The Perfect Combination of Tradition and Innovation: Bruichladdich Distillery

Built in 1881 in the Islay region, the Bruichladdich Distillery, also home of The Botanist gin, is considered one of the most innovative distilleries in all of Scotland.

Sep. 2020Written by Kyle TrompeterPhotos provided by Bruichladdich

Painted barrels outside a Scottish distillery spell out Bruichladdich
man stands near a tail box next to pot stills on a distillery production floor
two people stand near a cliff edge on a rugged Scottish coastal terrain
Forager James Donaldson scans the Scottish coast for botanicals
man inspects botanicals drying on wooden racks
bearded man gazes at the snifter of whisky in his hand as he describes it
metal outdoor Octomore Farm sign with an arrow pointing rightwards
a small shed off the side of a spring water creek in a grassy sloped countryside
person walks between aisles of stacked barrel on metal racks
a chalkboard chart displays list of hand written malt milling schedules
two views of an the old worn copper lomond pot

The Bruichladdich Distillery was built in 1881 by the Harvey brothers on the western end of the Islay region. The Harveys were veterans in the whisky business in Scotland, previously operating two distilleries in Glasgow dating back to 1770.

The Bruichladdich Distillery is not only home to the one and only legendary lineup of Bruichladdich whiskies, but also the maker of the Islay dry gin, The Botanist.

The most authentic spirits in the world are the ones that truly represent the land from which they come, and the Bruichladdich Distillery sources all its ingredients from the Hebridean archipelago of Scotland's West Coast.

James Donaldson is the Professional Forager for the Bruichladdich Distillery. Between March and October every year, Donaldson scans the island for botanicals, waiting to pick each plant at the perfect time when they are at their prime for flavor and aroma.

Picking the botanicals at the perfect time can be a challenge because Islay sometimes gets more than 200 days of rain in a year. After being picked, all the botanicals are dried on wooden racks. No fans, heating, or humidifiers are used to avoid disrupting any of the essential oils. As a result, the process may take longer, but the final product is worth the extra wait.

Current Master Distiller Adam Hannett joined the distillery in 2004 as a tour guide. He studied the process of producing whisky under industry legend and now-retired Master Distiller, Jim McEwan.

The Octomore Farm sits on the hills above the village of Port Charlotte. The farmer, James Brown — jokingly referred to as the Godfather of Soil — oversees the operation. The Brown’s have run the farm for generations and are one of the barley suppliers for Bruichladdich.

The shed in this photo is may seem small, but it has a big job in the overall production as it protects a natural spring that collects water used in the single malts and the gin.

The Bruichladdich Distillery sports more than 200 kinds of casks. 100% of their whiskies mature on Islay, a unique differentiator in the world of whisky.

Despite a robust reputation for being innovators in the whisky world, the distillery uses no computers for their production process. Everything is done the way it always has, by hand, using old, Victorian equipment.

Last, but not least, we wanted to mention the one truly ugly element to the production process at Bruichladdich, and that’s Ugly Betty. Built in 1955, Ugly Betty is a Lomond Still, and today is one of the only ones remaining in the world. It’s currently used to distill The Botanist.

Let’s get this out of the way — Bruichladdich is pronounced BROOK-LADDIE, which means “shore bank” in Gaelic. When you see the photos of the land this iconic distillery calls home, you’d be hard pressed to find a more perfect name.

The distillery sits on the southwestern tip of the remote Hebridean Island of Islay where Bruichladdich whiskies, Port Charlotte and Octomore, and The Botanist gin are produced.

As you scroll through our carousel of Bruichladdich images, you’ll notice the distillery embodies the unique intersection of tradition and innovation. The team still uses a lot of old tech that has withstood the test of time, but they have also been true innovators in their ever-evolving production process, particularly with their pioneering methods to harvesting botanicals.

It won’t be difficult to understand why the Bruichladdich team has adopted the moniker of “progressive, Hebridean distillers.”

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