Now we come to think about it, Roddy MacEachern’s job title of “IT assistant” is hopelessly inadequate. It says far too little about his role, his skills, or his many contributions to the success of this extraordinary distillery.
He is featured on the latest un-peated valinch in the Laddieshop as he will be leaving in November to go on sabbatical for a year. As he was too bashful to talk about himself for the purposes of this article, we asked our Head of IT and Product Development Team, Michael Thomson, for some details about Roddy’s career at Bruichladdich so far.
Roddy had been a technical engineer with Panasonic who installed telephone systems for the National Health Service before moving back to his native Islay in 2006. Michael recalls Roddy’s interview for the at job at Bruichladdich ten years ago; he turned up with his own laptop, (which he knew how to use – putting him at a great advantage as we had no IT equipment at the time and no money for any). “The office was downstairs where Mary is now, and all the equipment for the entire distillery was on the shelves. It was nearly 40 degrees. There weren’t any offices, there weren’t any phonelines, there wasn’t any wiring or even any walls. So we built everything!”
“When we finished our day job we went to work in the bottling hall evenings and weekends,” continues Michael, “All the first four Octomores were hand-labelled by me and Roddy. Hand-labelled. In the doorway, with snow falling round our feet! We did what had to be done. We were even coming in between Christmas and New Year to load lorries, because everyone else was on holiday.”
In those days, there were 36 releases a year, plus a lot of private bottlings. Michael and Roddy handled, as they still do, all the legal compliance, packaging designs and spec, printing, the product development, and “the mechanics of everything you see on the shelf.” Plus, until 2012, they ran the website, managed photography, video, and e-commerce. To Michael, and other members of our creative team, “If we are like the engine room of Bruichladdich the brand, then definitely, Roddy’s the chief engineer. The whole package is hand-created, hand-crafted, thought-about, loved… We’ve done it to our standards and from our heart, not based on marketing perception. It’s always as real as it gets.”
Roddy has two cousins working in other departments here, and he’s related to the Islay building firm who handle a lot of our painting and maintenance at the distillery. As Michael says, “Roddy’s got strong family ties here. Bruichladdich is like a big family anyway, who in hard times have gathered round, in good times have partied… But Roddy is old school Islay. He grew up near Port Askaig and they used to jump off the ferry and swim their way back to shore!”
Then he reveals, “Roddy’s a very good painter, a tremendously good painter…” We could go on, but we’ll let him off the hook for a year at least, so he can go off and explore Australia in anonymity…
Roddy’s valinch is number 29 in our staff series. It’s a Mourvedre Syrah, aged 11 years, at 65% vol. Available while stocks last in the Laddieshop.