Three months ago, as I was taking the pulse of consolidation fever in this column, I mentioned one of its casualties. This is a black-and-white distillery sited near Port Charlotte on the Isle of Islay, looking out over the dolphin-lively waters of the great sea bay called Loch Indaal.

There's a little red postbox next to the distillery where I often posted cards. After dropping them into the box, I usually strolled over to the locked main gates, to listen to the wind blow around the unpeopled buildings. Where was the steam rising from the chimneys? Where was the malt arriving from Port Ellen, or the casks of whisky leaving for the ferry? Bruichladdich was the only one of the seven distilleries on the island to have fallen, as the terminology has it, silent. Jim Beam Brands, who acquired it from Whyte and Mackay, who in turn acquired it from Invergordon, had no use for it. I couldn't understand why no one seemed to want it. This, after all, is Islay, Scotland's great whisky island. Bowmore, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and now Ardbeg are among the most successful of all single malts brands. The existing Bruichladdich may have been virtually unpeated, but there's no reason why the malt recipe shouldn't change to create as peaty a whisky as anyone would like (indeed Jim Beam Brands attempted such a distillate).

Bruichladdich Distillery on the Isle of Islay

I remember mentioning the orphan Bruichladdich to the new head of William Grant, Patrick Thomas. It would have been a perfect fit for the portfolio of that fine Speyside independent, I thought. The only reply was an enigmatic smile. Sometimes there is good news hidden among the bad. The appeal of Bruichladdich had not, it turns out, gone unnoticed. It had been sniffed out by a pair of London wine merchants, Mark Reynier and Simon Coughlin of La Réserve, who had established a malt-bottling business called Murray McDavid. Their partner in Murray McDavid is Gordon Wright, a member of the family that owns the glorious Campbeltown malt Springbank - though Gordon had left Springbank (for which he worked as marketing manager) after disagreements with his uncle Hedley Wright. Since Springbank owns the bottler Cadenhead, Gordon knew a thing or two about getting great whisky into bottle untarnished. And about great malt whisky full stop.

According to Reynier, the trio had been trying to buy Bruichladdich for some time. The problem, you will be unsurprised to hear, was finance. They had far more passion for the product than any multinational, but only a fraction of the financial reserves. Moreover Bruichladdich came with large stocks - worth more, indeed, than the distillery itself. At last, just before Christmas, came the news that they had finally sewn up a £6.5m deal which Jim Beam Brands were happy with.

Most of the equity was coming from Scottish investors, one third of it indeed, from Islay folk, if one can use that homely term to describe the wealthy individuals who own Islay's large sporting estates. There was no corporate finance; there was no overseas finance. Bruichladdich will be Scotch from the Scots. Now the challenge is to make Bruichladdich a commercial success. The potential is there, the passion is there, but experience is the vital catalyst. When news came through that they had succeeded in enticing Jim McEwan away from Bowmore to manage the distillery project, the jigsaw began to look more complete. McEwan is an Ileach - a native of the island.

He grew up in the little town of Bowmore, leaving school at 15 to become a cooper at Bowmore distillery. His talents as a man-manager, taster and communicator, though, saw him rise swiftly through the ranks: warehouse manager, blender, distillery manager and eventually international brand ambassador for the now Suntory-owned Bowmore. I've never met a distiller with the same levels of passionate commitment as McEwan has, nor one with the same far-reaching cultural perspectives.

An elder of the local church, he was tiring of the travel his new job required, and longed to get back to the island and to distilling. His seat at Bruichladdich looks tailor-made for him. When I spoke to him last week at the distillery, he sounded a happy man. "My heart's here," he said. "This is a fantastic adventure for me." The plan is to get distilling underway in time for Islay's Celtic Music and Whisky Festival at the end of May 2001 - and to produce three different malts, each with a different level of peating. The success of Ardbeg since it passed from being the unloved younger brother of Laphroaig into the ownership of Glenmorangie shows just how good the potential is for Bruichladdich, and especially for a peaty version.

Speaking personally, I can't wait to get back to that postbox. This time the gates will be open. This time I will walk in.