English Barley: From Grain to Glass
As the harvest time rolls in, we follow the journey of our English spring barley from an organic farm in beautiful Hampshire to the buzzing capital.
The story of the barley we use here at Bimber begins in the picturesque Fordham & Allen farm in Hampshire. Here they grow Concerto – which is one of the most sought-after barley varieties, which is perfect for both malting and distilling.At the farm, there is a seamlessprocess from seeding,to growing and right through to the harvesting.
Concerto has earned fame amongst maltsters and distillers alike, due to its unique qualities. Introduced in the UK in 2009, it has since become the benchmark and continues to produce high yields of quality malting grain. It is a relatively taller variety with strong agronomic attributes and carries approval from the Institute of Brewing & Distillingfor use in brewing and distilling.
At Bimber Distillery we only use the best ingredients and Concerto has a good physical grain quality with a high water-extract and low grain nitrogen of below 1.6%. From a maltsters point of view, high germinationpower is linked to the low nitrogen content. For a distiller, the nitrogenous wort composition is important as it largely defines the extract of the malt.
Rain makes grain, goes the old English saying, but not for barley! Unpredictable and moody, theEnglish weather made us hold our breath a few times this summer. Nevertheless, UK maltsters are likely to buy around 1.9 million tonnes in total of malting barley from the 2017 crop, according to the Maltster’s Association of Great Britain.
This season the grain quality is good and the crop is reasonable despite a few weather challenges during the growing season. With a few weeks of intermittent rain, the Bimber spring barley crop was saved due to it not yet beingready for harvest at this point.
Spring barley is sown each spring and bears 19-24 grains per ear. This is about 20% less than winter barley, however winter barley varieties are not currently approved for distilling in the UK. Spring barley is also different from wheat as its flowering can start just prior to the ear’s emerging.
Barley is rated on a scale 1-9 for grain quality and size with only top three grades malted for use in whisky production. Concerto and Odyssey are amongst a few varieties currently approved for distilling. It’s not easy at all to make the cut to be used in Bimber spirits!
As distillers, we look for barley strains which are high in starch, with a large grain size, good enzyme potential and the ability to germinate. These form the basis of the unique Bimber Distillery London Single Malt whisky. For example, high starch is very important as it will be converted into sugar to fuel the fermentation process.
There are different opinions on how a specific barley kind can affect the taste of the end whisky product. We believe that care and control over quality are crucial and that’s why we carefully select all of our suppliers at Bimber Distillery. As the crop from the farm heads to our craft distillery in West London, the casks are ready for our whisky-to-be, which will one day make it to your glass.
Get in touch to arrange a visit to our distillery and learn more about Bimber and our unique range of spirits; email@example.com