Scotch: A Golden Dream (2018) Movie Script

The Scotch whisky is,
of course, the country's
greatest ambassador.
Many people who don't even
know where Scotland is
know of it through
Scotch whisky.
You look at any
old American movie...
Your guys from America,
any time there was trouble,
what did the guy ask for?
He asked for Scotch.
It's 18-year-old Scotch.
You don't really expect me
to pour it back into
the bottle, do you?
1962 Dalmore.
It'd be a sin to spill any.
[GUNSHOT]It's a waste of good Scotch.
It's only six-year-old Scotch.
I got some Scotch.
Uh, Scotch. Rocks.
Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch.
There's something
about Scotch that gives...
It brings power to you,
it gives you confidence.
It brings you alive.
It's got that kind of thing.
JIM: My name is Jim McEwan, and I am the Production Director
here at
Bruichladdich distillery
on the island
of Islay, Scotland.
Most of my family would
have been associated
with whisky
because whisky is the main
game on this island.
I was about 1000 yards away
from Bowmore distillery.
So it was every kid's dream
to work in a distillery.
On my way to school, some days I didn't get to school
because I had to get past the distillery to go to school.
Sometimes I'd look through
the window in the malt barns.
I would smell the malt.
The men would be turning it.
One of the old guys would say, "Jim, don't bother going to school today.
"Come on in and
sweep the floors." So I left
school at the age of 15.
And I asked them for a job.
And, I mean,
I was like a Twiglet.
I was so small and skinny
it was unbelievable.
He said, "Well...
"I can give you
six weeks' work."
Which was the summer holidays
from the school.
"But that's all I can give you."
So I said, "That would be
great." And I remember
him closing the door
and walking away after
being told that I had
a job for six weeks.
It was like, ah!
That six weeks
turned into 52 years.
So here I am, still in
the whisky business.
You know, Jim is... He's
a legend within the industry.
Jim is one of these
iconic characters.
People come from around
the world just to spend
20 minutes with him.
Jim, I mean,
devoted his life to whisky.
He knows what he's talking
about and he is a guy
that you've got to listen to.
Wherever I go, it's always,
"Do you know James McEwan?
Have you met James McEwan?"
Jim McEwan is one
of these legendary distillers,
and we sometimes
use this phrase,
"He's forgotten more
about whisky distilling
than I'll ever know."
And it's very true in his case.
He is the sort of,
the whisky man of Islay.
He is living, breathing
Scotch whisky.
He personifies what it is.
There will never be
another Jim McEwan.
[CHUCKLES] Oh, Jesus.
Oh, my goodness.
Within the first month
of me working for the
Distillers Company,
as part of my experience,
I was taken
to a grain distillery,
a maltings,
and a malt distillery.
The distillery manager
there at that time
was a very, very old,
wizened, died-in-the-wool
distillery manager,
who basically didn't
suffer fools gladly at all,
and when this young, fresh-faced graduate appeared,
he obviously decided he wanted
to do something to show me
who was boss.
And so we wandered
round the distillery,
and the gentleman was smoking,
which, of course, absolutely,
you couldn't do now,
and when he
finished his cigarette,
he flicked the cigarette
butt into one of the
fermentation vats,
and turned round to see
the look of shock on my face.
And he was just doing it
to let me know he was the boss,
and he could do
whatever he wanted.
When I first started
in the job...
Well, I was...
When a student then, obviously.
My first experience
in a whisky distillery.
I was quite amazed that
it started at eight o'clock
in the morning,
and the first thing you done
was to line up in a queue
to receive a large whisky.
Now, I had never, ever
even thought about whisky
at eight o'clock in the morning.
At that time,
I never even drank whisky.
But when you are 18 years old
you want to try and prove
that you are a man, as such.
And I remember watching all
the other guys, the older men
taking their whisky, putting
a little water into it
and then swallowing
it over really quickly.
And I thought, "That must
be how it's done."
So I carefully got my glass
that I was given,
poured in some water,
and swallowed it back.
And it just about
knocked me over.
I didn't realize it was
cask-strength whisky.
These guys had built up
a tolerance to it.
They half knew what to expect,
I was gonna
almost pass out with it.
And they took me away
and laid me down.
And I slept it off
for about three hours,
before it was lunchtime,
and they lined up again
and got another dram,
which I refused
to take that time.
JIM: What makes this barley
extremely special
is the fact that
it is grown in Islay,
and the soil in Islay
is full of salt.
Because next door
we have the Atlantic Ocean.
So you can imagine
the amount of salt
we get in our rain.
So the soil
is super impregnated,
and the root of the plant
is going into that soil.
And it has to hold on tight,
because we get
ferocious winds here.
How does that salty flavor
manifest itself in a whisky?
Barley grown in Islay has
a fantastic, fresh, citrus,
lemon and honey flavor.
The smell is just fantastic.
Just evocative of Islay.
It's the smell of the sea,
the smell of the peat smoke.
It's all there.
The Scottish farmers
are very important to me,
because, as a person
that demands only
Scottish-grown barley,
I have a great reliance
on these farmers.
We've been pretty poor
at recognizing what a key
cornerstone they are.
And that is why I buy directly from a lot of farmers.
I work with a grain-growing
cooperative up north, called
the Black Isle Growers
of which Kenny MacKenzie
is part.
I think if the whisky industry
had a serious downturn
it would be a major impact
on the farming in the North.
Not just locally, but
throughout the Highlands,
and Scotland generally.
We are a major producer
of malting barley
for a huge number
of malt distillers.
Without the farmers,
there obviously could
not be any Scotch whisky.
JAMES BROWN: I approached the distillery manager, whose name was Duncan McGillivray.
We were at school together.
And I said to him,
"We've got really good
spring water here, Duncan.
"When they're selling
a bottle of whisky,
"why don't they sell a bottle
of spring water with it,
"so there's no
chemicals involved?"
Duncan thought, "Good idea."
And he sniffed it,
and licked it, and drank it.
And next thing, he was
wanting barrels of it.
We also grow 50 acres
of Concerto barley
for the very famous Octomore.
And the name goes
all over the world now.
It's the heaviest-peated
whisky in the world.
And here you have it.
This is Octomore barley,
which is grown
at a farm close by.
What we want to get
is access to the starch inside.
How do we find that out?
Well, we use this amazing
And inside is a little sieve
which separates it.
Whether you make good
whisky or bad whisky,
it's all done here.
We have separated the husk
in the mash tun.
So that's your husk.
JIM: Here it is the middle.
And then you have
the pure flour there.
This is incredible.
People in Scotland
are proud of being Scottish,
of anything that we do.
So Scotch whisky
is part of that.
And, as I say, in Speyside
it's a massive part of the
history that we have here.
It's one of the main industries other than farming,
and both work hand in hand.
Like, most of them started
as farmers.
I do enjoy whisky,
but we often use whisky
for reviving lambs.
It's an old cure
in the Highlands.
A lot of whisky drinkers.
If you didn't have any
milk for the lamb,
a cold lamb,
you give him whisky,
and nine times out of ten,
that cold lamb would come round.
The Scotch whisky industry
covers the length and breadth
of the country of Scotland.
And as a consequence of that,
the vast majority of
particularly malt distilleries,
are situated in small
rural communities.
I think it's very true to say
that the distilleries didn't fit into the rural communities.
The rural communities grew up round about the distilleries.
The distilleries themselves
established many of these
If you say to any Scotsman,
"Are you linked to the
whisky industry?"
the answer is yes. Going back
to the days of illicit stills
and everything else.
