Article By: Robert Bradford
A native son of Islay, the small island with such a remarkable concentration of legendary single malt distilleries that's located off the west coast of Scotland in the Hebrides.
57-year-old McEwan's life has centered on this single malt island culture going back to the days he started out as a cooper's apprentice, at age 15, at Bowmore, and began working up the ladder to become one of the most colorful and prominent Islay single malt traveling ambassadors known to consumers around the world. No one better deserves to be called Islay's spiritual leader, and no one has been better at instilling a more picturesque or compelling sense of place about single malt traditions and the people behind the whisky. Furthermore, no one seems to be able to capture the imagination of a consumer audience or spellbind a gathering of listeners quite the way Jim does.
His anecdotes, Scottish dialect, and turns of phrase are priceless. He'll explain that his wife can tell how many drams of whisky he's consumed by the color of his nose. He has countless stories and toasts at the ready for all occasions, like this McEwan classic: "There's many good reasons for drinking, and one has just entered me head. If a man cannah drink while he's living, how the hell can he drink when he's dead?" And when he gets into describing a whisky, it's often with lilting Scottish imagery: "The flavors in this one soar like seabirds before a storm; just loaded with Islay character, with wet seaweed, fishing nets and peat reek on the nose." . . . "This one is matured in a seaside warehouse where, at high tide, the Atlantic laps against its walls and seeps through the floors, imparting a special character to the whisky." . . . "This one's a real heavyweight, bursting with power, that cannot even try to sit down. A caber-tossing giant if I ever saw one." And, although these descriptions may be directed at a specific whisky and product line that McEwan is admiring at the time, what his underlying theme is always about is his beloved home of Islay as a whole, and its continuing central position of being at the heart of Scotland's single malt industry, as well as the place where the buzz and real excitement about the scotch category always seems to be going on.
It's been said that what McEwan doesn't know about scotch whisky could fit on the back of a postage stamp. After 38 years of distinguished service with the Bowmore organization, during which the distillery received countless international recognitions for product quality, industry enterprise, and many "Distiller of the Year" awards to Jim, himself, it was generally assumed that McEwan would be staying put for the rest of his career and be retiring with a handsome pension. But, then, in an abrupt and dramatic change that took place in the year 2OOO, McEwan quite unexpectedly left Bowmore to become a founder shareholder of a bold new venture. This was the resurrection of the proud old Islay distillery, Bruichladdich (meaning "hill on the shore" in Gaelic), which had gone silent and was presumed dead since 1993. But, now, after nearly a decade of persistence, the distillery and a huge stock of 7OOO casks dating back to 1964, had finally been purchased for 7.5 million pounds by three Murray McDavid bottling company executive-owners - Mark Reynier, Simon Coughlin. Gordon Wright and a carefully-selected group of 35 private shareholders provided the equity capital, almost half of it coming from Islay connections.
Thus, the original 1881 Bruichladdich Distillery Company Ltd. was revived and reformed as a genuinely 1OO% privately financed company with no corporations or cross shareholdings or venture capitalists involved. The business philosophy was simple and clearly understood. The company goal was entirely long term in nature. This was to be a proudly independent and fiercely private Scottish company, incorporated, capitalized, financed, and managed in Scotland. And who better to entrust the long term success of this reborn distillery to than Islay's own celebrity master blender-distiller, James McEwan?
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend an evening with Jim to discuss what he has been able to do in the four years since taking on this unprecedented new challenge in his life. Not surprisingly, it seems to be another tale of mounting achievements, passion and commitment that have marked his whole career. And, once again, the long term benefactor may well be the people and the welfare of Islay's community-at-large.
BRADFORD Last time
we got together, in the late '9Os, was when you were still
going strong with Bowmore and traveling the world as sort of
an Islay single malt whisky educator and brand ambassador.
What particularly influenced your decision to leave all that
success behind so late in your career and take on this
rather daunting Bruichladdich challenge - starting from
JIM McEWAN In the year 2OOO, the opportunity came up for me when some investors planning to buy Bruichladdich approached me about joining them as a distiller. My initial thought was "Jim, this has got to be crazy!" I'd been with Bowmore for 38 years, starting with them when I was still in my teens, and, after another two years, in 2OO2, I'd be able to walk away with my full pension. But I'd also been on the road for many, many years, traveling the world as a brand ambassador, and I had to consider what kind of a rare opportunity Bruichladdich represented. It was an old rundown distillery on Islay. It was in poor condition, hadn't operated in almost 1O years, and would need revitalizing from the ground up. But it would also mean me getting back and becoming fully involved again on Islay for the first time in a very long while.
