Could it ever be that a young and wandering Bacchus trod upon the Scottish isles of Islay and fell in love, blessing it with gurgling streams and vast green meadows that’d bear greatest of Scottish distilleries that ever were? Bacchus may have taken a break from his love of vines and indulged himself in the resplendent warmth of uisga beatha, but Islay sure is blessed. Of the many distilleries strewn on the isles, Bruichladdich Distillery stands a testimony to the changing colours of time, as layers upon layers of stories settle on its ageing walls. The journals of a man long gone, by the name of Rudd Harvey talk of the birth of Bruichladdich that has stood the test of time.
The Harvey Family
The illustrious Harvey family feature prominently in the Bruichladicch story. The Harveys were noted whisky entrepreneurs who owned two whisky distilleries in Glasgow: Dundas Hill and Yorker. When Harvey senior (William Harvey III) breathed his in 1842, he left behind three very young sons still not over the boundaries of school. The sons grew up to be gentlemen, each finding a foothold in their own right. The oldest son, William Junior began working in Glasgow in the sugar trade, slowly but steadily growing into a very successful broker of his times. The youngest of the lot, Robert went on to become an engineer and John joined the family business.
The Spirits Act of 1880 had opened new doors in whisky distilling. In 1881, the Harvey brothers came together to build the third distillery, Bruichladdich. With their combined expertise, their plans of making Harvey dynasty into whisky giants did not seem like a faraway dream. Robert had, by this time, gained repute as a distillery designer of renown. Production costs were at an all-time low, since the only tax payable was for the bottled whisky and the invention of the steam puffer translated into low cost of transporting grains and coal. Wiith good omen in the air, the Harvey brothers established the Bruichladdich distillery in 1881.
A Work in Sophistication
Built on the stony banks of the Rhinnes isles of Islay, Bruichladdich came to life, one stone at a time, handpicked from the shores of Hebrides. A far remove from farmhouse distilleries, Bruichladdich had long-necked stills lined along its inner walls which would eventually produce a very fine whisky, unlike any other that Islay had seen at the time. Flanked by Loch Indaal, Bruichladdich was Islay’s very first purpose-built distillery. Robert’s impeccable design, combined with state-of-art distillation meant Bruichladdich was an exercise in avant-garde elegance, a refined structure, a beautiful work of art standing against the azure skies and glacial waters of Hebrides.
Bruichladdich, known for its single malts grew in name and fame, until the winds of change plagued it in 1906. By 1907, the distillation came to a standstill as the doors to Bruichladdich had to be closed shut. The days of glory were only a tale of the past. The loans were piling up higher and higher with each passing day, there were hundreds of barrels of unsold whisky gathering dust within stolid walls of Bruichladdich. Macintyre & Train offered to buy all the unsold bottles for a thrifty sum in 1913. Even though the price was meagre, the offer was enough to pay off the bank overdraft which sat upon Bruichladdich like a succubus in dark times.
The distillery opened its doors one more time in 1919. Even though prosperity was a thing of past, business was steady and Bruichladdich was slowly gaining its composure. 1925 generated a whopping revenue for the distillery, yet production slumped once again at the onset of the Second World War. No stranger to hard times, Bruichladdich survived the crisis to emerge stronger than ever in 1935. In 1936, it changed hands for the first time in history and was sold to the phenomenal Hobbs and Price.
The Legacy Lives On
Bruichladdich Distillery, once born with a silver spoon thrived in difficult times to live through storms of misfortune. Yet, today it remains one of the most well-known Scottish distilleries of all time, bottling a fine, unique single malt that still carries the sophistry of the Harvey family and the passion of Islay.