Hugh Smith’s let­ter from Is­lay

The Oban Times - - News - Hugh Smith, 4 Flora Street, Bow­more, Is­lay PA43 7JX. Tel: 01496 810 658.

Bruich­lad­dich Dis­tillery

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.

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