Exclusive: Bruichladdich launches Islay's first-ever rye whisky

Exclusive: Bruichladdich launches Islay's first-ever rye whisky

The Regeneration Project is the first whisky to be classified as an Islay single grain Scotch whisky

News | 21 Mar 2023 | By Millie Milliken

  • Share to:
Bruichladdich Distillery has announced the launch of The Regeneration Project – Islay's first-ever rye whisky, and the first whisky from the Hebridean island to be classified as a single grain Scotch.

The third release in the Bruichladdich Project series is made up of 55 per cent Islay-grown rye and 45 per cent Islay malted barley. Bottled at 50% ABV, it has been aged for six years in a mix of first-fill bourbon casks and first-fill American virgin oak casks.

Its ideation goes back to a conversation in 2016 between Bruichladdich Distillery production director Allan Logan and farming partner Andrew Jones. In an effort to combat the growing cost of agro-chemicals, avoid monoculture, improve soil health and diversify his crops, Jones decided to add rye to his rotation at Coull Farm.

“The rye was very much born out of our relationship with farmers and the idea that we had to do more in terms of regenerative farming and crop rotation,” said Bruichladdich Distillery CEO Douglas Taylor in an exclusive first interview for Whisky Magazine. “When these great conversations happen… you get to the point of asking, ‘What would we need to do with our own land to invest in soil health? What would you recommend we do?’” With Jones deciding to grow the rye – a crop that has never been grown on Islay before – Bruichladdich in turn agreed to purchase his entire crop and turn it into whisky.

The Regeneration Project ties in with Bruichladdich's mission to support sustainable agriculture through its whisky making. Credit: Bruichladdich Distillery

Grain expectations

Seven years later and The Regeneration Project launch bolsters the B Corp-certified distillery’s ambitions to do good with its business for the environment. It has also been a chance for Logan and the whisky-making team to experiment with rye. From deciphering the best barley-to-rye mash ratio, to upping the mash time by four to five hours, and changing cut points, producing the spirit they wanted did pose a few challenges.

When it came to ageing, Logan wanted to work with casks that would allow them to really learn how this spirit would mature: “We’re very explorational when it comes to casks, but initially we wanted to form a first batch of rye which allowed us to have a good benchmark without confining ourselves.” The resulting liquid promises ‘peppery heat’ and ‘waves of liquorice from the rye’ balanced with a ‘subtle maritime quality that speaks of the whisky’s all Islay maturation’.

For Logan, this is a whisky which speaks to both rye lovers and newcomers alike: “I think the approach is that if you’re experienced in drinking rye whisky, you’d know what to expect, but what is unique I think is that it has the perfect balance. The ageing and the way we’ve made it means there is a roundness that bring it together – it isn’t too spicy, and there is a lovely influence from the cask, giving more sweetness and honey.”

Allan Logan, Bruichladdich Distillery production director (left), samples a glass of The Regeneration Project with farmer Andrew Jones. Credit: Bruichladdich Distillery

Pushing the conversation

Being the first whisky to be classified as an Islay single grain Scotch whisky came with a couple of hoops to jump through too, explains Taylor. “We wanted to call it The Rye Project and we worked closely with the SWA [Scotch Whisky Association] and had a long discussion with them around ideas of what it could and couldn’t be called. Due to it not being made 100 per cent rye, that first name never came to fruition, but their second suggestion was deemed suitable."

A first classification for Islay and working with rye for the first time – on paper it seems like a big risk for Bruichladdich, but Taylor is quick to defend the move: “It would be a risk not to do it. If we all just carry on farming the way we’re farming, and buying malt and barley, the risk is that our business doesn’t do anything to change.” With conversations around climate change and sustainability ever-present, Bruichladdich hopes that this release will push conversations around farming practices and regenerative agriculture forward.

And with rye whiskies beginning to pop up in other pockets of the Scotch whisky industry, is this a sign of things to come from Islay-born whiskies? “I’m not sure it will do anything significant to change the path of Islay whisky,” says Taylor. “It is more about what it could do to reconnect Scotch to agriculture.”

The Regeneration Project is part of a small batch of 1,800 bottles. Priced at £125, it is available online at www.bruichladdich.com.
Magazine Archive

From the archive

Select an issue

Subscribe Now

Subscriptions for
Whisky Magazine are available
in print, digital or as a
complete package

The Benefits

8 print editions a year

Enjoy the convenience of home delivery

Full access to every digital edition via desktop, iOS or Android device

Latest Issue Subscribe Now

The Whisky Encyclopedia - Coming Soon 2024

Discover the world of whisky with our comprehensive encyclopedia
Featuring companies, distilleries, brands, glossaries, and cocktails

Join The Community

Sign up to the Whisky Magazine
newsletter letter and get access to the latest
in all things whisky

paragraph publishing ltd.   Copyright © 2024 all rights reserved.   Website by Acora One

Consent Preferences