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Where is barley coming from?

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Where is barley coming from?

Postby Admiral » Wed Apr 20, 2005 1:15 am

In truth, most of the barley isn't even from the UK


This comment was made in another thread on these pages. It made me curious....

Can we quantify this?

Do we know (in percentage terms) just what quantity of barley used in the Scotch industry is UK-grown?

How much of it comes from outside the UK?

From which other countries is it coming from?

I once heard that Mount Franklin barley from Australia was exported to Scotland for use in whisky making, but I've not heard it confirmed anywhere.

Can anyone shed light on these questions?

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Aidan » Wed Apr 20, 2005 6:45 am

This doesn't fully answer they question, but...

Half of the companies behind the top 10 single malts for export do not guarantee that the barley used in their product is sourced from Scotland. Morrison’s Bowmore, the company behind Bowmore, a single malt from the island of Islay, was the only top 10 company to guarantee its whisky is made from 100% Scottish grain. The rest either declined to comment or said they would source Scottish grain “whenever they can”.

From http://www.sundayherald.com/44899

Also, I read somewhere that the barley type does matter. Brewers require a barley with a lot of nitrogen, while distillers prefer a barley with less nitrogen and more starch...
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Postby rthomson » Wed Apr 20, 2005 7:45 am

Barley can get complicated. And coming from an old beer homebrewer's perspective I woulnd't know where to begin regarding the best ones for scotch. Should it be UK grown? Is 6-row (more protein and enzyme content) better than 2-row (a bit more complex profile)? As mentioned, how much nitrogen and starch is desired? With the brewing of beer much of the quality of barley in the finished product comes down to how it was handled and used in the process. For example, Moravian III barley is considered by some to be one of the high quality strains. And who has a near, if not total, monopoly on that? Coors. Does that make Coors one of the premier malt products on the market? I can't say this analogy is even applicable to distilling but there are many factors with barley that need to be considered.

I know that 10-15 years ago many small breweries in the U.S. tried to emulate the classic styles of Europe (clearly for good reasons) and bought malts and hops from overseas. However, in an effort to survive financially many had to switch to U.S. and Canadian barley such as the old Briess and Harringtons, at least I think Harringtons is Canadian. I would imagine that some distilleries have gone the same route and are trying to find the most cost effective barley that will still produce the profile they desire.

A bit off topic, I know. But the migration of sources of barley for small U.S. breweries has interested me for quite a while.

Ron
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Postby The Fachan » Wed Apr 20, 2005 10:13 am

Gentlemen,

At present the large percentage of distilleries are using a few very select strains of barley. In the main Optic and Chalice are the main two with others such as Camargue and the "mystical" Golden Promise only playing bit parts.
It takes around 8-10 years for a new strain of barley to move from creation through different crop sizes to final approval by the BDI, then it will be added to a select list of approved varieties.

Ian
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Apr 20, 2005 4:59 pm

In 2003 the Maltsters Association of Great Britain reported that the barley crop was 100% UK produced with English Winter Barley at 26% of the crop, English Spring Barley at 30.70%, Scottish Winter Barley at 1.85% and Scottish Spring Barley at 41.45%.

Now if you look at their membership (distillers & brewers) list it includes most of the industry but not all therefore it is not a complete picture. But it does list Diageo, Highland Distillers and Morrison Bowmore.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Wed Apr 20, 2005 7:20 pm

Interesting! Have there been done any scientific research that focuses on quality and taste of the barley coming from various countries or climates?

Skål!
Christian
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Apr 20, 2005 8:47 pm

I'm sure they have but I don't have the info. I just did a quick search on the internet and came across this site. I've also emailed somebody in the UK Ministry of Agriculture to find out about barley imports. Whether they respond or not is another issue.

Lawrence

As a point of interest the types of winter barley listed are Fanfare, Maris Otter, Regina, Pearl & others. The spring barley is listed as Chalice, Chariot, Decanter, Maresi, Optic, Cellar, Tavern, Cocktail, Troon & others.

Pearl and Optic account for the largest share of the crop. Pearl at 85% and Optic at 79%. The was no listing for golden promise however it may be buried in the 'others' section.
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:08 pm

After some further on line looking I found this bit of info which would suggest that as of the end of 2004 the UK was an exporter of barley. Total barley grown for 2004 was 5.86M tonnes and if added to exisiting stocks the available barley was 6.81M tonnes.

Human & Industrial use of barley was lowered to 1.79M tonnes. Two malting plants were closed in 2004 due to the loss of export markets in Russia and Eastern Europe.

The above numbers would suggest that there is very little barley being imported into the UK at the moment.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:44 pm

deleted
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:57 pm

Yes, that's a good point, I am guessing but would that mean that the UK is importing cheaper barley for distilling, using part of the home crop for distilling and then exporting the any surplus at a higher price?
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Wed Apr 20, 2005 10:10 pm

Hi Lawrence!
I detected the logical flaw in my post and deleted it.... :D
I believe you are right. The only sensible thing would as you say be to use whatever homegrown barley one had because if they had a surplus to export then surely that would be cheaper than the imported alternatives?

