Did you know that to qualify as an “Islay whisky”, the only requirement set out in section 10 of The Scotch Whisky Regulation 2009 is for the spirit to be distilled on Islay and nothing else? Neither the malt nor water needs to be from Islay, nor does the golden goodness required to be matured or bottled there.
There are now nine distilleries on Islay, out of which only two can claim to be fully “Islay”, as in everything from the barley, the distilling, the water to the maturation and bottling of the whisky. One of them is Bruichladdich (the other is Kilchoman).
Bruichladdich’s 10-year expansion plan only has one aim in mind – everything and everyone who makes the whisky must be “Islay”. If the regulation doesn’t ask of it, why the fuss on insisting the use of all things Islay, you ask?
As any fan of the Islay whisky brand would know, Bruichladdich is one of the smallest distilleries on Islay, yet is its single biggest employer with 101 out of total 200 employees. They also pride themselves for being the guardian of botanicals on the island. This motto is most prominently shown in the only Islay Gin, The Botanist, which is produced by Bruichladdich using 22 Islay botanicals.
We learned a little about their plans of completing their connection with Islay through Chloe Wood, the APAC brand ambassador of Bruichladdich, who herself is from Islay, during the tasting session of Port Charlotte MP8.
100% Islay ingredients
Currently Bruichladdich uses all Scottish barley with 42% from Islay, only because of the limited supply of Islay barley. Their aim is to grow more and more each year. Over the years, they have partnered with 19 local farmers to supply them Islay-grown barley on a non-contractual basis. To convert more to Islay barley, the distillery has acquired a neighbouring farm as trial plots for barley and botanicals. This means they get to cultivate local Islay barley and help increase the supply with space for R&D. The Botanist Gin will even get to dry on-site their botanicals sourced from all over Islay.
Plans are also underway for Bruichladdich to have their own on-site maltings (target completion in 2023) in the distillery since this is presently done off-site on the Scottish mainland. Each of their relases (non-peated Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte which is peated and the experimental Octomore range all use the same barley) will have their own Saladin boxes for malting so as to retain their own clear identity of malted barley for the base spirits.
The current warehouse accommodates 76,000 casks of whisky with 200 different types of casks. A new warehouse will be built 5 minutes away from the distillery which can store double the number of barrels. Warehousing completes the Islay experience as it means more whiskies can be aged on the island.
Do you think that Islay whiskies should have a classification of their own with the provenance of terroir (such as the use of locally grown barley, local water, and the unique farming geopgraphy), down to its ageing process? Join the debate here.
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