Fèis Ìle 2021 Time Travellers!

18th june 2021 / by ashley harrison

“Netflix meets Bruichladdich”

As much as we had hoped to be hosting the 21st Bruichladdich Festival Day with the usual packed courtyard of avid Laddie fans, this year we took to your screens once again for a day of online celebration and shenanigans. Our theme this year was ‘Time Travellers’ as we celebrated some distillery milestones – 20 years since our resurrection, 10 years of The Botanist Gin, the first anniversary of our B Corp accreditation, and 140 years since the Distillery was founded.

These milestones have shaped who we are as a company and what we’ll become in the future. For the distillery team and those of you who have stuck by us, it was a day of reflection about how far we’ve come over the years, what has made us who we are, and a toast to what the future might hold.

‘Netflix meets Bruichladdich’ is how CEO, Douglas Taylor described our Visitor-Centre-turned-broadcast-studio. Last year we set the bar high with a four hour live stream on Instagram. This year, in true Laddie style, we went bigger and better. With the help of our talented filming friends Pablo and Chris, and an excess shift or three by our in-house Content & Design team, we managed to pull off with precision an all-day singing and all-dramming 6-hour live broadcast via our exclusive community hub platform, sharing Bruichladdich day with more of you than ever before.

If you missed out on the action, here’s what we got up to on May 30th. Brace yourselves…

As they say, it’s always sunny on Bruichladdich Day and this year, despite being virtual, was no exception. The day consisted of a solid 6 hours of new release tastings, boozy cocktails, Q&As, epic live music, charity auctions, live broadcasts from around the island and of course many a dram… Oh, and a Delorean!

More than 3000 of you tuned in throughout the day and joined in on the fun from 61 different countries. It was truly gratifying to know that even through a screen our Laddie community is alive and kicking. We hope next year that we’ll all be able to share a dram in the courtyard once again.

The day kicked off with our anchor host and Port Charlotte brand manager Christy McFarlane in the studio. Christy was later joined by Studio & Design Manager, Robert McEachearn who arrived in style with the Delorean. Standing in waiting was Laddie Shop icon Mary McGregor on the ‘dram cam’ to give viewers a close-up look at our festival drams.

Making a re-appearance from last year was the Laddie Locator; a giant map on the wall where viewers at home could make their mark. This year it was presented by Bruichladdich’s new Marketing Director, Gareth Brown, and Connor Stewart from the Botanist bottling line. Over the course of the day locations were pinned on the board from Texas to Taiwan.

Also joining in from the studio, sporting Laddie Lock-In face masks, were the socials desk and tech team who were manning our channels throughout the day on the hunt for competition entries. Keyboards were at the ready replying to comments and wisecracks around the globe!

Frazer, Raymond, Chloe, Jane & Andy manning the Socials Desk

Adam & Murray in the Still House

Adam’s Masterclass

The first segment of the day was beamed out from the Still House where Head Distiller, Adam Hannett, hosted the virtual masterclass. His co-host there was Murray Campbell, Global Malts Brand Manager, an Ileach who speaks fluent Mandarin, having spent years as our man in Asia and the Pacific.

As always, Adam’s cool and calm demeanour was a delight to watch on screen as he took the audience through six unique Bruichladdich drams including bere barley spirit and biodynamic spirit, one of our latest experiments in our pursuit to invest in sustainable agriculture.

With Murray curating the questions which were incoming via the live chat, the 90 minute session passed in a flash. The audience got an insight into the complex variety of Bruichladdich spirit, and how they play into our multi vintage cuvees such as the Festival Bottle “Laddie Origins”, as well as a glimpse of what the future might hold for our unpeated whisky range. If you’d like to catch up on Adam’s masterclass, you can watch it by signing up to our community hub here.

The Peloton

At the beginning of the day, a team of keen cyclists led by our distillery’s own Joe Marshall, Head of Quality Control, set off around the island forming the Laddie Peloton. Graham Hayes our stillman, Brian of the Ileach, Colin, Linda and Tom of the Port Charlotte Post Office, ensured our viewers were taken on a journey around the Rhinns Peninsula as they tuned in live along the way, picking up a few peddlers as they went.  For the viewers at home a prize was up for grabs to the person who could guess the total combined mileage of their journey.

In fact, the Peloton pedalled a combined time-travelling total of 272.27 miles round the Rhinns. They had stops to see the views, change into historical costumes, and share facts about Islay’s past along the way – from geology at “Grannies Rock”, to the flying boats of WW2 stationed in Loch Indaal.

Hugh Carswell & Robbie Thomson BTS (Behind the Screens)

Cocktails from our Global Team

No Bruichladdich day would be complete without copious cocktails. The digital broadcast gave us chance to get our global team involved from their home turf.

