Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2011

What they say


Bere barley is a heritage variety of barley that never quite reached peak popularity with farmers or distillers, owing to its low yield. It never made the ‘recommended growing list’ for farmers, and so sowing the seed fell out of fashion. The ancient landrace would have been all but lost if it were not for the resurrection mission forged by the Barony Mill with the helping hand of the Orkney College (UHI Agronomy Institute). This 2011 vintage of whisky, distilled from the six-row grain grown on Orkney in the summer of 2010, is a testament to the longevity of the Bere partnership that started back in 2005. Certainly no ordinary bottle of single malt, it’s uniqueness has layers; in its unorthodox method of barley supply, its academic interest owing to genetic diversity and perhaps most importantly to us, its intensely unctuous, barley-sugar-sweet flavour.

Bere is Britain’s oldest strain of cultivated cereal and would have been the grain used by Scotland’s early distillers through distant centuries.

In the 20th century, however, an emphasis on efficiency and commercial return encouraged the pursuit of yield over flavour – varieties that would produce the biggest, easiest crop and greatest extract.

Always champions of flavour, we’ve been working with the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Agronomy Institute since 2005 to reintroduce Bere barley to the distilling of single malt whisky.

Bere is a hardy grain, adapted to poor soil conditions and a short growing season with long hours of daylight – that’s to say, the summer sun of the more extreme northern latitudes. In early trials, Bere proved so tough and resilient that it broke our milling machine, and it took time and patience to understand how to get the best from this enigmatic traditional grain. In this vintage, the characteristic texture is like honey, rich and incredibly vicious, and as always, the fruit is to the fore – apple, pear and peach over cinder toffee and apricot jam.

The 2010 crop of Bere, distilled in 2011, was grown and supplied by the Agronomy Institute of Orkney College (UHI) in partnership with Magnus Spence (The Northfield, Burray) and Sydney Gauld (Quoyberstane, St Ola).

In total, the team in Orkney battled the difficult growing conditions on 5 different farms over the growing season, Quoyberstane, Muddisdale and Weyland & Watersfield in St Ola, and Northfield and Westermill on Burray.

Official tasting notes

  • Nose – The nose opens with a bouquet of sunny floral aromas. Geraniums and orange blossom followed by mint and chocolate limes. Next comes malted barley, a citrus tang and apricot jam. There is a creamy richness on the nose; the combination of malty, fruity, citrus and floral notes wrapped in fresh oak is beautifully balanced and has tremendous depth of flavour.
  • Taste – On the palate, the delicate nature of this whisky is evident with light hints of chocolate, apricot jam and citrusy, herbal zephyrs. Yet, the texture shows robustness in its viscosity as it settles across the tongue. As it does so, the barley sugar opens up with chocolate lime and fudge. Dried banana chips, vanilla and marshmallow. Apricot jam, gooseberry pudding and malted bread. A host of flavours mingle and combine to give depth and delicacy to this dram.
  • Finish – On the finish, the marine freshness comes through. Salinity on the lips and a stiff sea breeze note speak of the northern islands where the Bere is grown, and the ozone and fruity character on the palate hint at the westerly location of the spirit’s birth and maturation. Barley sugar and green fruit come in on the palate and hold right to the end as the superb texture pulls everything together.
  • Character – In our 2010 vintage, there was a succulent peach note that set the tone of the dram. In this 2011, an equally delightful apricot jam style holds the whisky together. Both these notes come through in all Bruichladdich’s eventually as the young green fruit of the spirit ages into ripe stoned fruit, but rarely with such poise and singularity. There is something unique about the Bere spirit and its tremendous depth of flavour that magnifies our unpeated whisky’s DNA and showcases its complexity. Another remarkable vintage and exploration of provenance and terroir that shows not all barley is equal.

What I say

Bruichladdich’s latest Bere Barley expression distilled in 2011 and aged for 10 years. Once again Bruichladdich provide a volume on provenance about their Orkney-sourced Bere barley. Let’s see if it is as delicious as their previous ones.

  • ABV 50%
  • Age 10 Years Old
  • Bottler Official
  • Bottling Bere Barley
  • Cask Oak
  • Category Single malt whisky
  • Cost £75
  • Origin Bruichladdich Distillery
  • Outturn undisclosed
  • Region Islay
  • Released 2021
  • Vintage 2011

My tasting notes

  • Appearance Sauternes gold (7/20), loose medium tears and legs.
  • Nose Fresh and sweet, juicy apples, pears, some vanilla pastries, oak wood, apple Danish or Turnover pastries, biscuity cereal, honey and orchard blossom
  • Taste Medium-full bodied, creamy and thick on the palate, vanilla, malty sugars, caramel, butterscotch, honey, honeycomb/beeswax, some gentle spices, gingersnaps, cinnamon and tangerine zest accompany subtle mineralic and coastal influences.
  • Finish Long, sweet and spiced; honey with freshly grated nutmeg and oak wood.
  • Overall Quite smooth, fruity and vanilla led, perhaps the cask influence at 10 years is just starting to make its presence felt against that thick and unctuous mealy cereal nature from the Bere.

Score 85/100

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