I showed up to Bruichladdich on a cloudy but warm afternoon in February.
It was my first day touring distilleries on Islay (read my round-up of the island) and after visiting nearby Kilchoman, I headed back out onto the twisting B8108 and then south on the A847 to arrive at Bruichladdich just 20 minutes later.
The distillery – which has been around since 1881 – was surprisingly quiet when I drove up. And, I soon learned why: the distillery was not running due to needed equipment maintenance, which I found out in the visitor’s centre.
As I wasn’t able to take a tour, I decided I’d have to leave the distillery visit until another trip to Islay. But, luckily, fate was on my side as Carl Reavey – head of digital communications for Bruichladdich – happened to be on site and also happened to remember that I’d been on a Twitter tasting with the distillery a few months prior.
Carl – who previously ran the Port Charlotte Hotel – took me around the distillery, noting the old mash tun from 1881 was being fixed up to its original state (rather than being replaced) while also mentioning that due to the number of fixes needed at the distillery, they had been running at 45-50% capacity. Since the takeover of the distillery by Remy Cointreau in 2012, it’s no surprise that money would start to be invested into shining it up. There is a plan – according to Carl – for it to produce around 1.5-1.8m litres of spirit this year, up from 200,000k just 13 years ago in 2001.
As I couldn’t get properly geeky and see the full process as it went on, I instead just had a chance to wander around, before ending up in the warehouse with Duncan McGillivray, the distillery’s most famous resident and now manager who recently celebrated 40 years working there, where we nosed (I couldn’t drink as I was driving) a few samples from the cask.
It was a wonderful visit, despite the distillery’s silence, and so instead of doing a normal distillery feature, I thought I’d simply share with you some of the images from that day.