Skål!
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Postby bernstein » Thu Apr 21, 2005 6:52 am

It might be of further interest to know that scottish cereal farmers - especiallly barley-producing farmers - do have a real hard time to survive under the conditions of the common european agricultural market. This is a quite complicated system of funding and refunding – but it seems to be obvious that support for scottish farmers dropped over the last years from 75% to 55%. I understand that it might not be to easy to find scottish grown and malted barley in the the right quality and quantity in these days. You may find more information under http://www.land-care.org.uk.
Does anybody know anything more about the progress at Kilchoman Distillery? It claimed to grow and malt its own barley and then produce and mature the whisky all on the same site. That would come close to “terroir” IMHO.
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Postby bernstein » Thu Apr 21, 2005 6:58 am

Sorry, I should have thought about that link a minute ago :oops: : http://www.kilchomandistillery.com. The distillery is making a very good progress!
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Postby Ize » Thu Apr 21, 2005 10:57 am

Sorry, that I couldn't find the source wherefrom I have seen this information, but have heard (or read) that some barley would come from Finland. One of the claimed reasons was that long and really sloooow growing season in the cold cold Finland would give some good characteristics to barley .. maybe the taste can be different, I don't know. Elsewhere I have heard that the nordic weather conditions cause that there would be more starch in the finnish barley, but go figure.
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Postby Iain » Thu Apr 21, 2005 12:58 pm

Peatfreak's site provides link to this report in the Daily Record,

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/tm_ob ... _page.html

which claims that "around 10 per cent of barley used in Scotch is imported".
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Postby Lawrence » Thu Apr 21, 2005 9:56 pm

This just in complements of the Malt Maniacs http://www.maltmadness.com

Holyrood Debate Highlights Scotch Whisky Concerns
21/04/05
The future supply of Scottish grain to the whisky industry is being threatened by the low prices paid to farmers. Scotland’s farming union has made the point as MSPs debate the use of Scottish grain in Scotch whisky today (Thursday 21 April).

Many farmers are thinking twice about growing malting barley, a key ingredient in the production of Scotch whisky, because the price being paid to them does not cover production costs. NFUS is extremely concerned that any increase in the use of imported, non-Scottish grain in the production of Scotch whisky could undermine the integrity of the Scotch whisky brand and jeopardise future sales.

The price pressure is not restricted to farmers. The malting industry is suffering from a similar squeeze. Two of Scotland’s malting facilities have announced their closure in recent months – the Muntons plant in Kirkcaldy and Greencore’s facility in Carnoustie. NFUS is urging the supply chain, primarily distillers and retailers, to ensure the profits on whisky are shared fairly to protect the supply of one of its key ingredients and to protect the Scotch brand.

MSPs are today involved in a member’s debate in the Scottish Parliament led by Andrew Arbuckle MSP. The motion calls for Protected Geographic Indicator (PGI) status for Scotch whisky, demanding the use of Scottish-only grain in whisky production. Whilst NFUS recognises the difficulties with this route and the question marks over its effect on the industry, NFUS believes that distillers should adopt an official ‘Scottish-first’ policy when sourcing grain and ensure the right price incentive exists to secure Scottish supplies.

Chairman of the NFUS Combinable Crops Committee is David Houghton, a cereal farmer from Easter Ross. He said:

“On average, it costs over £100 to produce a tonne of malting barley, yet farmers’ prices have consistently been £90 a tonne or less. Understandably, many farmers are thinking twice about planting the crop. That has major implications for the whisky industry.

“Worth over £2 billion a year, the Scotch whisky export industry is marketed on its ‘Scottishness’ and is a brand which is globally recognised. Any increase in the use of non-Scottish grain will undermine this brand. That will happen unless the profits from the whisky industry are shared more fairly through the supply chain. Whilst the whisky industry’s commitment to Scottish grain has improved over the years and it now buys around 90 per cent of its grain requirements from Scotland, it may lose that option if that commitment is not translated into fairer prices.

“We recognise that PGI status is problematic, legally and commercially. However, a Scottish-first policy of sourcing grain is extremely important. And that policy should be protected by a pricing structure which recognises the need to secure local supply and reflects the cost to farmers of producing quality.”

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Postby Admiral » Fri Apr 22, 2005 7:46 am

Excellent article, thanks Lawrence.

The key item is in the second last paragraph - about 90% of the scotch industry's grain requirements are sourced from the UK?

Note the use of the word "grain". So that's not just barley, but wheat / maize etc, used for grain whisky and blended scotch.

Somewhere in this 90% of grain is the actual amount of malting barley, but that might be a harder figure to get a handle on.

Cheers,
AD
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Postby The Fachan » Fri Apr 22, 2005 10:53 am

Folks,

Please consider something that is equally important to a distiller besides taste, its Yield( how many litres of alcohol per tonne). IN some instances this may be considered more important as strains continually change.

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Postby Aidan » Fri Apr 22, 2005 11:03 am

I think Colm Egan, the master blender, in a previous life was involved in picking barley with high yield.

I got the impression that the farmers were paid on yield, so they are pushing for higher yielding strains...
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Apr 22, 2005 4:27 pm

Again compliments of the Malt Maniacs;

http://business.scotsman.com/agricultur ... =427032005

MSP fails to make case over whisky barley
FORDYCE MAXWELL
A MOTION that only home-grown barley should be used to make Scotch whisky found no support in parliament last night.

Holyrood’s newest MSP, Liberal Democrat Andrew Arbuckle, made the proposal the cornerstone of his first member’s motion, arguing that the move would give Scotch whisky protected geographical indicator (PGI) status.

No questions are allowed and no vote taken in such a debate, but Conservative, Labour and SNP speakers in a thinly-attended session all argued that there was no need for a home-grown restriction.

Arbuckle’s argument was that it was inconceivable the French would allow champagne to be made with anything other than home-grown grapes or that Parma ham might be made with imported pig meat. He went on: "But Scottish whisky makers can, and do, use imported grain to make Scotland’s national drink."

Not a lot, he agreed - the figure generally accepted during the debate was that, in a normal year, 95 per cent of whisky is made using home-grown grain - but any at all was wrong.

One hundred per cent home-grown barley would be a unique selling point, he said and some enlightened whisky makers had realised that.

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