhance your user experience and collect information on the use of the website. Find out more