Five years ago this month, John Evans joined the team in the Bottling Hall at Bruichladdich at the age of 23. He had gone into fencing work straight from school, but was ‘happy to get a job indoors’ after meeting all the weathers of Islay face to face on a daily basis. He is the proud father of Charlie, aged 5 months.
His dad Sean joined the team in the Harvey Hall the year after John, and his girlfriend’s brother also works there. ‘We get on well, so it works out,’ says John.
Teamwork is key in the bottling hall – whether the line runs smoothly depends on actions happening at the beginning, middle and end at the appropriate speeds.
Outside of work, John plays football twice a week for local team Kilchoman, with fellow Laddies David Hope, Robert McEachern, and Sean Gordon. He’s a midfielder, ‘Normally plays on the right,’ adds his dad. The team headquarters are at the Port Mor Centre just outside Port Charlotte. This has to be one of the more spectacular locations for a football pitch and was flattened out a few years back. The Islay league has reduced in size over recent years, but there are three football teams playing regularly on Islay: Kilchoman, Bowmore and Port Ellen. Kilchoman are, of course, by far the best...
Everyone who is featured on a valinch is given the first two numbered bottles that are drawn off the cask. Not being partial to whisky, he says, ‘I’ll keep the first one. For Charlie when he’s older. And I don’t know, the second one could be for my Dad. We’ll see!’ He is open to the idea that his taste for whisky will develop with age – ‘Everyone starts late though. The ones that work in the bottling hall, the older ones, they didn’t start drinking whisky til they were late twenties, early thirties. They couldn’t touch it, so I might take to it…’
For now, it’s good for John that the bottling hall was upgraded earlier this Spring. The second line is dedicated to bottling The Botanist. ‘Gin’s fine. I can drink gin no bother!’
His dram, the Bruichladdich unpeated valinch number 24, was distilled in 2006 and is matured in a Rivesaltes cask, 59.9% Vol. It is available in person from the Laddieshop on Islay, while stocks last.