Season 2 begins March 1, 2023!
Barrel Room Chronicles
May 20, 2022

BRC EP 11 - Farm to Bottle Highland Rye

In this episode of Barrel Room Chronicles, I speak with Kirsty Black and Lauren Oliver of Arbikie Highland Distillery about the Scottish Highland’s 1st commercial Rye whiskey in over 100 years AND the opening of their new visitor’s experience center. Then later in the show Chef Louise Leonard joins me to talk Patty Melts in today’s World of Weezy.

Barrel Room Chronicles is a production of 1st Reel Entertainment and is available on Spotify, Apple, Google, iHeartRadio, Amazon and wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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BRC EP 11 – Featuring Arbikie Distillery

Kerry: Welcome to the barrel room Chronicles. I'm Kerry Moynahan as certified bourbon steward, former bartender and all around whiskey aficionado. I traveled the world to explore whiskey from every avenue for the last 20 years. I've been helping others tell their stories through television, film, and other media, but now I'm taking my love for whiskey and my experience in the entertainment industry to uncover the fascinating stories of the water of life. So kick off your. Pour yourself a DRAM and join me for this episode of barrel room Chronicles.

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Kerry : It is five o'clock somewhere. And you've tuned into episode 11 of BRC. For those of you, who'd like to watch this episode, it's available on our website, YouTube and Spotify today in our tails from the still segment I speak with Kirsty black and Lauren Oliver of our Beaky Highland estate distillery about the Scottish Highlands. First commercial rye whiskey. Then later in the show, chef Louise Leonard joins me to talk about a Patty melt in today's world of Weezy. Stay with us.

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Kerry: Well, hello ladies. It is so nice to have you here. We have a semi returning guests, Lauren Oliver, who was with us on spirits of whiskey. And we have, um, Kirsty black who was here. Both of them are now with the Beaky Highland estate distilleries. That's such a fancy name. I love it. And before, when we had Lauren here, she was the mash last, uh, and now she's got a different position at a different distillery.

So we'll get into that shortly. Um, but Kirsty, you, um, do you actually make this lovely juice? Is that what I'm understanding? Uh,

Kirsty Black: yeah, I oversee production. RBQ um, there's a group of four of us and we make all the different products there. Yeah.

Kerry: That's awesome. Well, as we usually start out, I ask about your whiskey journey, but since you guys have more than just whiskey, I'll just ask about your spirited journey. And since, um, if we have any loyal listeners, most of them know, at least the first half of Lauren's we'll, we'll start with you Kirsty , and then we'll

Kirsty Black: go. So M sorry. Beaky it started in 2014. So I joined the company then, and at that point it was like an abandoned shed on a farm. So that's really what makes us different.

Our BP we're a farm to bottle distillery. So everything that we post-test in the distillery, we go on the phone. Wow. Like, yeah, it began with potatoes. So we're primarily a potato farm and we've got lots of, I don't know if you call them that with you at wonky vege. So they're not the perfect sheep or that supermarkets will accept.

So there, they were kind of going to waste to some points. So we want to meet more out of them. You know, they take the same amount of effort and inputs to grow. So we want to meet them and saying specials. So we started out with potato balls. Right. And 14. Yeah.

Kerry: Okay. And how big is the property there?

Kirsty Black: That was interesting.

The farm is I'm terrible at that sort of thing. is that right? Okay. That's pretty big.

Lauren Oliver: Yeah. Two to 3000, something like that. Yeah.

Kerry: Now when you were a wee little lass, did you ever think that you'd be making alcohol as an adult?

Kirsty Black: No. I had quite a convoluted trip getting here and I, so I did grow up on a farm and it was a fruit farm that'd we grew raspberries and strawberries, but I worked in medical devices as an engineer for nearly 10 years before I decided to get into alcohol.

Kerry: So, so basically that job drove you to drink,

Kirsty Black: and this is how you get over that.

Kerry: But it's a cute story. It drove you to drink now you make it yourself anyway. Yeah. Um, so what lured you into the spirit world?

Kirsty Black: Yeah. It's, I guess they'd been home brewing for a while whilst working and then just, um, I fancied a change. So I ended up going to at what university and agent bright and studying groups there. And I kind of went there thinking I was going to be a brewer. You know, I like beer. I like making it, all that processes. And then we just started to still like, and I was like, hold on a minute. This is like a whole new world of magic that you peel the stuff in and get a clear liquid. I have it full of flavor. So. Yeah, it was a bit of a revelation.

