If you look behind the scenes of how we produce our spirits on the island of Islay, it doesn’t get much more challenging, nor much more critical, than the management of our supply chain.
Glass, stoppers, capsules, card, labels, wrap, raw materials, finished pallets of goods, and their associated freight onto and off the island, represent a logistical challenge in normal times; Brexit and Covid shortages have raised the bar even higher recently! We are growing, and our Botanist glass has a 12-18 month lead time, so there is a lot of looking ahead – the role involves a lot of forecasting, strategic thinking and problem-solving.
Fortunately, we’ve got Clare Evans as our Head of Supply Chain. A Glasgow Caledonian University graduate, she cut her teeth in the textbook world – working for 4 years in the supply chain department of Oxford University Press’ extensive English Language Teaching division. With her friendly outlook, she worked for Beam Suntory in their Global Customer Service department, moving to Edrington-Beam Suntory then joining the Remy Cointreau Group in 2014, before joining our team, based half in the Bottling Hall offices on Islay and half in Glasgow, in 2018.
She manages a team of four overseeing all the distillery’s imports and exports, which includes Chrissie, Exports Manager and truck aficionado, who has worked at the distillery for 20 years, and Fiona, Senior Supply Chain Co-Ordinator who brings organisational skills from a previous role at the bank in Islay. It’s always been important to us that we keep as many of the processes, skills, and jobs, in the local community as we can. It’s a balancing act between what gives our products their authenticity and spreads the benefits into the local economy, and what is environmentally and physically viable, given that everything has to come to and fro on ferries.
“I have the process knowledge but my team have the Islay knowledge and the local relationships – it’s great teamwork!” says Clare. “It’s been three-and-a-half years now but I’m still learning about living on an island and the Islay ways, so there’s a definite difference working here than at any other company I have been at… I love it!” She continues. “It’s without doubt the nicest place I have ever worked! Here everyone is so welcoming, and knows who you are, and takes the time to speak to you.”
Clare is the main contact point between what happens locally and our Remy Cointreau distribution hubs, based in France. From France, The Botanist and our whiskies are then distributed to 66 countries around the world. She estimates she has been the voice on the end of the phone for thousands of people! For the first time last week, we were able to welcome members of the international distribution network to Islay for face-to-face meetings, discussing ways of working and witnessing for themselves the weather and the transfer times which are par for the course.
When she’s not in Islay herself, Clare likes hill climbing and walking near where she lives, on the banks of Loch Lomond. Her passions also include cooking and baking – “Any new recipe” – and wine. “I’m a massive wine fan. I went to Bordeaux, wine tasting, which was excellent. Post-Covid, I will go again!”
One of the 10 women we have in senior management at Bruichladdich Distillery, this International Women’s Day, we wanted to know what her experience has been like as a woman and what her hopes would be for future generations.
“The opportunities that are here are far bigger than at any other company in my experience,” she says “They genuinely want to see you carve out your own career and show results and develop in a healthy way, so you do not feel like you are pigeon-holed.”
Some Supply Chain jobs such as warehousing and logistics, , have been very male-dominated in the past. She says Supply Chain Management wasn’t exactly put forward as a career option when she was at school.
“I followed in my aunt’s footsteps – she became a Supply Chain Manager about 20 years before me!” She says. “I am really grateful for this opportunity and it would be really fantastic if other girls and women were inspired to go down a similar career path.”