Built in 1881 by William, John and Robert Harvey, Bruichladdich (pronounced brook-laddie) distillery sits opposite the western shore of Loch Indaal on Islay, an island off the west coast of Scotland. The distillery produces three distinct single malts: Bruichladdich (unpeated), Port Charlotte (heavily peated) and Octomore (super heavily peated), along with The Botanist gin. Bruichladdich, who describe themselves as ‘progressive Hebridean distillers’, are proud to be non-conformist and to do things a little differently. This modern approach is juxtaposed against their traditional and local values – maturing and bottling all their spirit on the island, using only Scottish-produced barley and retaining Victorian-era equipment, including the only open-topped mash tun on Islay and the last remaining belt-driven mill in Scotland.
William Harvey assumed outright control not long after the distillery was built and retained ownership until his death in the 1930s. The distillery’s spirit was then used mainly for blending purposes for the next 60 years with a variety of owners, including whisky brokers Ross and Coulter in the 1950s and AB Grant in the 1960s. A period of stability followed with Invergordon distillers (later to be purchased by Whyte & Mackay) buying the distillery towards the end of the 1960s and, a few periods of temporary mothballing excepted, producing until selling the distillery to Murray McDavid in 2000 for £6.5m. The new owners, headed by wine merchant Mark Reynier along with master distiller Jim McEwan (a former employee of Bowmore for 37 years), transformed the distillery’s prospects with their unique and innovative bottlings and style of packaging, many of which have gained worldwide recognition. After being fiercely independent for more than a decade, such was Bruichladdich’s success that it drew the interest of Rémy Cointreau, which bought the company in 2012 for £58m but insisted it carries on in the same vein.
Bruichladdich is an unpeated whisky – rare among other distilleries on the island, with only Bunnahabhain doing likewise. Its peated whiskies (Port Charlotte and Octomore) are kept as separate brands so as not to confuse the consumer. The distillery is known for being blessed with some of the best spirit in Scotland, helped by the tall, narrow-necked stills which produce an elegant, floral and fruity house style. The distillery is unique on the island with its vast range of cask-finished whiskies, many of which are non-traditional for whisky ageing, such as casks which used to hold Cognac, Jurançon and Pinot Gris.