You know, we all made whisky, whether it was legal or illegal.
agricultural revolution,
you could produce more grain, therefore you could produce more whisky.
So the actual distilling
was permissible,
but the transportation
and sale was not legal.
Illicit distillation really
gets going in the middle
of the 18th century.
And it's partly a reflection
of the high taxation
and the industrialization
of the big industries.
The way they were taxing
low wines or taxing wash,
or taxing malt and so on,
was ineffectual, and it
had the effect of making
it impossible,
ultimately, for
licensed distilleries
to make good spirit.
In the 1780s, when the Steins
and the Haigs collapsed,
it got really big, because
they had flooded
the Scottish market.
And that meant that the only way you could get a decent whisky
is if it was
illicitly distilled.
It was packed up into little
barrels called ankers.
And these were carried
to market.
And even the Royal infirmary
in Glasgow
had an illicit still inside it.
And it's very easy.
All you need is a pot still
made of copper, and it doesn't have to be very big.
It can only hold 20 gallons,
or even less than that.
And if you've got
the equipment,
you can make it.
I used to work here
about 20 years ago.
And I remember seeing a still down in the cellars.
So I could go and see
if I can dig it out.
a wonderful observation
by the Minister of Brechin
in the early 19th century.
He said that smugglers brought the whisky into town
and would deliver it, and
once they had dropped
off their product,
they would,
all of a sudden, assemble
like military regiments,
and they would bang
the empty barrels
in a ritualistic fashion,
wearing kilts.
And the Customs men
would sit and watch this,
unable to do
anything about it,
because there was no spirit
for them to confiscate
at this point.
So there you go.
These are the two parts
of the drum and wash still.
I see.
And, as you can see,
this is the original pot.
It's about a gallon and a half,
nearly four liters.
So it would probably produce
about one liter of whisky.
And that is the swan's neck.
That would have...
This is very small.
That's a small still. Yeah.
It's definitely been an
in-house still.
Obviously what's missing
is the connecting cone.
In 1823 there was somewhere in the region of 14,000 illicit distilleries operating.
And the government had
a major problem.
It's the taxation.
So eventually they got together
with the distillers
and they came up with
a realistic Excise Act,
which came into force
on Friday, 18th July, 1823.
So it wasn't an easy job
to persuade the distillers
to take out the licenses,
but one by one they did so.
And George Smith, give him
all the credit, of Glenlivet,
saw the future of no longer
producing illicit whisky.
But you must remember,
that was 1823.
It would take many
years before these illicit
distilleries would be depleted.
But, nevertheless, it was the
door that opened to the
Scotch whisky industry.
A lot of illicit distillers
do become licensed distillers.
Because that's how they'd
learned how to do it.
Well, I suppose, before
everyone always tries one...
Maybe their dad gives
them a little one, you know?
Maybe before their 18th.
It was probably
when I would have been
too young to have been supposed
to have been drinking it.
It was probably stolen
from my parents' drink cupboard.
DR. BILL: My best friend David and I were at his house, his parents' house.
And his mum and dad had
gone out for the evening
to the theater or the opera.
So we did what all
good teenage boys did under
the circumstances,
we raided the drinks cupboard.
So we got Led Zeppelin and
Black Sabbath on the hi-fi,
and we found a bottle
of Scotch whisky.
And it was a lovely old blended
brand called Stewarts
Cream of the Barley.
Which I don't actually know
if it exists anymore.
But David and I started
drinking this.
And you know to be honest,
it was too strong for us,
so we probably mixed it
with ginger ale or
something like that.
But we drank and drank
this bottle, turned the hi-fi
louder and louder and louder.
And, eventually, I had the
wizard idea of going up to his
big brother Richard's room.
Richard was a musician.
And we took down his
prize Gibson Les Paul guitar
with a lovely rosewood case.
And we were pretending
to play it, playing air guitar.
But I hadn't bargained
on the fact that there
was metal strings on the guitar,
so in my inebriated state,
I cut my fingers to ribbons,
and got blood all over
the case of the guitar.
Richard duly came home,
found this, and he beat the
shit out of both David and I.
So... That's a true story.
My first memory of Scotch
whisky wasn't the most
positive one.
New Year is a huge celebration in Scotland.
And my house was a house
where a lot of celebrating
went on.
It was a household
full of traditions.
And in that tradition
was drinking whisky.
So I probably had
my first whisky
when I was 12 or 13,
I would imagine, at New Year.
I think the first dram that
I actually connected with
was a Mortlach.
It just tasted really rich
and very, very smooth.
And I suddenly kind of went,
"Ooh! Okay, I think I can
do this."
Once you have your first,
you need to...
I strongly believe there is
a single malt for everyone.
There is one that
will just turn your head.
Somebody thrust a glass
into my hand and said,
"Billy, try this."
And I thought, "Wow.
Gosh, that's a bit different."
I knew it was whisky,
obviously, but I thought,
"That's a bit interesting."
It's smooth, its elegant,
it's easy to drink.
So that was my introduction
to the love of my life,
So I was lucky enough
to become an apprentice cooper,
which was quite rare
at that time,
because the coopering
industry was very strong.
In most trades, you have
a tradesman and you
have an apprentice.
But in the coopering industry, you had to have four trades for one apprentice.
When I was accepted
as an apprentice cooper,
to this man here.
His name was David Bell.
And he was the number-one
cooper in the world for
about ten years.
He was still swinging a hammer at 70 years of age.
When this picture was taken,
he was 95.
And you can see, clearly,
in the picture
how he got to 95,
because in his hand
he's got a glass of whisky.
I've been very fortunate
in the years in my career
in whisky,
where I have encountered
and met people
who have been very experienced,
and have been great mentors
for me,
and assisted me in learning
everything about the industry.
JIM: While I was at Bowmore
Distillery I was learning
everything else.
If somebody was going off sick, I would do their job, 'cause I wanted money.
Working hard, so in the malt
barns or whatever you
were doing,
you would always jump
in and say, "I'll do it.
I'll take that shift."
So you'd be maybe working
24 hours sometimes just
to get the money.
IAN: The first manager
I had there was a man
called Lewis Paterson.
He was very encouraging
to sort of learn everything.
About... From the real
dirty jobs to the...
To the ones... and he encouraged
me to get involved
in everything, you know?
I remember this day,
we had a blockage,
and the smell of the sour
draft was down the...
He thought that this
was a great opportunity for me.
If I wanted to learn about the
industry, I had to get down into
this hole and clear this out.
I remember going home that night
and being flung out of the house
because of the smell.
That was unbelievable,
the smell off of me.
It took several baths to get
rid of it, so that was...
That was a memory of one
of my mentors wanting me to
learn a lot about the business.
JIM: So very quickly I learned all about distilling
and how it was made
in the traditional manner.
And then my old friend
decided one day to walk away.
So he very quietly
came up to me,
put the keys in my hand,
and he said,
"Jim, it's your turn now."
Patted me on the shoulder
and he walked away.
And I was 22.
JIM: The barley which you saw
at the other side
has been crushed
by two sets of rollers.
And here it is. This is the
flour of the plant, the barley.
Beautiful. Smells incredible.
The secret of distillation
is to make sure
we can still smell that smell
at the end of the distillation.
We don't want to lose it,
and to do that we
have to mash it
with the hot water
very carefully.
This is Scottish gold.
We then add hot water to it.
And this will continue,
or complete the conversion
of the starch into a sugar.
We add, depending on the size of the distillery,
either three or four different temperatures of water
to extract all these sugars.
