Desert Island Drams – Mark Reynier

Regarded by many as the “saviour of Bruichladdich” Mark Reynier led the purchase of the distillery from Whyte & MacKay for £6m back in 2000 and brought it back from the dead, transforming it into one of the most recognisable and cult brands out there.

The company was sold against his wishes by the board when Remy Cointreau bought it for £58million ten years later.

Mark has since moved on to a new project and he is now the founder and CEO of Waterford Distillery in Ireland.

He has taken his terroir led approach (and presumably a whole lot more) to his new project at Waterford.

The whisky world waits to see the results…


I have always felt that where one enjoys a dram is as important as what that dram actually is; and your mood counts as much as with whom one shares it. This would make the selection of a desert island fantasy dram quite straightforward.

When I started getting to know single malts in the early eighties it was as a digestif. Venerable malts savoured respectfully in balloon glasses from a fireside, wingback leather chair.

On Islay, not quite a desert island, this cliche was turned upside down: I discovered a different way to enjoy single malts. On the Wild West coast of Gaeldom I grew to love the vibrancy of youthful drams that matched the wildness of the weather; a spontaneity as fickle as the arrival of the sun; the carefreeness of Hebridean camaraderie.

Perhaps it’s the shared experience when the wild, westerly gales blast in off the Atlantic, as the banshees scream, of being hunkered down, hatches-battened, in the Aga warmth of a farmhouse kitchen chewing the cud with a neighbouring farmer – that the time is right to share a dram. It seems merited. Earned. Pertinent. The sea salt splattered windows, the thunder of crashing waves, the wind driven spume, seaweed-strewn beaches and storm-tossed seas are synonymous with Islay life and whisky.  That dram would be a vibrant, youthful, natural Bruichladdich, well-watered to smooth the alcohol, loosen the flavour and augment the aroma. After all, we may be here some time…

So being shipwrecked on a remote island and having to chose which whisky to save wouldn’t be too onerous. Or would it? It depends on what it was, whether flotsam, jetsam or lagan.

Perhaps the whisky washed up on the beach the morning after the ship had sunk, was flotsam? Or might it be jetsam? Now beggars can’t be choosers you may say, but if it was the latter, cargo jettisoned to save the floundering ship in a desperate attempt to prevent the ship going aground, well it could be anything, most likely the inferior, valueless bulk stuff, frantically chucked overboard.

Now if it was flotsam, cargo lost when the ship broke up, smashed to smithereens on the rocks, it might be the better stuff saved from being ignominiously discarded by a conscientious steward who in the final, desperate reckoning, just couldn’t bear the vandalism of parting with it.

But surely the best stuff, the most valuable, would have been securely stowed away from light-fingered crew under lock and key. It would have gone to the bottom, to Davy’s Locker. That would be the lagan, cargo needing to be liberated by a salvager. The cartons and case would have melted away leaving the bottles lying loose in the deep, dark hold.

Holding a deep breath, diving down in to the wreck, one would have a panicky second or two to grapple about in the dark sediment for a bottle neck before kicking for the surface, gasping for air. And the liberated bottle, undressed, the label having floated away, would be a triumphant, though ultimately anonymous, trophy.

One would while away the years arguing with onesself about which brand it really was, and forever without confirmation, rescuers would eventually find a mad, gibbering, but ultimately content, Bill Gunn.


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