Bunnahabhain Distillery was founded in 1881 by William
Robertson who worked for the Glasgow blending company
Robertson & Baxter. The distillery was built in
cooperation with the local Islay Distillers Company and
was completed in 1883.
Bunnahabhain is Gaelic for ‘mouth of the river’ and the
distillery is indeed situated right at the shoreline
close to where the Margadale River flows into
Bunnahabhain Bay. The site was chosen partly due to the
abundant supply of quality water from the Margadale
spring but also because of the proximity to the sea
route through the Sound of Islay. The Distillery lies
6.5 kilometres from the village Port Askaig.
Like many other distilleries, Bunnahabhain was built to
meet the demand of the blended industry during the
1880s. The remote location of the site meant that the
contractors had to build other facilities apart from the
distillery; housing for the workforce, a schoolroom, a
pier and even a road south to Port Askaig. In only a few
years this once deserted spot of the north-eastern Islay
shoreline had become the home of a small community which
surrounded the distillery. Most of the buildings are
still in use, although it is possible for tourists to
rent four of the small well kept cottages.
In 1887 the Highland Distillers Company was formed as a
result of a merger with the Glenrothes Distillery. All
whisky produced at Bunnahabhain went to the blended
industry until the 1970s when the single malt bottling
Bunnahabhain 12 yo was launched.
Bunnahabhain whisky is an important ingredient in the
blended whiskies Famous Grouse and Black Bottle (all
Islay Whiskies are included in Black Bottle to some
Bunnahabhain is the only distillery on
Islay to use water from a spring that lies on site. The
water does not flow through any peat, which contributes
to the lightness of Bunnahabhain compared to other Islay
whiskies. Another reason for the lightness of
Bunnahabhain is that the distiller takes a very small
Middle Cut which results in a more ‘pure’ spirit.
Bunnahabhain buy their malt from three different sources
–one is the well-known Port Ellen Maltings, and the
remaining malt is bought from Berwick and from Speyside.
The distillery has a cast iron mash tun which holds 13
tons and six washbacks made from pinewood. The
distillery was expanded in 1963 when the number of
stills was increased from two to four. All four stills
are onion-shaped and steam-heated. The annual production
at Bunnahabhain is 2.4 million litres.
Port Askaig, Isle of Islay
Argyll PA46 7RP
The visitor centre is open March-October Monday-Friday
10am-4pm. Three guided tours every day (free admission).
Burn Stewart Distillers
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