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.
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 distil organically grown barley, and the ancient Bere Barley.
On Islay, twelve 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.
For the past two years we have been additionally conducting a giant experiment by distilling malt derived from 100 tonne batches of theoretically identical, conventionally grown, barley that has been harvested from different regions of mainland Scotland. 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.