SIMON Coughlin, the Scotch whisky veteran who was instrumental in bringing Bruichladdich Distillery back to life in 2001, retired today.

Mr Coughlin joined forces with Mark Reynier to acquire the then mothballed Islay distillery in 2000 and went on to develop three successful single malts – Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore – alongside master distiller Jim McEwan. They went on to create The Botanist, the first Islay dry gin.

After Bruichladdich was acquired by Remy Cointreau for £58 million in 2012, Mr Coughlin stepped down as the chief executive of the distillery and became boss of the French drinks giant’s whisky division. He became a member of the Remy Cointreau executive committee and led the acquisition of two international single malt businesses for the group: Westland of Seattle in the US and Domaine des Hautes Glaces in France.

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The Bruichladdich Distillery is now the largest private employer on the island of Islay. It is home to nearly 100,000 casks and ships more than one million bottles of single malt Scotch whisky around the world.

Mr Coughlin said: “Back in 2000 the industry was in a very different place. Distilleries were being mothballed or even demolished, and opportunities for new distilleries to open and thrive were almost non-existent.

“Some of those early years were extremely difficult. We were breaking down many of the misconceptions in the whisky category – not to mention with a very old and neglected distillery – and were committed to carving out a more honest, transparent, and progressive vision for our industry.

"We’ve always believed in terroir, championing flavour, and harnessing our raw ingredients, while ensuring the island community is at the heart of our decision making. It was undoubtedly a steep learning curve but having a laser sharp focus and never compromising on our vision has got us to where we are today.

“It’s incredible to look at where the industry is now; an explosion of new distilleries globally, people talking flavour, provenance and even terroir. 23 years ago, people thought we were mad! None of this potential could have been realised without a dedicated team – often bemused by our vision and methods, but always unwavering in their support.”

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Mr Coughlin had spent his entire career in the premium drinks industry before joining Bruichladdich, working with various fine wine merchants in London, and as operations director and shareholder of Murray McDavid, a Scottish independent whisky bottler and broker. Murray McDavid was the first whisky business in Scotland to use wine casks for single malt maturation, which ultimately shaped the cask buying philosophy and commitment to terroir at Bruichladdich.

Present Bruichladdich chief executive Douglas Taylor said: “Simon leaves an incredible long-lasting legacy, following 23 years of dedicated commitment to project Bruichladdich. He and his fellow founders challenged the status quo when it came to resurrecting this distillery in 2001, and his unwavering courage and steadfast belief in authenticity, provenance and traceability are at the heart of our DNA.

“Simon has been an inspiration to many inside our business and across the world, inspiring a generation of distillers to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey. As the final founder to retire, Simon leaves Bruichladdich in an incredibly strong place and we thank him for everything he has done. I carry the torch forward into our next chapter with honour to ensure we build on his legacy.”