History Lesson: Bruichladdich

A long time ago, in a far-away, sometimes-dark, often damp country, a distillery was born. The year was 1881. The practice of distilling was fairly well understood by this point in history, and it’s possible that what they produced might even have been palatable to today’s drinkers. I heard recently about an alleged bottle from the 1860s or 1850s that was sold at auction but that might not have been as old as it was claimed. If it really was that old, it’s too old to drink now, so we’ll never know what whisky tasted like then. 😦

In the 1880s, most of the distilleries operated out of farm houses. However, the infant Bruichladdich distillery was purpose-built as a distillery and it was built using then-state-of-the-art equipment that held up very well (I hear that some parts are still being used today!). Bruichladdich passed through several hands (actually, it passed through many hands…) before being consigned to the dustbin — TWICE! — but it was rescued, for hopefully the last time, in December 2000, by a group of private investors that are proud to have the distillery owned and operated and financed out of Scotland.

One of the nice things for the investors was that the distillery came with a warehouse full of aging spirit. The last 8 years of “Bruichladdich” have been sold out of this stock. The new make spirit started flowing in 2001 (at least Port Charlotte). Bruichladdich is building a solid base of extreme variety. In Mark Reynier’s own words:

We have great fun producing these new and updated bottlings, and if some find keeping up is too demanding now, they had better look out: Since 2001 to date, Bruichladdich uses 4 different types of Barley; 3 peating levels; 3 levels of distillation; 8 different barley origins – per year. All of which are milled, mashed, fermented and distilled in total isolation. And then there are 20 wood origins; 7 cask sizes etc. etc..

In case any one was still unaware, we rather like variety – even it takes a great deal of work, money and effort. So if blandola standardization is your thing, Bruichladdich is most definitely not for you. After all, we have a bottling hall and we ain’t afraid to use it.

It’s pretty clear that the most interesting days for Bruichladdich are ahead, not behind, so there won’t be much more to say about history from now on.

Next time we’ll talk about aging and wood and where all those casks come from. Oh, and strangely enough we have to talk about sulfur. Really soon we’ll get to the whisky. With so many expressions, it’s a bit of a challenge to break down the list into meaningful subdivisions. We’ll get there. Soon.

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