'The "Islays". . . will always stand in the first rank of stylish whiskies'.
So wrote 'Little John', a correspondent in the Scottish Wine, Spirit and Beer Trade Review in 1887, six years after the Harvey brothers, Robert, William and John, had chosen Islay as the site of their new distillery.
The Harvey family, of Yoker and Dundashill, had an unrivalled experience of distilling going back at least into the 1780's. Their choice of Bruichladdich was no doubt made in the light of the growing trade in blended whisky, where the strongly-peated Islays were valued for their ability to impart their rich flavour to the lighter grain and lowland malt spirits. A paragraph in the Oban Times for 7th May 1881 stated that the new distillery was 'about to be erected' and by 26th November it was reported that it had been 'very expeditiously put up, and (was) now about ready to start working'.
The attractions of the site included the nearby pier, and the 'excellent' water. The then novel technique of concrete construction was adopted, and John McDonald of Tollcross, Glasgow employed as builder. The coppersmith work was undertaken by Bennett & McLaren, also of Glasgow.
Alfred Barnard, who visited the distillery on his monumental tour of the mid 1880's, commented that Bruichladdich was 'One of the finest and most healthy spots in Islay'. The distillery was externally much as it is today 'a solid handsome structure in the form of a square and entsed through an archway, over which is a fine stone-built residence for the use of the partners when staying on the island'. The stills were coal-fired, from the outside, and produced 94,000 gallons annually.
The Harvey family interests were consolidated under the style of the Bruichladdich Distillery Co. (Islay) Ltd. in 1886, and this company continued to operate the distillery until the inter-war years, when it was forced to close down. The massive expansion of the United States market in the late 1930's brought American investment into Scotch Whisky distilling. Joseph Hobbs, with backing from National Distillers of America, began to buy up closed distilleries, and in 1938, in partnership with Hatim Attari and Alexander Tolmie, he acquired Bruichladdich, transferring it rapidly to Associated Scottish Distillers Ltd., the distilling subsidiary of Train & McIntyre, owned by National Distillers.
Train & McIntyre passed to the Distillers Company in l9S3, but in the previous year Bruichladdich had been sold to Ross & Coulta, the Glasgow flrm of whisky brokers. They held on to the distillery until 1960, when it passed to A. B. Grant's company Bruichladdich Proprietors Ltd. Mr. Grant's takeover followed the freeing of Scotch Whisky exports from post- war rationing, and the new company began a programme of modest expansion of output which, by the time of Ross Wilson's visit in 1962, had nearly doubled capacity from the original designed volume. This was accomplished in part by abandoning malting on the site, supplies being brought in instead by puffer.
Invergordon Distillers bought the distillery in 1969 as part of a programme designed to create an integrated distilling group. They added two stills to the original pattern, in 1975, skilfully enlarging the mash-house and tun-room so as to retain the original outline, taking capacity far beyond the original design, up to 800,000 proof gallons, or over 2 million O.I.M.L. in the new metric system. Invergordon and the Islaymen who work in the distillery continue to produce the rich, 'stylish' whisky for which Bruichladdich has been renowned for a century.