The main ingredient in malt whisky is, as the name indicates, malt. Malt is barley that has been allowed to sprout for about one week and is what the trade calls "malted". To stop it sprouting, the malt is then kilned using burning peat (plentiful on Lewis) the heat and smoke from which imbues the whisky with its characteristic smoked taste.
Originally we planted over ten acres (Golden Promise) which produced about ten tons. It was the first time barley had been planted in Uig for as long as anyone can remember, although oats have been grown on a regular basis. Early signs proved hopeful as the crop started to grow. The weather was kind, and we took that as a good omen. However we could never produce enough grain from such a small area and Uig only has limited areas that are available for planting. To achieve our goal of 'field to bottle' we managed to obtain some larger fields which we will use on a rotation basis, this will maintain the nutritional value of the soil and with it the barley. It's important to us to try and be self sufficient, to keep our carbon footprint down and replace what we take. The barley we are growing is aptly named - Moonshine, what we are producing is anything but!
So here we are, producing single malt from our own crop, from field to bottle, a dream realised. Our methods are, like everything else at the distillery, traditional. The barley has been dried through hard graft and malting will be more of the same. To see what we mean check out our video on YouTube and view our Picture Gallery.
As there are only three main ingredients in whisky it's imperative to get them right. A lot of the distilleries nowadays buy in barley from as far away as South Africa, or closer to home, England. There is no rule or regulation stating barley has to come from Scotland and it would be difficult to grow enough barley in Scotland to supply the entire whisky industry.
With thanks to the Mackenzie brothers of Melbost Farms, in 2015 Abhainn Dearg Distillery will have locally supplied all the malting barley required for The Spirit of Lewis and in doing so introduced an arable crop back to the island. Since laying down the first cask in 2008, only six years ago, the distillery will have achieved another first and another milestone.
As Marko (Mark Tayburn) says "from field to bottle".