Bruichladdich is the largest private employer on Islay, with 86 permanent staff working out of the distillery site. Some of the computer-based, creative, or managerial roles can carry on remotely during this hiatus; others such as bottling or making our spirits, or presenting them to visitors, have had to temporarily cease. This has released a team of willing and committed individuals who live in settlements on every side of the island to enrol in a volunteer programme to do whatever they can to help the vulnerable and prevent an outbreak on the island.
“We all wish we could do more,” says Emma Crawford, our Head of HR, who is passing the multitude of offers of help from within the distillery onto the coordinator of the local third sector network to make sure everyone is being deployed where most needed. We have put our 9 seater buses and the distillery’s electric cars at our volunteers’ disposal. The distillery also helped to facilitate the production of some Islay Hand Sanitiser when the island’s health professionals were struggling against shortages. “We are conscious every day of how important Islay is to what we do as a company,” explains Emma, “but you really feel the fragility of the island too. As individuals here, it comes completely naturally to even the youngest member of the team, to immediately try to look after the people around them and give something back to the community.”
Everyone has been fully briefed to follow all the Government advice in relation to social distancing and prioritising their journeys. We’re having a fortnightly video call Q and A with our CEO Douglas Taylor and the leadership team and all continuing to receive full pay.
While we all cope with strange new levels of background anxiety, Spring is coming here.
There are many in the distillery team who have livestock or who are diverting energy into their families and gardens. We also work with an entire cohort of the island’s farmers to grow barley for distilling; we hope they can continue with their farming year in spite of the challenges 2020 has so far presented.
We plan to use this page to pass on the latest news from our dispersed workforce, so that you can share our experience, Islay-side, hopefully from the safety of your own homes, throughout this period of suspended normality.
The photo above shows Port Charlotte’s ‘OK rock’, which was first painted by three brothers leaving the island to go and fight in the war, so that their mother could look out from her window and think that they were OK, wherever they were. Only one of the brothers actually returned, but the local community have kept refreshing the paint through all the generations since. Wherever you are in the world, please look after yourselves. We’ll keep being here. And we hope to be able to see you again after all this is passed.