THE man who brought Islay??s Bruichladdich Distillery back to life before selling it to Remy Cointreau for £58 million has made his return to the drinks industry.

THE man who brought Islay??s Bruichladdich Distillery back to life before selling it to Remy Cointreau for £58 million has made his return to the drinks industry.

Mark Reynier, who led the £6 million acquisition of Bruichladdich from Whyte & Mackay in 2000, has assembled the same team to acquire a Guinness brewery from Diageo in Waterford, Ireland.

The production site actually includes two breweries, one 250 years old and the other built in 2003 and commissioned the following year.

Mr Reynier intends to transform the latter into a whisky distillery by bolting on stills to the site??s existing, ??state of the art?? brewing equipment, noting that brewing accounts for two-thirds of the whisky making process.

The former wine merchant hopes to begin distilling at the site by January 2016.

Mr Reynier has been joined in the venture by chairman Sir John MacTaggart and finance director John Adams, who held the same posts at Bruichladdich, as well as other shareholders.

The value of the deal has not been disclosed.

Mr Reynier said acquiring an existing and sizeable, modern facility was more attractive to him than building a distillery from scratch.

He said: ??I do think this is a more efficient way of getting our hands on a quality distillery ?? we??re not faffing around trying to do it with a greenfield place.

??It??s a proven, hi tech, modern set up. It??s just a question of adding on the stills.??

Asked why he had decided to make his comeback in Ireland, not Scotland, Mr Reynier said there is more scope for growth in the Irish whiskey market compared with Scotch.

He noted there is a gap in the market between major players such as Pernod Ricard, owner of Jamesons, and Wm Grant & Sons, which recently launched a new distillery for Tullamore Dew, and the smattering of micro and farm distilleries around the country.

Diageo, the dominant player in Scotch whisky, recently offloaded Bushmills Irish whiskey for tequila house Don Julio in a deal with Mexico??s Casa Cuervo.

Mr Reynier said: ??There are only the major distillers in the market, and handful of farm and micro-distilleries, which are all good.

??The bigger picture is that it is all to play for. A monopoly existed for 35 years so there has not been a great deal of complex innovation or credibility.

??[The market] needs a bit of credibility and that is what we will bring to the party. It??s a significantly sized distillery ?? we think it??s a meaningful project.??

Mr Reynier said the vibrancy of Waterford as a town appealed to him, noting that its population of around 60,000 people included a skilled workforce.

He said the chance to build a team from a scratch was an exciting prospect. ??I??m taking it completely clean ?? there are no employees ?? so we can build a team between now and next year,?? he said.

??I??m looking to go back to the old distilling method, with a manager and a head brewer ?? one looking after the distilling and the other looking after the engineering.

??There are still some Diageo guys here in Waterford, but I have a clean slate.??

Beyond the attractions of Ireland, Mr Reynier said the level of competition in the Scotch whisky industry was a key reason why he did not reinvest in Scotland.

The Scotch industry has welcomed a host of new micro and farm distilleries in the last two years, as well as extensions and re-openings by the biggest players. But Mr Reynier is concerned that not all of these new distilleries in Scotland will be a commercial success.

He said: ??Wherever you go, people are building these lifestyle distilleries. I??m just worried they are not thinking enough about how they are going to get their products to market.

??Micro-distilleries are a great thing, I??m just not quite sure how solidly they have been thought through in terms of setting up distribution networks. It??s very difficult to stand out from the crowd.

??I had plenty of offers in this area ?? some were away with the fairies but one or two were good.??

Asked which type of whisky his new distillery will make, Mr Reynier kept his cards close to his chest.

He said: ??It will be Irish whiskey, but it will certainly have a Scottish influence. You will have to wait and see.??