Should Remy Cointreau snare Bruichladdich in the coming weeks, as seems likely, the purists in the Scotch whisky category will, as is their wont, be up in arms over the sale. Nothing fires the imagination, after all, than the re-emergence of a lost distillery with enthusiasts holding the reins.
And, if you want those fires rekindled, have a read of this marvellous piece on Bruichladdich by Andrew Jefford back in 2001.
Jefford details the purchase of the distillery in Islay, just down the road from sleepy Port Charlotte and overlooking the “dolphin-lively waters of the great sea bay called Loch Indaal”, in late-2000 by Murray McDavid, a malt bottling business set up by two London wine merchants and a member of the family that owned whisky distiller Springbank. The group, led by Mark Reynier, secured funding to buy the facility – and its stocks – for GBP6.5m (US$10.1m) at the turn of the century.
Much has since been made of the new owner’s approach to the multi-national drinks giants also operating in Scotch whisky. Reynier, who still heads up Bruichladdich, has ploughed an aggressive furrow, targeting the likes of Diageo, the Scotch Whisky Association… you name it, really.
This “stridently independent stance”, as one analyst put it this morning, might have polarised opinions within Scotch of the man, but what most agree on is that Bruichladdich has developed and maintained a unique place in the Scotch industry, and on Islay. The company has been at the fore-front of innovation: It claims to produce the world’s most heavily peated Scotch, Octomore, and, in 2010, tried its hand at a gin, The Botanist, which, despite its original limited release, is still available today.
So, the purists may be aghast at today’s news. But, ask yourself this: if somebody came to you to buy what you have found to be “a rollercoaster, not just a financial rollercoaster; it’s been an emotional rollercoaster” since you bought it for US$10.1m 12 years ago, and offered you around US$52.8m, what would you do?