Bruichladdich… the whisky of mass destruction?!
Seems the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in the United States thought so, back in 1993, when they used the distillery’s webcams to monitor its activities. Apparently, just a “small tweak” is all that separates production of the water of life from production of deadly chemical weapons, and employees of the venerable DTRA visit distilleries as part of their training to familiarise them with reactors, batch processors and evaporators.
Thankfully, the US didn’t use the information collected to invade Scotland, as they have done to other small countries, allowing the distillery to continue production of what it calls “the ideal wine-drinker’s dram”. Unlike the heavily peated malts produced by other Islay distilleries, Bruichladdich’s whisky has generally been lighter, sweeter and far less medicinal in flavour, although the distillery now also includes two peaty malts – Port Charlotte and Octomore – amongst its offerings.
Since its inception in 1881, the distillery has passed through various hands and suffered through many periods of closure. Its reopening in 2001 and subsequent success can be traced back to a winning raffle ticket in 1985…. The winner? Mark Reynier. The prize? A GBP1000 fifty-year-old bottle of whisky, plus the opportunity to sample some single malt whiskies from the cellar of whisky guru Jack Milroy, the raffle organiser. The whisky that caught Mark’s eye (and, I guess, nose and tastebuds too!)? I’m sure you know the answer to this one… yes, indeed: Bruichladdich.
Mark’s love affair with this particular whisky continued, and the opportunity finally arose to purchase the distillery itself, thanks to the establishment of an independent consortium of investors, most from Islay. This purchase makes Bruichladdich the only independently owned distillery on the island, and one of only a handful in Scotland not under the control of a larger parent company. Thanks to the opening of a bottling hall in 2003, Bruichladdich is now also the only whisky completely produced on Islay from start to finish.
Each bottling is produced on a small scale, some with limited availability, and is non-chill-filtered and caramel-free. Jim McEwan, the Master Distiller, has been responsible for the injection of new life into the distillery, with the production of a variety of different cuvees using special casks. Ironically, for a distillery originally founded to meet the demand of the blended whisky industry, none of its output is now used for blends.
The production processes at Bruichladdich are proudly Victorian in nature, utilising the original equipment from 1881. It took them six months to painstakingly restore everything to its original condition, and now the distillery is a happy computer-free working museum :).
By the way, if you’re still wondering how to pronounce “Bruichladdich”, the distillery says to use “brook-laddie”, but apparently there’s some controversy over this heinous mispronunciation of the Gaelic “ch” sound… I like the more guttural in-your-throat version (as in “loch”), but I’m sure I won’t care too much after a few drams!
General Tasting Notes
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Distillery Contact Information
Address: Bruichladdich, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA49 7UN
Tel: +44 (0)1496 85 0190
Fax: +44 (0)1496 85 0919
Tours: Monday to Friday 09:00 – 17:00, Saturday 10:00 – 16:00. Tours must be booked in advance by phoning the distillery, cost GBP4 and take about 45 minutes.
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