Master distiller Jim McEwan unveils signature collection of Islay malts ahead of online auction

Independent bottler, Dramfool, have released bottlings from whisky legend Jim McEwan's casks that will be auctioned by Scots business Whisky Auctioneer.

Published 3rd Mar 2021
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Master distiller and whisky legend Jim McEwan has unveiled the bottlings of the final casks from his personal reserves - the Jim McEwan signature collection - ahead of an online auction with Whisky Auctioneer.

Jim McEwan guided the renaissance of the iconic Islay distillery, Bruichladdich, and 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 own collection of his finest creations, the Jim McEwan Signature Collection is billed as the ultimate tribute to a career-long quest to produce the perfect dram.

The collection

jim mcewan signature collection

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 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 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.

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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.

Speaking of the range, 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.

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"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."

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Joe Wilson, head of auction content at Whisky Auctioneer added: "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 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 per cent 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.

Jim McEwan was recently tempted back from retirement to help revive Ardnahoe Distillery on Islay.

To register to take part in the Jim McEwan Signature Collection auction, visit the Whisky Auctioneer website.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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