This week saw the official opening of the first phase of our new warehouse complex at Coultorsay. This is the largest private development to have taken place on Islay for many decades and represents a powerful statement of intent by parent company Remy Cointreau, who acquired the company in 2012. The new complex underpins the Bruichladdich commitment to Islay, and specifically to its very public pledge to mature all of its whisky, for all of its life, on the island.
The massive project has seen the construction of an entirely new access road to the site, which will eventually house six new warehouse blocks, four of which will have three units each and two containing two units. The blocks will be constructed in phases, with the final phase not expected for 15-20 years.
Looking North-East from the site across the fields lies the original 1881 distillery; down the slopes to the south, Loch Indaal fills the view. The scale of the project is overwhelming when up close, but sympathetic landscaping has minimised the environmental and visual impact.
Construction techniques were complex. Contractor Andrew Wood, who also farms Coultorsay, described how the four stairwells at the corners of the huge buildings are pre-formed and let down into position. The height to the eaves is a towering 11m, the weight of the roof is four tonnes a side. The foundations of the two-unit block alone consumed 400 cubic metres of concrete.
Inside, the casks of whisky will be matured for all of their life on Islay, in the stable, optimum conditions which the dense construction materials and steel racking provide. The first barrels to be housed contain spirit made from barley grown on Islay, and many of the farmers that grow for Bruichladdich were able to be there for the opening – one distinct advantage of the wet weather that prevailed. The rain was relentless throughout the ceremony.
Production Director Allan Logan who has been with the distillery since the first days of its resurrection in 2001, oversaw the project and rolled in the first cask. Then everyone in the Laddie workforce rolled in one of the heavy oak vessels, plus their invited guests and the Islay farmers who are central to the whole project.
The executive directors of Remy Cointeau were also present and CEO Valerie Chapoulaud-Floquet said: ‘We are one team and we believe in investing in Islay. I think we are doing something very unique and different from other brands. We want to invest here, we want to invest in people, we want to invest in Islay production. This warehouse project is just the first step. The best is yet to come.’
The next phase, which will see the second block of three units constructed, is expected in two years.