The wort then is cooled
down to around
20, 21 degrees Celsius.
And it comes into this vat.
This is a very, very old
Oregon pine vat.
Really ancient.
In goes the yeast. The yeast
cells are activated by sugar
and they multiply
by trillions.
It's called fermentation.
Which is the
Latin word fermentum.
It's like boiling.
You would think it was boiling,
but there's no heat in there.
It's 20 degrees C.
The level of the liquid
inside the vessel
will rise up like a pint
of frothy beer.
It will rise up, and we're
going to watch it so it
doesn't come over the top.
The yeast has converted
all the starch into sugar.
That sugar has now
given us a beer,
about 7% alcohol.
What were going to do
is take this
and distill it, and make
the alcohol stronger.
It's not really an art.
Its alchemy. We see ourselves...
we are really alchemists,
when it comes
to the distillation side.
JIM: Here we are
in a sampling box.
And this is where
the critical part happens.
It's where we make what
you call the middle cut.
These stills will boil...
This is the first
distillation here.
The alcohol goes up to 22%.
If you recall, the beer was 7%.
We've distilled that beer,
and it's during that
second distillation
we get the part
in the middle, the heart.
It's taken out. What I am trying to do is find the heart.
The heart is when the spirit
is at its most pure.
Fruity, clean.
Right now the alcohol going
down here is too strong.
Flavor is not particularly
This is a very coarse alcohol
that needs to be distilled again
to bring out a more
refined product.
And it's in the second
that we create the new whisky.
JIM: I need to use my nose.
I need to use my palate.
And I'm nosing it.
It smells fine.
We are just about there.
What I'm looking for is clarity.
This is the oldest way
of doing this in the world.
We don't use computers.
If it remains absolutely clear
that means I have
found the heart
and that starts being
collected as whisky.
And that will go to the barrel.
So I'm adding water.
This will lift. This will clear.
It's like mist
coming off a loch.
If it had remained cloudy
it was not ready for the cask.
Now absolutely clear.
I just gotta taste it.
And nose it.
And all the flavors,
the smoky flavor that
we found in the mill room,
and in the mashing,
and in the fermentation,
they are here,
they are concentrated.
It's a beautiful,
beautiful thing.
So now I want to collect this
for the cask.
Very, very high-tech.
And I move that over to there.
This is going down
a different pipe,
and it's going
to a warehouse next door
where it's going to be filled into the barrels.
JIM: Once you've got
your middle cut,
that then goes to the warehouse to be filled into casks.
And then you move it to
the cask. Then it starts
that long, slow journey.
Every time we do a run...
as we call it, a distillation,
a child is born.
The child is then given
to the mother.
And the mother is the cask.
First bottle at
the very top left
is a spirit that was produced
and it's one day old.
So it's spirit before
it goes into the bottle.
As you go from the left
to the right and you
work your way down,
each bottle then
represents one year.
So you'll see how this goes from a clear water-like liquid,
and as you go to the right,
it gets some slight
oakiness color come into it.
It's like golden color.
We also notice that
the level just drops a slight.
And that represents
the evaporation.
The very bottom right
at 30 years old,
you can see by this
stage, the bottle is
less than half full.
And the color is
really quite beautiful.
Now, it is my view
that it doesn't matter how
good your new-make spirit is,
if you then mature that
in poor-quality barrels.
Guess what? You're going
to get poor-quality whisky.
JIM: The cask is so,
so important, you know?
First of all,
you look at the cask.
And the physical appearance
of the cask.
It's like looking at a person. You judge by what you see.
If it looks tired, the hoops
are maybe slightly rusty,
it's getting a bit weak.
You can form an opinion
right away just by looking
at the cask.
And generally,
most of the time
you are correct.
The assessment is correct.
The cask is king. Sixty, even
up to 70% of the influence
of my style is to be
influenced by the cask.
JIM: Sometimes
I talk to the casks.
I'm like some kind of
mad cask whisperer.
You are beautiful.
But you are not ready.
I'm coming back to see you
in six months, okay?
We don't have control over the weather, so some years
the whisky will mature
more quickly than others
because you can
have warmer year,
or vice versa,
it with a cold year.
And it's a whole...
It's a jigsaw puzzle.
Sometimes you pop a barrel,
like this one here
and you think,
Oh my God.
I want to share this with
the world. This is like,
you are so beautiful.
The world deserves you.
You really, really are
so beautiful.
And you look, and you think,
"You've been waiting a while,
you know?"
Incredible. This one here
in my hand has been
waiting for 23 years.
RICHARD: You always look at a beautiful woman, and you say to her,
"What's your favorite color when you wear a dress?"
Well, it might be blue
or black or red or whatever.
But that particular color
suits her personality,
suits her character.
And she elevates the beauty
through it.
Well, it's the same
with a cask.
If I can find a cask
that will mature my whisky
and get it compatible,
and give it the right time,
that elevation of beauty
can also be reflected
in a Scotch whisky.
That has also led to lots
of interesting offshoots
and experiments
trying lots of different types
of barrel.
And that, over the last decade,
has unquestionably been
the richest area in the industry
for development of new products.
Bill, I've worked with.
He's a chemist by training.
But is also a very...
He is an artist, I think,
by temperament.
He's done a lot...
He knows probably more
about wood
and the effects of different
types of oak, for example,
than any other master blender.
Nowadays, more than 90%
of all Scotch whisky
is matured in American oak
ex-Bourbon barrels.
And there's
two reasons for that.
Firstly, to make Kentucky
straight Bourbon
or Tennessee
sour mash whiskey,
the law states it has to be
a new charred oak barrel
used only once.
Us Scots, we don't
tend to like new wood.
So these barrels, filled once, are ideal for a long, slow maturation of Scotch.
The second reason is that
American oak has
a flavor profile
that's very sympathetic
with the flavors
of Scotch malt spirit.
So these soft, buttery,
creamy, vanilla and almond
and coconut flavors.
You get that from American oak.
Whereas European oak
has more tannin,
more hemicellulose.
You get more
of a spicy, resinny flavor.
JIM: We spend a lot of time just checking casks, checking casks.
It's almost orgasmic
when you open a cask up.
And you taste it
and you think, ah!
"I want to share this
with the world."
There's some casks in the
warehouse that are secret.
I don't tell anyone about them
because they are so good.
I don't want them ever
to go into the bottle.
So I can go back to them
time after time after time.
Any blender, their recipe
is a secret to themselves.
You would never divulge
what you use in that.
So every blender has his own
idea of what he would put
into a particular blend.
RICHARD: I put them
together in a loving union
and I marry them.
So this is anassemblage.
This is a blending.
It's bringing all these
different whiskies together.
It's still a single malt,
because it comes
from one distillery only.
The master blender, I mean,
is an extraordinary
skillful job.
Because, again, his primary role
is to keep each batch
the same as the last batch.
But it might not have exactly the same ingredients.
Everything is important.
But the style, consistency
must be there.
Otherwise, the consumer
will not support you.
You must give them that
confidence and maintain
that confidence.
JIM: The company approached me again and said, "Would you like to go to Glasgow,
"and train to become
a whisky blender?"
And once again, yeah.
So every day of my life
I had my nose in a glass.
You would have truckload
after truckload after truckload
of whisky coming in
from all over Scotland.
From the Highlands, from the
Speyside, from the Lowlands,
from Islay.
These truckloads were coming
with barrels of whisky.
Each barrel of whisky
had to be opened up and
checked for quality.
So you had to decide
very quickly...
