Photograph: Trish Thornton

Bruichladdich Distillery

Bruichladdich is located off the west coast of Scotland. Distilled in the village of Bruichladdich, it is one of seven from the island, and the only one from an independent distillery. There is some modern controversy surrounding the distillery’s advertised pronunciation of the name. They suggest brook-laddie, which incorporates a common mispronunciation of the Gaelic ch element.

The distillery uses one mashtun (6.2 tonnes) and six washbacks (together, 210,000 litres). The still is composed of two wash stills (together 23,000 litres) and two spirit stills (together 21,000 litres), all heated by steam. The Harvey Bottling Hall has been running since May 25, 2003. This is the only distillery on Islay which bottles on-site. In May 2004, a cooperage hall was opened, and since December 2004, the malt used is grown on the island. There have been many vintages from the distillery, and a list of more than 200 of them can be found at the Bruichladdich Distillery and Bruichladdich Whisky Archive.

History

Bruichladdich was built in 1881 by the brothers Robert William and John Gourlay Harvey on the shore of Loch Indaal, on the Rinns of Islay, the westernmost part of the island. At the time, the distillery was state-of-the-art and the equipment continues to be used unchanged. Unlike other distilleries, which were often built from old farm houses, the building was erected specifically for this purpose. It was built from stone from the seashore and has a very efficient layout. At the centre of the buildings is a yard that holds the kiln to dry the malt and a steam engine to generate the electricity. The distillery changed owners and was out of use from 1929 to 1937. The distillery closed in 1994, but was purchased by Murray McDavid on December 19, 2000 and completely remodelled. Jim McEwan, who had worked at Bowmore Distillery, was hired as Production Director. The Victorian decór was mostly preserved. The machines, roasting ovens, and piping were completely removed and renovated by a team of engineers (local crofters, who also work in the distillery). In the entire distillery, not a single computer is used (apart from the ones in the offices and the webcams and such). It is, you might say, a museum of a distillery that is still in operation.

Bruichladdich became the focus of an intelligence operation by the (American) Defense Threat Reduction Agency because its distilling equipment could also be used to make chemical weapons. The distillery owners learned of this when a helpful American agent informed them that the distillery webcams, which she was using to monitor the facility for WMD production, had broken. In their honor, Bruicladdich issued a limited run of commemorative bottles. Another limited run was issued when an Islay fisherman found a MoD submarine ROV, and a minor farcical affair ensued. Said run featured pictures of the ROV on the label.