Islay has been subjected to very dry weather recently. The last time we had a really wet day was Wednesday 13th February – a full month ago. Which is good news if you are visiting our beautiful island because the skies have been blue. Clear, blue and beautiful. It is also positive news for our farmers because the fields are not as sodden as usual. The cattle prefer the dry weather and the ploughing for our barley crop can get under way without fear of the tractors getting bogged down by waterlogged ground. So far so good.
However, all this dry weather is a bit of an issue for us at the distillery. We rely on the burn that flows past Bruichladdich for cooling water to operate our condensers in the still house – which means we need the steady flow that is provided by regular rainfall. For around 95% of the time, that flow occurs completely naturally and there is plenty of water in the burn to meet our needs.
For those times when the natural flow is insufficient, when a prolonged period of dry weather reduces the burn to a trickle, we need some serious backup, and a mile or so south west of the distillery, nestling in the hills, is An Torran, the distillery reservoir.
This reservoir is a big body of water that we can call on to increase the flow in the burn as and when needed – as is the case now. The reservoir will keep us running for several weeks which can be essential during the summer months, but for it to be called on in March is extremely unusual. In fact so unusual that nobody can recall it having happened before…
But it is no problem. We take these things in our stride. Distillery Manager Allan Logan took a trip up onto the hills today where he opened the sluice to boost the flow and keep us running.
It will start raining again soon. This is Islay – it always does.