Welcome to the first in a series of notes about Bruichladdich. We visited the distillery in August and were bowled over by the passion everyone there has for the whisky and the brand – it is like one big family. Therefore we’ve decided to devote a few posts to telling a bit of the story of Bruichladdich through the people that work there. In the near future we will publish our interview with Jim, and following that our discussion with Adam and Allan. First though we wanted to give you an overview of the distillery through the eyes of a tour guide, and who better than Michelle?
We were really impressed with how Bruichladdich values its people, and how it really is a family company at its heart. Michelle’s mother works in the bottling hall, and after Michelle recently moved back to Islay from Glasgow, she has taken up the position of tour guide at the distillery.
Michelle’s tour was so much more than the usual walk around the distillery; you can see her love for Bruichladdich and her enthusiasm was infectious as she guided us around. Sadly for us it was the silent season, but that did provide an opportunity to see the site in a different light – the stills were open, the mash tun workings were in pieces and a lot of work was going on all around the place. Michelle cantered through a history of the distillery from its inception by the Harvey Brothers in the late 1800’s to its closure in 1994, and the subsequent purchase by Mark Reynier for £7 million before the recent acquisition by Remy Cointreau for a staggering £58 million.
It was fascinating to see the Victorian equipment that is still used today, and we were surprised to see that the whole process is entirely manual at Bruichladdich – even the mash tun is cleaned by hand at the end of mashing, and it’s open topped, unlike any other you will see on Islay.
Michelle then took us through the wash backs to the still house which contains the famous ‘Ugly Betty’ Pot Still. Despite it being the silent season we were lucky enough to try some New Make Spirit. It runs off the stills at around 68% and for us was sweet and fruity with notes of apples and blackberries. We were then taken to the warehouse where maturation was expertly explained, and it was in the warehouse that we found out that Bruichladdich have some Octomore maturing at an almighty 300ppm [Jim later confirmed this, and my word this is exciting stuff!]. We then had a look around the bottling plant – one area of the distillery that was operational during our visit and it was incredibly busy, reminding me of a ‘Santa’s workshop’ in Lapland just before Christmas.
The tour concludes with some samples of Bruichladdich. It was great to see The Botanist Gin being served with ice, tonic and lemon but we opted for a more traditional route with Mike enjoying a dram of the Islay Barley 2007, while I chose to sample the latest Bruicladdich Valinch – a whisky that you can only buy in person from the distillery shop.
Bruichladdich Valinch 07 1989 [51.4%]
This whisky was put into a bourbon barrel in 1989 prior to being finished in Rioja wine casks. It is 24 years old and named after Andy Ritchie who works in the bottling hall at the distillery
Nose: Sweet and savoury, fresh cherries and apple crumble
Palate: Well balanced, smoked salmon, alternating hits of sweet and savoury
Finish: Long, peppery and fruity
Special thanks must go to Michelle for being a fabulous host and for answering our many many questions, and to Mary for looking after us so well in the shop. Go and visit Bruichladdich, do a tour and a warehouse tasting and fall in love with the distillery, craft and people – you will not regret it.