In the world of whisky, few have achieved such legendary status as that of Master Distiller, Jim McEwan. A true maverick that guided the renaissance of the iconic Islay distillery, Bruichladdich, McEwan played an integral role in inspiring the direction of the single malt category as a whole.
In celebration of more than half a century of service to the whisky industry, the final casks from his personal reserves are now ready for release. Bottled as Jim’s very own collection of his finest creations, the Jim McEwan Signature Collection is the ultimate tribute to a career-long quest to produce the perfect dram.
Containing iconic Islay malts drawn from casks distilled under McEwan’s watch at Bruichladdich and bottled by Scottish independent bottlers, Dramfool, the collection will be made available this month, with part of the inaugural release to be auctioned by Whisky Auctioneer from 11-15 March 2021.
A true Islay whisky lover’s dream, the collection is made up of nine releases - each containing a single cask Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore expression.
The first edition bottlings to go under the hammer next week have been entirely matured in first-fill wine casks from the finest French Châteaux - inspired by McEwan’s use of alternative casks that would become a cornerstone of Bruichladdich’s legacy and style.
The first release includes an especially exciting Octomore expression - one of the oldest ever released at 13 years old and entirely matured in a Sauternes barrique, one of Octomore’s rarest wood styles.
The auction will feature exclusive opportunities such as the chance to acquire the second editions before they have even launched, with bottles #1-20 in the auction featuring both Edition 1 and 2 of the respective whiskies. Bottle #88 will also feature both editions - a very sought-after bottle number due to its symbolism of fortune and good luck in Chinese culture.
Winners of bottles #1-20 and #88 will also receive first refusal on that same bottle number in subsequent releases - an ideal opportunity for aspiring collectors to complete a full collection of the same bottle numbers.
Jim McEwan commented:
“It's wonderful to see this collection of my final casks bottled and ready to be enjoyed. From starting in the whisky industry aged 15, I can see no better way to mark the ending of a career than to release my own personal collection.
“As my last casks come to market and I look back on 58 years of making whisky, it still excites me to see what is happening. From apprentice cooper, to blender and then to master distiller, my journey has always been about education as well as passion, and it’s been a pleasure to share this with the world. Single Malt whisky is the blood of Scotland and it's our job to look after it, cherish it and do a good job with it. It's so important to our country as a whole, but particularly to the island of Islay that I call home.
“This collection really speaks for itself in terms of quality, just like each of the whiskies I’ve ever produced. I’m very excited to unveil these casks with Dramfool, and in partnership with Whisky Auctioneer I am sure they will be enjoyed across all corners of the globe.”
Joe Wilson, Head of Auction Content at Whisky Auctioneer, said: “The Jim McEwan Signature Collection embodies a true industry icon’s passion for the liquid he has spent most of his life creating, as well as the Island he calls home. It’s a pleasure to bring the first edition bottles to our online auction in partnership with Dramfool.
“These are the final casks to be selected by Jim during his time at Bruichladdich and the whiskies he has personally deemed to be amongst his finest creations. We’re sure Islay whisky lovers around the world will be incredibly excited to learn about the collection’s release, and to try these whiskies for themselves.”
From monstrous Islay smoke bombs to zesty, floral malts, each bottle is unique in style and flavour, yet similarly shaped by the Island’s wild, coastal elements.
Each expression in the Jim McEwan Signature Collection has been bottled at natural cask strength and is natural in colour, as well as non-chill filtered.
In addition to having the chance of being among the first to try the new liquid, Bruichladdich fans will also have the opportunity to bid on an exclusive private tasting experience during the auction, which will be hosted by Jim McEwan himself. 100% of the proceeds raised from this experience will be donated to Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, a charity chosen personally by Jim which provides life saving support to the Islay community.
Jim McEwan began what would be a long and legendary career in the whisky industry at the age of 15 in 1963 as an apprentice cooper at Bowmore distillery, where he trained and refined his malt mastery for 38 years. He then helped reawaken Bruichladdich distillery in 2001, where he was Master Distiller for 15 years before retiring in 2015. McEwan was recently tempted back from retirement to help revive Ardnahoe Distillery on Islay.
About the Jim McEwan Signature Collection
CASK TYPE - FIRST FILL BORDEAUX
CASK NUMBER - #R08/153-12
AGE - 13 YEARS
COLOUR - AMBER/GOLD
STRENGTH - 61.8%
NOSE - A combination of plump ripe grapes, sweet oak and hot-washed malt with an overture of rowan, birch and heather in bloom.
TASTE - Amazingly broad, ranging from fruity to floral to wine-like citrus, to kiln dried barley to oaky overtures.
PORT CHARLOTTE 2007
CASK NUMBER - #RO8/152-2
CASK TYPE - FIRST FILL BORDEAUX
AGE - 13 YEARS
COLOUR - DEEP GOLDEN BRONZE BODY
STRENGTH - 60.9%
NOSE - Peat smoke and coastal wildflowers, held beautifully in a cradle of French Oak.
TASTE - Sweet crispiness of malted barley emerges and is accompanied by lighter notes of ripe plump grapes, and a coastal marine overture.
CASK TYPE - FIRST FILL SAUTERNES
CASK NUMBER - #3807
AGE - 13 YEARS
COLOUR - PURE GOLD/CHARTREUSE
STRENGTH - 57.5%
NOSE - Opens on a heat haze of peat fires and sweet oak, bog myrtle, heather flowers, wild thyme, and then the beauty that is the wine emerges with style and grace.
TASTE - Plums and soft green grapes mingle with a slipstream of cooling marine sea breezes. French oak, peat smoke and sweet barley are all created by the super-slow distillation and maturation on the West Coast of Islay, where the air is pure and the casks breathe in the salt-laden air.
To register to take part in the Jim McEwan Signature Collection auction, visit www.whiskyauctioneer.com