To the ancient Greeks the Hebrides were a mythical land beyond the North Winds.


To the Vikings these islands were far-off lands of mystery. Exotic and fearsome perhaps, but also believed to represent peace and fulfilment.

To the Gaelic Scotii tribe the Hebrides were, “The Coast of the Gaels”, Oirthir Gaidheal, pronounced “Argyll”. In its medieval heyday the Hebrides, and Islay specifically, were the home of the Lords of the Isles – Viking-Gaelic warriors who ruled the west coast and islands of Scotland by sword and by longboat. This powerful mix of Gael and Viking blood – a stubborn, proud, tough, volatile, passionate and superstitious people – isolated by rough seas, eight knot currents, vicious whirlpools, hidden reefs and Atlantic storms, has determined that this island has remained a land apart.

Since its creation in 1881, Bruichladdich distillery has led a chequered, almost fated life. Family feuds, recessions, industry cartels, deception, World Wars and sheer bad luck all took their toll.

In many ways it’s a miracle that the distillery is still here today because in 1994 Bruichladdich was acquired by Jim Beam Brands and closed for what could so easily have been the last time. The staff were made redundant on an island not noted for its employment opportunities. Just two men, Duncan “the Budgie” MacFadyen and the late John Rennie kept on to rattle the locks.

Duncan McGillivray


Duncan originally joined Bruichladdich in 1974, eventually retiring as our general manager in 2014.

a stubborn, proud, tough, volatile, passionate and superstitious people


Many distilleries have disappeared on Islay over the years and in the late 1990s Bruichladdich too seemed to be facing terminal decline.

Budgie & John were the night watchmen during that closed phase. Budgie is our stillman today, while the late John Rennie had started work in the warehouses at the distillery in 1980. He was originally a cooper, and learnt his trade alongside Davie Bell, who was himself a cooper, starting at Bruichladdich back in 1934.

Lineage, pedigree, connection, continuity.

In 1974 Duncan McGillivray started work at Bruichladdich as stillman. He went on to become engineer, and then brewer in 1978. He left in 1984 when the distillery went on to a one day week… was back again in 1990 until 1994. When we bought Bruichladdich in 2000, we had to persuade Duncan to give up running his garage to come back for one last time to help us out. He became our General Manager and retired in 2014.

This fascinating little distillery has always been at the heart of the community on the Rhinns of Islay. Today, Bruichladdich is the biggest private employer on the island – 80  islanders are employed along with a hard working host of contractors, farmers and friends without whom we simply couldn’t make our whisky. We pride ourselves in creating jobs that can keep young Ilich on the island.

Octomore Farm
Islay


The inimitable James Brown


Farmer, athlete, contractor, holiday house-renter, erstwhile lighthouse-keeper and policeman is the owner of Octomore Farm.

When it comes to bottling our whisky James brings us our soft spring water. He also grows Octomore barley for us and provides help and support in a myriad ways. There are so many stories about so many people.

Chrissie Angus, our export manager, is also a crofter, and in lambing season is known to be out in the field before dawn and then at her desk for 8.30.  Mary McGregor, our shop manager, is the third generation of her farming family to work at Bruichladdich; her grandfather would unload the puffers of their barley with horse and cart. The extra ordinary journey of our production director Allan Logan, who is the fourth generation of his family to make whisky on Islay

Why does these people matter?

To many in the Scotch whisky industry they don’t – most seem content to produce their single malt by industrial process – super-efficient software, producing the cheapest litre of alcohol possible… computers in place of human eye and ear, technicians rather than stillmen, laboratory analysis rather than human taste and smell. And many whisky distilleries – many here on Islay – for the sake of economy, choose to mature their Islay whisky in huge centralised, industrial warehouses on the mainland – losing all connection with this unique island, its place of origin and its people.

We believe the consolidation of the Scotch whisky industry has led to a loss of soul, identity, of character… we believe that single malt whisky, like any artisan, living product should speak of the place from which it comes, of the people who have created and nurtured it; of the soil, the air, the geography that influence it – of PLACE.

We believe it should be a reflection of the soul of those who have laboured to produce it.

Bruichladdich Distillery
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