Our beloved Bunnahabhain — which means ‘mouth of the river’ in Gaelic, as it stands at the mouth of the Margadale Spring on the shores of the Sound of Islay — first came into existence in 1883. However its origins can be traced back four years earlier when, in 1879, William Robertson of Robertson and Baxter Blending House, joined with the Greenlees Brothers to create the Islay Distillery Company. And so, with the distillery built on a site close to the Margadale River, in 1883 Bunnahabhain was borne.
In the early years, our distillery relied upon the sea trade. Armed only with a small village, a pier and lots of whisky making know-how, our forefathers received supplies by boat and sent adventuring seafarers back to the mainland along the Sound of Islay with casks of the ‘good stuff’. It’s this daring spirit and coastal living which has made Bunnahabhain what it is today, and which continues to play an important role in the production of the ever increasing range of Bunnahabhain Single Malts.
In 1930, with the whole of Europe still reeling from the economic downturn, in the aftermath of the Great War, Bunnahabhain distillery closed its doors. However, thanks to the Bunnahabhain spirit, and our forebears’ determination to endure, we opened once again, a mere 7 years later.
While much of Islay hasn’t changed, in 1960 one of the biggest changes we ever experienced occurred; a new road was built! The puffer boats travelling along the Sound of Islay had been our lifeline for so long, but with the introduction of the road, supplies could now reach us by land– albeit, a hilly and challenging drive.
The creation of the road, and the increase in supplies we could receive, was incredibly timely. As word of Bunnahabhain spread and demand soared, a second pair of stills were installed in 1963 to increase the production capacity.
In 1979, our classic 12 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky was introduced to the world, received to great acclaim. You can still buy it today, just visit our shop to taste the first of our modern day core range.
1993 marked a historic moment in Bunnahabhain’s history as the last boat docked. After receiving supplies via puffer boat travelling along the Sound of Islay for over a century, the road was deemed the most suitable route for receiving ever increasing ingredients and supplies.
In 2006, 3 years after being purchased by Burn Stewart Distillers, a major rebrand was launched, with a redesign of the 12 year old packaging, and the launch of 18 year old and 25 year old variants. They quickly took their place, alongside the 12 year old, as part of the core range – a range still as popular today as it was then.
2010 marked yet another historic moment in the evolution of Bunnahabhain. Our whiskies returned to being produced non-chillfiltered, with a natural colour at 46.3% – just as they had been by our knowledgeable forefathers.
In 2014 Burn Stewart merged with Distell, which heralded more investment into both the brand and the distillery. In 2017, our packaging was further modernised and the portfolio of products was extended with two further variants; Stiùireadair & Toiteach A Dhà. Accompanying this, a substantial investment in the Distillery Visitor Centre was announced, giving our pilgrims yet another reason to brave the road and return to Bunnahabhain.