Brew and Booze News

Whisky Poll – The Bruichladdich Buyout: Are They Sellouts or Is This Just Business As Usual?

On July 9th, Mark Reynier, founder and Managing Director of Bruichladdich, made the following announcement via Twitter:

To say that this unleashed a torrent of comments from across the worldwide Whisky community would be an understatement. Poor Mark quickly learned the pitfalls of full disclosure and appears to have been inundated with Twitter replies throughout the day. But comments and conversation about this surprising announcement were not limited to the TwitterSphere…

The running thread throughout all of the posts and comments is the sadness that everyone feels about a company that was very vocal about being “proudly independent” (just three short months ago, the JewMalt blog compared Bruichladdich to The Sex Pistols) announce that they will inevitably become part of a multinational corporation.

As I have said in previous posts, behind every great whisky is a great story, and the Bruichladdich story (the last 12 years in particular) ranks as one of the best…

From the Whisky For Everyone blog:

The distillery was commissioned and built in 1881 by Barnett Harvey, a Speyside distillery owner. His family had a rich heritage in the whisky and distilling industry and when his brother died, his three sons (William, Robert and John) decided to use the money that had been left to them to start a distillery for themselves. Each of the sons took on different responsibilities and William remained distillery manager until he died in 1937. Following William’s death and a period of temporary closure, the distillery was sold to a group of Americans who planned to produce and market Scottish single malt and then send it to the USA to meet the massive demand for whisky following the abolition of Prohibition. Bruichladdich then entered a rocky period where ownership changed hands five times in the following 50 years, resulting in it being mothballed in 1995.

It was not until 2000 that the distillery was brought back to life by a consortium of local businessmen and whisky lovers, headed by Jim McEwan and Mark Reynier. They restored Bruichladdich to its former glory by renovating all the old equipment, including the original stills, resulting in one of the most traditional distilleries in the world.

Given their recent history, and all of the hard work that the owners and employees of Bruichladdich have done over the past twelve years, I can understand their motivation to sell. Financial stability, especially in these hard economic times, isn’t something that you can ignore for very long, but as a man that has learned to appreciate people that have the courage to make it on their own (i.e. independent Craft Brewers and Distillers, independent musicians and filmmakers, that little BYOB that opened up down the street), I am sad to see this part of the Bruichladdich story come to a close.

For whatever reason, this scene from The Godfather keeps playing around in my head as part of me takes this sale very personally, while the other part of me knows that this is a sound business decision…

So here is the question that I will now pose to you, our loyal readers and fellow Whisky lovers:

Are the owners of Bruichladdich sellouts, or is their decision to sell just business as usual?

Please take our poll and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

15 replies »

  1. Hey, maybe my bottles of pre-buyout Bruichladdich “Peat” will be worth something someday! Or maybe they’ll just “Get in my belly”.


    • Agreed Josh. This could go either way, but I think Remy Cointreau (assuming the deal goes through) would be fools to tinker with Bruichladdich too much. As we have found out over the past few days since the announcement, there is a passionate Bruichladdich fan base out there and it would be a real shame to see this distillery lose all of the character that they have developed in a relatively short time.


  2. From the packaging and bottle to the whisky itself, this has been one of my favorite whiskies. But, I realize that this is ultimately a business so I can certainly understand getting out especially if the Remy offer is as high as reported. I do not believe Remy has a scotch in its portfolio so this could be a good thing. However, I will be sad to see this Islay go if the stock is seen as ‘surplus to requirements’.


      • A couple of the items that I read suggested that Remy does not own any scotch distillers but has the exclusive US distribution rights to the Edrington line-up.


      • Oops! My apologies for the misinformation. Nice detective work!

        I totally agree with you about our love of Bruichladdich. While we may not have enjoyed all of their expressions (The Rocks for instance), what impresses me most about them is their willingness to experiment. They always keep you guessing! I hope that never changes.


  3. I do hope that remy respect the ethos around the employment of the people associated with bruichladdich. It is a key employer and important to the islay economy.
    Plus the people are absolutely smashing from Mary in the shop to Joanne in the warehouse and all the production & bottling staff – great people great place.
    One question – where does this leave Murray mcdavid – sold as part of laddie or still independent under mark r??


    • Andy,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      That is my greatest fear regarding this purchase, i.e. very little good will occur once the suits get involved. When you go through the brochures that they include with each bottle or poke around their website, they make it a point to focus on all of the people that are involved with the running of the distillery. While I understand the need for greater efficiencies and quality control, it would be sad to see Bruichladdich become something sterile or generic. Here’s hoping they don’t take the heart and soul out of this distillery!



  4. I wrote a bit about this myself. Bruichladdich’s story is as much of an asset as any other part of the company. It’s hard to see how the buyout will improve that part of the company, but hopefully the infusion of capital will more than make up for it. Time will tell and all that.


    • Hi Jordan!

      Read your article earlier this afternoon. You bring up many interesting points about the story of Bruichladdich and how it’s helped to sell whisky and build a great deal of goodwill amongst the whisky geek community. Like you said… only time will tell.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment.



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