Kerry: Awesome. Do you still Homebrew at this point or you're like, now I'm over it. I just, I do that at work,

Kirsty Black: but not much. Yeah. And I think you do it for a living. I get similar sets for a living. Yeah. Not as much. No, sometimes. Yeah. Okay.

Lauren Oliver: And then when Kirsty has. So she doesn't need to brew in the bath anymore when she started doing distillery at the site.

Kerry: Okay. So let's focus here on Lauren for a second. So, Lauren, last we spoke. You were the mash last over at Glen going and now you've, uh, gone a little bit north to the Highlands and. Are no longer mashing. So what's your new role and what's the reason for the change?

Lauren Oliver: So I'll always be the match last at heart. Um, but I just fell. It was this tiny. To take all the knowledge that I've gained so far and apply it to something else. So from people that may be less than before I started, uh, as a gate and I worked my way up through all the desolation processes by studying warehouse and mashing distillation. And I just wanted to then share all that knowledge that I have with other people. And I've followed our Biki since the beginning. I love the story. And so it took us to this, but I think she's a bit of a rock star and the distilling world. So. Um, our Biki are opening a new visitor experience center in April this year. And I just thought it would be the perfect combination, bringing the experience I have from working in the traditional malt whiskey industry and bringing it to this new, fresh, modern distillery that's open in their expedience center. So I'm now running. The new visitor experience center at our Biki open in April this year. So I hope everyone from America comes over and visits me and enjoys their tours is we take the range and we see Karsi at work. So a bit of a change from when I last spoke to you, but an exciting change I feel.

Kerry: Yeah. Yeah. And probably I'm a little lighter on the, uh, on the arm.

Lauren Oliver: Yes. Yes. I have them. I have, I have put on a little bit right in the middle, cause I'm not used to, I'm not carrying many spikes anymore, but carrying that 60 kilos that you stop the stairs every day, you know? And I can tell the difference. I'll have to cut back on the chocolates.

Kerry: Oh no. So who wants to tell me the story of our Bheki? Because it sounds like it's got. A fascinating story. Like what, what drew both of you to our Biki and why is it so special?

Lauren Oliver: Um, well, I can, I think my story's maybe a little bit different to your story cause I came in slightly later. Um, but I've been drawn to our BK since she first started distilling as a company. I thought that the field to bottle element of what this company was trying to do, I just find it fascinating. I love the modern take. Um, I like the, the fact that we made our became, made their own base spirit to purchase different products. And I just like their whole ethos. And I liked how they were really sustainable and just looking at distilling in a whole new, modern way. So I followed the journey. When they started as a customer and a fan. Um, and that's what drew me to our Biki. And then when this opportunity came, I just couldn't, I couldn't pass on it. And so that's why I did the move up to the Highlands just to be part of the, of their Beaky story. And

Kerry: I was going to say, you must be true to me. Yeah. It would have been a bit of a long commute. Quick. Yeah. Yeah.

Lauren Oliver: So three, three hours up the road. And I just, I felt like I, I followed their Beaky journey for so long that I just wanted to be part of the next step of their journey and with the opening of the new experience center. So that's my side of what drew me to our beekeeper.

Kerry: Cool. And, okay, so Kirsty, so tell me a little bit more about, um, our Biki and its beginnings and, and who. Brought you into the world of our Beaky. Yeah.

Kirsty Black: So it's the Starling family, the owner. And I met them when I was studying at heavy at what university, Ian, one of the brothers. So there's five brothers and a sister in the family, but Ian approached the university and asked for a student to study developing Scottish gin recipes. So really representing Scotland. So that's why I did my master's dissertation on. And then after that, they offered me a job, which was very lucky on my part. As I said before, when I started, it was just an empty shed. Um, so I really, I felt I just liked figuring things out. So the first thing we had to do is figure out how to build the distillery. So that like took the first nine months. And then from there it's been just continuously. I was trying to figure out how to do things. Potato vodka was the first challenge. Not many people processed potatoes at, in the world, Scotland. Nobody did it. Yeah. So, you know, it's a whole different set of equipment than handling cereals and grains. So we weren't taught how to make that university. So there was a lot to learn.

Kerry: So how many different, um, bits of agriculture do you guys grow?

Kirsty Black: Okay, so the farm, um, so they grow potatoes, barley wheat, and now because of the distillery. So initially we could only process what the farm group, but now retain we've fed back to the farm and requested that they grow things for us. So we've added dry to the mix and we posted them in the distillery to

Kerry: what do you use the piece for?