"Definitely first class."
You would use less of that.
"Not so good."
You didn't value it so much,
so you use more of this
in your percentages
for making up blends.
So you have first class:
small percentage.
Second class, slightly more.
The objective here was
to move away subtly,
but definitely away from
the original Black Art style,
which has been fantastic,
you know?
It's just got a fantastic
gentleness off it.
It's almost creamy
The texture is really...
And on the nose
there is no volatility at all.
It's really easy to smell.
I think they are just a step
down the road, aren't they?
You've got the Black Art Four.
You take a different
direction with Trial One.
Trial Two is just taking it
that further step.
JIM: Yeah.
This is more feminine.
It's more graceful.
It's more subtle. Um...
The Black Art Four is quite
a full-bodied one, quite
a robust one.
This has gone slightly
the other way.
It's just smoother.
Here's to Black Art Five.
The future.Cheers.
Here's to a happy retirement,
you pair of chancers.
We'll enjoy your retirement
just as much as you will.
I got promoted
to a blending manager
in another blending place
outside Glasgow.
So that gave me
the freedom to create,
start mixing whiskies
and working with it.
And I actually loved it.
The company Bowmore Distillers
said, "Jim, we want you
to go back home to Bowmore
and take over as the general
manager at Bowmore distillery.
That was a gold medal.
Just at that same point,
just about that time,
Bowmore was bought over
by the Japanese giant
called Suntory.
For relaxing times,
make it Suntory time.
Because Suntory wanted to make
Bowmore the number-one single
malt in Scotland.
That is a big ask.
We took Bowmore from
nowhere, and we won Distillery
of the Year so many times.
And then I started to get
the call from Japan.
Could you come and teach our
people about single malt?
And I never regarded
myself as a teacher.
I'm just a guy who
tells stories, you know,
about lifestyle.
So I went to Japan and
started teaching the
Suntory sales teams.
More and more requests came in,
from America, from developing
Jim was not only the greatest
ambassador for Bowmore
and then latterly Bruichladdich,
the companies he worked for,
but for Islay,
and indeed for the entire
Scotch whisky industry.
He is a complex character.
He's this...
very strong, very effusive,
very... Huge personality.
But at heart he's just
a boy from Bowmore.
This side of it, the nosing
and the creative side,
you are going towards
the blending side of it then.
So my job kind of overlaps
two camps, the blending side
and the production side.
ROBBIE: So it isn't something, you can just pick up a textbook
or spend a year at university or a couple of years and learn it.
You've really got to be
at the shoulder of somebody
else for many years.
It could be 10, 15, 20 years
before you will get the title
of Master Blender.
Even longer than that.
Nowadays there are many, many,
many people with that title.
Master Distillers.
One of the most hackneyed terms
in the Scotch whisky industry
is to use the word "Master"
before your job title.
Master Blender,
Master Distiller,
Master of the Universe,
It isn't actually
a valid technical term
and it is more a PR term.
So if someone has been
in the role for many years
the company uses it to help
try and promote the fact
that they kind of know what
they are talking about.
It irks me somewhat, you know?
I see guys who have been
in the business 10 years
or something,
suddenly they
are Master Distiller.
The number of business cards I have received from young guys
who have been given
this title...
"I'm a Master Distiller."
A master distiller should be able to take raw material
like water, barley, and yeast,
and turn it into whisky.
That would be the litmus test.
So I was going round the world for about 32, 33 weeks a year
trying to educate.
It was becoming very tiring.
Because I had a young family, and my wife was doing her best to look after them
and I am away for five
weeks at a time and back.
I was home, sick, I can't
remember, I had chickenpox
or something.
I was home from school, sick.
And all of a sudden
a helicopter landed
in the garden.
This is not an everyday
And this was...
Some film crew had been over,
and Dad had said, "My daughter
is not well. Could you go
and do a fly-by?
"It would really make
her happy."
So I look out,
there is a helicopter.
And not only
did I get a fly-by,
they took us up.
They took us up, we went once
round Loch Indaal, flew over
our house and landed again.
So there was loads of plus
points to being "Jim McEwan's
During that time, three times
I just totally collapsed with
Just went down. [CLAPS]
I was so tired I couldn't
go any further.
However, during that period
of traveling, I met and made
many, many friends
in many, many countries.
But it was hard, and I was
getting really tired of it
and thinking about
a career move.
And then I got a phone call.
The only consistent thing
in your body
from the day you were born
until the day you die...
It just never stops.
It's consistent.
So why would you
not follow that?
So when it came to making
the decision to leave Bowmore,
to come here to Bruichladdich,
that was done in a heartbeat.
Yeah. I want to spend
time with my family.
I was living in Glasgow because
I had to be beside an
international airport.
The thought of coming home
to Islay, to Bruichladdich,
which I knew,
and, given that my wife Barbara comes from Port Charlotte, which is just down the road,
And I wanted my children
to experience life in Islay.
And I joined up after
38 years with Bowmore.
And it's now gone to a
beaten-up, broken-down
almost derelict distillery.
That was, to me...
This distillery was
like Cinderella.
There was a beauty there,
but it never got invited
to the ball.
And I knew Bruichladdich
was good. However...
I had no idea just how much
it had deteriorated since
I was last here.
I had known Bruichladdich
because it is just across
the water from Bowmore.
I'd been in here many,
many times.
I knew the quality
of the spirit was excellent.
Unfortunately, some
of the previous owners
did not appreciate
the quality of the spirit.
And this distillery has had
six owners since 1881.
And we are still using
the same equipment since 1881.
Which clearly indicates
they never spent one penny on investment in the distillery.
...and then Whyte & Mackay began
a process of disinvestment.
So they got rid of some
of the distilleries,
including Jura
and Bruichladdich,
and they languish.
When he moved into
Bruichladdich, Bruichladdich
was shut. It was a shell.
It was.
It was a very sad place.
JIM: I came through the gate, and I am thinking, "Oh, Jesus.
"This is a mess.
"You have just made
the biggest mistake
of your life, Jim McEwan."
Anyway, the two guys met me.
John, the Cooper,
and Duncan, the Stillman.
And they were just
security guys.
And a dog named Boo.
So it was me, two men
and a dog named Boo.
And I think most people
who knew me,
or were even bothered,
thought, "What a mistake
that guy's made.
"What an absolute mistake."
But there was something there. There was just a pulse.
I'm looking at it. "It's not
that bad. It's not that bad."
After wandering through
for about three hours
and all that stuff, I thought...
Yeah. It's a bit like...
the good Samaritan, you know?
The guy's lying. Everybody
walks past him because
they all think he's dead.
Bruichladdich, it was like,
"I feel a pulse. Yeah.
"There is still a pulse
in Bruichladdich."
Within two weeks we had
recruited the original team.
Which was great.
The 22nd of May, 2001,
at 7:29 in the morning,
we were all gathered
in the still house.
We had done the mashing.
We got through the first mash, second mash. Things were starting to get a bit easier.
The machinery was starting
to work a bit better.
Got the fermentation done.
It was really good.
We went to first distillation...
[HUSHED] "Ah! Yeah!"
It's like, "Yeah, it's gonna
happen, it's gonna happen."
Second distillation.
"Wow, that was difficult."
The heart of the run.
That is the secret to success.
I remember standing there,
and all the guys were
standing round.
We get the still going,
the spirits are going,
it's good.
And I'm nosing clear spirit.
I just couldn't get it.
Just couldn't get it.
Just as quickly as it came,
it disappears.
Like a thief in the night.
