Let the Magic Happen

Time to believe in Unicorns.

No. No. No. And no again.

I have not lost my mind, and I haven’t had a dram too many. But it is time to start believing in unicorns.

I am writing this article as I am preparing to review in the next six months whiskies which may be no longer produced, either from being discontinued or the distillery falling silent. I’m also going to be trying whiskies that are perhaps a wee bit out of the price bracket of some of us. This is the making of a unicorn.

A Unicorn in a field just outside Kingussie

The Unicorn is a mythical creature*, and is the national animal of Scotland. You can see it on royal crests, standing proud opposite the lion, only the Unicorn is chained. Before I digress into a political statement I will move on to the fact that the only other awesome mythical national animal in the UK is the Welsh Dragon. While it might be awesome to have a flying, fire-breathing lizard representing you, who needs that when you can have a horned horse that does magic and tons of drunken men to lay waste to your enemies? Plus, we still have the better whisky.

I apologise to those who thought the national animal of Scotland was the Haggis, but it’s hard to have a national animal which you then eat.

To get ourselves back on track, we have to ask ourselves “What is a Unicorn Whisky”? I guess there are many definitions, but I have my own one. To me, it’s a whisky that is hard to get, or unaffordable for the vast majority. Note, I didn’t say rare…. Rare is a term used a lot in whisky, and seldom is it used accurately. Rare cannot be applied to a whisky produced in its thousands unless the supply of it has dried up.

I have already reviewed a unicorn whisky, the Flora and Fauna Rosebank 12. This isn’t especially rare, however it is now auctioning at £300+ a bottle. How many of my readers will buy that for drinking?

I’m looking to review more of the less common whiskies, such as Clynelish Flora and Fauna, Bruichladdich Yellow Submarine, Daftmill 2006 Winter Ed, a 26 y.o Caperdonich, and various others as I come across them. So why review something that is not easily purchased by those you are writing for?

One unicorn up for review soon.

Well, it starts with the fact that whisky is meant to be enjoyed. To enjoy it, I believe you have to drink it. As much as I love to collect, it is nice to occasionally sample the fruits of your labour. And by trying the odd unicorn, I hope I can inspire you to have adventures of your own by trying harder to get whiskies, even if it is just a one-off nip in a whisky bar.

Let me tell you a story……

I’m sure a few of you will have seen at one point I have posted a picture of a receipt for £470.00 in return for 2 nips of whisky. I’ll post it again.

Not a cheap night out…..

The background to the story is that in that year I was 40. I don’t like a lot of fuss around me, despite how gregarious I can seem, I generally don’t want to be the centre of attention. So for my 40th birthday, I went and hid in the West Highlands of Scotland by myself. My cousin, who I normally drink with in Aberdeen, had his 40th birthday within a few weeks of mine, and the first weekend after my birthday, I decided I’d splash out and treat us to a special whisky. A 60 year old Macallan.

For a couple of years, we’d be going to the Grill Bar for nips and pints, and regularly perused the whisky menu. The 1938 Speymalt Macallan 60 was the most expensive whisky there at £200 for a 25ml measure. We could never normally justify spending that money on a dram, but once asked the barman what made a dram worth that much. He took the bottle down off the shelf, and let us sniff it. The smell was so so so smooth, sweet and malty, a hint of cream. Being a good Aberdonian I managed to get a £5 worth of fumes for free! Both of us put that whisky on our bucket list.

To shorten the story, come my 40th birthday, I decided now was the time to try that whisky, only the price had risen as the bottle went down. As it was poured, the barman was laughing at us, saying we were wasting our money as he recommended the Black Bowmore at only £160 a nip! Knocking back that whisky for my first sip, it felt and tasted like most other Macallan I had ever tasted, until I swallowed and got a fantastic finish; no burn, but creamy smoothness. Soon, the glasses were empty and it was time to move on.

That bottle is now empty.


Whisky history.

But the important thing to me is that I have tasted it. I can still vividly remember the tastes, over six years on, and I can only wish I could have it again. I’m not a Macallan fan, but I searched for this one, and since have only seen that bottle for sale at auction for over £10k on one occasion. Too much even for me.

Rosebank 12. A more affordable unicorn in the Grill

While I do not recommend you sell your possessions and put your family into slavery in order to buy ‘Unicorn Whiskies’, do make an effort to try one, in a whisky bar if nothing else. Do your research to know what it will cost you, and know how uncommon it may be for that little bit extra self satisfaction of knowing you are trying something special.

I own a few bottles of unicorn whisky, the most notable being the Speyburn Flora and Fauna, but that’s only because of its rarity and collectability. The whisky in the bottle is a £45 value whisky made nearly 30 years ago. It won’t be a special taste, but rare to drink. If you can’t afford to drink something like that, try an up to date equivalent, such as a Speyburn 10, which will have similar characteristics. I’ll be reviewing one in the coming months.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your local specialist whisky retailer, and what stock they have. They will know if something is unusual and coming to market. Or if things are being discontinued. They may even have special offers that bring a unicorn bottle within reach.

Remember, memories and experiences make a life, not regrets. Try and find your unicorn today!

*The myth is rumour. I still believe in magic.

You miss out if you don’t believe

Slainte Mhath!

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6 thoughts on “Let the Magic Happen

  1. Cheers for the good read! I’m looking forward to read your unicorn reviews! I was lucky to encounter quite a few of ’em myself this year. They weren’t as unbelievable as that ooold Mac of yours, but thankfully they were also a bit more affordable. A few months back, I had a Glen Mhor 42yo Vintage 1965 in a bar in Amsterdam, for example. And just last week, I stumbled upon a Brora 23yo from Duncan Taylor in a local Irish pub. The latter was only 20 Euro per 4cl. I ordered one dram that evening and the next day I came back to buy the remaining 7cl in the bottle. 😉


  2. That’s magic. Most of my unicorns are discontinued and not necessarily expensive, but I have to find a way of explaining why I’ll review whisky that is hard to get, and might just justify the higher price tag.

    I live just to the south of Inverness and know where the Glen Mhor and it’s sister distillery Glen Albyn was. There is nothing left to tell you a distillery was once there. The last Inverness Distillery (Millburn) is still there but is now a hotel. I’ve the Rare Malt bottlings of all three in my collection, but still look out for a more affordable one to drink.

    That’s the beauty of a whisky bar! I must say I was a bit jealous of you trying the Glen Mhor! It is encouraging me to go for it too.

    All the best

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, no need to justify this at all. I always enjoy reading about hard-to-find whisky. On the one hand, I’m happy for the fellow drammers that got to taste ’em. And on the other hand, I find this to be a good way to learn about special drams – if I can’t sip ’em myself, reading about ’em is the second best thing. 🙂

    Also, cheers for the quick history of Inverness’ whisky past. So far, I only spent a few minutes in the city. Arrived there by train from Edinburgh and took the bus to Elgin then. I hope I can explore that area a bit more in the future. There’s still a lot of Scotland I haven’t really seen.

    The Glen Mhor was amazing, by the way. I liked it so much that I typed tastimg notes into my phone while sipping it at the counter. They’re up on my blog if you’re curious about ’em. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, I’ve read your write up about the Glen Mhor just after it was published. 👍🏻

    I’m currently tasting an Old Pulteney 12. Surprisingly salty in the aftertaste.

    Cheers for now,

    Liked by 1 person

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