Real Place, Real People
We respect the past but don't live in its shadow. We believe in innovation and progress, while striving to create intriguing spirit - a spirit with flawless integrity and provenance. We are curious and restless - we never leave well enough alone. Pathfinders where angels fear to tread.
We believe that Islay whisky should be the ultimate expression of the island itself; an authenticity derived from where it is distilled and where it is matured… from the philosophies of those who distil it. A sense of place, of terroir that speaks of the land, the barley, the water and the human soul that gave it life.
There are many who would see whisky distilling as an industrial process – a means of standard manufacture and nothing more. We understand distilling to be an ancient art, one that has intrigued the human spirit for centuries. A black art, a mysterious and enigmatic alchemy, that explores the very depths of the distiller’s soul.
STEVEN VAN BOCKRIJK
MALCOLM "MUD" MCGEACHY
To the ancient Greeks the Hebrides were Hyperborea – A mythical land beyond the North Winds. To the Viking Norsemen these islands were Havbredey, “Isles on the edge of the sea”; curiously, they have always been an other-worldly place… a far-off land of mystery, both exotic and fearsome but often also held to be a land of peace and fulfilment.
To the Gaelic Scotii tribe the Hebrides were theirs, “The Coast of the Gaels”, Oirthir Gaidheal, pronounced "Argyll". In its medieval heyday the Hebrides, and Islay specifically, were the home of the Lords of the Isles - Viking-Gaelic warriors who ruled the west coast and islands of Scotland by sword and by longboat. This powerful mix of Gael and Viking blood – a stubborn, proud, tough, volatile, passionate and superstitious people – isolated by rough seas, eight knot currents, vicious whirlpools, hidden reefs and Atlantic storms, has determined that this island has remained a land apart.
a stubborn, proud, tough, volatile, passionate and superstitious people – isolated by rough seas, eight knot currents, vicious whirlpools, hidden reefs and Atlantic storms
Since its creation in 1881, Bruichladdich distillery has led a chequered, almost fated life. Family feuds, recessions, industry cartels, deception, world wars and sheer bad luck all took their toll, and in many ways it’s a miracle that the distillery is still here today. In 1994 Bruichladdich was bought by Jim Beam Brands and finally closed down, its staff made redundant – on an island not noted for its employment opportunities - and just two men kept on to rattle the locks.
Lineage, pedigree, connection, continuity
Budgie & John were the night watchmen during that closed phase. Budgie is our stillman today, while John started work in the warehouses at the distillery in 1980. He was originally a cooper, and learnt his trade alongside Davie Bell, who was himself a cooper, starting at Bruichladdich back in 1934.
Lineage, pedigree, connection, continuity.
In 1974 Duncan MacGillivray started work at Bruichladdich as stillman. He went on to become engineer, and then brewer in 1978. He left in 1984 when the distillery went on to a one day week… was back again in 1990 until 1994. When we bought Bruichladdich we had to persuade Duncan to give up running his garage to come back for one last time to help us out. He’s now our General Manager.
This fascinating little distillery has always been at the heart of the community on the Rhinns of Islay. Today, Bruichladdich is the biggest private employer on the island - 50 islanders are employed along with a hard working host of contractors, farmers and friends without whom we simply couldn’t make our whisky. We pride ourselves in creating jobs that can keep young Ilich on the island – our Distillery Manager, Allan, is one of the youngest in the Scotch whisky industry.
Chrissie, our export manager, is also a crofter, and in lambing season is known to be out in the field before dawn and then at her desk for 8.30. The inimitable James Brown – farmer, athlete, contractor, holiday house-renter, lighthouse-keeper, policeman – owns nearby Octomore farm - when it comes to bottling our whisky, it’s from James that we get our soft spring water, and he grows Octomore barley for us – barley grown on the island for the first time for a century.
Mary, our shop manager, is the third generation of her farming family to work at Bruichladdich; her grandfather would unload the puffers of their barley with horse and cart.
Why does this matter? To many it doesn’t – much of the Scotch whisky industry seems content to produce single malt by industrial process – super-efficient production lines, the cheapest litre of alcohol possible… computers in place of human eye and ear, technicians rather than stillmen, laboratory analysis rather than human taste and smell. And many whisky distilleries – many here on Islay – for the sake of economy, choose to mature their Islay whisky in huge centralised, industrial warehouses on the mainland – losing all connection with this unique island, its place of origin.
We believe the consolidation of the Scotch whisky industry has led to a loss of soul, identity, of character… we believe that single malt whisky, like any artisan, living product should speak of the place from which it comes, of the people who have created and nurtured it; of the soil, the air, the geography that influence it – of PLACE. We believe it should be a reflection of the soul of those who have laboured to produce it.