Jim McEwan, former Master Distiller at Bruichladdich, has been lured out of retirement to head up production at the new Ardnahoe Distillery – the first distillery to be built on Islay in over a decade.
Ardnahoe is being built on the north-east coast of Islay by Glasgow whisky firm Hunter Laing & Co, owned by Stewart Laing and his sons Andrew and Scott.
They have appointed Islay-born McEwan as Production Director of Ardnahoe and he brings 53 years’ experience to the pivitol role.
Despite retiring 18 months ago, McEwan said the opportunity to help shape the new distillery was too good to refuse.
Says McEwan, “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 the distillery for the first time in my career, all made it feel like it was ‘meant to happen’.”
The industry veteran will play a vital role, from shaping the distillery’s design and distilling equipment, to fine-tuning the production processes and selecting casks.
Andrew Laing, Director of Hunter Laing & Co, added, “It’s hard to think of anyone better qualified than Jim McEwan to develop the character of the newest Islay malt whisky.”
Ardnahoe will be the island’s ninth distillery and will include a visitor centre café, shop and tasting room. It is due to start distilling traditional peated Islay single malt in early 2018.
During his 15 years as Master Distiller fo Bruichladdich, McEwan produced a number of innovative whiskies, including Octomore, and popualr Islay gin, The Botanist.
Main photo:L-R Stewart Laing, Jim McEwan, Andrew Laing and Scott Laing. Photo credit: Ralph Dunning