RISING from a semi-derelict state in 2001, a remarkable 72 people now work at Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay. The company famously tries to create as many jobs on the remote Hebridean island as possible.
In addition to production staff, there are jobs in management, administration, design, IT, communications, warehousing and bottling.
The distillery even has its own accommodation and hospitality team running an in-house ‘academy’, bringing people from all over the world.
Many more are involved on the island outside the distillery gates including farmers growing barley, hauliers, builders and contractors from umpteen different trades.
It is now 15 years since the renaissance began. It had been thought that the old Victorian buildings would never re-open when the gates clanged shut in 1994, but a private consortium led by wine merchants, Mark Reynier and Simon Coughlin, somehow brought the place back to life in 2001.
They were joined by whisky legends, Jim McEwan and Duncan Macgillivray, who gradually pulled a team together to drive the project forward.
Right from the beginning, people were always central to the project, and young people in particular.
McEwan and McGillivray have both now retired but the men who have stepped into their shoes started their climb to the top of their trade on the very first rung of the ladder.
Production director, Allan Logan, is the fourth generation of his family to have distilled on the world-famous whisky island.
His father and grandfather were at Laphroaig while his great grandfather was also at Bruichladdich.
Allan’s first job back in 2001 was shovelling the years of muck out of the old buildings and then painting the walls white.
Head distiller, Adam Hannett, also an Ileach, returned to the island after university and became a tour guide. His remarkable nose and palate soon attracted the attention of McEwan who became his mentor, guiding the young talent through his first decade along what has become a stellar career path.
The number of young islanders, both graduates and trainees, who are now able to find employment at this remarkable distillery is rising all the time.
New owners, Remy Cointreau, have been very supportive of the principled and independently-minded ethos of the ‘Progressive Hebridean Distillers’ and have instigated a significant investment programme that will ensure the Victorian equipment used in production survives for generations to come.
Much of the old machinery dates back to when the distillery was originally built in 1881.
This weekend, thousands of people from all over the world will gather in the courtyard to celebrate and enjoy a dram as part of ‘Feis Ile’ the island’s annual Festival of Malt and Music.
Their presence is testament to a remarkable success story.
Photo: Allan Logan and Adam Hannett in Warehouse Five at Bruichladdich Distillery, Islay.
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Contact: Carl Reavey