RB It sounds as if quite a bit of personal sentiments and emotions played a big part in your thinking.
JM This is very true. Basically my heart ruled my head when I made my decision, because I guess the big thing for me was asking the question that many of us ask ourselves at some point in the course of our careers: "Can you still do it?" And I had to wonder if I could still make a distinctive single malt that could take its place in the time-honored lineup of Islay's great single malt whisky achievements, using an old beat-up distillery as a starting point and bringing it back to life? This was my chance to find out, and, for me, it represented a challenge of a lifetime. The chance to be totally in charge of bringing a new Islay whisky into the world was too much of a temptation. Consider that during the course of my career, I'd seen something like 45 distilleries in Scotland completely shut down and die. Here was a chance to bring one back to life, particularly on my native Islay. There was just no question that I had to take it on.
RB What were some of your initial priorities?
JM First, I started to rehire many of the veteran Bruichladdich production work force, like the mashmen and stillmen who'd been let go almost 1O years before. Then, of course, I had a lot of good stocks-in-cask to get started with, which were inherited with the purchase of the distillery. Right away, I was able to begin selecting different casks for different bottlings. We took a pledge not to do artificial coloring and no chilled filtration. We would keep the distillery itself in the exact same situation as a Victorian distillery. We would not introduce any computers, and would make whisky in precisely the same way it had been made since 1881.
So, I started fitting
together and blending some of these select casks for 1O- and
15-year-old bottlings. We also added more limited bottlings
of a 17- and 2O-year-old to our regular lineup - all at
86-proof. In addition, we released a series of rare vintage
and limited editions, several at cask strength, and what was
especially gratifying was that we began receiving top
critical acclaim, internationally, within our first year of
the new startup operation. We were named Distillery of the
Year in 2OO1, and again in 2OO3 and 2OO4, by Malt Advocate
magazine in the US. Whisky Magazine gave us their "Innovator
of the Year" award in 2OO4. I myself was honored with a
"Distiller of the Year" recognition. So, already, we have
become well-known as this resurrected Victorian Era
distillery that uses Islay's tallest-necked stills for
producing a lighter cleaner style of Islay single malt
whisky. And, in this increasingly corporate-owned world of
scotch whisky production, we're able to market ourselves as
the independent Scottish company owned by real people, not
anonymous corporate conglomerates.
RB Obviously, local ownership and control is a very sensitive issue for many Scots.
JM You've got that right. It had always been a frustration of mine that we distillers on Islay have been producing these fantastic whiskies from Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore, etc., but all of it was all shipped over to the Scottish mainland for bottling. So, basically, what we were doing was making all this great whisky, nourishing it for 2O odd years, but then relinquishing control and giving it away to somebody else to bottle, thus helping employment in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I wanted these bottling jobs to stay on Islay, so why not bottle our own whiskies on our own home turf?
So, now, we've rebuilt an old warehouse into a bottling hall. Significantly, this marks the first time in history that any Islay whisky had ever been bottled on Islay. In addition, Bruichladdich still owns its same source of natural spring water on Islay that was always used in the whisky to bring the alcohol down to a 86-proof bottling strength for most of our products. And we're using that same water source again, along with an Islay-grown organic barley, which kind of completes our picture of a genuine all-Islay-produced single malt that's made in Islay, matured in Islay, bottled in Islay, and exported from Islay.
Another thing important to
me on the employment side, along with the rehiring of former
production workers, was to create a situation where we could
put to use quite a number of disabled people. And we now
have many jobs for them at the distillery which gives me a
special kind of satisfaction. Providing jobs is one of my
key objectives, and I'm pleased to say that, where most
distilleries have around 1O full-time employees, we
presently now have 34. Everything is done by us in our own
house, including all the distilling and bottling, the
shipping, the invoicing, you name it. I can't tell you how
satisfying it's been for me to be able to keep all these
jobs functioning within our company right at home - and
think of the contribution it makes to Islay's economy.
RB Aside from your achievements as a master distiller, you are particularly noted as a worldwide single malt scotch educator, and I've heard some things about a school program you've started up.
