Bruichladdich has enjoyed a meteoric rise since its rescue in 2000 by a consortium led by Mark Reynier, which lead to Remy Cointreau paying around £58 million in 2012 to acquire the iconic Islay distillery. Prior to this resurrection, the distillery had a very interesting history.
Bruichladdich has enjoyed a meteoric rise since its rescue in 2000 by a consortium led by Mark Reynier, which lead to Remy Cointreau paying around £58 million in 2012 to acquire the iconic Islay distillery. Prior to this resurrection, the distillery had a very interesting history commencing in 1881 when it was founded by the Harvey family who also owned the Dundas Hill and Yorker distilleries in Glasgow.
Both of these mainland distilleries are lost to time, but Bruichladdich continues and was the dream project of the three brothers who eventually settled on the site on the shores of Loch Indaal, which offered access to distant markets for their whisky. Whilst illicit stills were popular on Islay, Bruichladdich it could be argued was the first purpose built distillery of a new generation. It featured several new advancements including steam power and being built of concrete and utilising cavity wall construction. It was arguably over-engineered and designed to last, which clearly it has done with the majority of features and buildings still in use today.
Research by Bruichladdich has shown that the family’s intension was to combine the produce from all 3 distilleries to produce a blended Scotch, whilst also selling to the famous blenders of the era including Dewar’s, Grants and Johnnie Walker. Unfortunately, family divisions sparked turmoil and the overall plan never came to fruition. The distillery ground to a halt in 1907 due to financial matters and struggled to pay its debts. When the First World War arrived the distillery remained closed as under the quota system of the time, it had no record of production in the previous 5 years. Production did not commence again until 1919 before the widespread slump in demand in 1929 just prior to the Great Depression and Prohibition, forced Bruichladdich to shut its doors once again.
Ownership fell to a new generation of the family who were not reversed in distilling and shortly afterwards in 1938, Joseph Hobbs, the subsequent owner of several other distilleries, becomes the new owner for the bargain price of £8,000. He promptly sells Bruichladdich on for £23,000 to Associated Scottish Distillers (ASD), netting him a sizeable profit for little effort. Yet he retained an interest in ASD who refurbished the distillery prior to the outbreak of the Second World War that put an end to production until 1945.
More owners come and go with the floor maltings closing in 1961 and malt being shipped from the mainland. Invergordon Distillers take over the distillery in 1968 and shortly afterwards double the number of stills to 4, which remains the case today. These now produce an annual capacity of around 1.5 million litres with 3 types of new make spirit being produced. The core malt is the unpeated Bruichladdich which constitutes 2 thirds of production annually with the remainder split equally between the peated Port Charlotte and the heavily peated Octomore. A Lomond still is also used on site to produce gin, having been rescued from the closed Inverleven distillery and is fondly named Ugly Betty.
The year of 1983 spelled the end of many Scottish distilleries and Bruichladdich was similarly closed once again, deemed surplus to requirements. Eventually the whisky loch drained and interest in whisky recovered, prompting Whyte & Macakay to purchase the parent company of Bruichladdich. It's an unsettled period of ownership for the distillery, as they don’t know what to do with this old Islay distillery without much of a single malt profile. The stills fire up in 1998 but it’s a short-lived return, as they return to inactivity shortly afterwards.
For the distillery this is the last period of silence as at the turn of the millennium it is purchased by Murray McDavid. The price is a remarkable £6.5 million, which seemed excessive at the time but turned out to be a good investment once the necessary refurbishments had taken place. An array of releases then raised the profile of the distillery as single malt producer over the coming years. These also brought much needed revenue into the company, as older existing stock was at a premium given its periods of inactivity and recently filled casks were sold to whisky enthusiasts. You’ll see many of these now released as private bottlings and today the distillery is one of the largest employers on Islay. Bruichladdich is experiencing an upsurge in sales, working flat out to meet this demand. New warehouses have been recently built and there is talk of reopening the floor maltings which is a fundamental step in its exploration of terroir. The Classic Laddie is your entry level release for the distillery and the Islay Barley offers something different. Those fond of peat will enjoy the range of offerings from Port Charlotte and the experimental Octomore releases.