Jim tempted out of re­tire­ment for new dis­tillery

The Oban Times - - News - Oban Times news­desk 01631 568000

WHISKY dis­tiller Jim McEwan has been ap­pointed pro­duc­tion di­rec­tor of the new Ard­na­hoe Dis­tillery on Is­lay - 18 months af­ter he re­tired.

The Is­lay-born renowned in­dus­try icon, who has 53 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence, has been hired by Hunter Laing & Co, the com­pany be­hind Ard­na­hoe, the first dis­tillery to be built on Is­lay for more than a decade.

Ard­na­hoe is be­ing built on the north- east coast of Is­lay and will be­come the ninth dis­tillery on the is­land. It ex­pects to start dis­till­ing whisky in early 2018.

Jim is play­ing a piv­otal role at the dis­tillery for the Laing fam­ily – fa­ther Ste­wart and sons An­drew and Scott. The dis­tillery, which will in­clude a vis­i­tor cen­tre, café, shop and tast­ing room, will pro­duce tra­di­tional peated Is­lay sin­gle malt.

Jim re­tired in July 2015 af­ter a prodi­gious ca­reer that be­gan in 1963 and later saw his name be­come syn­ony­mous with both Is­lay and the whisky in­dus­try.

In his last role, he was mas­ter dis­tiller at Bruich­lad­dich for 15 years where he pro­duced a se­ries of in­no­va­tive whiskies in­clud­ing, no­tably, Oc­to­more, the world’s most heav­ily-peated whisky, as well as revered Is­lay gin The Botanist.

Prior to that, he spent 38 years in a va­ri­ety of roles at Bow­more, the dis­tillery he first joined as a 15-year- old ap­pren­tice cooper in 1963. While there, he worked in ev­ery as­pect of the dis­tillery from ware­hous­ing and cel­lar mas­ter, to trainee blender, dis­tillery man­ager and global brand am­bas­sador.

Dur­ing his brief re­tire­ment, Jim turned his hand once again to gin dis­till­ing, spend­ing time in the Aus­tralian rain­forests sourc­ing botan­i­cals to help Cape By­ron Dis­tillery launch Brookie’s By­ron Dry Gin.

Jim said: 'I had in­tended to ride off into the sun­set, but I’ve known Ste­wart for many years and have al­ways been im­pressed with Hunter Laing whisky. When the call came in, it re­ally ex­cited me.

‘Then when I vis­ited the dis­tillery site with the Laing fam­ily, it ab­so­lutely blew me away. It’s an in­cred­i­ble spot up on a hill over­look­ing the Sound of Is­lay out to Mull in the north and across to Jura. It has to be one of the most beau­ti­ful sites for a dis­tillery any­where in the world.

‘It felt as though the stars were align­ing - the amaz­ing lo­ca­tion, my his­tory with Is­lay, my re­la­tion­ship with the Laing fam­ily, their pas­sion for the pro­ject, the cal­i­bre of ar­chi­tect Iain Hep­burn, plus my chance to get in­volved with the de­sign of a dis­tillery for the first time in my ca­reer, all made it feel like it was meant to hap­pen.’

Hunter Laing has said it will be tak­ing part in Feis Ile, the Is­lay Fes­ti­val of Mu­sic and Malt, from May 26 to June 3.

Pho­to­graph: Ralph Dun­ning.

Left to right: Ste­wart Laing, Jim McEwan, An­drew Laing and Scott Laing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.