It goes cloudy.
A second ago it was clear,
and now it has gone cloudy.
All the guys are
standing around waiting
For Bruichladdich
to live again.
It's quite a poignant moment.
Just imagine, these guys who
had been made redundant
so many times.
And here we were back,
and got the old still working.
I was trying.
And it was taking forever,
and I'm thinking,
"Oh my god. It's just
not happening for me.
"It's just not happening."
After about 35 minutes,
40 minutes,
I'm starting to get worried.
Add the water.
And it's there.
Phew! Bruichladdich was back.
This is probably the best
moment ever in 52 years.
The guys are standing around.
Passed a glass
to Duncan McGillivray,
Distillery Manager.
I said, "Dunkie,
Bruichladdich is back.
"Have a taste."
He tastes,
but he doesn't speak.
He looks at the floor.
I pass it round all the crew.
Nobody speaks.
I'm expecting high-fives.
"Hey! Let's do it."
Didn't happen.
Strange, bizarre moment.
And then I get it.
Totally get it.
I look at Duncan McGillivray,
and I look at The Budgie,
and these veterans, who have
been fired and come back,
fired and come back...
I totally get it. They have
been through this too often.
And now they are there,
and they can't believe it.
And they cannot speak
because, if they tried
to speak, they would cry.
I can see
the Adam's apples moving.
I can see the heads down.
It's like, "Please, God,
make it real this time."
Quite a submissive pose.
And I'm thinking, shh!
This is not a time
for talking.
"Okay, guys, let's get to work."
When Bruichladdich died,
a community died.
Now it's thriving. It's back.
And we are going forward
all the time.
The key to it all is,
we are still making whisky
exactly the same
as it was in 1881.
A whisky made by people
is different from a whisky
made by computers.
There is no doubt. We've been open now since 2001. Fourteen years.
We have won Distillery
of the Year nine times.
Sometimes you get partnerships
that just...
You need a running mate.
And I found Duncan McGillivray.
LESLEY: Dad and Duncan
are a dynamite team.
There would be no Bruichladdich without the Dad and Duncan relationship.
He's a tinkerer,
and Dad is not like that at all.
Dad is hopeless. You wouldn't
ask him to hang a picture,
you wouldn't ask him
to put a shelf up.
Now, when I made the whisky,
he made the distillery.
He rebuilt this distillery
with string and all that
kind of stuff.
He would say, "God, what
good's a cup of tea to
a man who needs a drink?
"Go and get me a dram,"
sort of thing, you know?
As a manager, Duncan
was in a boiler suit
with oil on his hands.Duncan was a hands-on manager.
He would, er... Everyone was...
Everyone was included,
and part of the team.
We went up to the top,
top loft here,
Which was like Duncan's
Aladdin's cave of things
that he had kept for years
just in case he would need it. Duncan would even re-use nails.
It was that kind of mentality
that managed to get the
bottling hall built with
basically no money.
Wasn't it? He built
the bottling hall.
So we spent 25,000.
We bought a whole distillery
for 25,000. Unbelievable.
LYNNE: They are characters,
the two of them together.
And he is also
fantastically funny.
Duncan used to be the assistant
manager at Bruichladdich.
And you were let go,
what, three times?
See that?
Dad needs a playmate.
Probably one of the
most notorious tag teams
since Jesse James
and his brothers, you know?
JIM: I took him to Chicago with me.
We went to the top
of the Hancock Tower
revolving restaurant.
And Duncan have never
had tequila in his life.
And I said to the girl,
"Could we have two tequila
margaritas? Make them strong.
"Country boys in town.
We are really kickin' up
the dust, you know?"
She comes with a big glass
of tequila and a straw.
And Duncan is looking around
and he's settling down.
And he goes...
"Nice stuff, that."
Triple of tequila.
So I said, "Did you enjoy that?"
"Oh," he says, "Good stuff.
Good for the vitamin C."
And then I said,
"Would you like another one?"
He says, "I don't mind.
You buying it?" I said,
"Yeah, I'll buy it."
Out she comes.
"Same again, please."
"By God, I feel a bit of that.
That Vitamin C is working,
I tell you.
"The jetlag is disappearing.
I feel great."
Then the food comes, and, uh...
I said, "Would you like
another one?
"Or would you like some wine?"
"No, no, I'll stay with
the fruit juice.
"No, I'm fine.
Forget the wine."
So he has another one.
And we are
halfway through the meal,
and he says,
"That is strong stuff," he says.
"I feel the whole bloody room
is going round and round."
I said, "Duncan,
it's a revolving restaurant.
"And I feel it's going round..."
He stood up. I said,
"Come to the window and look."
As we were going round...
I'm like pissing myself
laughing, I can't believe it.
First time in America.[LAUGHS]
So it is just one of these
brilliant combinations.
You know, stars that
pass in the night.
Without him, I wouldn't have done it. And without me, he wouldn't have done it.
He retired just about
two years ago.
That's what makes this place special. People like Duncan McGillivray.
Are you...
Are you... ready?
When I started
in the whisky industry
there was, as far
as I can remember,
no women working
in the whisky distilleries.
Even in my lifetime,
women did not...
"Respectable women,"
in inverted commas,
tended not to drink
strong liquor.
GEORGIE: "But you are a girl. You don't drink it, do you?"
"No, no, no. Of course I don't. I'm a girl. Why would I drink Scotch whisky?"
That's a question that
comes up quite a lot.
When I have been working
in a whisky shop in Edinburgh,
there have been men
from certain cultures
or certain countries
that have come into the whisky
shop, and they have waited
specifically to speak to a man,
or they have kind of downplayed
my opinion on something
because they think I am a woman,
and I don't know as much about
whisky as other men do.
When you're working
for somebody,
you can't turn around
and say, "Hey, you are
a sexist shit.
"I don't want to
serve you, anyway."
Yes, as a young girl, female,
in the whisky industry,
there have been
interesting experiences.
I kind of got involved in it
when I was 26.
And the reactions
have been fascinating.
Interestingly, never from
people who work in the
whisky industry.
Always from consumers.
I think that just makes
me love the challenge.
To walk into a room
full of guys and say,
"Look, I'm going to teach you
about some of our whiskies,
and I'm gonna have a look
at some other ways we can do
a bit of a nosing and tasting.
And then it's nice to see
them actually say, "Okay, well,
fair enough." [CHUCKLES]
Women have a great history
in the whisky industry.
Whether it was Bessie Williamson, my namesake, at Laphroaig Distillery,
growing that distillery.
People like Maureen Robinson
or Stephanie McLeod, who are
master blenders.
I was really proud last year.
I won Distillery Manager
of the Year for the Icons
of Whisky Scotland awards.
And I'm the first woman
to have won that,
that I am absolutely certain,
sure, that I'm not going
to be the last.
At my level, over 40%
of roles in our company
are held by women,
so it is not something
unusual in our business at all.
Thirty, 40 years ago it was
a very manual task,
working in a distillery.
And there was a lot of people here doing that
and a lot of big strong men were
required to do the manual tasks
of making the malt.
Everything was pumps,
and it was all hand valves
and things like that.
So, obviously, you know,
we have progressed and changed
with how we can
make our product.
Come on, get a life,
it's all changed.
Women are making...
And I want to have
women in a meeting.
Because quite often they
will see a different balance
and they will bring
some freshness to it.
It can become very staid,
very boring, if you don't
kind of shake things up.
So the more diversity
you can bring in,
it's a good thing,
it is a really good thing,
and I know there's quite
a few lady managers,
women managers,
and they are doing very good
jobs, shoulder to shoulder
with the men.