Kirsty Black: We make a base spirit and we make a vodka and gin. I took that piece.

Kerry: I didn't know peas were used for that. That's pretty interesting. Cool. Well, the first time, so I'm not as, as, not as out of the loop as I thought. That's good. So you guys sent me two lovely spirits. We have a gin. And the rye, which I've already started drinking. So I think we should taste those. And then talk about, uh, talk about each of those. And then, so you have vodkas and you have a gin and you have this. W what else do you have, or is that what you're doing right now? Just the three.

Kirsty Black: That's a, yeah, we've got four. We've got three vodkas, three Germans, two flavored vodkas, and the right whiskey.

Kerry: Oh, my goodness. That's a lot for such a young distillery

Lauren Oliver: and we have some malt that's maturing nicely, and the warehouse sees as well. Yeah. Wow.

Kirsty Black: Lots of single wall in cask. Yeah. Oh,

Kerry: that's awesome. So what flavors are your, vodkas, the flavored ones.

Kirsty Black: And we've got actually a chilli and a stroke vodka.

Kerry: Ooh, that's pretty diverse. I love that. Okay. Well I have the rallies. Oh, sorry. Oh, no. I was just gonna say I have the rye on my glass. So if you want to tell me about that. That's got a very nice serial note for

Kirsty Black: me to go. You learn.

Lauren Oliver: Um, oh, and you go for this, this park. Well, I am. Okay. Where are my glass? Yeah.

Kirsty Black: So, um, yeah, as we say, we've been making single malt from the beginning, but we also started rye at initially like a little test project to see if we could do it. Um, and then when we figured out we could, we've kept it going. So this whiskey is made of rye, wheat and multidrug. It was 60% rye and it's all going on the farm here. Like, wow. I used to be processed like over a hundred years ago in Scotland, but it was just stopped. Um, so we kind of brought that back and we wanted to bring it into our farm to increase farm diver biodiversity too. So, um, it's sort of mutually beneficial product to be making.

Kerry: And out of all of these spirits that you make there, what's your favorite to make and what's your favorite to drink?

Kirsty Black: Oh, that's a hard one. Um, so I can say my least favorite to make his potatoes because they're really cold and messy, but y'all not like each one's got their own quirks. And I'm, I was originally a plant scientist, so I really liked the mashing side of things and understanding what goes on in a plant and all the temperatures to hit. So I like the differences and how you have to adapt that process to get the most over them to drink. It depends on the occasion. Definitely. Um, summer sunny days. It's obviously Jen, but then yeah, if whiskey is probably my favorite drink.

Kerry: And what about you, Lauren? What's your, what's your favorite to drink from, from this.

Lauren Oliver: Um, so again, it depends on the weather, um, but I love the new, the new Nadar one. Um, so then we'll move on to that in a little more, I suppose the tastings of it, but it's so light and fresh. So, you know, if you're just sitting with a summer barbecue, that's a go-to. But like right now after work on a Friday evening, which is for us here in Scotland is definitely the, it's definitely the whiskey. And I love, I love the, the ride because if I remember correctly, Carrie, I know you're a big fan of. Whiskeys

Kerry:  I am. I'm a single malt and then I'm awry. So there we go.

Lauren Oliver: And I just love how smooth the Reyes, um, when you drink. I, I find that so enjoyable when you're just sat down on the couch at the end of a long week, um, to just sit and savor and sip and to know that I'm drinking the first time. Scottish Ry and over a hundred years just makes it, yeah. Um,

Kerry: when you told me that you had a rye, I was like, what are these people?

Lauren Oliver: It's just a new release out there, 2021, right. As well. And it's available in the U S so it is, yeah, it is. Yep. So that's another limited edition one. Yeah, you will. Huh?

Kerry: this Gin has got a very light.

Lauren Oliver: Oh, you've moved on my whiskey.

Kerry: Oh, well.

Kirsty Black: And this is the gender piece as the base spirit.

Kerry: Wow.

Lauren Oliver: So our BKB liked to do world first. So the rye is in a hundred years, that's a world farce and the Nadar, which I'll let Kirsty explain in a bit more detail in the second is another world first. And there's no other product like this anywhere in the world, not just the UK and the world.

Kerry: So it's delicious,

Lauren Oliver: quite special

Kerry: to tell, do, tell how did you think of pees?

