Flipping Hell!

It’s not nice to sit under the Sword of Damocles.

We come to Friday once more, and I am looking for a thought to provide you all with this week. It has been quite a week for me with a lot of stress. A couple of weeks ago, my car was involved in a minor collision and this was the week it was going in for repair. I’m lucky enough to have an insurance company that are quite generous when it comes to providing a hire car when mine is off the road, so I was lucky enough to be given a Toyota Aygo.

Lucky? No. These small cars are really only good for the city. I have driven an Aygo over one hundred miles from Aberdeen to home over twisty country roads and let me tell you that it wasn’t fun. Given we have had really bad weather and have a good blanket of snow, I opted to pay a little bit extra and get something bigger. I was given a Vauxhall Insignia which was a lovely car to drive but a bit longer than I realised. When backing the car in front of my garage, the sensors must have been covered in dirt from the slush on the roads, and the net result was that I backed the car into the garage door. Conclusions – car not a mark; the garage door seemingly a write off.


The car before a trip down the A9. Nice and clean only for another 30 mins.

Of course, the weather was bad with snow and heavy winds, and the garage roller door was out of the guides on one side so I got plenty of fun with some hammers, spanners and pry-bars to get the door back into the guides. I didn’t care at that point if the door would ever open again, as long as I could get it wind and watertight once more. But I knew eventually that I had to make a hard decision – do I leave the door as is, for I don’t use it that often, or do I pay for a replacement? After paying a 4 figure sum just before Christmas for a new oil tank, I wasn’t really wanting to take the hit of a new electric door. I knew that the choice of doing nothing could become very inconvenient. Sadly, it was realistic to say that a new door was the only option and I had a £1500 bill staring me in the face. It was unexpected that when my local friendly garage door supplier turned up a couple of days later that he didn’t give me a quote. Thankfully he was able to repair the door in such a way it will survive another couple of years given the amount of use it gets. All ends well. I still haven’t had the dram to celebrate the avoidance of financial disaster!

So what has this got to do with whisky? Well, last Friday my package from Macallan turned up, the recently balloted Folio 5 which is part of the Archival Series. Costing £260 including postage, I entered the ballot without knowing too much about the whisky I was hoping to win. However, this is not that uncommon with Macallan releases nowadays. But, given the fact that previous Folio releases have been about 2000 units and usually keep at a price well above the purchase, then I thought it would be a safe bet.


Macallan Archival Series Folio 5

Well, after the ballot was concluded, with my whisky contacts and on various forums, I noticed that quite a lot of people had actually won a bottle in the ballot. Far too many for my liking. Research suggested that Macallan had done the dirty and possibly released 20,000 units. This is a bit of a kick in the teeth, as it would mean 18,000 people will never be able to collect the full collection, and the value of the other four editions is now going to smash through the roof as those who do wish to collect the full series will be forced to pay for a much rarer whisky. This can only get worse as future editions are released (there are still 19 releases to go).

Of course, caveat emptor should be the phrase first and foremost in mind, but I feel in whisky terms I have metaphorically smashed the car into the garage door and have a tough decision to make in terms of what to do with this whisky. It may serve me well to give you another metaphor that would sum up my feelings adequately, I felt like the pigeon who didn’t notice there was glass in the french windows, and is now lying stunned on the patio waiting for the neighbours cat to get me.

To be honest, I bought it with the intention of not collecting the full set, but keeping it back to sell at a later date when the price settled. I had no intention of flipping it, as you should know by now my views on flipping. In the back of my mind, my thoughts were that if there was only 2000 made, I might be able to swap it for a Folio 4, which has the music of James Scott Skinner on it (I used to play the fiddle, so it was relevant). But now I am stuck with a bottle that I feel doesn’t fit my collection policies, won’t necessarily increase in value and I’ve no interest in drinking. And £260 isn’t a small amount of cash to splurge for no return.


Book with marketing blurb

And now I have to face the difficult decision – do I flip it, do I keep it and hope for the best, do I sell it to somebody that didn’t get one at a price that covers my costs, or do I drink it? I’ve opened more expensive bottles but I’m just not interested in Macallan. I’ve drunk too many insipid drams in recent times to be opening an NAS that cost so much. It should be nice to be in the position that I am to own such an item, but the responsibility of what to do with it hangs like the Sword of Damocles above my head, pretty much like it did with the garage door.

I’ll be honest with you, I am really tempted to flip it. I feel really let down by Macallan’s marketing practices, and I have since removed myself from their marketing data base. This has been the final straw that has broken this donkey’s back. I have had deep misgivings about the brand for some time, and this is one of the articles I have been trying to write for some time, but haven’t managed to articulate my thoughts in such a way that is readable. It seems I am not the only one, and have seen quite a few articles saying similar things. I also have written a diatribe against flippers, but again, the article is just too rough to be released without offending people. The possibility of being a hypocrite also fills me with dread.

So what’s it to be? To flip or not to flip. #sipdontflip – as in last week’s review? Or sit tight and take the loss in the meantime and hope it gets better? Let me know your opinions, either by commenting on Facebook, or below this article.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

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Good Crieff!

Taste Review #46 – Glenturret 12 (1980’s)

Welcome to the latest whisky review, and this one comes from a distillery that I have actually visited, probably around the same time as the dram I’m away to try was bottled. This dram comes from the Perthshire town of Crieff, namely the Glenturret Distillery.

The Glenturret distillery is said to be one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, with claims to 1775 but this is just due to the fact there was an illicit still on the site, although legal distillation started in 1818. Regardless it is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries, and only produces around 340,000 litres a year. It is also one of the few distilleries that still use a malting floor, and it was famous at one time for having the oldest working cat and most successful mouser. Of course, having large amounts of grain lying on the floor would attract vermin, and distilleries often had cats. However they never had a cat like Glenturret distillery – Towser the Mouser lived from 1963 – 1987, and was present when I visited the distillery. Her estimated kill tally was some 29,000 mice, based on observation by the Guiness Book of Records over several days.

