Allan Logan is the fourth generation of his family to make whisky on Islay. He follows in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who were at Laphroaig, and those of his great grandfather who was also at Bruichladdich.
Allan describes distilling as: “Embedded deep in our very DNA. It is what we Ilich were put on earth to do”.
However, the prospects for the young whisky enthusiast being able to continue the family tradition did not look good when Allan first left school back in 1997. The multinational corporations that owned the famous Islay brand names were implementing ‘modernisation programmes’ and cutting jobs instead of employing people. A lack of imagination had seen the closure of both Port Ellen and Bruichladdich. Ardbeg and Bunnahabhain were operating part-time. Kilchoman did not yet exist.
It took real commitment to stay at his remote island home instead of heading to brighter prospects on the mainland, but Allan was determined – and bided his time – taking jobs painting and decorating. Then in 2000 he heard a rumour of hope for Bruichladdich. It had new owners, a private consortium with radical new ideas; and Jim McEwan, the legendary master distiller at Bowmore was to move across Loch Indaal and become Production Director. He, and they, wanted to make whisky the old way – using people instead of computers. The very next day Allan was at Jim’s door.
The rest is history. Initially he buckled down with the rest of the new team as everyone shovelled muck and cleared the debris from years of neglect but Allan soon became involved in every aspect of coaxing the old Victorian machinery back to life.
Fascinated by the technical and scientific aspects of distillation and working closely with his mentor, Allan Logan quickly rose through the ranks. By 2009, age 29, he was the youngest Distillery Manager in Scotland. By 2015 he had taken over the mantle of production director from whisky legend Jim McEwan, and became our de facto director of distilling.
Over the past sixteen years, more and more local people have joined the vibrant new company as it embarked on an extraordinary programme of development. Maintaining the craft-based, artisanal ethos. Allan has overseen the re-building of much of the old mashing, fermentation and distillation equipment and project-managed huge expansions in our on-site warehousing and bottling capabilities. All of which was achieved while steadily increasing production.
Allan now has around 85 folk working under him in a range of occupations, many of which are highly skilled. The status of the Progressive Hebridean Distillers as the largest private employer on Islay is a matter of great personal pride, as are the influences the company has had on the wider economy of the island.
One of the most dramatic of these is that some seventeen Islay farms are now growing malting barley for Bruichladdich, and the fields of golden corn ripening in the late summer sun have become a welcome feature of island life. The steadily growing number of fields symbolise the confidence that the local farmers have in this distillery and its Production Director. Looking to the future, one of Allan’s many projects will be to deliver ever greater control of provenance and traceability to what we do here, and he is determined to bring the malting of this home grown barley back to Islay.