Dram Initiative #012 – Bowmore with Iain MacCallum

Dram Initiative #012 – Bowmore with Iain MacCallum

June 6th, 2014


I have no plans to ever run with the Bulls in Pamploma.  Or to swim the choppy South African waters near Dyer Island without a shark cage.  Or to voluntarily check myself in for a vasectomy.  Or even to try driving the manic and frightening lanes of ancient Roman streets.  But arguably even further down the list of ‘things to not do in this lifetime’ is to engage in a drinking contest with Iain MacCallum.  If stories hold true (and we heard more than a couple on this unforgettable eve), the man’s liver is a shoe-in for the Scotch Whisky Hall Of Fame. 

While this may not bode well for longevity (hmmm…Shane MacGowan and Keith Richards may have contrary opinions to that line of thinking), it certainly leads to several lifetimes worth of truly hilarious anecdotes packed into one tall and lanky Scottish frame.  And in turn…to a bloody brilliant night of laughter and spirited conversation. 


For those of you who may not be ‘in-the know’, Iain is the Brand Ambassador (aka Master of Malts), and former blender for Suntory’s Bowmore.  He now makes his mark on the whisky world by traveling the map, engaging with, and educating, the masses and spreading a brilliant concoction of science and fun.  It’s this rather deadly combination that makes an evening with the man such a memorable one.  At once highly educational and infinitely entertaining, Iain is the quintessential spokesman for not only Bowmore, but whisky in general.

Our evening with Iain came about through the efforts of Kathy Johnson, of  Lifford Wine & Spirits here in Calgary.  I’d spoken with Kathy on a couple occasions at various festivals and events  regarding the idea of holding a Bowmore night for the whisky club.  We made tentative plans to pull something together at some point in the none-too-distant future and left it at that.  Fast forward a couple months and sure enough an email arrived in my inbox from Kathy, offering up Iain’s time for a night with the club.

We immediately set to pulling together a line-up of malts for a top notch event.

077 (2)

Bowmore is a distillery that is easy to get passionate about.  It is old and iconic and absolutely personifies the classic Scottish malt.  It’s name is one instantly recognized by connoisseurs and laymen all ’round the world.  It’s reputuation has been built drop by drop and to this day the distillery stands in high stead in literally all circles.

One of my favorite whisky quotes of all time is one lifted directly from the wall in the visitor’s lounge at the distillery itself: ‘If you can’t find a Bowmore to fall in love with, you may have to consider very seriously the possibility that you’re wasting your money drinking whisky at all.”  I hate it when people presume to tell others what they should, or will, like, but in this case the sentiment is fairly astute.  The distillery boasts such a chameleonic profile that there is bound to be an expression that fits your tastes.

This evening’s tasting flight was specifically tailored to reach a broad spectrum of flavours and nuances.  Iain took this idea a step further even and maximized every opportunity to teach little techniques for coaxing flavours from the glass and understanding the way the senses work.  It was sort of like being made hypersensitive to the nose and palate for the course of a couple hours.  There were more than a few wide eyes and ‘lightbulb’ moments in the crowd.  Goes to show you never stop learning with this stuff.

065 (2)

And as for the Dram Initiative itself…

Well…the club has grown to a point where single bottle events are more the exception than the rule.  We are often now sourcing two bottles of each expression in order to accommodate the ever-growing attendance.  How we handle this going forward is still being negotiated.  The level of interest is simply beyond where we thought we’d be after only a dozen or so gatherings.  We have a core of faithful members who come out rain or shine and a seemingly endless line of curious folks who want to sit in on events.

Evenings like this particular one with Iain have led to substantial word of mouth circulating about the DI.  And like a proud papa, I can happily say I don’t recall anyone who hasn’t been blown away by the calibre of events we’ve been fortunate enough to pull together.  Our members…our speakers…our partners…all absolute class acts.  Makes for one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve been on in quite some time.


The Bowmore event line-up, for those that are curious, ran the standard range up the 25 year mark, with a few extras thrown in.  There are, of course, other Bowmore expressions out there, but I’m pretty certain this was a big enough tasting as it was.

The malts we tried:

  • Bowmore Legend
  • Bowmore Small Batch
  • Bowmore 12 y.o.
  • Bowmore 10 y.o. Tempest (Batch 3)
  • Bowmore 15 y.o. Darkest
  • Bowmore 15 y.o. Laimrig (Batch 3)
  • Bowmore 1992 16 y.o. Wine Cask Matured (Limousin Bordeaux)
  • Bowmore 18 y.o.
  • Bowmore 25 y.o. Small Batch Release
  • A.D. Rattray Bowmore 15 y.o. Cask #2057


All in all…another knock-out tasting. 

Sincere thanks to Kathy and Michael at Lifford for all of their help and support for this one.  It was great to have you out. 

And to Iain, for a night that has been repeatedly hailed as a members’ favorite.  We appreciate your coming out on an evening when I know you were feeling far less than tiptop (a tooth issue, not a hangover, you cynics!).  Your knowledge, humour and sordid tales of mayhem and debauchery are a standard we all aspire to.  Errr…sort of. 

Cheers to all!


– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

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