Whiskey: Dramfool’s Jim McEwan Signature Collection - 3.1 Bruichladdich 2010 Islay Barley
For those of you who have not heard of Dramfool, the company is an independent bottler, located in Linlithgow, and founded in 2015 by Bruce Farquhar. What makes this bottler so appealing is the fact they bottle scotch from all over Scotland, but frequently their most interesting releases hail from the beautiful Hebridean island of Islay. Recent gems include a 14 year old full maturation Chateau d'Yquem cask Laddie. Dramfool is without a doubt on our list of independent bottlers which we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. The quality and uniqueness of their bottlings is evident and in itself a reason to check Dramfool out, to find out more hop over to the website:
Important to note that if you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Jim McEwan. A man not in need of an introduction, Jim is a legend and has worked in the whisky industry for almost six decades. Jim started his working life at age 15, as a copper at Bowmore distillery. In total he spent thirty eight years working in various roles at Bowmore, until 2000 where he took up arguably his most famous position, as master distiller of Bruichladdich. He’s retired now (again) after coming out of retirement to take up the position of production director at Hunter Laing & Co’s Ardnahoe Distillery on Islay.
The signature collection are the final casks from Jim’s personal cask reserves. These are being released in partnership between Jim and Bruce. There are twenty seven bottles in the series with three of them being released roughly every three months. These casks are being billed as “not just the finest cut of spirit produced but the finest examples of the typical (and not so typical) casks that were a cornerstone of his tenure. Each cask is unique, each one chosen for representing the best of what he intended. This must be considered the peak of the production Jim was famous for creating.”
Big words… The question of course is do they live up to the hype? We decided to put this to the test.
We started with release 3.1. This is a ten year old Laddie that was released as part of the third trio of bottles in the collection. this was distilled from Islay barley, and has been matured in 1st fill bourbon barrel #2204. This particular barrel came from the first registered distillery in the USA. This distillery has been producing whiskey since 1886, survived prohibition and was the favoured drink of Frank Sinatra. Yep, you guessed it, it’s Jack Daniels. Fun facts about Mr Daniels…his real name was Jasper but he went by the name of Jack. It’s also documented that he died from sepsis after kicking his safe in sheer frustration at trying to open it, like many of us facing a similar problem in the 21st century, he clearly forgot his PIN number.
But enough about Jack for the moment, what immediately struck us was the amount of detail provided by Dramfool on these releases, something we believe other bottlers should be encouraged to provide. Details including where the cask was sourced would be interesting to say the least and useful information to know. This release was bottled in June 2021, like all bottlings within the collection, it was bottled un-chill filtered, with no added colour, and at natural cask strength of 61.7%, with an outturn of 221 bottles.
So to the all important review….
When you first nose this you get an oak sweetness and spice that reminds us of the Single barrel edition of Jack Daniels. Stick with it and close your eyes and you’ll find yourself standing on Islay on a windy day, with fresh air and coastal notes coming through. Persistence rewards you with some fruity notes that we would usually associate with traditional Laddie releases, such as dried apricots, banana and apple. There is an undeniable hint of wood on the nose which Jack Daniels aficionados will immediate resonate with.
Colour on this is reminiscent of Napolina olive oil, and as such we were expecting this to be very spirit forward, but the wood and spirit are well integrated. There’s ice cream, brown sugar and a warming spice on the palate. There’s something here that’s very reminiscent of JD. Mouthfeel is viscous and finish is long and warming, something we could imagine enjoying on a winters day in front of an open fire.
Nose (with water)
We’re getting toffee crisp, and caramelised sugar. With the fruitier notes receding into the background.
Palate (with water)
Brown sugar, tobacco, honey, macadamia and pistachio nuts. Finish is a touch shorter, but no less pleasant. We note that the warming spice experienced without water also recedes when water is added, making way for more sweet and savoury characteristics.
The hype around these releases is huge, and justifiably given Jim’s pedigree and reputation within the whisky industry. Unfortunately for the average whisky fan they have a price tag to match. This is a delicious example of a ten year old 1st fill bourbon Laddie, but having said that it’s important to note that it’s a ten year old whisky that costs £195. Considering this we found it very hard to rate this dram using our scale. So instead of giving it a score as we’d normally do, we’ll give it a technical score of 9.5, and say that if you can afford to buy this bottle then you need to go for it as you won’t be disappointed, but if the price tag is outside your budget then fear not as there’s still plenty of great whisky out there.
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
Interested in trying drams like these? We've created the Two Whisky Bros Dram Club to help you get access to high quality, rare whisky by the dram.