Hugh Smith’s letter from Islay
Caol Ila Distillery
CAOL Ila Distillery, on the north-east coast of the island, takes its Gaelic name from the fast-flowing strait of water that separates Islay from neighbouring Jura and is known as the Sound of Islay.
The distillery is the largest of its kind on the whisky isle and was set up in 1846 by distiller Hector Henderson, a former owner of the Littlemill Distillery near Glasgow, and the Union Distillery in the Kintyre peninsula at Campbeltown.
The distillery was not a success under Henderson’s tenure and changed hands in 1854 when it passed into the control of Norman Buchanan, who also owned the distillery on Jura. It also had mixed fortunes during the Buchanan period and, in 1863, it was acquired by the Glasgow whisky traders Bulloch, Lade and Co.
Among the early managers employed by Bulloch, Lade and Co was one Duncan Johnston, a nephew of John Johnston of Lagavulin, and a cousin of the noted Johnstons of Laphroaig. Bulloch, Lade and Co pulled out all the stops at Caol Ila and by the start of the 1880s in excess of 147,000 gallons of whisky were being annually produced at the distillery.
With strong Christian convictions, as well as producing vast quantities of the hard stuff, the spiritual needs of their employees were also a matter of concern.
This led the company to build a small chapel at Caol Ila and every Sunday a Glasgow-based divinity student would arrive at the distillery and preach the gospel to the workforce and their families. Attendance at such acts of worship was compulsory.
Throughout the 1870s the Bulloch, Lade company carried out a massive programme of expansion at Caol Ila , with all the whisky produced being shipped backed to the company’s Glasgow headquarters.
Eventually, things began to turn sour and the company went into voluntary liquidation in 1920. This led a group of businessmen to form the Caol Ila Distillery Company Ltd before the Distillers’ Company acquired a controlling interest in 1927. Three years later Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd (the SMD) acquired ownership of all the shares. From 1930 to 1937, the distillery was mothballed, and it also remained closed throughout the Second World War, a victim of the wartime restrictions on the barley supplies for distilling purposes.
Hostilities over, production resumed and continued until 1972 when the entire structure was demolished and a larger distillery built on the site. The three-storeyed warehouses, a telling feature of the original building, were retained.
Production resumed in 1974 and ownership passed on to Diageo, which greatly values Caol Ila’s smoky whisky which is such an integral part of its celebrated Johnnie Walker range of blended whiskies.
Like its near neighbour Bunnahabhain, the Caol Ila Distillery enjoys breathtaking views from its coastal location on the Sound of Islay. And the whisky also has much to commend it.
BIGS and bias were bandied about when the Bridgend Bowling Club officially opened its new season on April 30.
The green is now in tip-top condition following months of preparatory work by volunteers and club members. Their lot was made easier through the use of mower equipment refurbished by the generosity of the Community Benefit Fund.
The green is directly across from the Bridgend Hotel and is open daily. Fees can be deposited in the on-site honesty box.
Post Office change
BOWMORE postmistress Alyson MacGillivray has announced that she is shortly to give up operating the village post office at the top of the main street. Advised of Alyson’s decision, the Post Office confirmed that it is committed to maintaining a post office in the village and local retailers who may be interested are asked to pursue the matter with the Post Office authorities. Hugh Smith, 4 Flora Street, Bowmore, Islay PA43 7JX. Tel: 01496 810 658.
Caol Ila Distillery is the biggest on the whisky isle.