Field to bottle isn’t just a phrase we use. As one of the few distilleries around the world who farm all the barley they use in their whisky, we not only get to choose which varieties we grow, we also determine how we grow it.
This is really important to us and something that our co-founders know and care a lot about. Tom has lived on the farm for his whole life and has been farming (or working on the farm) since he was young. David’s area of expertise is crop science. Improving their understanding of crops, and evolving their thinking about how we farm the land and what is grown, is something that they are always doing.
This year we’re trialling direct-drilling on 130 acres of the farm. This means that for these acres, rather than discing, ploughing and then drilling the fields as per the ‘usual’ process, we’re doing things a little differently. In the autumn, we drilled a cover crop of radishes, phacelia and black oats straight into the stubble left from the previous harvest (these pictures were taken on one of the trial fields in late February, after a few months of growing). This cover crop has been specifically chosen to help regenerate the soil, essentially adding nutrients back into the land. We’ll then sow our spring barley crop directly into the land again, so won’t have ever turned over and ‘disturbed’ the soil. Current thinking is that working the land releases carbon back into the air; by keeping the soil undisturbed, that carbon stays in the ground.
This is all still in trial though and we’re only partway through the annual growing cycle. Over the next few months, we’ll be carefully watching and measuring what happens, with a view to evolving (and ideally expanding) the process next year too.