This is not just manly stuff.
Actually, women
will look at whisky
in a more revered way.
They will get behind
and give it much
more dedication.
Now physiologically,
we are similarly equipped,
male and female.
But I think it may be...
You see, there's two things.
First of all,
it's identifying an aroma.
But then the second stage
is putting a word to it.
I had one girl who was like,
"It smells really like walking
through a forest
"just after it has rained,"
and her husband just
kind of stared at her.
"Okay, I was just going to
say it smells like oak wood."
Putting a word to it requires
being aware, once you have
been trained in it,
but being aware of smells.
But one smells
smells subliminally.
Even without being
consciously aware of them.
So, if one is exposed
to many smells
in childhood, particularly,
it stands to reason that you
might be better
able to identify a particular aroma, to give it a name.
Traditionally, girls and women are exposed to many more exciting smells than men.
They are exposed to cooking
smells, cleaning smells,
smells of babies, perfumes, flower arrangement, let's say.
These traditional female roles.
I found in tastings that a lot
more women were able to go,
"Oh, yes, that is pine needles."
Or, "That is creme brulee."
They are able to make
that association a little
bit more quickly.
And if you learn to tune that,
tune into that,
that gets even better over time.
You can always keep
training your palate and nose.
And the companies have
spent a tremendous
amount of money
developing the
packaging as well
because the packaging
is generally about 20% of the
value of any product you get,
in the whisky industry.
The type of work that
we are involved with
is called "ultra premium."
So, really, it's working with the top of the Christmas tree
the really expensive,
age-related whiskies.
Usually 50 years plus.
This is a beautiful bottle
for the Bowmore company
When we were commissioned
to make this
The Bowmore company asked us, "We are going to capture the whisky on the inside.
"Can you capture a bit of
the island on the outside?"
So we designed this bottle
to have these rocky-like
islands all on the surface.
Bottles when they are sold
with the whisky in it
tend to be really expensive.
Usually a starting price
of around 10,000.
But we've made bottles
up to 100,000.
Sometimes the technology
changes. State-of-the-art
furnaces and equipment,
but the actual hand skills
haven't changed for 2,000 years.
I think that is very similar
to some of the craft that's
involved in making whisky.
What I was doing today
is I was gathering
out of our furnace.
And then we are
shaping the glass
into a nice droplet shape.
Then we drop
into a wooden mold
and that closes, and that helps
us form the bowl, which is going
to be our whisky glass.
My assistant then opens
up the mold,
and then we have to do a series of reheats, getting this bowl in a nice shape.
We drop a gob
of molten-hot glass
over the top.
And then we use a specialist rock tool that we have developed
to press into the glass,
and that gives a fantastic
rocky-like texture
on the bottom
of this whisky glass.
We attach the pontil
to the bottom of the glass.
And now we are transferring
We now take the glass
and we take it to
the reheating station
called the glory hole,
then, through a series
of concentrated heats
we can then open up
the whisky glass
and get a really nice-shaped
whisky glass like this.
So the level of ultra-premium that we work in
means that there
are no imperfections.
The whisky companies
we work for are extremely
And rightfully so.
The whisky that's going into
these is often 50 years old,
and it is very limited stock.
Maybe only 50 bottles,
maybe only 10 bottles.
Basically, if it's not good
enough, it gets destroyed.
And if it is good enough,
then it goes to the whisky
companies who commissioned it.
So we treat them
with absolute care
and we have special
transport cases
made for individual bottles,
and they are sent by high
security all over the world.
Slainte mhath.
Mmm. Perfect.
CHARLES: Doing a tasting...
I think it was in Texas.
And in the room next door
there were two entrances
into the bar.
Jim finished his tasting
and he noted just out
of the corner of his eye
he noticed somebody leaving
the far end of the table
and going through to the bar.
And then, of course,
sure enough, moments later
this person came back
with four whiskies
on a tray, you see.
And he had been there before.
All of us are very reluctant
to do blind tastings.
Especially after having done
a whisky tasting.
So Jim excused himself.
"Sorry, boys, I'm just going
to go to the john."
He nips out of the other door
while this chap is still coming,
hands the barman ten bucks
and says, "What did you
give him?"
So then he comes back
and they set up the whiskies,
and they are all waiting there.
"Hey, Mr. Whisky.
We'll catch him out."
"Oh, come on, boys,
for goodness sake.
"We've just done eight
whiskies." Or six whiskies
or whatever.
"It's really not fair,
you know."
So he starts fiddling around,
nosing, moving them around
like chess pieces.
And he says, "Well,
that's straightforward.
"That's quite
clearly a Bladnoch.
"And I would say it's probably
about ten years old.
"This one is... This is
definitely a Cragganmore.
"But it has been wine-finished,
and I would say
"it's the Cragganmore
12 years old, finished in...
whatever they finish it in...
"Amoroso, you know?"
They are going,
"God, this is amazing."
He comes to the last one
and he says,
"Now, this is very difficult.
This is a single-cask whisky.
"It has been bottled at,
I would guess, 58.3% alcohol.
"And it was made in the Spring."
"And it's a Tullibardine,
and I think it is probably
12 years old."
And they said,
"This is amazing.
"How do you know it's made
in the Spring?
"What was the cask number?
If the cask number
was under 1000
"then it would have been made
in the first six months
of the year."
And of course he was right
in every particular.
And his reputation
was absolutely saved, you know?
He never told them that
he had cheated. [CHUCKLES]
I always visit Taiwan
which is our number-one
market in Asia, our number-two
market globally now.
In France, for example,
a lot of women
are drinking blended Scotch
in different ways,
with soda.
Japan... Suntory reinvented
whisky and soda.
They call it Suntory soda.
I have been fortunate
to travel to markets
like China, to Brazil,
where Scotch whisky
is being enjoyed by
consumers in their 20s
who are mixing it
with different things.
In China, green tea
is a very popular mixer.
So it's very much
market to market.
Probably the country
that I've visited
that has the most enthusiasm
for the single malt
market is Taiwan.
It is unbelievable, the amount
of interest and passion.
It's the one country in the
world where single malts
actually outsell blended Scotch.
LYNNE: He wants to share what he is passionate about
and what he is passionate
about is Islay, is whisky,
is about making people
understand how privileged
we are to be on this island
and what a special place it is.
A lot of people on Islay
obviously respect him
because of what he has done
for the community.
employs 80 people now.
That's a massive achievement
and I am very proud of that.
And there is also all the work
we do with the farmers
and the associated communities.
So they are very proud
of this Islay boy James.
He will absolutely let you know
if you are doing anything wrong.
But, equally, praise you
if you're doing anything right.
He is a great ambassador,
not only for his brand
but also for Islay,
and the way I remember
the very first time
when we were abroad
and he would stand
in the middle of New York
and say, "Right, John.
"Come in here
and listen to me," he says.
"Laphroaig comes first,
"Islay comes second,
and then Scotland's third.
"Never ever think that you
are just part of one thing.
"But remember," he says,
"You're from Islay,
"and we always promote Islay
with the greatest authority.
"You're an ambassador
for this island now.
"You need to take
that responsibility on board."
ADAM: I think, we've got eight world-class distilleries here.
The amount of people who come from around the world to visit us...
It means that
all the craft shops,
bed and breakfasts, hotels
they have guests
coming all the time.
So it's supporting
the community that way as well.
Islay's got a very rich
heritage, very rich culture.
