The Bruichladdich distillery is located on the western shore of the Loch Indaal bay,
near the town of Port Charlotte and directly opposite Bowmore on the eastern shore.
This made Bruichladdich the westernmost distillery in Scotland until its neighbour
Kilchoman was officially opened in 2005.
In 1938 the Bruichladdich distillery (also known as Bruichladdie) was sold to
Hatim Attari, Joheph W. Hobbs and Alexander W. Tolmie. And the distillery kept
changing hands like a hot potato. In 1952 it was sold to Ross & Coulter Ltd.
who held on to ‘Laddie’ for eight years before selling it to A.B. Grant in 1960.
Bruichladdich and the town of Port Charlotte were constructed quite recently.
In 1881 by Robert, William and John Gourlay Harvey. Members of the Harvey
family remained owners and shareholders of the distillery until 1929 when
Bruichladdich was mothballed.
The overwhelming success that Mark and Jim have had with the bottlings they
released from these old stocks is a perfect illustration of the crucial role of careful
cask selection - within one or two years Bruichladdich was transformed from a
dusty 'ugly duckling' brand that generated little sympathy into a beautiful swan.
Well, I'm sure their clever marketing 2.0 at Bruichladdich also helped ;-)
They remained the owners for another eight years before Invergordon Distillers
acquired Bruichladdich in 1968. They expanded the number of stills from two
to four in 1975, before selling the distillery to JBB / Whyte & Mackay.
The Bruichladdich distillery was mothballed again in January 1995 and sold in
2000 to a consortium of twenty five different shareholders that operated under
the name 'Bruichladdich Distillery Co. Ltd.'. The (main) driving force behind the
purchase was Mark Reynier from independent whisky bottler Murray McDavid.
Mark and his team managed to get production started again by May 2001.
Together with other seasoned professionals like Jim McEwan (formerly of Bowmore), the new team quickly put
bruichladdich on the map again. Although their new spirit couldn't legally be sold as 'whisky' for at least three years,
the new owners also acquired maturing stocks that were laid down by Invergordon and JBB / Whyte & Mackay.
These stocks were used to re-establish the brand as quickly as possible.
Apart from the traditionally lightly peated spirit that is still produced under the
name “Bruichladdich”, two more heavily peated malts are being produced at the
distillery. A heavily peated (40 PPM) malt under the name 'Port Charlotte' (the
name of the village two miles south of the distillery) is being produced from the
start (or shortly afterwards) and not long afterwards they added an even more
heavily peated malt (80.5 PPM) with the name 'Octomore'.
Octomore is the name of another silent Islay distillery in the area, situated in a
farm next to the warehouses of the old Lochindaal distillery. The original Octomore
distillery was closed in 1852, three decades before Bruichladdich was even built.
There is one tenuous link to the past that remains, though - the Bruichladdich distillery still uses spring water
from the Octomore farm nearby as their process water. During the early 2000s Mark Reynier often talked about
plans to build a separate Octomore distillery next to Bruichladdich. As time went by (and Bruichladdich started to
release their own bottlings under that name), the realisation of those vague plans seemed to grow less likely with
every passing year - and more like a PR story.
And then the shareholders that revived Bruichladdich in 2000 unexpectedly sold the distillery again in 2012.
So, they may have exaggerated the ‘passion’ ingredient in their investment and underplayed the ‘money’ aspect.
The new owners of Bruichladdich are Remy Cointreau - a large French drinks conglomerate.
The location of Bruichladdich on the isle of Islay may
seem remote, but with 7 other whisky distilleries on
the island (and more on the way) that’s only relative.
I’ve been told that the population of this beautiful
island in the Hebrides actual doubles during the
annual ‘Feis Ile’ whisky festival in May or June.
Islay is rich in natural beauty and history as well.
Outside of the festival season the island offers lots
of peace and quiet, so you don’t even have to be a
whisky fan to enjoy a visit to the island.
Bruichladdich is located conveniently near the small
town of Port Charlotte. The best restaurants on the
island can be found here, so that’s ideal for tourists.
The Bruichladdich distillery is open to visitors all year long, from Monday to Friday.
Tours are available at 10.30am 11.30am and 2.30am (and at 10.30am on Summer Saturdays).
1) Just like Bowmore at the other end of the bay, Bruichladdich
distillery is not able to use the apparently abundant water supply
from Loch Indaal because it is too salty for malt whisky. So, the
distillery uses water from sources on Octomore farm instead.
2) Until recently, Associated Scottish Distillers also offered a
so-called 'bastard' bottling of Bruichladdich under the name
Lochindaal. This bottle was named after the old Lochindaal
distillery located East of the village of Port Charlotte, which used
to have its own distilleries. Lochindaal operated until 1929 when
it was dismantled. Its warehouses are now used to store the Port
Charlotte malt. Until recently Bruichladdich was the only surviving
distillery on the Western peninsula, but the brand new Kilchoman
distillery from proprietor Anthony Willis changed this
6) CEO Mark Reynier and production director Jim McEwan ran most of Bruichladdich in the 2000s.
