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Scottish Distillery Turns To Ancient Barley For A Special Whisky

arran-bereA new 10-year-old whisky out from Isle of Arran distillery is old school, not necessarily because of how it was made, but rather because of the base barley grain with ancient roots used to make it with. The Arran Malt Orkney Bere Barley, as it is called, heralds from a crop first brought over to Scotland by Vikings over 1,000 years ago.

The Arran Malt Orkney Bere Barley, according to the distillery, makes use of something called bere barley. It was, until the 19th century, considered one of the more important Scottish crops, widely grown and used by millers, brewers and distillers. It was a challenging crop to raise, however, and is now mostly replaced by higher yield modern barley.

Bere barley is still farmed in a few places though, mainly on islands off Scotland’s north and west coasts, so the distillery is working with local universities to revive the use of this barley as something which can create what’s considered to be a unique tasting whisky. This expression, noted those behind it, is “sweet, earthy and malty and conjures flavours of ripe honeydew melon and apples with a finish of vanilla and desiccated coconut.”

The idea Isle of Arran has with creating a special Scotch built around an antique crop seems to have caught on with drinkers, as an initial batch released last year quickly sold out. What’s been released this time around was aged for a decade in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at a cask strength of 56.2% ABV. The Arran Malt Orkney Bere Barley, which is non-chill filtered, is available now in a batch of 4,890 bottles for a price of around £60 ($94).


Nino Kilgore-Marchetti

Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and provided tasting input on many whiskeys at competitions. He also maintains a large private collection of whiskey from which he continually educates his palate on this brown spirit type.

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