Barley, one of our M’s

The British governments definition of Scotch whisky is laid out in the ‘Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009’,

“In these Regulations “Scotch Whisky” means a whisky produced in Scotland— that retains the colour, aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation”

It is from this simple statement that we have derived our 3M’s, our materials, our method and our maturation.

At InchDairnie we make our single malt each season and each season is different. For our autumn and winter campaigns we use malt produced from Fife grown winter barely, unlike most other distillers that will only use spring barley. Winter barley is sown by the farmer in the autumn and it is harvested in early summer of the following year. The variety is called Venture. Farmers and maltsters are guided by what is called the ‘recommended list’, published by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), as to what barley variety to plant and to malt. The list is published each year with new varieties being added and some removed. Unfortunately, the criteria that guides the inclusion or otherwise of a different variety, is the agronomical yield and the distillery yield. Basically how many tons per hectare and how much alcohol per ton. The most important criteria, flavour, is completely ignored.

Each summer we use Brioni barley for our summer solstice whisky. This variety is nowhere on the AHDB list.

The barley variety Venture is on the list but only as a brewing malt and not a distilling malt, there are no winter barley varieties recommended for distilling. We use this variety in order to give us flavour.

This barley is high in protein so when it is mashed and filtered, the wort is cloudier than lower protein spring barleys. We bring in our other M, our method, and change the way we mill and mash this malt to increase its cloudy characteristic. Cloudy wort ferments differently than clear wort and the resulting flavour profile is different. It has a comparatively heavier flavour profile which is more reminiscent of whiskies produced in an older rack and plough mash tun.

This flavour profile is further enhanced by using a different yeast strain when mashing this winter barley. More of that in our article on yeast.

So, by combining two of our M’s, our Materials and our Method, we can alter the flavour profile of our InchDairnie Single malt. The combination of this barley variety and the specific strain of yeast our distillery yield, litres of alcohol per ton of malt, is lower than normal.

We gladly sacrifice yield for flavour.