Hugh Smith’s letter from Islay
BRUICHLADDICH Distillery, situated on the western side of Lochindaal, was built in 1881 by the brothers William, John and Robert Harvey, who were part of a whisky dynasty that also owned Glasgow’s Yoker and Dundas Hill distilleries.
The brothers were firmly of the opinion that the creation of a third distillery under their ownership would establish them as a dominant factor in the Scotch whisky industry.
Revolutionary building methods were used in the construction of the island distillery and Bruichladdich became Islay’s first purpose-built distillery as the majority of the others had been established on what had formerly been farm steadings.
Dissent among the Harvey family led to various managerial and financial difficulties and saw the formation of the Bruichladdich Distillery Company in 1886.
Troubles continued, not all of the Harveys’ making it must be said, and with the outbreak of the First World War, production stopped.
The Great Depression of 1929 had an adverse effect on the distilling industry, including Bruichladdich. Joe Hobbs, a high-flying entrepreneur persuaded the Harveys to let him purchase Bruichladdich for £ 8,000 in 1937. He went on to sell the distillery at a vast profit to Associated Scottish Distillers (ASD), a concern in which he had many financial interests.
A period of refurbishment followed and production resumed in 1938 but a year later the country was again at war and distilling ceased. Hostilities over, Bruichladdich was eventually sold to Train and MacIntyre, a subsidiary of National Distillers of America. They, in turn, sold it in 1952 to the Glasgow whisky brokers Ross and Coulter.
A further change took place in 1960 when ownership passed to distillers A B Grant, who also owned the Bladnoch Distillery.
The Grants greatly expanded output at Bruichladdich before they sold it on in 1968 to Invergordon Distillers, who also increased the annual capacity.
Following a somewhat hostile takeover bid, Invergordon Distillers were acquired by Whyte and MacKay in October 1993 and Bruichladdich was closed down as ‘being surplus to requirements’.
Mothballed and facing complete extinction, the outlook for the island distillery could only be described as bleak. Salvation was at hand, however, when a group of businessmen, led by wine merchant Mark Reynier, bought the distillery in December 2000 for £6.5 million. During the opening months of the following year the whole distillery was dismantled and re-assembled, with the existing Victorian décor and equipment retained along with most of the original Harvey machinery.
Another change of ownership took place in 2012 when the shore side distillery was purchased by the French spirits giant Remy Cointreau for £ 58 million.
As well as its whisky output, Bruichladdich produces the famed Botanist Gin and also houses the island’s only commercially-scaled bottling hall. It is also the largest private employer on the island with a staff complement of around 60.
Reprieve for Glasgow Islay
AS A former president, I am delighted that the future is now looking brighter for the Glasgow Islay Association following the surge of interest shown at the group’s recent annual general meeting.
In recent months it looked as if the 155-year- old association would cease to function owing to a lack of committee members and those willing to serve as office-bearers.
Happily, new office-bearers have been elected and a new management committee is in place. The new president is physiotherapist Katherine McNaughton. She succeeds Janette MacArthur, who has completed four years in office and has steered the committee through good and trying times. The new president is well known in the Bowmore district and is the only daughter of Jeanie and Michael McNaughton.
Taking over secretarial duties from the dedicated Dr Liz Campbell is Mairi Orr, who also has strong family connections with Bowmore. She is the daughter of Catherine and Hamish Orr, and her mum is best known in the village as Shasha, nee MacKechnie.
Financial responsibilities, previously held by Sheila Loach, now rest with new treasurer Christine Gillan, who is a daughter of the late Flora and Tom Watson and whose formative years were spent at Bridgend.
Managing other matters are Dawn MacEachern, Anne Melrose, Christine MacAuley, Mairi MacGillivray, Irene Justice, Iona Darroch, Susan MacDougall, Sheena Smith and Robert MacDougall.
Bruichladdich Distillery has had a chequered history.