Independent Scotch whisky producer, Isle of Arran Distillers, has teamed up with the Agronomy Institute at Orkney College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, to produce a dramatic new single malt whisky made with Scotlandâ€™s oldest cultivated barley.
Thought to have been brought to the UK by the Vikings over 1,000 years ago, Bere barley is notoriously hard to grow, but for those willing to persevere it can produce a very fine quality of spirit.
Until the 19th century Bere was one of the most important Scottish crops and was widely grown by farmers and used by millers, brewers and distillers. Despite being a fundamental part of Scotlandâ€™s agricultural heritage, the crop is now only commercially grown on islands off Scotlandâ€™s North and West coasts as it has been replaced by higher yielding modern varieties.
To challenge this, the Agronomy Institute and Arran Distillers have worked together to revive the spirit of this barley which generates a unique taste of whisky as it used to be, a flavour which can be found in the new Arran Malt Orkney Bere.
Due to hit stores at the beginning of December, Orkney Bere has been matured for eight years in ex-bourbon barrels and the spirit developed quicker than anticipated. Just 5,800 bottles will be available for sale.
Euan Mitchell, managing director of Isle of Arran Distillers, said: â€œAs an independent distillery we have the freedom to try different things and weâ€™re constantly looking for new ways to interest and excite people who enjoy excellent malt whiskies.
â€œDue largely to lack of availability and difficulties with its cultivation, there are only a few distilleries which use Bere, but it can produce fantastic results and is part of Scotlandâ€™s heritage. Weâ€™ve worked with Orkney College to help raise the profile of this forgotten crop and offer our customers a taste of pure history with this limited edition malt.â€
Peter Martin, Director of the Agronomy Institute at Orkney College UHI, commented: â€œWorking with Arran Distillers on this Orkney Bere whisky has been very exciting and I hope its release will help to awaken interest in this historically important Scottish crop. Bere is an under-utilised Scottish food and drink resource â€“ there are not many other ancient cereals still in cultivation which can be used for making whisky, beer and a wide range of bakery products!â€
The Arran Malt Orkney Bere has a flavour of ripe apples, oak and rich spices. The spirit has an ABV of 46% and has developed in American oak barrels with no artificial colours and non-chill filtered. A true collectorâ€™s edition, you can buy the whisky online at www.arranwhisky.com and specialist whisky shops.