G is for Gin (and Good)Bruichladdich Distillery and The Botanist Gin.
Published: 21st May 2021
With more and more distilleries putting renewable energy and sustainability at the heart of their Scottish Gin production, there’s a renewed focus on the environment, reducing waste and improving sustainability across many business sectors and Scottish Gin is no different. Not only do many of Scotland’s gin makers play an active role in the environmental impact of their businesses, many also support local charities or good causes. In G is for Gin (and Good) we meet the businesses who are playing their part to make the world a greener, friendlier, happier place to call home.
How businesses work with their supply chain partners and who they choose to work with matters. How businesses operate and their impact on the environment matters. How businesses support and create employment and play a role in their local community matters. With the on-going global environmental crisis, it’s never been more important for businesses to create a green legacy for their local community, for their region and for future generations.
To learn more about how the team at the Bruichladdich Distillery have taken on these challenges, having recently received B Corp recognition, we caught up with Bruichladdich Distillery CEO Douglas Taylor to learn more about the distillery’s journey to this point, what it means to the business, how The Botanist Gin has reconnect the island with a global audience of gin drinkers and more.
What is your name and what do you do?
Douglas Taylor, CEO, Bruichladdich Distillery
How did The Botanist come to be?
Our approach to spirits distillation began back in 1881, when brothers William, John and Robert Harvey constructed an avant-garde whisky distillery on the shores of Lochindaal, Islay. The distillery changed hands over the years, ending up under the auspices of former wine merchants. They persuaded the world-renowned distiller and Islay-man, Jim, to join them in what they were to later describe as ‘a white-knuckle ride’.
They set about making whisky with the traditional equipment but with a new attitude towards the ingredients, the terroir, and a renewed and critical interest in the community here. They had a wild idea – could they create the first Islay Dry Gin?
This spirit would have to speak of Islay of the heart and soul of our remote Scottish Island so they took the advice of two botanical experts, Dr Richard Gulliver and Mavis Gulliver. They identified 33 herbs, leaves, and edible flowers that could be sustainably foraged on the island for their flavour and scent. From these, 22 were selected and The Botanist was born. That was 2010 and the recipe has remained unchanged ever since.
Today, those wild ingredients are collected by In-House Forager James Donaldson, and distilled by Head Distiller Adam Hannett in our Lomond Still, affectionately nickname Ugly Betty.
Tell us about Bruichladdich Distillery and The Botanist Gin.
Bruichladdich has been creating terroir focused spirits since 2001. We produce three single malt whiskies and The Botanist Islay Dry Gin. The Botanist is made with 22 hand-foraged island botanicals which are picked throughout spring, summer and autumn from the hills, fields and shores of Islay.
Tell us how the distillery and gin does ‘Good’?
Since 2001, Bruichladdich has been on a mission to reconnect our spirits back to the land, to leave behind a positive legacy for our Island community and to have a positive impact on the planet. We are one of a select few distilleries in the world to be B Corp Certified.
What does it mean to be B Corp Certified?
B Corps use business as a force for good. We adhere to the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and accountability, or in other words, balance profit and purpose.
Set up in 2006, the B Corp certification process was organised to help mission-driven businesses protect and improve their positive impact over time. Acknowledging that governments and non-profits can only go so far in driving change, we join numerous for-profit businesses helping to tackle some of the challenges our modern societies face.
What is the process for gaining this certification?
We volunteered ourselves to be evaluated, and we’ll continue to do so every three years from now. Businesses must earn a minimum of 80 points out of a possible 200 to qualify. The process itself took around 18 months to complete, so it’s no small undertaking.
Under the headings of workers, governance, community, environment and customers, we will work towards improving our score year on year. We achieved 83.2 points on our first try and will seek to improve that year on year. We’ve set ourselves the challenge of trying to achieve 100 points. Not to increase the number for the sake of it, but to push ourselves to continue to expand our impact.
What are some of the stand-out highlights and projects, which helped you gain this status?
Since the distillery’s resurrection in 2001, we’ve worked hard to live our values. We are working to reduce the impact of our operations and become more environmental in our actions, with a heightened sensitivity to growing within our island home. We want to make a positive impact on the quality of life for our planet and our people.
The commitments we have made to our community and our island have shaped the way we do business. Our refusal to outsource our warehousing and bottling sees us employ 80 people, making us the largest private employer on the island of Islay. The partnerships we have created with our local farming community now see over 50% of our annual requirements grown locally across 21 different farms.
Over the years we’ve reached a number of milestones, including:
Winner of The Energy Institute Environment Award 2011
Circulation system installed using wastewater from the stills to heat distillery offices, bottling hall and visitor centre.
Sponsorship of Phil Sharp Racing begins; solo trans-Atlantic sailor and engineer active in renewables research including ‘race to zero emissions’.
The Botanist Foundation is established
Set up by then-CEO Simon Coughlin, Jim McEwan retired Master Distiller, CEO Douglas Taylor, our late Head of Communications Carl Reavey and original botanists Richard and Mavis Gulliver. The Foundation would go on to support the RSPB on Islay, the Nature of Scotland awards, wildflower, biodiversity & pollinator initiatives and funding for a PHD student to study the conservation of juniper.
Collaborative research with the Islay Pollinator Initiative funded by The Botanist Foundation.
Planting of 7,500 trees around our Coultorsay warehouses.
Between 2018 and 2019, we would divert 126 tonnes of landfill by recycling or reusing.
Between 2018 and 2019, we completed 539 hours of volunteer work for our local community during work hours.
Certified as Living Wage Employer. Improved maternity pay and flexible working introduced. Cycle to work scheme introduced and +11% headcount recruited.
Distillery introduces two fully-electric cars for business travel.
100% GREEN ELECTRICITY
From 1st May, 100% of the distillery’s electricity is sourced renewably in the UK.
Were there any specific hurdles you had to overcome?
Although the B Corp application process is, quite rightly, a rigorous one, we didn’t face any hurdles as we were already doing a lot of the kinds of things they are looking for businesses to demonstrate. We have four key pillars of sustainability that we hold ourselves accountable to; Agriculture & Biodiversity, Packaging & Waste, Islay & Community, and Energy and it was a case of evidencing the work we had been doing rather than undertaking anything new for the application. Having said that, the data gathering was very labour intensive!
What are the long-term plans for the distillery and business?
We’re really ambitious for the future and have made a commitment to decarbonise the distillery’s production process by 2025. With that in mind we were successful in application for funding to explore the use of alternative fuels. The Hyladdie project will allow us to complete a feasibility study on incorporating innovative hydrogen combustion technology into Bruichladdich. After that will be looking ahead to a potential phase two to move from feasibility to testing.
We also have some exciting announcements coming up this year with regards to our work supporting biodiversity and conservation through The Botanist Foundation so watch this space!
What’s your ‘perfect serve’?
For me, the perfect way to serve The Botanist has to be a martini, dry, with a twist.
Learn more about The Botanist here.