Whisky Magazine Issue 13
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Dave Broom catches up with Jim Mcewan, the country-hopping Brand Ambassador whose life is dedicated to whisky and telling the world about the people who spent their working lives making it.
It all began in 1990 on the back of a banana. There was an altogether weird malt whisky seminar at Bowmore in which retailers, writers and producers attempted to thrash out a workable plan for communicating about whisky. After a few drams, the option of being towed around the loch on the back of an inflatable banana was agreed to be a better strategy. It was fun, until the entertainment was curtailed when the chairman tried to water-ski and blew up the engine of the boat. It all descended into whisky-fuelled madness, par for the course – this was Islay after all.
The one thing that stuck in my mind (other than the banana) was Bowmore's Distillery Manager, a man with a fund of outrageous stories and an infectious passion for his subject. Most managers are like that, but not many tell you about some part of the process and then ask you a question soon after to see if you have been paying attention. That's Jim McEwan for you.
These days he's Morrison Bowmore's International Brand Ambassador and International Spirits Challenge Distiller of the Year, but that was hardly the career path he had mapped out for himself when he started as an Apprentice Cooper at the distillery in 1963.
He worked under the legendary Davey Bell, Scotland's longest-serving cooper and Davey's attitude to life has stayed with him. "He wasn't just a great cooper who taught me everything he knew but a great philosopher," Jim recalls. "I learned a lot of things about life from him. He was a hard taskmast...