In the heart of Cape Town, our South African correspondent Caitlin Hill was up first with her beautifully refreshing elderflower and mint Botanist martini. Exactly the kind of refreshment that was needed while the sun was shining.

We had a Port Charlotte Old Fashioned cocktail from German brand ambassador, Ewald Stromer, who dialled in from Munich.  And very special serve suggestions whipped up in East London by festival regular Abi Clephane, using the all new and exclusive Botanist Islay Aged Gin.

Behind the scenes ensuring the right camera angles were hit and everyone was on the right screen at the right time was tech guru Hugh Carswell (Head of Design) and festival planning extraordinaire Ailsa Hayes, with the help of our new graphic designer Robbie Thomson.

Bruichladdich legends and a liquid time capsule

Well known for her vivid storytelling, it seemed fitting that Private Client Manager Mary McGregor take us back in time to share the stories of some distillery heroes, past and present. Mary mentioned Raymond Stewart, the first farmer to grow Islay barley, Mark Reynier, one of the founders of reborn independent Bruichladdich, ‘mother hen’ Ella Edgar, engineer and manager Duncan McGilvary, whisky legend and former chief distiller Jim McEwan, the Harvey Brothers who built the distillery in the C19th and many more. These individuals have all shaped the history of Bruichladdich and paved the way for its future. As Mary so poetically put it, “we have to look back to look forward.”

And as a way of looking forward, Production Manager, Allan Logan, took a trip to warehouse 12 to fill a new cask to commemorate the 20th year of Bruichladdich’s resurrection. A single fresh bourbon barrel was filled with particularly apt Islay barley spirit – grown at Sunderland farm where Raymond Stewart is now at the helm. Though the production schedule was a coincidence, the strength and continuity of relationships like this is something that we prize and work hard for.

Live music & an actual Delorean

Gracing the courtyard throughout the day were festival regulars The Rhythm & Booze Project. More accustomed to a bustling courtyard for Bruichladdich day, this year was certainly a more relaxed affair. Despite a much smaller crowd than usual, this was the first time the band had played to a live audience since March 2020 so they were thrilled to be back performing.

Also making a guest appearance in the courtyard was an actual Delorean – it wouldn’t have been a Time Travelling theme without it! After scouring the internet to find this key prop for the day, Visitor Centre Manager Ailsa found Dave and Donna who had the wheels for hire and who, it turns out, have two casks maturing in our warehouses. There’s actually Laddie fans everywhere you look!

A look to the future

Douglas Taylor, CEO, had the job of both reporting on the success of the day’s charity auction and of showing us something of what Bruichladdich will look like in the future. With the help of Chris’ drone footage, we explored the R&D land we’ve acquired through acquisition of the croft. We flew over to our new warehouse complex at Coultorsay which will enable all our whisky to be continually matured on the island. And visited the proposed location of our new on-site maltings, which will ultimately close the loop of local production on our Islay barley project.

Douglas Taylor Christy McFarlane in the time travellers studio
adam and allan "origins"

Festival Bottles

Our festival releases were available to buy via ballot this year; The Botanist Islay Aged Gin and Laddie Origins, and a single cask 17 year old Bruichladdich.

To celebrate 10 years of The Botanist Gin we released a tiny amount of The Botanist Islay Aged Gin. Spirit matured in a single ex-Pauillac red wine cask, laid down and hidden in our warehouses during our inaugural year as gin makers. Brand Manager Katie Smith took some time to chat with Adam to delve into the story behind this secret project.

Almost as rare as our aged gin was getting to witness Adam and Production Director, Allan Logan sitting down to enjoy a few drams on festival day. On a normal Bruichladdich Day the pair are concealed inside the four walls of the visitor centre signing bottle after bottle! So it was a rare treat for them to be able to enjoy the sunshine over a dram and talk about The Laddie Origins Festival release alongside its mainstream sister, the Classic Laddie.

Legendary drams at The Malt Bar

A fitting final segment of the day saw two distillery originals taking to the screens. Global Marketing Manager, Lynne McEwan, and Bruichladdich Founder, Simon Coughlin enjoyed some of the distillery’s legendary archive whiskies and shared stories from years past. Simon spontaneously opened a rare bottle of 1970s Bruichladdich live on camera; no-one could stop him nor wanted to stop him with the prospect of a taste of that!

From our formative, cash-strapped days to now being the largest private employer on the island, Lynne and Simon perfectly narrated the Cinderella story of Bruichladdich.

simon and lynne time travellers malt bar

Thank you to all of you who tuned in, and to everyone who was busy behind the scenes of this, our second, all-digital Feìs! We await the day we can welcome you through our gates again to a full day of festival madness. Until then…

Bruichladdich Distillery
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