Jim McEwan, Production Director and Master Distiller at Bruichladdich, retired in July of this year after more than 52 years in the whisky distilling business.
A legendary figure in the Scotch whisky industry, Jim joined the independent company that was to drive the renaissance of the then dilapidated Bruichladdich Distillery in the year 2000. Bairds have been involved as sole supplier of malted barley since the distillery restarted production. Describing it as the “Cinderella” distillery, Jim has released an innovative and thought-provoking portfolio of single malts that challenged previous perceptions in the industry category.
Jim has also been the architect of a distillation programme of unparalleled complexity and working closely with Duncan McGillivray they have explored barley variety, provenance, traceability and the concept of terroir all supported by Bairds Malt. He leaves a legacy of over twenty different spirit styles maturing in the company warehouses sitting close to the shores of his beloved Loch Indaal.
Paying tribute to the immense part his friend has played in elevating Bruichladdich to the status of a globally admired brand, CEO Simon Coughlin said: “Working with Jim for these past 15 years has been both exciting and stimulating. His deep understanding of the liquid and his ability to communicate the passion he feels for the spirit, for Islay and its people has been an inspiration to us all. Jim’s achievements and accolades are innumerable. His creation of Octomore, the world’s most heavily peated whisky (this malt supplied by Bairds Inverness Maltings) then the innovation behind The Botanist Islay Dry Gin cemented his reputation as one of the greatest distillers of his generation.”
Jim has told us what an incredible journey he has had and how proud he is to have been able to play a part in nurturing what was an incredible opportunity, to bring this old distillery back to life and reinvest in Islay and its people. Jim particularly thanked and wished well Allan Logan, the Distillery Manager who will steer Bruichladdich into the future; and Adam Hannett, whose extraordinary nose and palate will carry the great traditions of their spirit forward into the next generation.
(Pictured Left to Right: Allan Logan, Adam Hannett, Jim McEwan)
Jim McEwan linked arms with his wife Barbara, daughters Lynne and Lesley and friends Duncan and Susan McGillivray before symbolically walking out of the distillery into a well-earned retirement in July 2015; it was exactly 52 years to the day since he first started at Bowmore as an apprentice cooper.
Bairds Malt is proud to be the only malt supplier to this incredible distillery.
On the wind swept Isle of Islay in northern Scotland sits the progressive Bruichladdich distillery. Brilliantly innovative when it was built in 1881, the distillery survived many crises in its long life but after WWII the lack of investment began to tell and it was eventually shut down in 1994.
Then in 2000 Jim McEwan gave up a successful 38 year career as manager of Bowmore distillery and joined a consortium of private investors who were determined to bring Bruichladdich back to life.
Our 14 year journey together began when the team at Bairds Malt first met Jim in 2001 when he was wearing a boiler suit and helping to repair the old distillery. Jim, the only person in the world to have won the Whisky Distiller of the Year three times, had a simple dream; to make Scottish whisky the old fashioned way using only the best local ingredients.
With the help of the whole island, the team slowly restored the Bruichladdich distillery to its former glory. Remarkably, much of the original equipment from 1881 was still intact allowing the team to make whisky with the same exact methods as over 100 years ago (computers have been forbidden in the production process since day one!).
(Pictured: The refreshed Bruichladdich distillery)
Of course, to make great whisky, you need meticulously made malt. For Jim, there was only one supplier who shared his same passion for world-class malt whisky, and that was Bairds Malt.
“When we were selected in 2002 to be the sole quality malt supplier to Bruichladdich, we knew we were on to something special,” noted Eddie Douglas, Commercial Director. “Since then we have proudly supported the Bruichladdich team through their journey to build global brands through the team’s skills, innovation and sheer determination. Together we were able to produce the absolute best quality spirits and share them with the world.”
(Pictured Left to Right: Bairds Malt Mark Kinsman, Jim McEwan, and Bairds Malt Eddie Douglas)
The team at Bairds’ Inverness malting site are proud to have supplied the complete malt requirements for Bruichladdich’s primary brands for the last 13 years (and counting!) – The Classic Laddie, Port Charlotte and Octomore whiskies.
“Today the Bruichladdich business has totally regenerated the local community. Young islanders now have career prospects with the distillery who are the largest private employer on Islay. They currently have more than 70 employees on-site that support the production, maturation, bottling, packaging, branding & media activities direct from the distillery,” said Eddie. “Not to mention the Islay barley farmers and hauliers who deliver to and from Bairds Malt. We are so proud to have played a role in reviving this rural community.”
However, GrainCorp’s involvement in this incredible success story doesn’t end there. From Scotland to Sydney Harbour, the praise for Bairds Malt’s commitment to their customer is felt around the world.