R & B Distillers are set to trial growing barley on the island of Raasay for the first time in decades as part of their new distillery project. 

The company, who are in the process of building the first legal distillery on the Isle of Raasay, have the long-term ambition of using all-local ingredients – water, peat and barley – to “create a spirit that is a true reflection of the uncommon terroir” of the island.

As part of the plans for the new Isle of Raasay distillery, the team want to establish whether it would be possible to grow and ripen barley, suitable for whisky making, on the fertile part of the island surrounding the distillery grounds.

With an already established water supply from an on site Celtic well and a plentiful supply of peat from the northern part of the island, the brand was curious to investigate if it would be possible to create a truly local whisky using only ingredients sourced on Raasay.

Since April this year, they began growing barley on the island, which is located close to Skye, with trials using five different types including Bere, Concerto, Tartan, Iskria and Kannas in a bid to discover the variety that ripens well and has a low enough moisture content for malting.

The chosen barley will then be sent away to be malted using Raasay peat, before being returned to the distillery to be used to create a new lightly-peated Raasay Single Malt.

The trials are being carried out under the watchful eye of neighbouring local farmer, Andrew Gillies, and Peter Martin of Highland’s and Island’s University Agronomy Institute, who along with their team have helped to prepare the land and offered advice on how the company should go about growing the barley.

Should the trials end up being successful, then the distillers intend to help support local farmers by offering them an alternative crop and a guaranteed end customer should they decide to grow the barley variety.

Working directly with the primary producer, R&B will shorten its supply chain and offer an agreed price for any crofters on Raasay, Skye or Kyle that can grow the successful variety for distillery use.

The first single malt from the new distillery on Raasay is set to be bottled in 2020.

R&B Distillers begin construction of Raasay distillery

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