The Journey’s End w/ Jim McEwan

The Vital Role of Tastings

There is a brilliance to pulling a few bottle of a rare top-shelf release to run a pre-sale tasting. I would really struggle to pay 275 GBP for a 10 year old Banyul red-wine aged whisky untried. I don’t love red wine finishes and that is a pretty sticker on a wee babe. Sure, it is from Jim McEwan’s personal cellar. Yes, it’s being billed as his last hurrah, the journey’s end (JE1), which implies there is more to this journey. And a hefty chunk of the price goes to Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, a legitimate charity that saves lives every day. But still it is a lot for the average fan to spend on faith.

I tried the Journey’s End Bruichladdich 2010 Banyul Barrique on the tasting. And hot damn, that is really good. I ultimately bought two bottles this morning, one to drink with friends and another for a special day. Apparently I wasn’t alone in my opinion as it sold out in minutes. Getting to try it is a game changer, and a lot more indies looking to hit the higher price points should take note. If you are wondering how these hold up to Dramfool’s releases 1 & 2 of the signature collection, they are superb.

This tasting had something special, because only the Journey’s End (JE1) is bottled and released. All the other drams below are sitting in the cask, waiting for the right day. That might be soon or could be in 2022.

On the scores, I’m not one to give an 8 or 9 lightly. These were so damn good, I went back again tonight to make sure it wasn’t just the mood and the crew that lifted them to the stratosphere. These are some of the best Scotch I’ve had this year.

You Can Connect, Online…

Last night I joined 275 other curious fans on Zoom to celebrate Jim’s retirement from the whisky world. Is it for real this time? It could be a stunt. After all, my dad has now officially failed retirement 3 times. He really means to stop, but the next amazing opportunity comes by and it makes his eyes shine and his toes tap. So who knows. As we hung out for hours, and he told stories, and made us share tastings notes, Jim became genuinely choked up. It got personal, and rowdy… and people hung out for almost 5 hours.

It showed me that zoom can be a place where relationships come to life. If you haven’t found a way to participate in smaller online tastings, they are a window into a world that many of us never have access too. I have littles and work. Traveling for whisky festivals isn’t really often on the cards. Getting to hang with the greats, but even more, other passionate people who enjoy the journey and exploration of distillates as much as I do is something precious.

Bruichladdich 2010 Cask 2204  10y Jack Daniels 61.9% (release 3.1)

Nose: angels food cake, werther’s original, saw dust, acetone, rubber, emmental cheese

Palate: soft caramels, sea salt, honeysuckle, tropical fruit.. maybe pineapple or papaya, cayenne peppers, oak spice

Rating: 7 / 10 .. Nose is a tosser, but what a fantastic palate. This would be a 8, even a 9, if I liked the nose better.

JE1 Journey’s End Bruichladdich 2010 Banyul Barrique 10y #2319 55.9%

Nose: farmyard funk, toffee chocolate fudge, red plums, overripe bananas, cedar wood

Palate: salted caramel, broiled pears in red wine, a hint of waxiness, overripe fruits 

Rating: 8 / 10. It was a 9 on my first taste and I have bounced back and forth between 8 and 9 four times. Tonight it a hell of an 8. I bought two, and at that price point, that should say it all. The Bruichladdich Banyul Cask is a winner.

Dramfool Lochindaal 2009 11y Cask #R10/002-27 62.1%

Nose: Bazooka Joe bubble gum, fish oil, applewood bacon, maple syrup, salt air, 

Palate: Hot damn. Taffy made with maple syrup and liquid smoke. Burn ends. Jasmine pearls green tea.. Long oak legs. 

Rating: 9 / 10

Port Charlotte 2008 12Y Bourbon Barrel #3742 (release 3.2)

Nose: Madagascar Vanilla, peat fog, toasted almonds and coconut, white peach, green peppercorn, green tomatoes .

Palate: salted caramel covered green apple, carrot tops cooked in maple syrup, chargrilled scallops, lychee, a deeply integrated and well balanced peat

Rating: 8 / 10 and I’ve bumped it to 9 and back to 8. The bourbon just makes this shine.

Dramfool Port Charlotte 2003 17Y FF Sherry Hogshead #611 60.2%

Nose: red globe grapes.fig brulee, pomelo, candied pecans

Palate: grilled green bell peppers, caramelized onions, fish sauce and brown sugar, prune fruit leather, balsamic reduction.

Rating: 9 / 10. A neurotic type of dram that hits all my buttons and more.

Octomore 2007 7y FF Bourbon Barrel #5390 139.5PPM 65% (Release 3.3)

Nose: This is the gentlest nose on an Octomore I’ve ever had. And I’ve tried all of them except Futures and a couple private casks. I actually asked my 7 year old to help as he has an incredibly delicate sniffer. He says cinnamon and cherries. Frankly, Sojourn is better at this than I am. I’ll tack on passion flower and the glentle odor of my grandfather’s pipe tobacco on his old wool cardigan the following day. Gave it 30 minutes and a minerality starts to emerge.

Palate: When the 6th pour is a 65% octomore and my first note is … delightfully smooth… that is downright bizarre. I’d assumed it was palate burnout last night, but came back tonight and same reaction. Truly fruitalicious. Fresh squeezed tangerines, juicy fruit bubble gum, and then a smokey sweetness, like creme brulee. I really wish I had a bigger sample here. This one has subtleties that belie an Octomore.

Rating: Excellent but simply can’t choose between a 7 or 8 without another round or two.