Bruichladdich is living proof that the traditional whisky regions of Scotland make no sense. We are told by these Hebredean distillers to not think that labelling a whisky “Islay” has anything to do with taste because the truth is far more complicated and interesting.
Built in 1881 when puffer-supplied coal was available as an alternative fuel to local peat, it is likely that Bruichladdich was specifically designed to produce the purest unpeated spirit possible. The great Alfred Barnard supports this view with a tantalising clue – the Laddie is the only distillery on Islay that he does not describe as drying its malt using peat in his fascinating exploration of the island’s distilleries in 1885.
Sadly, none of that 19th century spirit survives, but the original Victorian machinery has allowed an unparalleled legacy of craft distilling to trickle down through the generations of men who make this sophisticated Islay dram.
They still use much of the original equipment installed by their visionary Victorian forefathers. One wash still from 1881, recently renovated, may be the oldest in Scotland. Temperamental it may be, but it was designed in a gentler, slower age when distilling was more artisan than science, and our tall, long-necked stills – the antithesis of those prevailing at the time – still produce the soft, elegant, floral whisky for which Bruichladdich is rightly famous.