Retired distiller set for return

Jim McEwan joins team at new Islay distillery

From left: Stewart Laing, Jim McEwan, Andrew Laing, Scott Laing

ISLAY-born distiller Jim McEwan has come out of retirement after just 18 months to join the team at a new distillery on the island.

Family-run whisky firm Hunter Laing & Co, the company behind the new Ardnahoe Distillery, has appointed McEwan to the role of production director.

Bringing 53 years of experience to the job, McEwan will play a “pivotal” role at the new distillery – from fine-tuning production processes to selecting casks.

McEwan – who started out as a 15 year old apprentice cooper at Islay’s Bowmore distillery, where he spent 38 years working in a number of roles before moving to Bruichladdich, where he worked as master distiller for 15 years up to his retirement in 2015 – said: “I had intended to ride off into the sunset, but I’ve known Stewart [Laing of Hunter Laing & Co] for many years and have always been impressed with Hunter Laing whisky.

“When the call came in, it really excited me.”

Andrew Laing, director of Hunter Laing & Co, said: “It’s hard to think of anyone better qualified than Jim McEwan to develop the character of the newest Islay malt whisky.”

The first distillery to be built on the island in a decade, and the ninth in total, Ardnahoe Distillery is situated on the north east coast of Islay and is expected to begin distilling whisky in early 2018.