The history of Whisky is so long that it is unsurprising there have been a few Whisky legends in that time. Their names live on, emblazoned on bottles and distilleries.
Today there are just as many Whisky legends walking about, if not more, and one such person is Mark Reynier.
The Beginnings of a Legend
Reynier took an abandoned distillery and turned it into one that thrives today. That distillery was Bruichladdich, which was nothing more than a shell when Reynier and his team bought it from Whyte & Mackay in 2000.
Bruichladdich is now one of the best known and loved Islay malts and is also a hub of innovation and exploration.
Reynier is certainly not the type to leave things alone, and he embarked on challenging and changing Whisky tradition, as well as creating some of the best malt around.
During Reynier’s time at Bruichladdich the distillery experimented with almost every aspect of distilling and Whiskey creation, and although he left the company in 2014 after it was sold to Remy Cointreau, it still bears much of his influence.
The Importance of Terrior
Part of what he did involved putting terrior at the front and centre the distilling process.
This is the effect that things like the landscape, environment and barley have on the final product and is more commonly known in the Wine industry.
Reynier challenged the perception that it was not as necessary to consider for the creation of Whisky and led him to focussing in on the barley his distillery used. From this a series of expressions were made that explored the use of different barley types, such as bere, Islay and organic Scottish barley.
A major aspect of this is also where the barley comes from and Reynier is a great proponent of provenance and where the product comes from. It you’re looking into any of these expressions you’ll soon find the exact farms where the barley was grown.
It is this attention to detail that made Reynier and Bruichladdich such a success, especially in an industry that literally has centuries of history behind it.
After he left Bruichladdich, Reynier ventured across the pond to Ireland.
Despite having centuries of Whisky history in its past as well, the Irish Whisky market is not as well developed as that in Scotland.
This however, is swiftly changing, with distilleries popping up all over the island, and the market seeing a massive boom in sales.
Reynier got involved at the perfect time it would seem, and if he can do for Irish Whisky what he did for Scottich, it will be no bad thing.
Waterford Distillery, which he bought as a brewery from Diageo who used it to produce Guinness, is quickly becoming as innovative and important to the Whisky world as Bruichladdich.
Again, barley is the big focus here, and Reynier says Ireland, especially the southeast where Waterford is, grows the best quality barley in the world.
He has already sourced the 46 farms nearby that he plans to get his barley from and the warehouse he is storing it in has been christened the Cathedral of Barely.
This may seem a bit grand, but for a man who has dedicated his life to exploring the importance of barley to Whisky distilling, it should be of no surprise that the grain has become somewhat of a deity to him.
Waterford Distillery is still in the early stages of production, but with a capacity to produce 1 million litres of spirit a year, and with Reynier at the helm, you know it’s going to be some impressive stuff.