Reinventing a Great Scotch Distillery

Kelefa Sanneh on the resurrection of the Bruichladdich whisky distillery on the Scottish island of Islay:

Scotland is the undisputed whisky capital of the world, producing nearly two-thirds of the global supply, and Islay is the highly disputed capital of Scottish whisky. The island has thirty-five hundred residents and eight working distilleries; there is surely no place that produces more great whisky per capita, and possibly no place that produces more great whisky, full stop. To rebuild Bruichladdich, Reynier recruited a native Ileach: Jim McEwan, a whisky celebrity who had spent his career at Bowmore, a venerable distillery that faces Bruichladdich from across a coastal inlet. Bowmore makes whisky that bears smoky traces of burning peat, which was once Islay’s main fuel source and is now the signature flavor of Islay whisky. The island’s best-known distillery is probably Laphroaig, whose flagship dram is pungently smoky and startlingly medicinal, with a flavor that is sometimes compared to TCP, a European antiseptic. In reasonable doses and proper circumstances, Laphroaig can be delicious, but its popularity is a mixed blessing for the industry, because whisky neophytes who try Laphroaig and hate it may never return.

Bruichladdich is nearly smoke-free, which is a big reason that Reynier fell for it.

It’s a great story and sounded like great whisky, so I had to try it. I was right — it’s damn good.

Monday, 25 February 2013