Jim McEwan has become the 18th inductee into the Whisky Magazine “Hall of Fame” which is described as: “a permanent tribute honouring those noteworthy individuals who have made a lasting contribution to the world of whisky.”
Writing for the magazine, whisky journalist and author Dave Broom penned the following accolade: “There are not many people who can say they have worked in every job in whisky. Then again, there’s no one quite like Jim McEwan. He started work on August 1st 1963 as an apprentice cooper at Bowmore and after working in every other area of the distillery, ended up as cellar-master and then trainee blender. In 1986 he was made distillery manager at Bowmore and began to travel the world as the distillery’s ambassador.
“If there was a whisky show, Jim McEwan would be there and when he spoke he wouldn’t just talk of his whisky, but of his island. Jim brought Islay to the world and the world fell in love.
“He makes people laugh, he makes them cry (in a good way), he makes them think, he imbues them with a sense of the passion he has for his whisky and for his island. Most of all he makes them understand that whisky is about people. Nowhere is this more clear than at Bruichladdich where he has been master distiller since its reopening in 2001.
“I recall sitting on the shores of Loch Indaal with him in 1999, looking across to Bruichladdich, then closed. “I’d love for that distillery to reopen,” he said. “It’s a disgrace that it’s closed.” It hurt him as a whisky man and as an Ileach. Now it’s one of the largest employers on Islay, forging new links with farmers, utilising Islay’s flora to infuse its Botanist gin. He has helped to recalibrate the notion of what a distillery can do and has challenged conventional thinking by being brave enough to ask, “what is this thing called whisky?” His answer: “It is exciting it is challenging, it is poetic, it is a distillation of place and people.” On his 50th anniversary he wrote, “I’ll continue working on a dream, chasing single malt rainbows in search of the perfect dram.” His journey continues.”
Speaking after the presentation Jim said: “I am delighted and humbled to receive this induction which comes as a complete surprise. It is an honour to receive such an award from Whisky Magazine, which plays such an important part in documenting and recording our exciting journey.
“A huge amount of the credit for this award must go to my wife Barbara who has provided me with such marvelous support throughout my career. Barbara has had to put up with much, and was often left looking after our young family for long periods while I was away travelling the world. Thanks to her backing and encouragement, I have been able to enjoy the freedom to always move forward in this great business. Thank you all very much.”