As the first bottles of The Botanist gin hit the shelves, Douglas was at the marketing and commercial helm of the company.
Shortly afterwards came another twist. In 2012, there was an approach from multi-national drinks company – Remy Cointreau – to buy Bruichladdich, lock stock and barrel. An approach of this sort was not entirely unusual; the company had been courted many times before. The Bruichladdich Board had to decide whether or not to recommend the offer to its shareholders. Remy Cointreau were family-owned and well-versed in the idea of terroir, based as they are in Cognac country, between the Loire valley and Bordeaux. They wanted to invest in unique spirits from around the world, without compromising on provenance or local team integrity. As someone who had joined the distillery with the remit of growing the business, albeit as an independent, Douglas ultimately saw how this suitor might change things for the better.
For the next five years, Douglas’ job as Global Brand Director, saw him lead the commercial integration of Bruichladdich into the Remy Cointreau structures and networks. He managed the sales and marketing strategies for rapidly-growing The Botanist gin, and the three other single malt whisky brands we make. And he was determined that the independent spirit of the distillery that had so attracted him in the first place, was protected. He also established and became Chairman of The Botanist Foundation – a Community Interest Company committed to work with the people of Islay and beyond, to further the understanding and conservation of the island’s biodiversity.
As a mark of a mission successfully achieved, in 2017 Douglas was offered the position of CEO, taking over from Bruichladdich founder Simon Coughlin. Simon shifted to looking after all of Remy Cointreau’s whisky interests – in the Alps and Seattle, alongside those at Bruichladdich.
In the 20 years since Bruichladdich Distillery was resurrected, the team have always had at their heart the compulsion to build a sustainable business on Islay. And in his role as CEO, Douglas brought his own social and environmental curiosity to create a freshly energised, sustainable vision for the next chapter of the Bruichladdich story.
“What legacy do you leave on a business when there have been such pronounced legacies left by your forbears? When the iconic stature was set by someone else – is it enough to just keep treading the same path? … We were starting to talk about sustainable agriculture practice, crop rotation, owning and farming our own land for R&D, beyond flavour. What did we want our role in the local ecosystem to be? How could we better serve and keep more value in the community? How could we help manage Islay’s biodiversity? Conservation programmes? How could we reduce dependency on fossil fuel, reducing our CO2 footprint? Could we source renewable energy from tidal energy or hydrogen? Could we do more for the next generation of young adults growing up on Islay? Philanthropy? Bursaries? Partnerships? The list of positive social and environmental possibilities (of doing more than just making and selling spirits) seemed endless and we had to do something about it – surely we could use our business as a force for good?”