Hebridean farmers watched the moment their own barely was turned in to whisky at the Bruichladdich Distillery.
After decades, Islay farmers are once again seeing the fruits of their labours under go the ancient alchemy of distillation that transfers barley into single malt whisky.
6 island farmers, whose barley had been harvested three months ago, were present to witness the first spirit come off the stills made from their own 2007 barley.
Islay, once home to 20 distilleries, is a uniquely prolific whisky island due to it’s mild gulf-stream climate and long daylight hours and growing season ideal for barley.
But in recent years, thanks to the vagaries of the Common Agricultural Policy, low crop prices forced most Hebridean farmers to give up growing barley for distilling.
Bruichladdich has been rekindling that lost link between the land and the whisky, and has been busy creating a sort of Gaelic terroir – or origin.
Distillery manager Duncan McGillivray: “The spirit from Islay grown barley has an identity all of it’s own – it seems creamier than barley grown from the east coast.”
“Since 2001 we have been persuading farmers to grow directly for us – so we know exactly which field it comes from, and how it has been grown. We have 16 now.”
“That über-provenance – from the field to the barrel (we keep each origin completely separate) gives us ultimate traceability – but also maximum flavour individuality.”
“As with wine, each origin has it’s own subtle identity due to the variety, soil, exposure and technique. The farmers were very competitive about whose spirit was best.”