Islay Runs Dry
The whisky island of Islay is running on empty. The stills are being turned off as distilleries end whisky production for the foreseeable future. The oil has finally run out.
And it’s nothing to do with the Middle East. To run their stills, the island’s eight distillers are dependant on nine oil deliveries a year, brought to the island by sea.
An oil delivery scheduled for 17th November was turned back forcing distilleries to shut off their stills and close down production as supplies dwindled and finally ran out today.
250 barrels per day of new whisky are made on the island which equals to a liability of £988,000 of Alcohol Duty a day.
Despite benign conditions at the time the tanker returned to harbour without unloading. Since then, there has been a series of gales lashing the island preventing further supply.
A re-supply attempt is anticipated once a period of calm weather arrives. But that is not expected soon. Islay is buffeted by 25 gales a year from low pressure systems.
With no road tankers available for this type of oil delivery and exceptionally high freight charges by State-run ferry operator Calmac, there is no viable alternative source.
The cause is a piece of well-meaning European legislation that requires that enlarged, double skin tankers are used exclusively by 2008 to prevent spillage of oil at sea.
Argyll & Bute Council controversially spent £4m altering the existing pier despite strong local opposition claiming the design was not fit for the island’s exposed Atlantic location.
To avoid the risk of pulling the new pier apart, the large new tankers are unable to unload their cargo except in totally calm weather conditions - which are rare in winter.
Bruichladdich Distillery Managing Director Mark Reynier:
“Shell have left the island in the lurch. They approved the pier as fit for purpose when it plainly isn’t. The island needs distilling - and distilleries need oil.”
“This isn’t the Mediterranean; this is the North Atlantic. It is windy here especially during the winter. We did warn them. The whole new pier scheme has been a fiasco.”
“We managed to finish our 2006 Islay-grown Bere barley distillation overnight before running out - but it was touch and go. To have lost that harvest would have been disastrous.”
“Luckily we installed a new boiler in the spring. Duncan, Bruichladdich’s distillery manager and engineering genius, will hopefully be able to adapt it to run diesel.”
“With £1m worth of alcohol Duty a day is being lost. I wonder what the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to say?”