Together with London-based premium blenders Compass Box, Islay-born progressive distillers Bruichladdich are currently one of the forerunners of a fledging transparency movement in the whisky industry. In the light of recent events – namely Bruichladdich expanding its transparency campaign to include its heavily peated Port Charlotte Scottish Barley expression – we asked the distillery’s Head of Communications, Carl Reavey, a few questions.
Barley Mania: Bruichladdich started its move towards more transparency in regard to its NAS whiskies in early 2016 as a reaction to a similar initiative by Compass Box. What made you sympathize with Compass Box’s cause in the first place and how do you think about it almost 12 months later?
Bruichladdich: We were able to move quickly to support Compass Box only because plans for our own “transparency” campaign were already well advanced. When Compass Box made their announcement we immediately recognised our common cause and moved to support them. Almost one year on, our positions have probably come closer together if anything – in that Compass Box have now adopted a similar approach/solution to the issue to our own.
BM: In April 2016, you “lifted the veil” off the Scottish Barley bottlings of The Classic Laddie, enabling buyers to learn more about its composition by entering a 5-digit online code they find on the label. As of January 12 of this year, you also offer a similar service for Port Charlotte Scottish Barley. Why did you go with these two whiskies first? And are there plans for other NAS whiskies from the Bruichladdich catalogue to follow?
BL: There is a widespread misconception that Bruichladdich produces a number of NAS whiskies. In fact we only currently produce three (there were more in the past and there may be more in the future). The three currently available are The Classic Laddie, Port Charlotte Scottish Barley and The Organic. Only The Organic (a GTR exclusive) is not (yet) part of the transparency campaign. So we made the cask recipe of The Classic Laddie, our most widely available dram, available first. It was as simple as that. Everything else we currently offer has an age statement or a distillation date/vintage.
BM: How much effort goes into the transparency campaign? I could image that establishing and upholding such a service requires quite a bit of work on all fronts – production, logistics, communications, most likely even legal.
BL: There is some, but the truth is that there is not as much as you might think. We are required by law to hold the majority of the records we need to present this information. There is an amount of work done to set up the software and compile and present the information in a user-friendly way.
BM: Thanks for your time, Carl. Is there anything else you would still like to say to the whisky world regarding Bruichladdich’s transparency move in particular or concerning the distillery and its whiskies in general?
BL: We understand the rationale behind the existing regulations (Regulation 12.3 of the Spirit Drinks Regulation No 110/2008), the fundamental purpose of which is to protect the interests of the consumer and prevent misrepresentation. Their stated intention is succinctly caught in the quote: “The measures applicable to the spirit drinks sector should contribute to the attainment of a high level of consumer protection, the prevention of deceptive practices and the attainment of market transparency and fair competition. By doing so, the measures should safeguard the reputation which Community spirit drinks have achieved in the Community and on the world market by continuing to take into account the traditional practices used in the production of spirit drinks as well as increased demand for consumer protection and information.” We have no problem with that.
Official Bruichladdich website: http://www.bruichladdich.com/