The trials are being carried out to establish whether it would be possible to grow and ripen barley, suitable for whisky making, on the island.
|R&B Distillers undertakes barley variety trial on Isle of Raasay|
With a Celtic well on site providing access to the high mineral content water, as well as a plentiful supply of peat in the North of the island, R&B Distillers are hoping to create a truly local whisky, that reflects the islands unique terroir.
In April 2017, R&B Distillers began to trial barley growing on the island with five different barleys: Bere, Concerto, Tartan, Iskria, Kannas. Once R&B has found a variety that ripens well and has a low enough moisture content for malting, the barley will be sent away to be malted using Raasay peat. The barley will then be returned to the distillery and used to create a lightly-peated Raasay single malt whisky.
This distillery build project has relied upon the island resources: the stone used to build the supporting wall at the rear of the distillery is from the site itself; wood from the site will be used for furnishings within the accommodation. The most invaluable resource has been the local community: the knowledge of island water, distilling history, building expertise, local infrastructure and hospitality.
For the barley project, the advice and support of neighbouring local farmer, Andrew Gillies has been vital. Andrew, along with John Gillies and Alasdair MacAskill, have disked, ploughed, rolled and sowed the land as well as broadcasting it with lime and fertiliser. As a result, the process of growing Raasay barley is underway. This has all been made possible with the knowledge and help of Peter Martin of Highland’s and Island’s University Agronomy Institute.
If the trials are successful, R&B Distillers intends to hold an open day for all local farmers and crofters to see the results as well as hear about the future of barley growing on Raasay. R&B plans to offer local farmers and crofters an alternative crop to grow, with a guaranteed end customer.
R&B Distillers have the ultimate long-term objective of growing enough local barley on Raasay, as well as on Skye and Kyle, to produce a single malt from 100% locally grown barley. While acknowledging that this whisky may only be a small percentage of total production, R&B is keen to challenge the limitations of production in such a remote and unique location.
Posted by Steve Rush