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The perfect blend of skills and experience

Scott Lindsay’s career journey saw him leave the island of Islay for adventures overseas, but his return was a true labour of love as he made his mark at SELECT Member firm the Bruichladdich Distillery

Scott with a still known as ‘Ugly Betty’

It takes just three ingredients to make Scotch whisky – malted barley, water and yeast – but on the island of Islay something magical happens as the spirit is imbued with the wonderful aromas of peat and smoke, creating the most iconic whiskies in the Scotland. 

Scott has a wide remit in his job and is responsible for maintenance at the site

Helping to make sure that the magic continues is Islay-born Scott Lindsay, who is Bruichladdich Distillery’s Maintenance and Estates Manager with responsibility for the smooth running of the operation which produces 1.2 million litres of uisge beatha – the Gaelic term for whisky which is described as the ‘water of life’. 

Although Scott left Islay for adventures abroad when he qualified as an electrician, he was drawn back to the island’s soft, rolling hills, sandy beaches and slower pace of life when he started a family. The offer of a job as an electrical maintenance technician at the SELECT Member company in 2018 came at exactly the right moment. 

Over the past five years, Scott’s experience has continued to grow and he was promoted to his management position in 2022 with responsibility for the maintenance team, both mechanical and electrical, as well as contractors working at the site.

Scott (left) with fellow distillery electrician Neil McNaughton

As Maintenance and Estates Manager, Scott has a wide remit, including making sure the distillery’s malting, mashing, fermentation, distilling, maturation and bottling processes work efficiently so the operation hits its production targets.

Scott said: “It’s a very varied role as some of the equipment we have here was installed when the distillery was built in 1881, so we are dealing with everything from Victorian engineering all the way up to our state-of-the art bottling plant which uses robots. This means the guys are jumping between 200-year-old equipment to the newest of the new programmable logic controllers – we have to know how to do everything.”

Staff work hard to ensure all safety standards are met

While many people would consider working in a whisky distillery a dream job, they probably don’t realise that it’s actually a hazardous environment, as the vapours from the distilling process are potentially dangerous.

That’s why some of the electrics used across the site are explosion, or Ex, standard. This includes the still area where the whisky spirit is created as well as the site where the whisky is disgorged from barrels for blending and then put into bottles.

The potential risk is still there while the whisky spirit matures in wooden barrels over many years. Each barrel can lose up to 2% of its liquid as it evaporates through the wood and into the atmosphere. The romantically termed ‘angels’ share’ is carefully monitored so the vapours are vented to the outside environment and don’t build up to potentially dangerous levels.

Scott said: “Some parts of the site have been classified as hazardous areas because they are subject to potentially flammable sources, so we use Ex-rated electrical equipment which is designed to contain any sparks or ignition sources within the equipment itself, preventing them from igniting flammable vapours in the surrounding atmosphere.

Equipment at the distillery is handled with care to prevent fires breaking out

“This includes everything with an electrical source, from lights and pressure switches to motors and pumps, and we also have to regularly check this equipment to maintain a spark-free environment. We carry out the Ex inspections ourselves and work closely with our own compliance department to ensure we meet all the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) 2002.”

“we need to plan well in advance, particularly when ordering parts, and this also impacts our budgets as you’ve got a delivery cost on everything we need to bring onto the island”

The main focus at the distillery is meeting production targets so Scott has developed a programme of preventative maintenance to minimise downtime.

But with three whisky brands and a gin, he’s also got to ensure that the frequent changeovers in the bottling lines go as smoothly as possible.

Scott loves island life

Getting hold of parts also needs careful planning as, unlike other electricians on the mainland, Scott can’t just nip down the wholesalers to pick up supplies; he has to order them, sometimes weeks in advance, as bad weather often causes the cancellation of the ferries from the mainland.

He added: “When we are developing projects we need to plan well in advance, particularly when ordering parts, and this also has an impact on our budgets as there’s a delivery cost on everything we need to bring on to the island.”

“We are now working on fitting out the new warehouse at a site adjacent to the distillery with a racking system that can store 10,000 casks, and we are doing a full electrical installation throughout, including 250 new EX lights”

This has been the case for the last couple of years as the distillery has installed a PLC-controlled cooling tower system that re-circulates the water – reducing water consumption by 75% – and embarked on the expansion of its warehouse capacity so that all the Bruichladdich whisky brands can be matured on Islay.

Scott’s family is big on numbers! Scott comes from a large family on Islay as his grandmother currently has 80 grandchildren and great grandchildren! He said: “I’ve got 28 first cousins on my mother’s side and my last baby who was born eight months ago was my grandmother’s 50th great grandchild. I think another two have been born since then but even I am losing count!”

Travels and tradition

This is where the magic happens: the raw clear new-made spirit slowly matures in wooden barrels, where it takes on the flavours, colours and aromas of the cask to develop the distinctive character that is Scotch whisky.  Scott added: “We are now working on fitting out the new warehouse at a site adjacent to the distillery with a racking system that can store 10,000 casks, and we are doing a full electrical installation throughout, including 250 new Ex lights.

Neil is always busy in his job at the distillery

“The whole lighting system is powered by a central battery system and control station in the switch room, which means that even if there is a power outage it continues to send power to the light fittings so they are still illuminated – it’s basically an emergency lighting system controlled via one big battery bank rather than lots of little standalone ones. 

