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Farming Update: 2024 Barley Varieties

May 6, 2024

Things are picking up on Rockside farm at the distillery with spring well underway. We have ploughed all our fields with the aim of sowing 170 acres with the barley being kept exclusively for future releases of our 100% Islay range. Spring is also a very important time of the year for our herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle and our sheep.  With a lot of early mornings and late nights ahead of us to ensure everything runs smoothly.

This year we have opted for two tried and tested barley varieties, LG Diablo and Laureate. We have grown Laureate on the farm for several years, with it being the highest yielding variety of spring barley available to us in Scotland. It is readily used in the country for malting and brewing and continues to be one of the top performers. LG Diablo is a newer variety to us with the first crop grown on the farm in 2020 and was approved for use in malting in 2019. Having used it for a few years now we are very happy with how it performs throughout production, and we are hoping for another successful crop from them both this year.

In terms of flavour, we do notice a difference during our production process. If the barley quality dips, the production team will find it more difficult to work with during key stages like malting, mashing and distillation. So, it really is a big risk trialling more experimental varieties. Anthony has also noticed differences in the flavour of the new make spirt depending on the barley variety used. Laureate gives the spirit more notes of cereal and a malted characteristic compared to LG Diablo. All that being said, we are still at the hands of mother nature, and are all holding our breath these next few months for a good summer of weather – something that is a rarity on Islay!

We have not only been busy preparing our fields for our barley but we have also been very busy with the livestock side of the farm. Springtime is always a hectic time on any farm and here at Rockside it is no exception. Jim, our farmer, is about to begin the hard work of lambing and calving. We have 24 cows calving with the first one having been born already on the 6th of March! In addition, we have over 500 sheep lambing from early April, so we are making sure they have all their correct dozes and medicines to ensure they are fit and healthy and ready to be mothers. Even though the distillery is always busy producing whisky, this time of year is a particularly stressful time on the farm. We are very proud to still be running the farm at Kilchoman as it was there long before the distillery and we want to continue the original farming heritage of Rockside.

Farming is not a 9-5 job, it is a way of life and we are working hard to make sure our sheep have lambs, our cows have calves, and obviously, our barley grows!

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