Bairds and our sister company Scotgrain work together each year to hold an Early Evaluation Program (EEP) to trial new malting barley varieties. This evaluation is done at two assessment sites located in Carnoustie (early sown), and Inverness (later sown). Working with breeders we identify high potential varieties. We grow 25 spring barley lines each year, inclusive of 3 control varieties which are in mainstream commercial use. The purpose of this is to identify varieties which will provide a better performance to our farmers in yield, quality and disease resistance and improved quality to our customers. We also use this evaluation to identify and then develop varieties with traits which meet specific niche customer needs to support new brand development.
Our team of agronomists follow the crop development from sowing to harvest, and each barley plot is then evaluated in our Arbroath laboratory and micro-maltings for barley and malt quality. If a new variety passes all our tests and brings improvement to our supply chain then we will grow it in following years to ensure it performs well across the different climatic conditions that each year brings. Once our stringent criteria have been successfully tested in the evaluation plots and the labs over a number of years we will then proceed to commercial trial with some of our key growers in farms across Scotland. Once harvested we will perform our standard rigorous quality checks of the crop and if satisfactory we will malt in our small batch plant in Inverness and again assess the quality rigorously.
The final stage is then to work with our key brewing and distilling customers to evaluate it performance in their plants and most importantly its flavour and consistency in the final product, the whisky or beer. It is a very significant investment in time, expertise and money across our supply chain over a number of years. The result of this is to support great brands, launch new brands and ensure we have an efficient and competitive supply chain which each year reduces its impact on the environment. Over the last 25 years Bairds have fully supported the evolution of UK recommended barley lines, and identified 8 propriety lines that have been commercially successful for our Scottish supply chain. Bairds investment in the end to end process with malting barley trials in Scotland is unique in our industry and highlights our commitment to “Sown, Grown and Malted” in Scotland providing local high-quality sustainable supply to our distillers and brewers.