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Distillery founder’s final farewell

27/07/2023
Simon Coughlin - Bruichladdich

Simon Coughlin announces retirement from Bruichladdich Distillery after 23 years with the pioneering, Islay based distillery

BRUICHLADDICH Distillery co-founder, Simon Coughlin, will officially retire on 31st July 2023, after more than 23 years with the progressive Hebridean distillery.

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One of the original founders, Simon was responsible for resurrecting Bruichladdich Distillery in 2001. Alongside co-founder Mark Reynier, the pair purchased and rejuvenated the then mothballed distillery in 2000 – together with infamous Master Distiller, Jim McEwan – developing three successful single malt brands: Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore. The inception of The Botanist, the first Islay dry gin, came in 2010, and is currently the fourth largest selling super premium gin globally.

Bruichladdich Distillery was bought by Remy Cointreau 2012, marking the French company’s return to the single malt Scotch whisky market. Stepping down from Bruichladdich Distillery CEO in 2017, Simon became the CEO of the Whisky Division and member of the Remy Cointreau Executive Committee, heading up the acquisition of two International single malt businesses for the Group: Westland (Seattle, USA) and Domaine des Hautes Glaces (France).

Over the past two decades Simon has been integral to the success and growth of Bruichladdich Distillery, which is now home to just under 100,000 casks and ships over 1 million bottles of single malt Scotch whisky around the world. Since reopening in 2001, Simon has spearheaded the distillery’s commitment to redefine what it means to be a whisky business, challenging the status quo, reconnecting whisky with its agricultural roots and putting value back into the local community. 

Speaking of his time at Bruichladdich Distillery, Simon Coughlin said: “Back in 2000 the industry was in a very different place. Distilleries were being mothballed or even demolished, and opportunities for new distilleries to open and thrive were almost non-existent.

“Some of those early years were extremely difficult. We were breaking down many of the misconceptions in the whisky category – not to mention with a very old and neglected distillery – and were committed to carving out a more honest, transparent, and progressive vision for our industry. We’ve always believed in terroir, championing flavour, and harnessing our raw ingredients – while ensuring the island community is at the heart of our decision making. It was undoubtedly a steep learning curve but having a laser sharp focus and never compromising on our vision has got us to where we are today.

“It’s incredible to look at where the industry is now; an explosion of new distilleries globally, people talking flavour, provenance and even terroir. 23 years ago, people thought we were mad! None of this potential could have been realised without a dedicated team – often bemused by our vision and methods, but always unwavering in their support.”

Prior to resurrecting Bruichladdich Distillery, Simon spent his entire career in the premium drinks industry. Working with various fine wine merchants in London, Simon managed cellars, distribution, sales and operations. In 1995 he was Operations Director and shareholder of Murray McDavid Limited, a Scottish independent whisky bottler and broker. A new business start-up, it was the first whisky business in Scotland to pioneer the use of wine casks for single malt maturation, with this unrivalled wine knowledge and expertise shaping the cask buying philosophy and commitment to terroir at Bruichladdich.

This values-led approach, entrepreneurial spirit and mission to reconnect land, community and dram remains woven into the fabric of the distillery today, which is currently overseen by CEO Douglas Taylor.

Douglas Taylor, CEO at Bruichladdich Distillery said: “Simon leaves an incredible long-lasting legacy, following 23 years of dedicated commitment to project Bruichladdich. He and his fellow founders challenged the status quo when it came to resurrecting this distillery in 2001, and his unwavering courage and steadfast belief in authenticity, provenance and traceability are at the heart of our DNA.  

“Simon has been an inspiration to many inside our business and across the world, inspiring a generation of distillers to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey. As the final founder to retire, Simon leaves Bruichladdich in an incredibly strong place and we thank him for everything he has done. I carry the torch forward into our next chapter with honour to ensure we build on his legacy.”

During Simon’s tenure, Bruichladdich Distillery became the world’s first Scotch malt whisky and gin distilleries to receive B Corp certification, with the distillery joining a global community of change-makers using business as a force for good. Testament to Simon’s maverick vision in 2001 to challenge industry norms and use Bruichladdich Distillery as a platform for positive growth, today’s sustainability strategy touches every facet of the business. The distillery is working towards decarbonising distillation by 2025, while championing soil improving practices and regenerative agriculture and exploring the feasibility of green hydrogen energy on site.

In terms of packaging and waste, this month Bruichladdich unveiled a new design for its iconic aqua Classic Laddie single malt. The new optimised glass bottle which is 32% lighter, contains an average of 60% recycled glass and is coated in organic ink, now comes without a secondary tin – subverting category conventions as well as reducing CO2 packaging emissions by 65%.

Continuing Simon’s legacy, Islay and the community remain at the heart of the distillery’s decision making today. Bruichladdich Distillery is currently the island’s largest private employer, and continues to distil, mature, and bottle all its single malts exclusively on Islay.

To find out more about Bruichladdich, visit bruichladdich.com.

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