Allan Logan was there the night that gin was first produced on this island famed for its whisky; that summer night in 2010 when the Botanist Islay Dry Gin ran off the still at Bruichladdich. It had been an extraordinary journey to get to that point, and Allan describes how they were flooded with relief and elation when they tasted it, hot, at full distiller’s strength, early the next day. “We struck gold!” he says, “We just knew we had something special…”
An Ileach through and through, Bruichladdich’s Production Manager Allan Logan was born in Bowmore and grew up on the island surrounded by the sounds, sights and scents of distilleries. Allan is now the third generation of distillers in his family – his father and grandfather both worked at Laphroaig making some of Islay’s famous single malt whisky, and uncles worked at Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Bowmore. Growing up near the coves and inlets on the south side of the island gave him a lifelong love for the sea. His grandfather had a fishing boat and would pick up a young Allan from school and take him out to check lobster pots or catch mackerel for bait. Allan still has the wee boat today and does the same with his son.
He knew at an early age that he wanted to be part of the whisky tradition here on the island. But through Allan’s school days, the industry was shrinking, distilleries were shutting down around him and across Scotland. He had to train for another trade – painting and decorating – and he was on the verge of leaving Islay to follow that line of work.
Then in 2001, a late window of opportunity – Bruichladdich was reopening. He got the chance to be part of the small team that resurrected the distillery after it had been shut for six years. Though this was his longed for start in the whisky industry, his first job was a spot of painting!
“When it started, everyone was getting the distillery back up and running,” he explains. His painting and handyman skills were put to good use fixing up the buildings. Duncan MacGillivray, engineer, who had been at Bruichladdich in a previous era, and Jim McEwan, Master Distiller, a local and international whisky legend, guided the team and led by example. “They had this great can-do attitude. Their enthusiasm led to great teamwork… I’m grateful to have experienced those pioneering days” says Allan.
He was soon involved in distillation and worked as a stillman, as well as in the warehouse. Allan says one of his proudest moments was when he became the youngest distillery manager in Scotland at the age of 28. It’s a job he still loves and says he cannot imagine doing anything else.