Br Ln Pl Oc
One of two distilleries on the Rhinns of Islay, the western peninsula of the island, Bruichladdich was founded in 1881. Over the past 130 years, the distillery has changed hands many times and had frequent closures, but since 2000 it has been reborn, and is yet again at the forefront of Scottish whisky distilling.
The distillery was mothballed in 1995 and left dormant for the next five years. In 2000, the distillery was bought by Murray McDavid, and Islay-born Jim McEwan, formerly Bowmore manager, rebuilt and restarted the distillery. Initially mainly producing unpeated whisky, the distillery introduced two extra makes – heavily peated Port Charlotte and ridiculously smoky Octomore. The Elements range bottle each of the three separately under their own distillery symbol.
Production is unashamedly old fashioned, using the original 1881 cast-iron mash tun, longer fermentation times and slow distillation to create a flavoursome spirit, harking back to the distillery’s heyday. Focusing on Islay’s terroir, Bruichladdich uses local barley where possible and matures all of its whisky on the island. Many islanders are also employed in the on-site bottling plant, further embedding the distillery into the local landscape.
Bruichladdich’s more recent history has been turbulent, with the ‘proudly independent’ distillery being bought by Rémy Martin and Jim McEwan retiring after 52 years (to the day) in the industry. However, with a distillery management team chosen and trained by McEwan and investment from Rémy, Bruichladdich continues to grow, showing the industry a different way of working.
Bruichladdich’s 1990s’ closure and subsequent reopening mean that there are definite differences between the new-makes produced before and after 2001, but Br is typically lightly peated, with a soft, grassy feel. There is often a soft coastal note to the spirit that can come across as salted caramel in many of the distillery’s well-aged whiskies.
A heavily peated spirit using malt peated to more than 50ppm, Lochindaal was produced for private cask sales made available to customers of Bruichladdich after the distillery reopened in 2001. The spirit shows a rich confectionary sweetness mixed with dense, vegetal smoke.
Port Charlotte spirit was first produced at Bruichladdich in the hope that one day the distillery would open a sister site in the neighbouring village of the same name. Using malt peated to more than 40ppm, it is incredibly rich and rustic in character, bringing together the creaminess of modern Bruichladdich with seriously heavy smoke.
The most heavily peated of all the spirits on Islay, Octomore has been an ongoing experiment at Bruichladdich distillery to test the limits of the barley-peating process. Although the phenol count varies from batch to batch, the highest reported peating level is an impressive 258ppm.