An Ode To Humble Ingredients: How We Use Heritage Barley To Create Our Vodka

Here at X Muse, we do things a little differently. Most vodkas are made from potato starch, sugar beet molasses or cereal grains, and the result is often a vodka lacking in taste, texture and personality. Instead, we chose to make our vodka with barley in a tantalizing blend of both old age distilling traditions and futuristic innovations. Barley vodka has a soft sweetness with a smooth and creamy texture in the mouth. Pleasant but faint hints of earthiness provide a lovely background while still allowing for the affirmation that this is still a true Scottish spirit.

Most vodkas are made from potato starch, in fact, we are the first ever blended barley vodka distilled in Scotland. Scotland has a long history of spirit-making spanning centuries, and this provided a perfect starting point to draw inspiration from. We differ from more traditional Scottish vodkas because we refuse to accept that vodka has to be odourless and tasteless. This was where our mission started, and we immediately began exploring ambitious new ways of realizing it.

What Is Heritage Barley?

Heritage barley is what our vodka is made of, and differs from most modern-day mass-produced grains of barley. These refer to varieties of grains that were grown by our ancestors before the 1900s. It was in the 1900s that scientific plant breeding gained popularity and became the predominant form of grain across the UK. Traditionally, heritage barley was grown under tough weather conditions in poor soil quality. The key to its survival was diversity in the crop, which has since been lost under new farming techniques. What made them special was that they were able to adapt to the landscape and were therefore undeniably connected and reflective of the landscape they inhabit. It’s why we’re proud to be using heritage barley that has been influenced by its Scottish environment, with a crop that is already so closely linked with human heritage.

Barley was one of the first crops our neolithic ancestors started to farm, domesticated in around 8,000 BC. It likely gave rise to the first alcoholic drinks enjoyed by these past generations, as well as being used in ancient Egyptian cereals. Beyond this, barley is a crop that is rich in symbolism and cultural significance, bringing happiness and nourishment for millennia.

Today, barley remains a nutritiously rich crop containing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, beta-glucans and micronutrients.

How Do We Use Our Barley?

We make our vodka with a blended approach, meaning that each batch of our Tenth Muse vodka has different tones and flavours. That's because we embrace the unpredictability of nature, and how temperature, weather and soil can affect the taste of our final blend. Before we distil the barley, it is malted which involves wetting it and allowing it to sprout out. The final step before distillation is baking the barley at high temperatures to dry it out. It is the yeast in barley malt that is responsible for the fermentation process. Our heritage barley is then distilled separately to extract its distinct flavour. We employ a blending method that is inspired by a traditional technique to produce whiskey, we are simply applying these principles in a new way. Different batches are subsequently blended to form something completely new and unique to each set that we make.

Our blend is then laid to rest before being bottled, to ensure the different elements complete their dialogue to form into their final complementary taste and texture profile. This process is rooted in our philosophy, it’s what defines X Muse vodka and separates us.

Applying the same principles as we do with our other ingredients to our barley, we make sure that all of our ingredients are sustainably sourced and are able to be tracked directly to their starting point as a raw material. As well as taking great care with the type and quality of Barley we use, we also give a great deal of consideration to the calibre of water we mix with. After all, most spirits consist of 60% water. That’s what lead us to choose the mineral-rich ancient aquifer at Scotland’s Bonnington Estate to provide us with great-tasting and healthy water, as well as a source of water that is familiar and close to home. Our crafting involves both the materials and the process which transforms them, and while we are guided by the historical process of distilling vodka, we do not strictly adhere to the rules.

The result?

Not only an elegant tasting vodka with a real earthiness and sweetness to it that can be used in both cocktails and be drunk straight, but also a unique feeling and flavour profile to every different bottle, born and bred in Scotland.