Kirsty Black: So, um, it's a whole lot of research. I do. Peas are really good to go for the environment because they don't need nitrogen fertilizer. So before we brought these over CVS, they've got a big carbon footprint associated with them. So at peas don't require fertilizer. So they avoid all those emissions. Um, This product is made at peace and we flavored it with botanicals going on site. So we've already got two gins out, read the ones like a more traditional one, the request space. So we really wanted to meet this one, a little different. So we've gone for citrus and herbal. So the two main botanicals are lemon grass and recruit. I am meant to serve a compliment that base for a P

Kerry: I do taste the lemon grass, for sure.

Kirsty Black: Yeah. Yeah.

Lauren Oliver: Oh, that's lovely. I'm very excited about it's live in grass. That makes it so nice on a summer's day, you know, that that such us element that comes through on it. It's one of my favorites.

Kerry: I love that. I love that. So, What do you see for the near future for the distillery?

Lauren Oliver: Well, the experience center this year is a massive, eh, a massive task for the distillery this year. That's our biggest feature of the year. So far, we seem to like to do a big project every year by this seems a bit we had to, or, or climate positive gen last year, we've got new Bri. Um, and then this year we've got the visitor and expedience center opening. It would be really nice to invite people in from all over the world and start to share their Beaky journey. So the distilleries based on the family farm, so people are actually going to come to our farm on the hail and estate and they can see, you can look out at the field while you're drinking your dram and then come back and visit us and 10 years time and go, wow. I saw that crop in the ground. Yeah. No, I can see it being distilled and there I'm drinking it from the bottle. In my hand, it's a true field to bottle experience. And I can't wait to start sharing that with people at the, at the center this year, it's going to be quite magical. There's no other distillery that can take a product and tell you exactly which bit of land that the crop in that bottle came from. It's so unique. Um, and I, I think people are going to really, really like to come and experience that.

Kerry: I think so too. I think so. So how, where I know you're in the Highlands, how close to other distilleries are you?

Kirsty Black: There's not that many. It's not, not such an intense area. There's a Capitol nearby at a couple of single malt distilleries and a couple of gin, but it's not as crowded here.

Kerry: Yeah, that's good.

Lauren Oliver: And we're right on the beach as well. So we have a lovely, cool, still coastal atmosphere. That's maturing our malt casks as we speak, which is lovely. We were right, right on the beach. There's only just our field and the, and the road between our distillery and the, and the beach. Nicole slang.

Kerry: Wow. That's cool. Do you see there any possibility that you may go back to mashing it all at this, this joint?

Lauren Oliver: Oh, never, never, never say never, never say never. And you know, of course they wants to take a holiday. I might just step in and fit my mash last hat back on. And again, amongst the keys, I've never mashed piece before. So that would be a new experience for me. To the keys or potatoes. Yeah, I'm really enjoying my, my new venture at the moment and just grow in my knowledge. I think it was definitely the correct step to take, but I will never forget my mash lash roots. Um, cause at the end of the day they got me to where right. So

Kerry: of course, and, and then you get to play with all these other beautiful expressions of and different spirits, which is, you know, growth is great. So

Lauren Oliver: thank you. Cause I'm taking all these tours every day. Then in my opinion, I get to drink more on the job than if I was mashing it. Right.

Kerry: Right. Exactly. Exactly.

Lauren Oliver: That we'll be doing.

Kerry: Love it. I love it. Well, ladies, thank you so much for joining me today to tell me all about the spirits that you have and this beautiful distillery. I can't wait to see the tour experience, uh, visitors experience the best of luck to the growth of the company.

Lauren Oliver: Oh, thank you, Carrie. We can't wait to welcome you through our doors.

Kerry: World of wheezy is up next. Stay with us.

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Kerry: Hey Louise. Nice to have you this week. I'm good. Thanks for having me back, Carrie. Okay. My best girl, the mash last over from Glenn going, uh, I contacted her. I said, Hey, we got to get the match last on the show. And she tells me, oh, well, I've moved to the north Highlands. And now I'm I'm with this other distillery. And Carrie, I know you love rye and I know Louise loves rye. So let me tell you, we have the only, so far. Uh, Highland's rye. And I thought, oh my God, we have to try that. So she sent over some rice and gin and we had a great talk with her and Kirstie earlier today about the whole distillery and how it's, you know, farm fresh and all that great stuff. So I sent them over. What'd you think of those?