JM Yes, this was still another thing I always wanted to do on Islay. So, I've now founded the Bruichladdich Academy of Islay Single Malt, which opened in April last year. We are taking about six students for a week of course studies. It's a week-long program where students come and stay with us at the distillery, living in accommodations we provide. Our objective is to run these programs about 3O weeks a year. The cost is 13OO pounds a week, and it's a hands-on whisky-making course, where you may spend one day with the mashing, another with distilling and considerable amounts of time evaluating casks in our cellars. There are about six different basic lesson elements, but the most important one to learn is "What does a cask have to tell you?" So, by the time you've completed our week of studies, you come away with an intensive, enlightened hands-on familiarity with every part of the hand-crafted master distilling process that goes into creating a great Islay single malt whisky. And you will truly understand what cask aging is all about.
Already, the Academy has
been getting some enthusiastic attention. As of last
September, we've had about 5O whisky aficionados and single
malt fanatics from all over the world coming in for this
program. Word-of-mouth popularity has been spreading. And
this, of course, has been creating still more jobs for
Islay's economy, like the staff the Academy employs for
cooking, cleaning and other hospitality functions. It also
means that every Saturday morning, when the small aircraft
or ferry leaves Islay with our class graduates, another six
ambassadors for Islay take off around the world. And just
think, with 3O class sessions a year, it means that 18O
people will be circulating in different international
consumer markets with a deep first-hand understanding of
what Islay single malts and Islay heritage is all about.
Also, for our own Bruichladdich interests, there just
couldn't be a better way to market the brand in an up-close
and personal way.
RB So far, the whole story sounds like a chapter out of "Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House". Have there been any real disappointments or frustrations, yet.
JM The truth is there really haven't. We've gotten off to an extremely encouraging start.
And what I'm additionally
hoping to do within the next couple of years is open malt
barns at the distillery, giving Bruichladdich a true floor
malting facility all its own. There are only five
floor-malting resources in all of Scotland, Islay's Bowmore
being one of them. But Bowmore produces only about 3O% of
the malted barley that they need. Our malt barns will give
us 1OO% of what Bruichladdich requires. Anyway, right now,
you'll find me running around, wearing many hats.
RB You've often admitted you get extremely emotional when it comes to whisky making, and that, over the years, you've sometimes regarded a product like a dear friend or a living member of your family. Do you find this holding true in all that you're doing today?
JM Yes. In fact even moreso. I think whisky is something you always have to feel a real passion about, if you're going to achieve any success. And there have been more than a few intense emotional moments since this new Bruichladdich venture began, like seeing the very first new whisky coming down the line from this long dead distillery, or like watching these disabled people we've created jobs for bottling whisky for the first time. A lot of the guys could hardly speak, and some of them were crying.
For me, maybe the most profound emotional experience was the opening of a very rare and precious 4O-year-old cask from the original Bruichladdich stocks we inherited. Just think about it. This whisky had been filled into a fresh American oak bourbon cask at Bruichladdich on October 22, 1964, the very same year I was starting my training as an apprentice cooper at Bowmore, less than a mile away across the waters of Loch Indaal on the shores of Islay. Then its long career journey began, as did mine. So, I was thinking to myself about my own 4O-odd years of development during this same span of time, all the highs and lows of life. "What's been happening to you, Jim?" I had to ask myself. And then I had to reflect on all that's been happening in the history of the world, and the horrors and difficulties we've had to live through during these last four decades.
You just feel compelled to think of a whisky like this in human terms, not as a commodity. So, I found myself regarding this cask as an old distinguished friend, noting, with a soft laugh, that, as I've gotten heavier over all these years, this cask has gotten lighter, or, as the whisky has become more golden in color, I've become more grey. Certainly, the two of us have travelled far, maturing, growing mellower with the passing years, losing those rough edges, breathing Islay air.
And, on the day we opened this cask, I had this feeling of genuine overwhelming sentiment, that was shared by the others at the distillery who were present. It was a moment of pure poetic significance, and I found myself almost talking to the cask, expressing thoughts like, "The men who made you (whether still here or in a Better Place) can take great pride in their work on that damp autumnal day, all those years ago. You have continued to mature undisturbed, and have become the oldest vintage in our cellars, now a truly sovereign Bruichladdich spirit. It's been a pleasure sharing these 4O years with you."