They decided to buy a number of second hand stills (as well as a lot of other distillery equipment) from the
now defunct Inverleven distillery in the Dumbarton grain whisky complex.
3) The new bottling plant (opened in 2003) allowed Bruichladdich
to bottle its own whisky on site. This provided some much needed
employment opportunities on this relatively remote part of Islay.
It's much more convenient for Bruichladdich as well. Before they
opened the bottling plant they had to ship tankers full of spring
water from the farm of James Brown (not the R&B legend) at
Octomore to the mainland to dilute the casked whisky to 46%.
7) Bruichladdich is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were founded over a century ago during
the 'whisky boom' of the late 19th century and which have managed to survive until this day. Other ‘survivors’
include Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bunnahabhain, Craigellachie, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu, Longmorn and Tomatin.
4) For their first new Bruichladdich bottlings, the new owners used extremely lightly peated barley of 2 PPM.
5) William Harvey (the father of the Harvey brothers that constructed Bruichladdich in 1881) was the owner of
two other Scotch whisky distilleries; Yoker and Dundashill.
2000 - At the start of the new millennium, the
remains of the mothballed Bruichladdich distillery
are bought by a small group of private investors.
The (main) driving force behind this venture was
Mark Reynier from independent bottler Murray
McDavid. The price of the distillery and some
maturing stocks was 6,500,000 GBP at the time.
2008 - The first bottling of yet another brand is released; the very heavily peated Octomore whisky.
2006 - The first official bottling of Port Charlotte is released; a more heavily peated brand of the Bruichladdich.
At the time there were still plans to build a second distillery in some nearby sheds by that same name, but those
plans were abandoned later. The good news is that this will avoid confusion in the future about what's genuine
Port Charlotte whisky (produced at the defunct Port Charlotte distillery) and the brand of whisky that was
produced in modern times at the Bruichladdich distillery.
2012 - Twelve years after Mark Reynier collected a group of private investors to revive Bruichladdich, they
‘cashed out’ and sold the distillery to drinks conglomerate Remy Cointreau. This French company produces many
well known brands like Rémy Martin cognac, Cointreau liqueur and Mount Gay rum. They acquired Bruichladdich
in June 2012. Remy Cointreau paid £58,000,000 for all Bruichladdich shares, so the initial investors managed to
make a massive profit of more than 50 million GBP within a decade. Not too shabby for a ‘labour of love’.
Not long after completing the sale, Mark Reynier left the Bruichladdich distillery.
2003 - A new bottling plant that is opened, now
allowing ‘on site’ bottling of Bruichladdich whisky,
Bruichladdich 3yo 'X4' (63.5%, OB, Quadrupple distilled, Bottled 2010)
Nose: It feels young, with wheat, barley and other grain aroma's. Some organics emerge after a minute.
Adding water didn't really help - the rough edges of the youth still remain a distraction.
Taste: Smooth, but the youth shines through beneath the surface. Sweet, sticky tannins in the finish.
Score: 64 points - not my cup of tea. It's quite clean and offers some complexity, but little more...
Octomore 5yo 'Orpheus Edition 02.2' (61%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Wow! Big, sweet and peaty; right up my alley. Meaty notes. Coffee. Buysman burnt caramel.
Very sharp at cask strength. With a splash of water and some time it sweetens out. A little rubber?
Taste: Sweet start with loads of smoke. Tar. Very, very hot. More sweet liquorice after I added water.
Score: 87 points - still an amazing whisky at the juvenile age; just a tad less complex as the 2009 edition.
Port Charlotte 7yo 2002/2010 (63.5%, Whisky Doris, C# 1171, 298 Bts.)
Nose: It starts off much sweeter (toffee) than I expected and the attack on the nose is very gentle at first.
It powers up after a few seconds, with whiffs of diesel, smoked meat, citrus & oil against a phenolic background.
Hey, rubber! What a lovely complex nose at this age! I didn't dare to add water for a long time.
When I did I found loads of fresh fragrances like roasted nuts and even some light fruits. Great whisky!
Taste: Fairly harsh and uni-dimensional at cask strength. Powerful tannins from start to finish.
Loads of smoke. Diluted to +/- 55% ABV it grew notably smoother and sweeter - and a little nutty.
Diluted further to about 45% I found more rubber on the palate - and the whisky seemed a lot fresher.
Score: 86 points - a fantastic nose! Too bad they filled less than 300 bottles of this stuff.
Bruichladdich NAS 'Infinity' (55.5%, OB, Bottled 2005)
Nose: Big and fruity. Clay? Hints of smoke and sulphur? A little bit dirty. Some organics. Yeah, I dig this...
Meaty. Nice development - a pleasure cruise for the nose. Horse Stable. Or should I call it 'horse unstable'?
Taste: Hint of perfume? Just a touch of bitterness. Strong tannins. Smoke. Could be a Bowmore or G'garioch?
The taste is not nearly as enjoyable as I imagined at first, but it improves considerably after 5 minutes. Sweeter.
Score: 87 points - by no means perfect (especially on the palate), but the nose is right up my alley. Needs time!