So I met Jim at Whisky Live
in Taipei two years ago.
It was the first time I'd seen
Jim for more than a year.
So I had a long chat with him,
we had a coffee together,
which turned into a dram or two,
and I said,
"Incidentally, I was actually
on Islay about five weeks ago.
"I didn't manage
to get to Bruich..."
And he stopped me.
He said, "Bill, I know
you were there."
"I know when you arrived,
I know who you were with.
"I even know what you
had for lunch that day."
That kind of brought it home
to me that, yes, on Islay,
there are no secrets.
Islay has got
eight distilleries
which must contribute
huge money to the government,
huge money.
A lot of that money
doesn't come back.
This island contributes
vastly to the income
for its size, it's punching
way above its weight.
It's a very punitive tax.
It's always been very high,
as long as I have been
in the business.
You know, it is. It's round
about the 70% mark.
It doesn't bode well
for the tourist industry
in Scotland
if people from those countries
are coming here and discovering
they are paying twice the price
for what should be
a local product
paying local rates,
which should be cheaper.
So it's bad public relations
for Scotland in general
and for tourism in general.
I can walk into
a store in New York City
and I can buy my own whisky
about 40% cheaper
than I can buy it
in the shop downstairs.
That is unfair.
CHARLES: If you look
at the amount of revenue
that is generated
by the sale of Islay whisky,
or whisky from Islay,
and then you divide that
amongst all the people,
each person is contributing
about 200,000 a year.
It's something phenomenal.
I think it's fair to say,
if we believe that every
ounce of tax
coming off of Scotch whisky
should come back to Islay,
let's say,
the roads should be paved
with gold, but that's
not the case.
If you turn it another way
around and looked at it
and said, Islay's
going to be independent,
we'd be one of the richest
islands in the world.
In one of the richest islands
in the world, we don't
have a dentist.
You can't have your baby born
there because the hospital
isn't equipped.
That's a bit of a shame,
you know?
It's enough to drive
you to drink.
Nosing a whisky is like
getting to know a person.
You've got to talk.
You've got to communicate.
It's the same with a whisky.
You put the whisky
in the glass,
you bring it up and you say...
[SNIFFS] "Hello."
Then you go back to it
and say... [SNIFFS]
"How are you?"
More importantly, you go back
a third time and say,
"Quite well, thank you
very much."
Just by nosing, you tease
all these wonderful nuances
that have been brought together.
This glass is good,
because it's got a stem.
Which means you are not putting
your fingers on the glass.
Have a quick look
at the color of the whisky
so you get to terms with it,
Have a nice swirl
on the glass like so.
Gives you a chance to get
a look at the tears.
This is known as the legs.
Now, if they run very quickly
and there's lots of them,
that's a lighter-bodied whisky.
Whereas, if it takes a while
for the legs to start to run,
and they are slower,
then that's a much fuller,
heavier-bodied whisky.
Fantastic viscosity there.
They are not even moving.
They are just stuck there
like pearls.
Nosing a whisky will tell
you far more about it than
actually tasting a whisky.
Most people take a glass
and they will put their nose
into the glass
and inhale deeply, like they
were snorting cocaine.
Go like that... [SNIFFS]
And the first thing you'll
get is the alcohol.
[COUGHS] And inhale deeply.
And then their eyes fall out.
It's fantastic.
So when you nose a whisky,
try and keep your mouth
open slightly as well.
And I hold it about that
distance under my nose.
I don't have to go in.
It's coming up.
The aromas are coming up,
you know?
Close your eyes. It's really
important to close your
eyes and just focus on it.
What's that smell I'm getting?
Lots of people aren't actually
aware of their nose.
That you've got this memory
bank of smells
and flavors in your
olfactory epithelium
just here in your brain
in between your eyebrows.
The gentler notes are hiding
down underneath there.
I got to get them out,
and to do that I need water.
In terms of nosing, you really
should add water.
There are two very good
reasons for that.
First of all, whisky is sold
at 40% alcohol by volume.
And if you are nosing
a series of whiskies
at that alcohol level,
then you'll find very quickly,
your nose and sense of smell
are actually anesthetized a bit.
Try the whisky neat first.
Always good to do that
so you can gauge how much water
you may or may not want
to put in.
If you add a splash of water
you obviously reduce the content
and you also raise
the temperature
of the whisky slightly,
which allows the aromas
to be released better.
So, depending on the heat
I'm getting in the palate,
I will just the water
I add to my whisky.
In Scotland, we all add
water to single malt.
RICHARD: When you nose it, you don't just smell one thing,
you smell a whole combination
coming together
in a loving union.
Fantastic notes
of the Madeira sherry
are coming through.
Really sultanas, raisins,
grapes, dates.
That fruit,
absolutely incredible.
That's one of the great
appeals to whisky,
there is such a range
of aromas in the...
No disrespect to vodka,
but it's inclined
to be one-dimensional.
Like a flower opening,
it doesn't reveal it all.
Just keep moving it
and you will be rewarded.
So that's what I do every time.
When you really look inside
into the soul of the whisky,
you'll see all these wonderful
flavors coming together.
But when it comes to tasting,
I don't want you
to knock it back.
I want you to really
give it the time, again.
And then the finish
of the whisky,
once you have swallowed it,
is often described
as being very short,
very long, very warming.
And then when you
put it in your mouth, hold it
on the top of the tongue,
underneath the tongue,
back in the middle, keep it
there and let it go down.
Mmm. Mmm-mmm!
Mmm! Mmm! Mmm!
Hello there.
There's nothing wrong
with young whisky.
Young whisky, you're
getting more flavor in it,
like a six, seven, eight,
nine, a ten-year-old.
You don't get the same influence of oak. You get more of the flavor of distillation.
The fruits of distillation,
the flowers of fermentation.
The sweetness of oak is coming in but it's not dominating.
It's like watching
a child growing up.
It really is. That's what it's like. You watch them just maturing, the colors changing.
They are getting rounded at
the edges, more personality
from the Bourbon casks
or fruit from a wine cask.
It's quite
a controversial subject.
This whole idea
that the older a whisky is,
the better it is.
And I am
a passionate believer
that, in fact, almost
the opposite is the case.
From a very personal
perspective, whether I'm
drinking Ardbeg or Glenmorangie
or Balvenie or Mortlach
or Springbank or Highland Park,
Any of these other whiskies
which I enjoy,
I tend to prefer them between
the ages of 10 and 18.
Because I think most
distilleries hit the sweet spot
somewhere in that range.
Now, the older a whisky gets,
obviously the rarer
it's going to be,
again for two reasons.
Firstly, most of it will have
been bottled at 10 or 12
or 18 or whatever.
So there is simply less
of a pool to choose from.
And you have lost more by
evaporative loss, the so-called
"angels' share."
So, by its very nature it's
going to be much rarer.
And really, that's what you're
paying for in a very
old whisky.
It's the scarcity value,
the rarity value.
But you need to bear in mind
that a 50-year-old whisky
is going to have taken up so much flavor from the wood,
it might be woody,
it might be dry,
it might be bitter, so I would
say, think very, very carefully
before you decide to shell
out five or 10,000 on
a bottle of whisky.
Er... Is it worth it?
If I had 100,000, would I buy
a bottle of whisky?
I would not buy a bottle
of whisky for 100,000.
I would buy many hundreds
of cases of bottles of whisky
for the same amount of money.
Age isn't everything. I think
there's too much emphasis
put on the age of whisky.
Yes, it tells you how long
it's been in the cask
and that will give you an
indication of what its
complexity may be.
