Sustainable collaboration with farmers is key to the success of the first Scotch Whisky distillery to open in the Scottish borders since the mid-nineteenth century.

A total of fourteen businesses - twelve farms, Simpsons Malt, and the distillery itself are working in collaboration to produce a range of premium drinks.

One of the farmers is Andy Baird of Harpertoun Farm, a 243 hectare predominantly arable farm, with a beef finishing enterprise and contract farming. The business also has a number of long-term let properties.

The Scottish Farmer: Interior of the distillery. Pic by Keith Hunter.Interior of the distillery. Pic by Keith Hunter.

Talking about his involvement with the project, Mr Baird said: “We’ve always grown spring malting barley because it fits in well with the rest of the rotation and we’ve always grown it for Simpsons Malt.

“They approached us to ask if we would be interested in being involved in the Borders Growers and Distillers Programme as one of the twelve farms within a 35 mile radius of Hawick that supplies the distillery and we were more than happy to do that.

The Scottish Farmer: Farmer Andy Baird supplies the business with barley.Farmer Andy Baird supplies the business with barley.

“At times, our grain goes off the farm and we have no idea where it ends up and you feel a bit detached from the whole process when that happens, but in this case, you have that full transparency of its going to Simpsons when it leaves the farm and it’s coming to the distillery and you know what products it's ending up in once it’s been processed. It gives us a sense of pride.”

“We are growing Laureate spring malting barley, so typically we would get close to 8 tonne per hectare with that, although the past year it was lower, just with the way the spring and summer went.”

Mr Baird said supplying a local market, supporting local employment which helps local communities thrive was important and the business model with the distillery is working well.

The Scottish Farmer: The building has been completely renovated but retains its historic character. Pic by Keith HunterThe building has been completely renovated but retains its historic character. Pic by Keith Hunter

Managing Director of The Borders Distillery, John Fordyce, said The Borders Growers and Distillers has three principal objectives and one supplementary objective.

He said: “The first thing is that farmers have a choice. They don’t have to grow spring barley, but we can’t make whisky without it, so we have to provide a long-term incentive based on the farming horizon which is decades in advance.

“Secondly, we have some rules here that we only use barley from the Borders. By having 12 farms, Simpsons, and the distillery collaborating we can secure our supply chain.

“The third thing is that the third round of the environmental covenant with the Scottish Government means that we will eventually assume responsibility for Scope 3 emissions which means the entire supply chain has to be measured and that means very close collaboration with the farmers.

The Scottish Farmer: The site is at the heart of the important Borders town. Pic by Keith HunterThe site is at the heart of the important Borders town. Pic by Keith Hunter

“An additional outcome is that we are in an area which is defined by farming and it’s part of the culture and we have to fit in with that culture. For us, this has been a major priority as a new business and we are really pleased with the collaboration.”

“In this part of Scotland, farmers have a huge range of options and spring barley is not necessarily what farmers want to do. However, if a farmer knows the market is there and knows where it is not travelling far either to be malted or distilled, then that gives regular business each year.

“The process is completely transparent, and we use the barley for everything gin, vodka, and whisky – we have no other raw material.”

The Scottish Farmer: The faciltiy produces a range of brands. Pic by Keith HunterThe faciltiy produces a range of brands. Pic by Keith Hunter

Mr. Fordyce added that by-products from the process are utilised on farm in a number of ways including in a biogas generator, where it is used to heat homes as well as drying cattle bedding. It is also used to grow tomatoes.

The distillery has launched a range of products aimed at the mid to higher range of the market, including gin, vodka, and whisky, with the latest dram, a limited edition blend call The Long & Short of It.