Bunnahabhain Distillery Story

let’s begin

Found near the northern tip of Islay, Bunnahabhain Distillery has had a long and interesting history.

The Islay Distillery Company

Bunnahabhain, which is pronounced Boon-Na-Haven and means mouth of the river, was first founded in 1879. This was when a group of entrepreneurs decided to come together to form the Islay Distillery Company.

Islay was already well populated with distilleries. Bowmore, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Caol Ila and Lagavulin were well established by the time Bunnahabhain was being talked about.

In 1881, Bunnahabhain Distillery was built by William Robertson, who also owned Robertson and Baxter Blending House and the Greenlees Brothers. They had set up the Islay Distillery Company and Bunnahabhain was their flagship.

New Roads

Being situated so close to the sea and on a remote island meant the Bunnahabhain had to rely on shipping for most of their imports and exports. They truly were a coastal distillery, like many on islay, and this has played a big part in shaping the character of the malt.

They briefly closed in the 1930s, a time that was perilous for many distilleries across Scotland. With prohibition in the states and the world still reeling from the Great War, whisky became a luxury few could afford. They came back not long later though, reopening in 1937.

Things meandered on for Bunnahabhain Distillery and then in the 1960s came something that would free them up to become a leading whisky: new roads.

It might not seem that significant, but for an island as quiet and remote as Islay, the building of new roads was a big deal. It meant that good could more easily be transported without having to rely on boats. It also meant people could access the area more often and with ease.

In fact, the new roads had such an impact on Bunnahabhain that they had to install new stills to meet demand.


The distillery has continued to produce high quality malt and are one of a few Islay distilleries that don’t focus on peated malts. While they have some in their roster, Bunnahabhain is well known for producing malt that is not peated or only lightly peated.

They really stand out for this, and for the brilliance of their drams. With more distilleries planned for opening on Islay in coming years, Bunnahabhain will be one that will definitely be able to hold their own in the market.

Are you a fan of Bunnahabhain Distilery and their whisky? Start the conversation in the comments! 

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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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