But it could have been in tired
old casks for 30 years
and become over-aged.
And you could have an
eight-year-old, which is every
bit as good, if not much better
because it has been
in good quality casks.
JIM: We are a nation
that can laugh at ourselves.
Hey, it's just a drink.
But it's a very,
very special drink.
And it is unique to us.
Scotch whisky has such an
emotional connection for people
that are involved in it,
and drinkers alike,
because it really
is the heart and soul
of Scotland.
You share with friends,
you sit down. It's there
to mark something.
Having a special dram
will always stay in your memory.
You don't hear people thinking about a special time
when they drank a vodka
somewhere or whatever.
There's a great deal
of memorable times
that you have with a dram.
I remember sharing
many drams with my father,
who is no longer with us now,
but I treasure
these memories
of taking him home a taste
of a special dram that
I had created.
Him and I sitting
having a chat over that dram.
Probably whisky
has more to offer
than some of the other spirits.
The flavors and tastes
are more prominent than
they are on white spirit.
I think that's why you get...
Somebody will say they like
to have a whisky by the fire.
Have a peat fire going,
have a nice dram.
Also when you are fishing.
It's a cold day.
A nice whisky will warm you up.
I think a lot of it is not
so much from the taste,
I think it comes more
from the aromas, the smells.
Because your sense of smell
is very emotive.
If you smell something,
it quite often will bring back
a certain point in time
when you first smelt that.
I normally drink
with those people that I love.
I want to hear what
they have got to say.
You know, a celebration,
an anniversary.
Well, you bring in a whisky.
So quite often I will
in fact serve a very
aged whisky
over a special occasion.
The secret to a good dram?
Oh, God Almighty!
I don't know. [LAUGHS]
I would find it difficult
to answer that question.
To me, the secret of a good dram
is depth of flavor.
So not just one thing.
First and foremost, it must
have an interesting
range of flavors.
I don't think a dram of whisky
should be one-dimensional.
Making sure that
everything comes together.
That's the contribution
of the wood, the contribution
of the component parts.
Whether it be a single malt,
or all the casks, or even
a blended whisky,
they must come together
in a loving union.
Something you want to take
your time with.
Something from me that I spend
as much time smelling it
as I do tasting it.
I really think about, you
know... It's almost like
an emotional thing for me.
Does it give you
a memory of something?
Does it take you back
to when you last had this dram?
Who did you have it with?
What stories were you
telling one another?
That sort of thing, so it is
something that is complex
and makes you think.
Good company.
A good malt whisky,
I'll say that's 50%.
40% I would say is company.
I love it in company.
And 10%,
somebody else's whisky.
It's the people and place
you are with, you know?
It could be yourself
and it is just the right time,
the right moment,
you just need something
to end the week,
to give it a quiet moment
of solitude,
or it is just sitting around
the table with people that
make you laugh,
telling good stories,
singing songs.
That's a good dram.
I'd just like to say,
sharing it.
You've got to share
it with friends.
I don't think whisky...
It's not a selfish drink.
It's a drink to be celebrated,
it's a drink to be enjoyed.
Having been invited to fish
for salmon on the River Tweed
in November years ago,
on the way down
we bought a bottle
of blended Scotch,
a secondary blend, one of these
ones that is completely unknown
because it's rat shit.
Anyway, we fished away.
It was bitterly cold.
And the light faded,
and we went into the hut.
Got the old stove going,
somebody had caught
a beautiful fresh salmon.
The host just took the bottle and divided it in six glasses,
and everybody said this was
the best whisky they
had ever tasted.
As Prince Charles
stood on the Highland moor
with his castle behind him,
he was leaning on his
shepherd's stick
and he feeling very sad.
He could hear the eagle calling
and he cried.
And his teardrops
fell into the stream.
The stream went down the glen, the magic glen.
And it went into a distillery
where they were making whisky.
And today
when you drink this whisky,
you can taste
Prince Charles's teardrops.
Have you ever heard
such bullshit in your life?
Good afternoon, everybody,
and welcome
to Bruichladdich Distillery.
It's a beautiful sunny day
here on Islay.
And we have some amazing
whiskies for you to taste
with me today.
And, of course, I realize
that you have traveled
a long, long way
from South America to be here.
When we do this tasting today,
you should find the character
and the personality
of the islanders in this glass.
It is 23 years old
and I have used
a variety of casks,
which I can't tell you,
it's a secret.
We just won best single malt
in the world about two weeks
ago with this whisky.
If I had to order one whisky
before I left this earth,
this would be it.
Not only is this
a special whisky,
but it is also the last tasting
I will conduct in my life.
And I can't think of a better
way than to end it
with a product like Black Art.
The personality
and the heartbeat of
Bruichladdich is in this glass.
The Passion.
It is all about passion.
People make this
and they make that,
but if it is not made with
passion, then it is only a mere
shadow of what it could be.
So we make this
with passion, and, uh...
it's just fantastic
to finish my last session
with probably
the highlight of my career.
At the end of the day,
this is the blood of Scotland.
There is no question.
We are known
throughout the world
because of this product.
We are a small nation
of 4.5 million people,
and yet everywhere I have traveled, and I have traveled everywhere,
when I put my hand out,
when I meet strangers,
and they say,
"Where are you from?"
And I say I'm from Scotland,
Immediately their eyes light up and a smile of welcome comes to the face.
That's what it does.
It is this amazing
blood of Scotland.
To the end of the journey.
I think I cried for three days
when he told me he was retiring.
Yeah, I'll believe it
once I see it.
You think he'll go?
I think you'll have
to take an axe to him.
They'll still be chasing him
away every week. "Bugger off,
Jim, you've retired now."
They just tend not to leave.
Like herpes. Yeah.
Dad's retiring has
come at this...
For him, a very...
portentous time.
The distillery
is in a great place.
He has just won
Master Distiller of the Year.
And Black Art, which is his
most famous dram,
won Malt of the Year.
So there's all these weird
things have come together
that just...
The stars are aligned
in the sky, saying,
"Jim, you've done a great job.
"You will never be forgotten.
Your legacy is huge.
But it's time to relax.
So I leave Bruichladdich
at the top of the league.
And there is no doubt
I will be popping over
just to make sure
the quality is right.
There is something
instilled in all of us now,
about how things should be done,
about our values, about the way
we should approach things.
And it is there. So as long
as we don't change
that, we're good.
So I can see me spending
a few nice days in the loft.
Just close the hatch and sit
up there with headphones on,
listening to Bruce Springsteen,
drinking Black Art.
The future looks
very bright indeed.
JIM: So it has been
a big success story.
It hasn't been
without sacrifice.
I mean, I didn't see my family for years.
My wife did a phenomenal job.
She was bringing up
children herself.
So the other chapters have
been dedicated to education,
working, traveling.
So the last chapter
is dedicated totally
to the family.
There are not many people
in the industry like Jim
and I today.
We have both been through
and done every single job
in the distillery.
And so the opportunities
for people like that nowadays
are very, very limited.
But I think we have survived
because we have always been
so passionate about what we do.
You can't speak highly enough
about Jim McEwan.
The only thing I can say
is that our industry
is a much, much, much
poorer place without him in it.
I would just like
to say to Dad, thanks.
And we are all really proud
of you, the whole family.
We could not be more proud.
It's not that you
are the most...
recognized individual.
It's that you did something
that nobody else did.
And you did it your way.
And that is inspiring.
And my kids will learn
from that.
And my kids will know about you
and their kids
will know about you.
So thank you.