PRODUCTION director, Allan Logan, and head distiller, Adam Hannett, of Bruichladdich, have announced that they have successfully distilled a spirit using an Islay-grown rye, for the first time.
Logan says: “We have been looking at experimenting with different grains for a while – and we feel that using rye could give us access to interesting new styles.
“We have managed to create around 6,500 bulk litres and are filling a mixture of casks – first-fill Bourbon, and virgin American and European oak.”
The rye was sown at Coull Farm on the Rhinns of Islay by Andrew Jones who has been growing malting barley for Bruichladdich for a number of years but who was happy to assist with an experimental harvest.
For a distiller of Scottish single malts to use rye is a radical departure as, by law, single malt Scotch whisky can only be made from barley.
So, if the spirit from this distillation is ever brought to market it could not be sold as single malt.
Rye whiskey has a long history in the U.S.A. which requires that it be distilled from a mashbill that uses at least 51% rye.
Most Canadian ‘rye whiskies’ cannot be sold as such in the USA because they are made from a primarily corn-based mash.
Logan and Hannett decided to use the Coull rye unmalted and settled on a 55/45 rye/barley mashbill, drying the grain down to five per cent moisture content prior to milling.
Rye grains are much smaller than those of barley and the kernels, like those of wheat, have no husks. All of which, taken together with the high content of sugars like fructosans and sucrose and the soluble polysaccharide beta-glucan, means it is difficult to mash.
In an attempt to address this, the Bruichladdich distillers reduced their regular mash size from seven tonnes to 4.5 and mashed, each load slightly differently to test different ways of working.
Logan continued: “Employing our usual yeasts, we observed the subsequent variety in the behaviour of the different washes during fermentation; each had been derived using a slightly different technique and so we were able to evaluate the results and learn as we went along.
“This has been quite a challenge but happily the end result has been very worthwhile. There are noticeable differences from the spirit style we are used to from malted barley, in the aromas through the fermentation, to tasting the new make.
“The rye has got a really sweet, floral aroma – but peppery with added spices.”
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