The three brothers decided to combine their expertise to build a third Harvey distillery: Robert (23) designed it, John (31) had the distilling experience, and William (32) had the money.
The catalyst was the invention of the Glasgow Puffer, a flat-bottomed, steam boat that revolutionised bulk commodity shipments around the wild seas of the west coast. Barley could now be imported to supplement the island’s limiting acres. And coal, a vastly more efficient fuel than peat to run stills. Both commodities transformed the economics of distilling.
Inspired by youthful enthusiasm, whisky heritage and entrepreneurial flair the brothers set about creating a revolutionary new type of distillery. Until then, Islay’s distilleries had evolved from small farms, where talented clandestine distillers replaced their cattle in their byres with stills.
Bruichladdich was to be the very antithesis of an Islay farm distillery. This was to be a cathedral-like still house that (unlike their croft and farm equivalents elsewhere) enveloped 6m tall stills designed to produce the purest spirit possible. Using concrete, a newly-patented building material, this was a modern, purpose-built distillery, ergonomically laid out around a central courtyard for efficiency, and on a gentle slope to exploit gravity – a state-of-the-art Victorian distillery.