A DISTILLERY in Islay has released a new rye whisky in a first for both the distillery and the island in a move which it says will help farmers for years to come.

Bruichladdich Distillery has been distilling whisky on and off since it was first established in 1881.

Speaking to The National, production director Allan Logan said support for regenerative agricultural practices is at the heart of this new project.

Logan believes that the distillery can play a vital role in helping sustainability on the island.

The National: The Regeneration Project is mostly made up of RyeThe Regeneration Project is mostly made up of Rye (Image: Lynne McEwan)

The whisky, called The Regeneration Project, is made up of 55% Islay grown rye and 45% malted barley.

Rather than being born out of commercial need, Logan explains that the team wanted to focus on “quality not quantity” with the new product. 

Back in 2016, Logan and long-standing farming partner Andrew Jones had a conversation on how crop rotation could be beneficial for the land at Jones’s land at Coull Farm.

He was keen to combat the growing cost of agro-chemicals although, as Logan explains, crop rotation is more difficult in Islay than elsewhere.

“Farmers on the mainland have got different markets because people will buy different cereals or vegetables or things they can grow to help crop rotations for the soil fertility.

“It was thinking about what we could do to help the farmers to diversify to grow something different.

“Looking at vegetables, they’re great for crop rotation ... We could have potentially distilled potatoes and made vodka or something but that means more infrastructure so rye stood out because it helps the farmer put nitrogen back into the soil after growing barley for so many years."

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Once the decision was made to turn to rye, the second stage was making sure that the distillery had access to this crop and to create a whisky which appealed to the market.

Logan added: “Without that market, it’s all well and good for the farmer to grow rye but they still need somewhere to sell it.”

Rye is more common in American whisky production, making up approximately 5% of the value of total production.

The distillery hopes that The Regeneration Project will help push the conversation further on the subject of regenerative agriculture in a bid to find alternative solutions to modern farming practices.

Asked about the importance of the distillery being at the heart of the farming community and its long-term importance, Logan said: “It’s massively important because we know that if we want to keep making whisky in the future then we need to look after the resources and that’s the soil that grows the barley.

“We have a responsibility to do anything we can and I think that ties into going back to the benefit we get in working directly with farmers because we can have these conversations and help them influence change.

“And that means doing things like this. There was never any certainty this would all pay off or that we would make whisky from it and we still don’t know how far it’ll go in terms of the market.

“That’s something that we need to understand but going back to the sustainability, we need to support our supply chain and help them find ways of making improvements in everything they do.

“It’s not easy because the technology isn’t always there and the formula in most cases be it in farming or whatever, it’s not a magic formula, you need to try a bit of everything and see what happens.

“All we can do is learn to understand and try and do our bit.”