When the cask was finally opened, there wasn't a sound heard from anyone. The hair just stood up on our arms. I mean this whisky had been lying in the dark all this time, and it was now seeing light for the first time. Can you imagine what it must be like to be coming out of darkness like this from an oceanside dungeon, and now being free and able to fly? All I can say is what a privilege it was for me to be the one who could set it free.
Originally, in 1964, there were a total of three casks of this exquisite spirit that were filled. But a cask loses 2% of its volume each year through "angel's share" evaporation. So, after 4O years, that's an 8O% loss of original content. People talk about the high price of rare products like this, but sometimes lose sight of the huge loss of the product before the bottling takes place. You might expect a whiskey of this great age to be a bit tired and going downhill. Not this one. It's has a beautiful fresh sweetness, with an elegant oak texture on it. And because the Bruichladdich style has always been noted for a lovely fruity character, without the iodiny components of some other heavier popular Islays, you taste here a combination of ripe fruit flavors like kiwi, lichee, melon, lemon, and grapefruit, all wrapped up in this honeyed envelope of mellow oak. And add to this some hints and flavors of the salt sea ocean coming in there, and everything becoming more and more concentrated and compressed over all these years. You really have to give any tasting of this about one minute for every year just to fully open up.
Master distillers like to see themselves as educators, and it's educating consumers about single malts that I've been trying to do with people my entire career, more than anything else. But it's hard to describe adequately to anyone what it's like experiencing something like this. You think of this whiskey locked up all these years, just waiting for a place in the sun. Now, it's free at last, coming alive as you warm it in your hand. Here it is opening up, flourishing in the glass, and, boom!, the whole thing just erupts with all the beautiful flavors and textures. There's nothing that can compare to this in my entire master distilling experience.
We were able to get 5OO
bottles from this final remaining cask, and released them to
an extremely limited marketplace last year at about $15OO a
bottle US retail. Many of them have now been sold or are
spoken for, but I think you might still be able to place a
single bottle order with a top bottle shop retailer or on
our Bruichladdich website. It's obviously more than worth
the price. But what you have to realize is that when this is
gone, it's gone forever. And, also, when you look into the
glass of something this old and rare, what you want to look
at is a lot more than the flavors to truly appreciate it.
The heart of the experience is all about looking for the men
who made it, because the spirit in the glass is a true
reflection of the warm and generous character of the mashmen
and the stillmen and all the skill elements that produced
such a masterpiece. You can really feel the presence of the
ghosts of these master craftsmen who were responsible. This,
I keep telling people, is the most important ingredient in
any great whisky. It's not the water or the barley or the
cask or the malt, but the people who made it. These are the
guys who were there night after night, beside potstills,
gently distilling what you're holding in your glass. So,
it's nothing to do with ownership or management.
Management's all gone home by 5pm. I'm talking about the
guys who are on around-the-clock, 24 hours-a-day, nurturing
the product along, bringing it to life.
RB Well, you clearly have had an important influance on the entire Islay industry.
JM Let's hope so. Islay continues to be the real heart of the single malt growth industry, and all Islay distilleries are doing well, I'm so very happy to emphasize. We're all part of a whole on this little island. Laphroaig is doing fantastic. Lagavulin is in short supply around the world. Ardbeg continues to be a rising international star with a beautifully-made, heavily peated Islay style, and a brand name that's on everyone's lips. Bowmore continues to produce great whiskies. Bunnahabhain, under new ownership, will be doing extremely well, and has some fantastic old vintages that are coming onto market. And then you have Coal Ila, which used to be mainly used as a blended single malt in Johnnie Walker's and stuff like that. Now it's being bottled more as a full, richly-peated single malt unto itself, and it's really flying. So, Islay is just on fire right now, with an amazing seven distilleries doing very, very well, and the wave is still rising with thousands of scotch-loving travellers coming to visit as if to a single malt whisky shrine.
The wonder of it all is
that Islay is such a comparatively tiny island region,
geographically speaking. It's the southernmost isle of the
Inner Hebrides and is only slightly over 600 square
kilometers in size. But we represent one of the most
extraordinarily diverse and productive spirits-producing
culture in the world. One reason is that Islay is the most
fertile island in Scotland. Most of Scotland's islands are
hard rock and heather. Islay is blessed with fertile soil,
enormous peat bog resources, and ideal barley-growing
conditions. And, for many years now, ambassadors like myself
have been out there educating the world about peated whisky
styles and smoky flavors. There was a time when few people
liked these whisky components, but now everybody loves them.
