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Meet Our Scottish Barley Farmers

At Clydeside, we source all of our barley locally from four farmers that make up the Clydeside grower’s group. These farmers provide Simpsons Malt with the barley, and we buy their barley from Simpsons after it’s been malted to our specifications. 

Our goal was to produce the best whisky we could possibly make, which is why we established the grower’s group. In addition, it was important for us to create direct relationships within our ecosystem and provide complete transparency for anyone interested in our production methods, as well as traceability for those concerned with sustainability. As a result, all of the barley used to make our Clydeside whisky can be traced back to its original farm and harvest. 

September is harvest time for many Lowland farmers, so our distillery manager Alistair McDonald visited one of our growers in Lauder Berwickshire this past week: Wanton Walls Farm managed by Craig Connell. Alistair spent some time with Craig out in the barley fields to talk about the most recent crop. Their discussion is below:

Alistair: What have the main challenges been this year from both a crop and harvest point of view?

Craig: This year it’s mostly been the weather. It’s been wet and mucky at times, which has led to high nitrogen in some of the barley, and some trouble getting it accepted by our maltsters. The weather has a big impact on what we can grow and sell. 

Alistair: How many acres are here on the farm as part of the Clydeside grower’s group?

Craig: In total, we’ve got about 1100 acres. About 400 acres of that is dedicated to growing Laureate barley specifically for Clydeside. 

Alistair: Are you finished harvesting for the year or is there still more work to be done?

Craig: We’re getting there. We’re in the last third of it now. Another four days and we should be done. 

Alistair: When it comes to sustainability and crop rotation, do you change out what’s in the fields throughout the year?

Craig: Yes, we start the year with Golden Promise barley, then after we switch to oilseed rape. After that we’ll grow wheat for two years. Then we plant Laureate barley for malting after that. That’s our rotation at the moment. 

Alistair: You would think it would be barley year after year, but that’s not the case?

Craig: Some of the fields are dedicated to just barley. We have some fields that have been barley for about five or six years, but after that we’ll switch them over to wheat. It depends on the soil. 

Alistair: As a Lowland distillery using Lowland barley for our whisky, we’re very proud of the quality we produce. What would you say is the reason for such high quality barley in this area?

Craig: It’s a longer growing season down here. We start sowing in the middle of March and we’re still going as of now, so there’s more time for the barley to fill out. Spring barley as a crop is very well suited to this area and has been for some time.

Alistair: That makes sense. Obviously, we’re looking for a high quality, premium barley for our whisky, but I have one last question for you: have you had time to visit the distillery yet?

Craig: Not yet, but I’m planning to make it over soon.

Alistair: We’ve got a bottle of Clydeside whisky waiting for you when you do. Thanks for all your hard work and for doing what you do.

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