Port Charlotte 8yo 'PC8' (60.5%, OB, , Bottled +/- 2010, 30000 Bts.)
Nose: Fruity and quite sweet with a phenolic undercurrent. Hints of oil and dust. Some rubber perhaps?
Salmiak. Tar. It mellows out considerably after I added some water with more meaty notes and organics.
Taste: A nice balance between peat and sweet. Ashes and tar in the finish. Dry but quite chewable.
Score: 86 points - perhaps not as spectacular as the first expression I tried, but very respectable.
Bruichladdich 16yo 'The Sixteens - Bourbon Cask' (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Dry and a little nondescript. Light fruity notes and some chloride.
Taste: This starts quite sweetish, growing drier in the centre. The finish remains dry and grows quite hot.
Score: 73 points - I'd have to classify this as "below average"; there's not much to get excited about.
Bruichladdich 2003/2009 'Organic' (46%, OB, 15,000 Bts.)
Nose: Fresh. Green apples. Quite undefined. Whiff of oil? Most of the flavours are gone after a minute.
Taste: Sparkly start. Dry, slightly uneven centre. A faint sweetness. Some beer notes in the finish.
Score: 75 points - the score may not seem that impressive, but it actually IS for such a young whisky.
Bruichladdich 18yo (46%, OB, Petit Manseng casks from Clos Uroulat, Sweet Jurançon, +/- 2008)
Nose: Nondescript and a little depressing. Finished? Rotting milk powder. A little metallic?
Taste: Hmm, something feels off. Aspirin in the bitter finish. Sour and bitter with a harsh mouth feel.
Score: 72 points - I can't imagine how bad the whisky was, that this finishing was considered an improvement.
I should point out that opinions vary about this one though; Mark Gillespie scored it in the 90's.
Bruichladdich 3D 'Moine Mhor' (50%, OB, Bottled 2005)
Nose: Peat and organics. Not especially powerful. Seems to open up a little bit with time. Yes it does.
Lovely nose. Light and farmy. Sweet. Quite grainy with the faintest hint of peat. Grows on me.
Taste: Peaty start, but it flattens out quickly. A little dry and sombre with a hint of liquorice in the finish.
Score: 84 points - A good peaty whisky, but it seems to lack the depth and complexity of some others.
Bruichladdich 1989/2004 (57.9%, G&M Reserve, C#1957, 275 Bts.)
Nose: Polished with quite some wood. Raisins & other fruits in the background - my kind of profile.
Growing complexity. Possibly more cask influence than distillery influence but I like it a lot.
Taste: Loads of smoke - hardly recognisable as a Bruichladdich! Quite some wood too.
Nice fruity tannins and anthracite in the finish. Wonderful mouth feel; powerful yet smooth at c/s.
Score: 89 points - which makes it one of the very best Laddies I've ever tried.
Bruichladdich 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001 under new ownership, 70cl)
Nose: Light, soft and sweet. Some banana? Almost flowery. More expressive than I expected.
More 'volume' than the old 10yo, but it slowly fades away over time. Still hardly any peat.
Taste: Clean and smooth, but not a lot of depth. Not as much to enjoy as in the nose.
Score: 77 points - an improvement compared to the previous expression of the 10yo.
Bruichladdich 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001 under new ownership, 70cl)
Nose: More sherried than the new 10yo. Slightly dry. Spicy. Some salt. More salty than peaty.
Cookie-dough sweetness. Growing complexity. This one needs a little bit of time, though.
Taste: Smooth, but with a peaty twang in the background. More potent than the 'old' 15yo.
The taste follows the beat of the nose, but plays a different melody. Recommendable.
Score: 83 points - a major improvement on the 15yo bottled by the previous owners.
Bruichladdich 15yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 1998 under previous ownership, 33cl)
Nose: Restrained. Sweetish notes. Soap? A little oily. Not a lot of depth, I'm afraid.
Not unlike a very young Caol Ila without the peat. Where's the Islay power I'm looking for?
Taste: Malty start, then some salt and smoke - just a little bit. It's very easily drinkable.
It has a salty bite to it, but it's nothing like the big Islay malts - Ardbeg, Laphroaig, etc.
Score: 77 points - a little above average, bit not something I'd recommend.
Bruichladdich 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1995 under previous ownership, 70cl)
Nose: Smoky, yet subtle aroma. Tingly with some oiliness. Did I imagine that touch of seaweed?
This is odd... It's an Islay whisky but I can find not peat whatsoever. Am I dreaming?
Taste: Rather soft and a little salty. Very light - the lightest Islay I ever tasted actually.
Score: 75 points - not really my cup of tea; I want to be swept off my feet...
Bruichladdich 16yo 1979/1995 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #834-35)
Nose: Clean and grassy, sweetening out. Balanced. Grassy notes evolve to 'veggy' notes. String beans?
Growing complexity with notes of dust and freshly sawn dry wood. More alcoholic over time. Rubber?
Taste: Quite sharp with a very satisfying after burn in the throat. Trace of peat, but not much.
Score: 78 points - although it might have reached the 80's based on the nose alone.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Bruichladdich malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Bruichladdich I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Bruichladdich.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.