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Whisky revives Scot Viking heritage

A Scottish whisky distillery has launched an expression made from an ancient barley strain that is thought to have been first introduced by the Vikings.

Isle of Arran Distillers’ latest release, Arran Malt Orkney Bere, is made from bere barley, a once widespread crop in Scotland that has since been largely replaced by higher yielding alternative varieties.

Working with the Agronomy Institute at Orkney College, part of the University of the Highlands, the distillery created this 10-year-old expression that has been matured in Bourbon barrels and bottled at a cask strength of 56.2% abv.

The new 4,890 bottle release follows an earlier first edition run of 5,800 bottles last year. Available direct from the distillery’s website or via specialist whisky shops from 10 November, this latest edition carries an RRP of £59.99.

Noting that this particular strain of barley is “notoriously difficult to grow”, Isle of Arran Distillers’ managing director Euan Mitchell, managing director of Isle of Arran Distillers, maintained: “for those who persevere, it can produce an outstanding malt, as is the case with this highly-anticipated new release.”

Confirmed that the company is “constantly looking for new ways to interest and excite whisky aficionados,” Mitchell remarked: “We are extremely proud to have produced a whisky which uses a crop that is part of Scotland’s rich heritage. We are sure it will thrill and delight those who taste it.”

Thanks to the work of the UHI Agronomy Institute’s research programme into bere barley since 2002, the grain – which is believed to have been brought over by the Vikings in the 9th century or earlier – has appeared in a number of other commercial projects. These have included beer, biscuits and an additional whisky expression created by Islay’s Bruichladdich distillery.

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