Mark Reynier, the inspired and inspirational managing director of the resurgent and massively successful Bruichladdich distillery on Islay, has seen the company sold against his will, advice and vote to Remy Cointreau.
The deal – for a reputed £58 million, will see the French drinks giant get its first toehold in the valuable specialist Scotch whisky market.
Seven members of the board of Bruichladdich voted to sell, with Mr Reynier the sole contrary vote.
In typical positive spirit, he is quoted as saying nevertheless that Remy Cointreau are the perfect match for Bruichladdich and that the deal’s a good one. The company – due to complete the buy in six weeks time, evidently plan to increase production, which may see jobs lift over their current 30.
The sum involved in the sale is said to be the biggest ever to change hands in the whisky industry – which, alongside the company’s targeting of Bruichladdich as its distillery of choice for a takeover, could not be more potent tributes to the leadership and direction which Mr Reynier has given.
Shareholders – which include the current workforce, will get windfalls of several times their original investment; and Mr Reynier is making it clear that the decision was not disputacious, although he personally voted against it
He is said to have been offered a role in the new operation but has not yet come to a decision.
From the perspective of news broadcasting and press information, we have not come across as original and gifted a creative intelligence as Mark Reynier’s.
He could create a story – as when he had James May drive a racecar – in Bruichladdich livery – fuelled by Bruichladdich spirit.
He could be hilariously mischievous, with a genius for image making – as when he stuck a giant pair of rubber ears on either side of a cask at the top of a stack of them, standing below which, unbeknownst, was actor Martin Clunes, the possessor of a not inconsiderable set of headphones.
He produced images of bottles of new Bruichladdich products that were so visually luscious no news editor could ever resist them. We were openly putty in his hands.
He installed classic stills at Bruichladdich – like Ugly Betty with a new neck known as the Silver Gattling – and took the distillery into the production of other spirits – all successfully. (In this case of Ugly Betty this was the now renowned gin, Bruichladdich Organics.)
Each new product he launched was sold out in advance of making any retail debut.
And he pioneered a focus on the quality and vintage of the barley used in the malting, building a network of local suppliers so that as much as possible of Bruichladdich was Islay born and bred.
All of this is before we get around to the matter of the annual Eat Sand event, the testosterone driven, macho wonder that was Islay’s Beach Rugby challenge, graced each year by local, national and international players to marvel at.
If a tenth of his genius could somehow be extracted and fed into VisitSclotland, this country would be the cult chill-out for major markets just where we need them. Reynier is the ultimate master of ceremonies.
Who knows what he will do next, within or without Bruichladdich – but he will not be stilled and we absolutely want to know all about it – from day one.
This single man has made a real difference on and to Islay; and has made the lives of distanced commentators like us, lighter and better for his sense of fun – and then there’s that dram.