Jim McEwan Signature Collection Vol 1 & 2

Dramfools managed to get their hands on a number of casks from Jim McEwan’s private collection. A huge win for Bruce and his crew. May this deal be the rocket that lets him take this business full time into a whisky fuelled bacchanalia. I meant to publish it before the auction to help out friends who were bidding or even before the release went live and sold out.. but life happens. I was able to join 26 people who got pre-release samples of all six bottles, and will drop some notes on release one and release two. It was fun to get on zoom and tip these back with Jim McEwan. He’s a saucy old bastard, with an air of both class and irreverence that I quite enjoy. It made for a nice night.

I can’t help but compare them to the cask whisperer releases. While the first cask whisperer release had one of the best bottles I drank in 2019, the second release was not as exciting as I had hoped for. Good, but not in line with the pricing. A couple highs and a lot of also rans. The dramfools release is far more consistent. I typically prefer non-peated whisky, but in this case, I found the Port Charlotes and Octomore stood out.

Pullquotes from Story Time

So we drank, and Jim told stories. Which is how most nights should go. And amongst the blather, were a couple fun details I didn’t happen to know.

Jim’s wife comes from Port Charlotte – which he chose to name as an homage.

A master chef smoking hot chile peppers was the inspiration for approach to making octomore.

“Drinking straight cask strength single malt when doing a serious tasting is bullshit. Always add water. But never add ice. That is insulting. “This of course, led me to want to start a fight, but I held my tongue until next we meet. Too many people for fistacuffs at high noon.

The ideal location to build a distillery historically was where a river meets the sea. River for water, the sea for shipping.

If you were on the nosing team, the day before your evaluation, you were not allowed to smoke, nor wear aftershave or get too close to strong smells.

Bruichladdich 2008 12 Year Cask 2666 59.8% Release 2.1

This is lovely and bright and more complex than I expected. 

Nose: wild flower honey, barley / hay, lemongrass, cacao nibs, a bit of earthy spice of roasted red bellpepper

Palate: metamucil cinnamon fiber crackers, citrus zest, vibrant and powerful oak notes, bitter greens, a touch of salt.

Rating: 7

Bruichladdich 2007 13 Year First Fill Bordeaux Cask Cask R08/153-12 61.8% Release 1.1

Gentle yet strong. Not my favorite. But I had to run and break up a fight among the kids, so I wasn’t able to give it all the love it deserves. Frankly, I don’t do sulfur, and this meandered a bit too close to that sun for my liking.

Nose: Blackberry, sulfites, kumquat chutney

Palate: dark cherries, wet wood, blackberries, sulfites, vanilla

Rating: 6

Port Charlotte 2010 10Y Bourbon Cask1415 59.4% Release 2.2

Nose: clean light whisks of smoke, cloves, salt spray, salt water taffy, baking soda and waffles

Palate: super gentle, prominent smoke and creme brulee

Rating: 7

Port Charlotte 2007 13Y FF Bordeau Cask R08/152-12 60.9% Release 1.2

Nose is gentle and rich, but what a powerful palate. Totally reflects the poetic nature of Islay’s wild nature. wish I had more notes but my kids distracted me. What a night.

Nose: toffee, wildflowers, gentle burning oak charcoal in one of those steel drums at the state beach just as you add fresh salmon glazed with a soy sauce / red wine / orange juice reduction. Sure it’s brutally specific, but I still remember that night and this evokes it perfectly.

Palate: glazed strawberry pound cake, orange zest, groseille sherbert, peat smoke and light wakame.

Rating: 8

Octomore 2013 7Y Bourbon Cask 1872 62.3% Release 2.3 107ppm

My favorite of the night. Hands down. I mean to go buy one but was distracted during the sale and missed out.

Nose: chile de arbol oil, orange creme, leather boot polish

Palate: old books, passion fruit, powerful peat smoke, jamon serrano, guijillo chille, wild mint

Rating: 8

Octomore 2007 13Y FF Sauternes #3807 57.5% Release 1.3 168PPM

This is wonderful. I was praying for a Comus. The overlap is there. It doesn’t have that same deep complexity but what a wonderful dram.

Nose: yellow plums, Cedar cigar box with a hint of tobacco, hints of indian/amrut and spice, Sumo oranges or Grilled Tangerine, Farm (manure, oats, hay, cows), Steel cut oats,Melon wrapped in prosciutto, flower pollen

Palate: Rock candy. Lovely sweet touch that balances out the peat, Orange rind, Smoked almonds, Clover Honey, Some greener/grassy notes towards the finish, then finish turns into sea spray. Longer finish is all flower pollen. Peat grows stronger as this sits in the glass

Rating: 7