Jim McEwan led Bruichladdich’s renaissance for fifteen years, conjuring everything from The Botanist … [+]
Whisky Auctioneer and Dramfool are pairing up to release a selection of rare bottlings from Scotch legend Jim McEwan’s personal reserves.
27 different bottlings will go under the hammer over nine releases, including an Octomore McEwan calls “one of my most cherished children.”
It’s an Islay lover’s dream—these will be McEwan’s last casks at auction.
Each release in WhiskyAuctioneer’s Jim McEwan Signature Collection will contain a single cask from all three of Bruichladdich’s single malts (Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore). Bottles numbered 1 to 20 and 88 from editions one and two of the new collection will be auctioned by Whisky Auctioneer from 11 to 15 March 2021. Winners have the first refusal on numbers in successive releases, allowing them to collect the entire range.
Also up for auction is an exclusive private tasting experience with McEwan. 100% of the proceeds raised from the tasting will be donated to Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance.
The inaugural release is open for bidding until March 15.
“It’s wonderful to see this collection of my final casks bottled and ready to be enjoyed,” says … [+]
Jim McEwan led Bruichladdich’s renaissance for fifteen years, conjuring up drams like The Botanist gin and the heavily-peated Octomore iterations. To many, McEwan is known as the godfather of peat. “When we first brought peated whisky to America and people would say ‘something’s wrong with this man’,” he explained in a virtual tasting. Now, Octomore remains one of the most continuously elusive releases in Scotch. Before Bruichladdich, McEwan spent 38 years at Bowmore, moving from apprentice cooper to a role as the brand’s global ambassador.
He notes how special this collection is. “It’s wonderful to see this collection of my final casks bottled and ready to be enjoyed. 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.”
The first release went live on Whisky Auctioneer on March 11. Scotch fans are currently competing for a 2007 Bruichladdich bottling with “Good Hebridean character,” says McEwan, finished in 13-year-old first-fill Bordeaux Cask. Bottled at 61.8%, there are 265 bottles available.
The collection is a veritable Islay dream, made up 27 bottles over nine releases.
Also under the hammer is a 2007 Octomore matured in a first fill Premier Cru Supérieur Sauternes casks—one of the oldest Octomore expressions ever released. Bottled at 57.5% ABV, 290 bottles are available. “Without doubt, this is one of my cherished children and in 55 years of being a distiller, the beautiful spirit is what has made my spiritual journey complete,” describes McEwan in a statement.
“Your expectations of a brutal smoke-induced monster are shattered,” he continues. “This is the sexiest spirit ever created. The intense smokiness has been seduced by the sophistication of the wine. It should not be possible to calm the beast, but it has been tamed and the result is absolutely amazing! It 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 totally blowing your senses apart.”
Every bottling in the first release has been entirely matured in first-fill wine casks from a French Châteaux (an incredibly impressive one he can’t share the name of, quipped McEwan).
“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,” he adds. “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.”
Independant Scotland-based bottler Dramfool bottled the range under the supervision of McEwan. “Our collaboration with Jim was born from a fine balance of good luck and hard work,” explains Dramfool founder Bruce Farquhar. “Initially, we were shown a cask list by a mutual friend of both Jim McEwan’s and ours, and someone that we had worked with on cask buying and selling in the past.” McEwan notes, “I like Dramfool’s personality and that’s what it’s all about; like minds and appreciation for quality and understanding of where quality comes from.”
This is the last Jim McEwan casks to come to market
This news ends a banner year for Whisky Auctioneer. The auction house hosted 17 online auctions over 2020. In February of that year, it made history when a bottle of The Macallan Valerio Adami fetched over one million dollars. Between mid-October and mid-November 2020 alone, Whisky Auctioneer experienced its largest month in value and volume across its auctions to date—including £375,000 (or USD 520,560) price for an exclusive Bourbon and American Whiskey Auction, £3.3m hammer price for its regular monthly October Auction and £218,000 (approximately USD 302,000) hammer price for a specialist Glenfiddich Auction. Now, on average, Whisky Auction is now receiving over 100,000 bids per month.
This is in step with whisky’s growth as a commodity over the pandemic period. At the beginning of the pandemic, many feared whisk(e)y sales at auction would fall sharply. Without packed rooms full of live bidders, the future of auctions was doubtful.
But whisky proved a favorable investment for consumers for a number of reasons. With fluxes in shipping and social distancing protocol, auction houses have listed smaller amounts of product. Less product, higher demand. Higher demand, higher prices. Plus, with collectors trapped at home, investors have had more time to scroll through online auctions.
That said, we also saw an uptick in stock from closed whisky bars and restaurants looking to offload stock and drum up more revenue. If you’re a whisky collector, the last year auction has been filled with grail bottles. Case in point: McEwan’s last casks.
The first portion of the Jim McEwan Signature Collection auction went live on March 11, 2021. It will run until March 15, 2021 The bottles can be previewed here. “Buy one bottle for drinking and one for saving,” advises McEwan.
Kate Dingwall is a spirits and wine writer by day, and a sommelier by night. Her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, MAXIM Magazine, Liquor.com, DuJour Magazine, Eater,