The combines have started to roll here on Islay - with everyone keeping their fingers crossed for a good harvest. Everything still depends on the weather. We have had a great year so far. James Brown of Octomore has described it as 'unusually normal, by which he means that there has not been any of the extreme events that generally characterise trying to farm, and particularly grow malting barley out here on the outer edge. The spring was quite benign and gentle, there have been none of the usual massive storms and the sunshine has been constant and warming, interspersed with regular showers of rain to keep things moving forward. June and July were really excellent - August has not been quite so clever, but nothing too drastic, and suddenly we find ourselves facing golden fields that are heavy with promise.
We have, so far, had the perfect summer here on Islay. Brilliant blue skies punctuated by a day here and there of intense rainfall.
The barley crop growing for Bruichladdich across the island is as good as it has ever been in the ten years we have been working with Islay grown grain. It is also at its most beautiful right now. The delicate awns are still light and buoyant; they blow in staggered unison in the breezes, creating Mexican waves and ripples in the fields.
The purpose of the trip was to promote greater understanding of the process and show how the grain performs during malting. There was much discussion over how to achieve consistent levels of quality using different varieties of barley.
Bruichladdich brand ambassador Murray Campbell was on hand at the launch of three of our range of whiskies in Malaysia recently. The event took place in Kuala Lumpur and featured The Classic Laddie, Port Charlotte Scottish Barley and Octomore 6.1.
Also present was Richard Gillam of Remy Cointreau International who created some memorable Bruichladdich cocktails. The media launch was on Monday, with the rest of the week busy with magazine interviews and a series of tastings for members of the trade and interested consumers..
It has been a privilege to support the launch of the Pam Hogg exhibition and pop-up shop in Glasgow as part of the 'Fashion Culture' strand of the Merchant City Festival. Fashion legend Pam is also a well-known artist, musician, activist and supporter of human rights around the world. She studied Fine Art and Printed Textiles at the Glasgow School of Art, one of the producers of the current show.
The launch party was held on 25th July at Virginia Court, 56 Miller Street and a range of t-shirts and other memorabilia will be available both on site and on line. Some of these will be being exhibited for the first time. A percentage from all sales will be donated to Amnesty International.
The Transeurope Project. Four Bruichladdich enthusiasts from the town of Schwaz in the Austrian Tyrol visited us recently and brought us four ex-wine casks from two top vineyards in Burgundy, France who adhere to strict bio-dynamic principles. The casks were filled with spiirit distilled from biodynamically grown barley and will be used as part of our ongoing exploration of barley provenance.
Alexander Knapp, Elfi Muller, Gottfried Fercher. Luis Fercher and Gunther Scheitnagl have an informal whisky club, and first visited Bruichladdich back in 2012, when they were impressed by the commitment of our master distiller Jim McEwan to the concept of 'natural whisky'.
A small but important minority of French winemakers are also very interested in 'natural wines' and Dr Knapp explained how these pioneers often struggle against the tide of mainstream opinion, even within France. In winemaking, as with whisky, he says, there are forces which are always trying to standardise wines, to manage expectations so that they conform to pre-conceived ideas of how they should look and taste.
A couple of years ago Stephen Duncan, a project engineer with the oil industry, walked into the Laddie shop with a strange request. He wanted one of our 125th Anniversary Bottling presentation boxes. To make a guitar.
Although the rain is drumming on the distillery roof as we write this, we have actually enjoyed a long warm spell here on Islay. This has been good news for our many visitors but things are not quite so easy for our stillmen and mashmen who have to keep a careful eye on the hot weather. There are a number of issues...
Bruichladdich General Manager Duncan McGillivray retires on Friday 27th June 2014 following a career that spans more than 40 years in the distillery.
Duncan's part in the successful renaissance of Bruichladdich since it was purchased in a moribund state by a private consortium in 2000 and re-opened in 2001 has been absolutely fundamental. Everyone involved at the distillery is very aware of just how crucial his contribution has been and his selfless dedication to work, involving often extremely long hours in very difficult conditions, is legendary. His will be an impossible act to follow.
Duncan left school when still fourteen years old, starting work at Rockside Farm as an apprentice mechanic. Two and a half years later he moved to Aoradh at Gruinart in the north of Islay where he served his time with engineer Bob Erlie. The varied work at Aoradh fixing and maintaining everything from tractors through trucks and fishing boats was to serve him in good stead for the years to come.
At Bruichladdich we have something of a passion for place; a sense of belonging.
Our whisky speaks of the land, this Hebridean island home, jutting into the jaws of the weather-beaten North Atlantic; and of the people, our people, that give it life.
It has always been our mission to reconnect whisky with its essential raw ingredients, something that has been lost in our mechanised age of mass production and efficiencies.