And I don't see it ever going back. So, I'm very very happy
about what I see for Islay distilleries in years up
RB Let's talk about your own lines of special bottlings and how you got involved with that.
JM These are Murray McDavid bottlings. You have to remember that the three people who put together this small consortium that purchased Bruichladdich, were the guys who owned and operated Murray McDavid, which is a small independent bottling company. So, after investors were in place and the deal was completed, Murray McDavid became partners with the Bruichladdich company.
The Murray McDavid end of the business is all about bottling up whiskies from around Scotland under the independent Murray McDavid label. The whiskies can be from any distillery, but what I do for them is try and buy old and rare whiskies which go out under the Murray McDavid Mission Series. We also have a second line of younger Murray McDavid 12-year-old whiskies, also from all parts of Scotland. This is a good business, all of which helps support our new Bruichladdich ventures. And, again, as with our Bruichladdich whiskies, we are very strict about not chill-filtering or adding color to any Murray McDavid bottlings.
One of the advantages of my having been in this business for these last 4O-odd years, is having created a great many close friendships and relationships in the industry with people who are very supportive towards what the Bruichladdich enterprise is trying to do today. So, it's not been too difficult for me to find good casks and get good buys from the whisky brokers. Indeed, I also have my own line of whisky out as part of the Bruichladdich portfolio. It's something called Jim McEwan's Celtic Heartlands, and this is truly high-end stuff that comes in exceptionally elegant packaging. These are real collector items like, for example, a 1968 Bowmore, a 1967 Highland Park, and splendid old and rare Macallans and Glenlivets. So, altogether, we've got a nice portfolio of young and old single malts that represent all of Scotland, and, whenever I can, I'm always trying to discover that occasional cask or two from very rare closed distilleries like Speyside's legendary old Dallas Dhu or a Glenugie from the Eastern Highlands.
My customers for coveted
items like these are the real single malt aficionados who
want to experience these older whiskies at a comparatively
reasonable price. You've got to remember that these are all
bottlings of only one or two casks. When you buy a regular
line, you probably need a couple of hundred casks to make up
a bottling. But the selection standards for these rare,
small batch bottlings are a lot more stringent. Quite
simply, if any cask is even slightly flawed, I won't touch
it. As anyone well versed in scotch production quickly
learns early on in this business, every cask has its own
personality. It's one thing if you're vatting together maybe
a couple of hundred casks for a bottling and the specific
cask characteristics are not be quite so significant. But,
when you're producing something from one of two barrels,
these individualities mean everything.
RB You've been long regarded as an innovator in the scotch industry for all your portfolio developments at Bowmore, and have received Whisky Magazine's coveted "Innovator of the Year" distinction on several occasions. What kinds of innovations are you particularly interested in currently?
JM One of the things that particularly interests me as a blender today is the creative use of all these woods and finishes. It's just so much fun to experiment with.We're into an area now that uses fine wine casks. Of course, there's always been a tendency for scotch to use sherry butts for finishing. But Bowmore and Glenmorangie, in particular, have done very well pioneering various wine cask finishes in recent years. And, today, here at Bruichladdich, we've been doing some interesting things, too. For instance, one of our current Bruichladdich releases is called "Flirtation". This is a Second Edition 2O-year-old whisky that's a followup to our award-winning First Edition "Twenty" released in September 2OO1, which was an exceptional bottling that quickly sold out in 2OO2 after winning several Gold medals and awards. We had to wait about two years for our stocks to mature before being able to reintroduce a second special edition "Twenty" to our range. And in order not to exploit the First Edition's reputation, we decided to do something different, because being independent we're free to make that kind of decision.
So, after 1O4O weeks of maturing in refill bourbon casks, we transferred this spirit for our Second Edition "Twenty" release into sweet, spicy Mourvedre wine casks for a brief six-week spell. As a wine, Mourvedre is rich and velvety, smooth, medium-bodied, and has a rich red color with hints of berry fruit, black plum, leather, herbs, peppercorn, and black truffles. And we felt a six-week finishing touch would be just the right amount of time to add a nuance of this appealing wine character, but which would not change the spirit in any way.