I made an alternative observation about the distillery cat. Being of a younger, non-drinking age when I visited the distillery, I wondered what would happen if the malt men saw cat foot prints across the malt floor. Would they wonder if the cat had mistaken it for kitty litter? Such are the thoughts of a 12 year old…… I do remember that because I couldn’t get the free sample at the end, I was given a sugar mouse instead. Nice touch.

The Glenturret distillery until recently was owned by the Edrington Group, owners of Highland Park, Glenrothes and Macallan Distillery. The distillery was also home to the Famous Grouse experience, which a brand also owned by Edrington. But by 2018, Edrington announced that it was to sell the Glenturret distillery and the Famous Grouse Experience in its current form was to close. The distillery was bought by Art and Terroir, a company owned by Lalique. The less said about terroir the better, but that will come up in a future article.

We have to come to the point that we are discussing why I am tasting a dram from Glenturret. Well, I am sure you can remember my recent articles on cask purchases. In both these articles, I was assisted by Mark Littler, a whisky broker who made sure that I got my facts right. Well, it turns out that Mark has plenty of other strings on his bow and also runs a company called ‘Cheaper By The Dram’. This is some thing that may be of interest to those of us who cannot afford the expensive bottles at auction, due to flippers or their rarity. Mark was kind enough to offer me a sample to thank me for the mentions and links, and it is with this sample I am going to give more gratuitous links and promotion, as I feel that the concept behind his company is actually a sound one.


The package

Essentially, what Cheaper By The Dram (CBTD to save my typing!) aim to do is bring the normally rare and unobtainable whisky into the reach of the average drinker. Quite often there are rarer or limited whiskies released that are instantly snapped up, often by flippers who are just out to make a profit. However this can seriously distort the secondary market, and often leave a bottle of whisky sitting outside the reach of the person who wants to do what whisky is designed for – drinking!


Bottle and Card

CBTD works by taking a bottle of whisky and dividing it up in to 30ml portions. This makes a sample more affordable for those of us who can’t afford a full size bottles, or even for people like myself who can’t afford to open some of his collectables! While some of the samples may seem quite expensive for what they are, I can say that they do represent good value – for instance a 23 year old Macallan from 1971 3CL sample was only £25. Just looking at a whisky bar price list now reveals a Macallan 1988 / 28 year old 35ml sample at £35.


Minimum info on the bottle

The presentation of the dram is also pretty good as well. These come in a stout bespoke cardboard box, which includes a card with the bottle details. The bottle itself has the minimal information required by law, and NOT FOR RESALE clearly marked on it. Indeed, the details I received with the bottle states that should CBTD see one of their bottles for sale, it will do all it can to stop the person it was sold to buying anything again from their site.


The original bottle

This is summed up best in their hashtag #sipdontflip that they are using as part of a campaign to encourage people to enjoy whisky as it was meant to be, rather than flipping it which in turn puts it out of the reach of the average drinker and even some collectors.

So, with all this information in hand – lets move onto the whisky.


The Sample

Distillery

Glenturret

Region

Highlands

Age

12 Years Old

Strength

40% ABV

Colour

Mid Honey

Nose

Sweet, Floral, Pear, Green Apple. Slight musky smell that reminded me of carpet and Parade Gloss shoe polish.

Palate

Suprisingly in spite of the nose, this one was a short burst of sweetness, followed by sour. However in the background there is a good honey note. It has a strangely mouldy note, but not unpleasant. The sweet, floral note almost reminded me of another 1980’s throwback, Parma Violets.

Finish

Mid length. There is a bitterness that is stronger than the sweetness, but the Parma Violet note is still there with a hint of liquorice.


The Dram

Conclusions

I have to be honest in my assessment here – this is a dram that I thought on initial taste that I was not going to enjoy. The sour note didn’t do it for me. It made me worry about what I was going to write, as it isn’t nice to be supplied with a generous gift, only to be ungrateful about it. But the group of travellers that we are on the whisky road should know that sometimes whisky does behave like wine, and it just needs a little bit of time. Within a couple of sips I had a Parma Violet note, although not as sweet. The sour note then revealed the honey behind it, and once I started picking out flavours, this became a very pleasant dram.

Yes, it wasn’t to my normal taste, but that is what whisky is about. Sometimes we need to take ourselves out of our comfort zone and while this whisky did for me, it put me back into a familiar comfort zone. In this article I have referenced my visit to the distillery – I can now recall that sugar mouse. It made me remember Parma Violets – straight back to the 10p confectionary mix bags we got as kids. And finally, the recognition of Parade Gloss – brought back from when I started attending the Air Cadets in the mid 80’s and when spit and polish wasn’t just a cliche; it was a weekly reality on my boots and parade shoes!


Dead Bottle

Would I recommend this dram? Yes, I think I would, and not just because of its source. We get our taste notes based on memories of what has gone before, and this is what this dram did for me. And this is the beauty of CBTD. It is one of the drams I wouldn’t necessarily buy at auction to try, but being able to try an older whisky without the commitment to a full bottle is a definite plus, especially amongst the older and more popular drams.

And anything that sticks one in the eyes of flippers gets my vote. #sipdontflip

Slainte Mhath

Scotty

Many thanks to Mark Littler / Cheaper By The Dram for this very intriguing sample. I am sure to become one of your customers in the near future.

You can reach the CBTD site by clicking here. And don’t worry. Even though this review was endorsing a product I didn’t pay for, if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t be afraid to say so. The review is a genuine reflection of what I thought of the whisky.

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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own