Louise: Oh, my gosh, love, love, love, love. Can I say love again? Oh my gosh. Yes. Loved it. And I love the story. I mean, the mash lass okay. That's first of all, the best name ever, but second of all, the fact that this is the first rye of that area is completely amazing. And I was thinking about it when I was really like trying to wrap my head around what, you know, what to pair this with, which there's just so many. But one thing that I was thinking would be super fun to do is to make a version of a Patty melt, which is, I realize very American of me to do how ever. I was thinking, I love a Patty melts at a diner. I was recently at this really great diner in, uh, in Idlewild, California, which is funky mountain town, about a couple of hours outside of LA. And I was looking at the menu and I saw Patty melt and I was like, oh man, you know, I just don't eat those very often. But what I was thinking about with this whiskey is doing a Patty melt. They're always served on rye bread. At least they should be. But instead of doing. Uh, beef Patty doing a salmon. Making like a really delicious savory salmon burger, but serving it on rye bread with sauerkraut, like a homemade sauerkraut and, um, you know, it's generally Swiss cheese, but you can't. Omit the cheese, if you're one of those, you know, definitely Italians never put the cheese with the fish, you know, I'm from Wisconsin. I don't have any problem with putting this on a salmon burger. I would probably do. Maybe something like a sharp provolone would be really good with the sauerkraut salmon burger, maybe a caper aioli. And I think that all those flavors combined with this whiskey. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. And I probably put a splash of that whiskey in the salmon Patty as well, just because,

Kerry: well, that sounds good. I mean, why not? I mean, cool. All right. Well, I'm gonna go ahead and let, uh, Lauren and Kirsty know what you think of their delicious rye and what, what you think to pair with it and how to cook it up. I think it sounds great. I can't wait to try it myself as usual. I mean, I'm going to have to start writing a book down of all the stuff you tell me about. And then just weekly, just start making them at home. You'll probably have to come over and show me how to do a lot of it, but that's okay.

Louise: Well, I mean, it's, you know, a cookbook should probably happen with all of these amazing pairings that we're coming up with, you know, tell those lassies that we need to pay them a visit and I'll, I'll make all of this for them.

Kerry: Sounds good to me. All right, Louise, until next time, we'll see you later.

Louise: All right.

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Kerry: For show notes. On today's episode, please visit If you like what you heard, please rate and subscribe to the podcast. If you really liked it and want to show your sport, buy us a whiskey through our co-PI site. If you work in the whiskey industry or run a whiskey bar or club, and you'd like to be featured on barrel room Chronicles, registered to be a guest through our website. Thanks for joining me. And until next time, saliva

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Kirsty BlackProfile Photo

Kirsty Black

Distillery Manager

Dr Kirsty Black

Kirsty Black, is both Manager and Distiller at Arbikie Highland Estate. She has been there since the distillery conception in 2014, overseeing all aspects of its conversion from a disused cattle shed to a multi award-winning distillery producing vodka, gin and whisky; including the first rye whisky to be distilled in Scotland for over 100 years.

Following obtaining a BSc in Plant Science, a PG Dipl. in Forensic Science and nearly 10 years working as an engineer in the Medical Device Industry the time had come to learn about alcohol. She graduated in Brewing & Distilling at Heriot-Watt University obtaining an MSc with distinction, The Watt Club Postgraduate Medal for best in school and the Brewers Company Prize for best in class. Whilst working at Arbikie she went on to be awarded a Doctorate in Philosophy for her research on the potential of using more environmentally friendly legumes in intercropping systems and the production of alcohol. Her research formed the foundation for the climate positive Nàdar range of spirits – made entirely from green peas.

In conjunction with working at Arbikie Distillery she sits on the board of examiners and the awards committee for the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD), and she co-chairs the CanDo Green Economy Collab that supports entrepreneurial Scottish businesses in the drive for net-zero.

Lauren OliverProfile Photo

Lauren Oliver

Visit Experience Manager

I have been part of the whisky world for some time now. Being a team member of a traditional single malt distillery for many years provided me with great knowledge and passion for the 'water of life', so much so, that I was given the name 'Mashlass' by my peers.
My passion for spirts mixed with my passion for sustainability guided me on the next step of my journey towards Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery on the east coast of Scotland over looking the Lunan Bay. Arbikie have been distilling sustainable field to bottle spirts on the family estate since 2015 and in spring 2022 we are opening our new Visitor Experience Centre. I am very excited to welcome people through our doors and share our story.