R&B Distillers’s Raasay barley trials under way

6th June, 2017 by Kristiane Sherry

R&B Distillers has started growing five barley strains on the Isle of Raasay, Scotland, in a trial that could see the company produce whisky using ‘all-local’ ingredients.

R&B Distillers is trying to grow barley on Raasay

R&B Distillers received planning permission to build the first legal distillery on the Isle of Raasay in February 2016, and as part of the build wanted to see if it would be possible to grow barley for malting on the island.

In April 2017 the team began growing five different barleys: Bere, Concerto, Tartan, Iskria, and Kannas.

Six-row Bere barley has a history of production on Raasay and was grown on the island 40 years ago. Concerto is the most widely grown malting barley in the UK, with the two-row varietal known for its later than average maturing.

Tartan barley was grown on Orkney for Highland Park for several years, while Iskira is native to Iceland. Kannas is a very early Swedish variety, similar in maturity to Bere. All three are two-row varietals.

It is hoped that at least one variety will ripen well with a low enough moisture content to be suitable for malting.

If the trials are successful, the resulting barley will be sent away for the malting process along with peat from the north of the Island.

Once returned, the barley will be used to create a lightly-peated Raasay Single Malt.

The barley trials have been carried out with the support of local farmers Andrew Gillies, John Gillies and Alasdair MacAskill, who prepared and sowed the ground. The Raasay barley trials have also been supported by Peter Martin of Highland’s and Island’s University Agronomy Institute.

If all goes well, R&B Distillers says it will hold an open day for local farmers and crofters to learn about the future of barley farming on the island.

The distiller adds that it hopes to offer an alternative crop with a guaranteed end customer. By working with primary producers, R&B Distillers would shorten its supply chain and offer guaranteed prices to growers.

Even if the trials are successful, the whisky maker notes that it may only be possible to produce a small percentage of total production using ‘all-local’ ingredients. “R&B is keen to challenge the limitations of production in such a remote and unusual location,” the company says.


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