Most distilleries on Islay get their barley from the mainland of Scotland except Kilchoman and, for a part, the Bruichladdich distillery. Bruichladdich get's a good part of their barley from Islay farms such as Kentraw, Rockside, Kynagarry and Octomore. They claim that Islay grown barley gives a better taste to the malt whisky, something I won't, and can't argue. From a marketing point of view it's probably good when you can mention that your whisky is 100% from Islay, where the others will mention that it's 100% Scottish, whatever you prefer! The barley is harvested in this time of year providing the weather is good enough. When there is too much rain and the fields are too wet the combines have problems accessing the land. Islay was lucky though, as the Laddie Blog repeatedly mentioned. Other parts of Scotland and England were not so lucky and some crops were lost due to the huge amounts of rainfall. Continue reading.... Mark Unsworth from Islay Studios was out and about today and managed to shoot a few "Islay Barley" pictures. This is what Mark had to say about the barley and pictures: "Islay has just had three excellent weather days (Sat-Mon) when compared to the rest of the UK which has meant many hundreds of acres of Barley was cut mainly for cattle feed for the winter however local barley is becoming ever more popular for malting with Bruichladdich being the main customer. The pictures show a freshly cut field at Sunderland Farm and also a close up of some Barley which was cut within an hour of the picture being taken. In terms of the weather on Sunday, Tiree recorded the most sunshine and Port Ellen the lowest overnight temperature in the UK because of the totally clear skies." Thanks Mark for the pictures and information!
Update: Mark Reynier of Bruichladdich contacted me regarding the barley, its origin, the varieties etc. Following is his information and for me, and perhaps you, a lesson in barley:
The Bruichladdich Distillery uses exclusively Scottish barley, malted in Inverness. Each variety is 100% traceable - harvested, malted, milled, mashed, fermented, distilled and casked separately. This means that the barley harvested on Islay is shipped to Bairds Malt in Inverness, where it's malted and then shipped back to the distillery. The Inverness plant is also certified by the Organic Food Federation to produce Organic malt.
They use eight Barley Varieties; Optic - the main variety used, Chalice - for Islay Grown and organic production, Golden Promise - a past favourite, Bere - the original "barley" introduced by the Vikings, Troon - modern variety, early ripening, short straw, Oxbridge - modern variety, stiff straw, early ripening, Riviera - medium tall, medium early and Flagon - an early ripening, winter barley variety.
The Barley originates from sixteen different locations in Scotland. The following farms on Islay supply barley to Bruichladdich: Kentraw, Rockside, Kynagarry, Octomore, Claggen, Mulindry, Island farm and Starchmill. There are five farms in Ross-shire: Culblair, Flemington, Morayston, Lonnie and Castle Stuart. The other barley originates from Coulmore farm Black Isle, Tullibardine Mains Perthshire and Weyland farm Orkney. The Barley is cultivated both organically, an increasing volume (2006: 30%), and traditionally grown, all exclusively Scottish sourced.