No one knows why Bruichladdich whisky tastes the way it does, but plenty of people think they do. In Reynier’s view, the distillery’s proximity to a shallow bay makes a difference. (Bruichladdich is Gaelic for “raised beach.”) When the tide goes out, across the road, algae are exposed to the air, which influences the spirit as it matures, giving it a maritime tang.

Officially, the company also credits its distinctive tall, narrow pot stills, the oldest of which has been in use since 1881. But McEwan differs sharply. “The shape of the pot is not significant, in terms of flavor—this is a kind of fairy story,” he says. “It’s the artisanal skills of the whisky-maker.”

Kelefa Sanneh, writing in The New Yorker about a London wine dealer’s mission to revive the revered  Bruichladdich distillery, on the Scottish island of Islay. Sanneh’s piece ran in February 2013.

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