Whisky Magazine Issue 48
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Only a couple of distilleries use Golden Promise, but they swear by it. Ian Wisniewski explains why
Barley varieties come and go on a regular basis, as new varieties offering increased yields for farmers and distillers, as well as greater disease resistance, are continually released. Developing new varieties can take up to 10 years, but this may only result in three to five years success, before the next generation takes over.
In such a competitive and volatile market it's remarkable that Golden Promise has enjoyed a career lasting almost 40 years. And beyond longevity, Golden Promise had such a profound influence on farming, as well as the malting and malt whisky industries, that barley history can be divided into ‘before' and ‘after' Golden Promise.
Historically, ‘indigenous' local varieties were cultivated in Scotland, depending on their ability to cope with particular soil types and micro-climates. In northern Scotland for example, a wild variety called Bere made the most of local conditions.
A growing understanding of genetics enabled new, named barley varieties to be developed from the beginning of the 20th century. The first list of barley varieties recommended for brewers and distillers was compiled in 1930 by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (a role now undertaken by The Institute of Brewing).
Developing new varieties entails a significant investment, in terms of time and resources. But this became more commercially viable in 1964, when The Plant Varieties and Seeds Act enabled plant breeders to collect royalties on varieties which they deve...