Jim McEwan Tribute – Mackmyra, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Octomore

We kicked off our new year with a rather clever range of whiskies from “That Boutique-y Whisky Company“.

Our original whisky group general taste blind, and initially on the reveal, you could be forgiven for thinking the theme was to feature whiskies from independent bottler.

However the theme taped into substance even more than style… paying tribute to whisky veteran Jim McEwan. With over 50 years of industry experience, he isn’t slowing down and after officially retiring from Bruichladdich is now involved with a new Scottish distillery – Ardnahoe.

Here is what we sampled…. with a bit of insight into the Jim McEwan connect…

Bowmore 27 year, Batch 5, 47.6% (TBWC)McEwan 1983 – 2000

Where Jim began his career at 15 in 1963 as an apprentice cooper, then warehousing, mashing and malting, becoming cellar master. He then moved to Glasgow to become a trainee Blender in 1976, then manager of The Tannochside Bonding Co (Bowmore facility) in 1978. He returned to Bowmore Distillery in 1986 as the manager and stayed for 12 years.

“It was during this time in Bowmore that I started travelling to various whisky events around the world, initially a few times per year but building up to acting as Ambassador and travelling globally about 30 plus weeks per year.” (excerpt from Jim McEwan’s biography).

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Bruichladdich 13 year, Batch 11, 47.6% (TBWC) McEwan 2001 – 2015

In 2000, McEwan was approached by Gordon Wright who planned to purchase Bruichladdich Distillery together with Mark Reynier and Simon Coughlin. McEwan joined as Master Distiller and Production Director. The work then began to dismantle and reassemble the distillery, keeping much of the Victorian decor and equipment.

“The last 12 years with Bruichladdich have been a roller-coaster ride but to see the progress we have made and the friends we have gained, has been the most wonderful experience. To bring this old distillery back from the dead to become 3 times “Distillery of the Year”, 4 times Innovator of the Year plus a host of other awards from around the world has been incredible….  For Bruichladdich to become the cult figure it is, whilst employing so many good Islay people, is for me my greatest reward.” (excerpt from Jim McEwan’s biography).

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Octomore 6 year, Batch 1, 50.4% (TBWC) – McEwan 2001 – 2015

McEwan was the mastermind behind this super heavily peated Islay dram that defies convention. He began distilling Octomore in 2002 and his last (7.1) was released in 2017. With peat levels ranging from 80.5 ppm to 208 ppm, what makes Octomore remarkable – even with all its variation – is its multidimensional character. An Octomore is never merely a peat monster… in fact some of the expressions are outstanding and somehow magically come out the other side of peat to something incredibly silky smooth with no peat punch.

“Octomore is the wild card in the pack and without doubt the guy who drives you crazy but steals your heart every time. Sometimes the peating level is 167 ppm and sometimes it’s 200ppm, we just gave you whatever nature gave us and boy has the wild young islander delivered time after time.” (Interview with Whisky Tower)

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Mackmyra 3 year, Batch 1, 47.2% (TBWC) Personal connect

And the relationship with Mackmyra?

I have long been a fan of Mackmyra and I share a small cask with my good friend Angela who is their Chief Blender. We first met when I was the Manager at Bowmore so we we back a long way, she really has the knowledge and the passion that is required to bring the best to the table which she does consistently, so yes I enjoy their single malts very much and I look forward to trying my share our cask which I know will be very drinkable and not for sharing with those who know not the art of distillation.” (Interview with Whisky Tower)

It was a terrific theme and such a treat!

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