In this week’s issue, Kelefa Sanneh explains how Mark Reynier, a third-generation wine dealer from London, decided to buy Bruichladdich, an almost defunct whisky distillery on the Scottish island of Islay, and ended up changing the Scotch industry.
When Reynier bought the distillery, in 2000, he had a problem: the standard minimum age for fine Scottish whisky is ten years; their new spirits would need time to mature.
Bruichladdich’s ten-year problem was partly a marketing problem: malt drinkers have come to view age as a proxy for quality, and the industry has played along, using age statements to justify high prices. In Reynier’s view, this constrains distillers and misleads consumers.
Reynier and Jim McEwan, the company’s master distiller, launched a young, non-aged whisky called Bruichladdich Rocks; Laddie Classic, a mid-priced introductory Scotch; and Black Art, a mysterious and expensive multi-vintage release, as well as other new lines. McEwan tells Sanneh:
People said, ‘Ah, Bruichladdich are doing so many diﬀerent things.’ Yeah, well, we had to! If we didn’t, we’d have been sitting there starving—the company would never, ever have got oﬀ the ground…
Click-through to read (subscription required): http://nyr.kr/11duqCg
In this photo: Twenty-one-year-old whisky, aged in Oloroso sherry casks. Most Scottish distilleries age their spirit in bourbon casks, but Bruichladdich often supplements these with wine casks, which are meant to impart ﬂavor, color, and cachet.