What we got was this exciting and attractive little note of strawberry jam and cranberry flavor right in the front of the palate. But what we didn't expect was the utterly exotic rose blush hue that the spirit picked up after this fleeting mourvedre cask contact. This was a completely unintentional bonus, a total surprise. And the name "Flirtation" is just a bit of marketing fun, you know. The whole idea is about a brief affair between a young 2O-year-old Scot and a seductive French maid. And every time this Scottish lad thinks about it, his color grows bright pink, as reflected in the color of his whisky. One of our advertising tag lines is "When was the last time you had a flirtation with a 2O-year-old?"
This is what I mean about having some creative fun with all this. And it's very appealing to consumers. But don't for a minute think this is simply a frivolous marketing gimmick. Quite to the contrary. This is a serious innovative 2O-year-old single malt whisky expression that retails in the US for about $125. And the whole underlying idea is all about just to trying things and seeing how they might come out. We're currently looking at even more exotic wine cask possibilities like Château d'Yquems and all that stuff. I mean why not be brave and try some new things? Afterall, you'd get pretty fed up eating the same food all the time. Besides, consumers today are showing increasing fascination with this kind of experimentation with single malts.
Another of our special whiskies I've been working on is an attempt to go back in time, trying to recreate Bruichladdich whisky the way it was in 1881 when it was peated. Back in 1881, Bruichladdich was made from peated barley, as most pot still whiskies were at the time. But few alive today have ever tasted it, since most of the stock was used for blending and rarely produced as a separate single malt bottling. Now, we've produced a whisky that recaptures essences of this historic taste in a new release we're calling Bruichladdich's 3D (The Peat Proposal). We produced it, using those maturing stocks acquired with the distillery purchase that date back to 1964. We selected three separate ages of whiskies, each selected from a different degree of peated barley. The first was five parts per million, the second 25 parts per million, and the third component is actually a new, young fiesty and fiery whiskey I produced in 2OO1 that contains 4O parts per million. Each comes from a different era of ownership, while matured in 3 very different warehouses, in three contrasting types of oak casks, and in 3 separate locations on the Rhinns of Islay. But all the whisky was distilled by the same men using the same old Victorian machinery, including the exceptionally tall and narrow stills that provide the hallmark elegant and floral Bruichladdich style.
So, this final blending has
pleasing notes of apple fruit and a smoky peat bouquet, but
without the stronger medicinal qualities of some of the
heavier Islay styles. Our objective has been to create a
genuinely new Islay whisky experience from an old
traditional Bruichladdich taste. The result is you can now
have a peated Bruichladdich, whereas some folks used to say
that Bruichladdich wasn't peated enough to be a true Islay
whisky. Believe me, you won't say that about this one. What
I particularly love about it is the way the young
heavy-peated component comes at you like a calf that's been
locked up in a barn all winter and comes flying right out
there in the spring. But, just behind, come these older
vintages that slow the whole thing down. It's just a
wonderful sipping experience.
RB In general, how would you summarize your objectives for the immediate future?
JM I will continue to bring out new and exciting variations of Bruichladdich styles, as well as continuing my search for other rare whiskies around Scotland. Whatever I do will always be small batch. I shall be making three styles of whiskies at the Bruichladdich distllery, the first being the lightly-peated Bruichladdich lineup. I'm also making a heavily-peated 4O parts per million whisky style called Port Charlotte that will be ready in five or six years time. And a third style I'm doing is called Actomore, which, at 8O parts per million, is going to be a true peaty giant. All to say, that with these three different Islay styles, the future at Bruichladdich looks very bright. We'll also be expanding our Academy curriculum and our educational website initiatives on the internet. Today, our Bruichladdich website has become the largest and most comprehensive of all scotch producers. We have even included detailed on-line scotch tastings. And our next immediate project is getting our own malt barns up and running. Come to think of it, there's so much exciting stuff going on right now I just wish I was 3O years younger.
RB Any final thoughts?
JM One of the greatest mentors and inspirations in my early years at Bowmore was the great veteran cooper, Davey Bell, who finally died recently at the ripe old age of 93. For many years, I was a cooper's apprentice under Davey, and we would have these long meaningful conversations during tea-breaks. More than anything, Old Davey turned out to be a pure philosopher. And his main message was about purposes in life. He was always asking about for what purpose were we here in this world, because there was a purpose for each and every one of us. But, he always added, very few of us ever realize what that purpose is. Ideally, we should all leave a footprint in the snow, he said. That way someone else can make a jump on it. I can only hope that what I'm doing with Bruichladdich, today, is my footprint in the snow. I just hope and pray it is.