Bere is Scotland’s oldest cultivated barley. It was brought to the UK by the Vikings over 1000 years ago, and it was quite common in whisky production before the 20th Century. However over the last few decades it was hardly available because it is notoriously difficult to grow.
In 2004 Arran distillery worked with the Agronomy Institute of Orkney College (University of the Highland & Islands) to produce this high-quality grain and distill the Arran Bere Barley. After an initial release in 2012 (5800 btl.) there’s now a new edition, 10 years old and bottled at cask strength.
The Arran ‘Orkney Bere Barley’ 10 yo 2004 Cask Strength (56,2%, OB 2014, bourbon barrels, 4890 btl.)
Nose: strong gristy notes, some bread crust and lots of hay. Digestive biscuits. Oats. Joined by fresh citrus notes (lemon juice) and hints of floral honey. A few herbal / earthy hints as well. Becomes very lightly tropical after a while, an there’s just a hint of vanilla marshmallow. Rather ‘minimal’ but the specific grainy / dusty side is quite special. Mouth: a lot of zesty notes, with really punchy spices. Lemon curd, ginger and a sweet melon note in the background. Lemon candy. A slightly floral middle, with some apple and dried coconut. Grapefruit. Very peppery towards the end, again some earthy notes and always the strong presence of malt. Finish: very long, half earthy, half zesty, with clear oak and a sharp peppery edge again.
A friend of mine loves this and ordered two cases right away. I can see why: it’s an interesting variation and a uniquely old-school dram, but other Arrans have been rounder, fruitier and just more to my liking. Around € 75. Should arrive in stores over the next few weeks.