Frazer Matthews’ Valinch


Having turned 21 last month, Frazer recognises the extra freedom that a childhood on Islay gave him, saying, “I love it. There are certain things that you kind of miss out on, but I think it’s a great place to grow up. Much more relaxed”. Frazer’s mother had Islay connections and brought the young family back from the tenements of Glasgow for an island upbringing close to her relations in Bowmore.

For a time they lived in Port Charlotte, where Frazer spent most of his days at the football pitch, “I’d just go up by myself with my ball, kick it about. I’ve met quite a number of like-minded people from all over Scotland that I’m still in touch with through that.” Even as an 8 year old islander, he felt the rhythm of the tourist seasons, because of the football, “In the Winter, not only was the weather generally not good enough to go to the football pitch, but the swing-park, everywhere, was just dead. You know it was really really cyclical.”

He became one of the kids of Bruichladdich who could be found around the distillery “helping” of a Saturday, due to the fact that one or other or both their parents worked here in the earlier days of the business’ resurrection.

His father worked in the bottling hall.  Frazer recalls, “They were a really good bunch of people and the core of them that are in there now were in there back then. They were always very good to me and my family, so it’s lovely to see them still working, and still speaking to me pretty regularly! Your Arlene’s and your Tina’s, Jonathan, Colin, Gabi, all that lot.” Frazer’s elder sister also took tours of the distillery for a couple of seasons as part of the Laddieshop team. Now, after a brief spell in the bottling hall after leaving school, then two and a half years as a tour guide, he is himself firmly part of the crew.

He enthuses about how much he has learnt at Bruichladdich, saying he “hadn’t a scooby” about how whisky was made when he started. The ethos and the number of other inspirational people here have seen him building a passion for whisky that he says he couldn’t have envisaged. “It’s just so people orientated. You know, not computerised, that whole artisanal idea; this is a craft. Then you mix that craft with supporting over-many families when we could easily just employ ten or fifteen people and have computers doing all the work, it’s something everyone can genuinely relate to. In this day and age when industry’s all production and financially really driven, we buck that trend, it’s safe to say!”

“For the neutral who has no idea to, say, a German whisky enthusiast that’s been on every tour in Scotland and knows more than you, there’s always that one level, where no matter what, they can always appreciate what we’re doing here.”

He is keen to explore more of the world, and in fact this week, we sent him to Paris to work with airport staff on The Botanist. “It’s the first thing I’ve done abroad anywhere so hopefully that all goes well and I can then start to lead into more things like that. For me, to incorporate my eagerness to travel into working would be ideal.”

It sounds, however, like it might be his love for Rangers football club that’s the main spur for leaving home? “One of the things that I dislike about Islay is not being able to go to Ibrox every other Saturday… First thing I’m going to do when I do leave the island, I’m not going to worry about a flat, place to stay, I’m going to buy a season ticket.” For now, he plays in the Islay League for the Bowmore side, contrary to lots of the other members the distillery, who won the cup this year with Kilchoman. “You can imagine the banter.”

Frazer is 30th in our series of Bruichladdich valinches featuring our people. Cask #3864, Premier Cru Claret cask, aged 9 years, 64% alc. by vol.

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