“As you can imagine, there are lots of different things to keep on top of and there’s only me and my other electrician Neil McNaughton to deal with the electrical issues; as I’m often busy with management issues it’s regularly down to Neil, so he’s always working flat out between breakdowns, new jobs and inspections!” Scott has every confidence in Neil’s abilities as the two grew up together on Islay, both trained as electricians and went off to Australia together for an adventure and worked on solar farms for a while. Scott said: “We had good fun Down Under, but it was like swapping getting soaked in the Scottish rain for getting scorched by the Australian sun. You had to keep your tools in the shade otherwise they would be too hot to touch if you left them out in the sun.

“there are many times we’ve been able to call select for advice, such as queries about inspection reports and guidance on regulations”

“Neil stayed out in Australia for three years and when he came back looking for a job, an opportunity came up at Bruichladdich and he was the successful candidate for the role.”

Also helping the team at Bruichladdich Distillery is SELECT, as Scott explained: “There are many times we’ve been able to call on SELECT for advice such as for technical queries regarding inspection reports and up-to-date guidance on amendments to regulations, as well as certification to become Certifiers of Construction.

Neil and Scott were reunited at the distillery after travelling to Australia together

The SELECT Technical Helpline is great because most of your queries can be dealt with at the end of the phone.”

Scott is proud to work for Bruichladdich as it is a major employer on the island. While other distilleries have corporate offices on the mainland, Bruichladdich is firmly grounded in Islay, employing around 110 people with the majority based on the island.

Scott added: “Bruichladdich is a very community-focused company and, while we are owned by a French company, all the decisions are managed from the island. Other distilleries may produce millions of litres of whisky a year but they only employ a handful of people on the island, with other functions managed from the mainland.

“At Bruichladdich, we only make 1.2 million litres a year but the majority of our employees are based on Islay, creating good sustainable jobs, and, as a proud Ileach (the name for someone from Islay), I think that is a big thing.”

Scott said that having the senior management team ‘down the corridor’ means that it’s easier and faster to get things done, and he’s pleased that he’s been able to influence the development of maintenance processes and procedures around the distillery.

He said: “I’ve enjoyed my experience on the management side as I’ve been able to develop and implement new maintenance systems and strategies by taking a more proactive approach, particularly with preventive maintenance, so we can condition monitor the assets and make sure they’re getting the right attention that they need when they need it.”

Outside work, Scott enjoys the all peace and tranquillity that the island has to offer, with long walks on the beach with wife Rachael and his four children – aged six, four, two and eight months –  or taking off in his small fishing boat and returning with fresh crab, lobster or mackerel.

 He said: “We love living on the island because it is quiet and the pace of life is a lot slower than the mainland. There are no traffic lights or traffic jams and my daily commute is about 30 seconds as we live in a house next to the distillery.

“We just feel safe here – the children can go anywhere because everyone knows each other.”

 One of the other advantages of working in a distillery is that he occasionally gets to sample the product: “I’m not a big drinker but I can appreciate the different flavours and tastes. I certainly know a good whisky from a bad one, and Bruichladdich is definitely one of the best!” 

“the majority of our employees are based on Islay, creating good sustainable jobs, and, as a proud Ileach, I think that is a big thing”

Images © MKJ Photography


From mothballs to malts

Bruichladdich distillery was established in 1881 and operated up until 1995 when Whyte & Mackay Distillers decided to close it. It was brought out of mothballs by a consortium led by Mark Reynier in 2000, who developed a variety of innovative whiskies using Scottish barley – 40% of it grown on Islay. In 2012, Rémy Cointreau purchased the company for £58 million and has since doubled production.

Bruichladdich Distillery, which also makes Botanist gin, now produces three Islay single malts, an unpeated Bruichladdich, a heavily peated Port Charlotte (right) and a very heavily peated Octomore.


Investing in safety and skills 

The obvious care and attention to detail shown by Scott and his team are excellent examples of the precautions that should be taken when working in hazardous areas. 

The set-up at Bruichladdich  shows the value of a competent workforce that is aware of potential dangers within classified zones.

Some people working in potentially hazardous environments lack an understanding of the associated risks, which can create a culture of complacency. In my opinion, the overarching goal is not merely regulatory compliance, but the nurturing of a sustainable safety culture to mitigate the risk of potentially life-changing incidents.

If you work in such environments, I cannot emphasise enough how vital it is to implement, follow and uphold well-defined processes to ensure employees are  aware of unseen risks that may be evident in your workplace. 

While general occupational safety measures are essential, they often fall short in adequately preparing workers for the industry-specific challenges that they face when working directly or indirectly with hazardous material and products.

Recognising the unique nature ofrisk through specialised training willequip employees with the relevantunderpinning knowledge, practical skills and qualifications to navigate their roles safely.

A skilled, knowledgeable and well-trained workforce, who understand the many aspects of operating safely in accordance with their own procedures and the appropriate regulations, is an investment in the sustained welfare of both employees and the business itself and will demonstrate not just the ability of the individuals but also the capability of the business.

Scott and Bruichladdich certainly know the value of such investment, and it’s about time I popped over for a visit and to raise a glass to the way they do things!

CompEx is an Associate Member of SELECT.To find out more about its work, visit

Alan Montgomery

Technical Development Manager, CompEx


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