When it rains, sometimes it pours

not all water is good for your whisky……

It’s not often that I write an emotional piece when I think about my whisky journey, but if there ever was a time, this is probably the best time now that I’ve suffered a small whisky disaster. I more often think about this journey in where it has taken me, where it is yet to go and how long it may take. I guess that I never planned it and it will be hard to put an end to it, so really all that can be done is look to where you’ve been. The blog was a way of me moving away from the negativity surrounding the politics of the UK that had been dominating social media, a tidal wave that I had been getting caught up in and it was time to change direction. I’d been collecting whisky on an incremental basis since 2006, and it was time to make bigger inroads to the journey.

Writing the blog hasn’t always been easy. I work away from home for long periods of time and believe it or not the last thing on my mind when I get back is devouring large amounts of alcohol. I have a pre-school daughter which takes up a lot of my time. That’s why I may not be as up to date about whisky happenings, but I never intended to be. I’m just sharing my journey and knowledge, hoping that others can relate. And if this is a journey, then up until last week, the ride was smooth and getting smoother. The metaphorical road was a perfect piece of tarmacadam ridden over by a Rolls Royce with suspension so fine nothing was going to interrupt the partaking of a sneaky dram in the back seat while your chauffeur takes care of the driving. Then the journey changes, I run out of reviews, my storage locker gets flooded and before you know it, that smooth ride hides the fact that you are aquaplaning sideways across the carriageway to smash into a tree and erupt into a ball of flames.

Thats what my journey has felt like this past fortnight.


There may be trouble ahead

Aquaplaning is actually an effective metaphor, as mid August saw me return from a 16 week trip offshore to find Scotland being hit by extreme weather. I was parked up in Aberlour having a sandwich when I thought I saw the first bolt of lightning, only to be subjected to a deluge and lots of surface water on the roads. Can’t beat that experience when you haven’t driven in so long, in a strange car and the windscreen wipers are just smearing the remains of flies across the windscreen rather than moving any water. Little did I know that some parts of Scotland were going to be hit a lot worse and that included my storage unit in Perthshire.

It was a completely different climate the next day – a sunny day in upper Speyside with little memory of the thunder the day before. I was spending the afternoon constructing the behemoth of a trampoline my wife had bought for our daughter when I received a call on my phone informing me that my locker had been flooded. While the skies remained blue, there was dark clouds on my horizon.


As I remembered it and hoped it would still be. Fat chance.

I don’t know if you have ever suffered the loss of a treasured possession, but I had literally felt as though I’d been punched hard in the stomach. I knew that I had some of my bottles on shelving but the majority of the collection was in cardboard boxes sitting in pallets. I had no idea what to expect. My mind was racing through the list of bottles I may have lost and this is where the emotion kicks in. While I never intended drinking much of the bottles I had collected, I was running through bottles that I would hate to have lost, not just based on their value, but on their emotional value. Each bottle had a story. I remember the first bottles I bought that started my collection – 2 Glenmorangie Truffle Oak Reserve, purchased in 2006 during a visit to the distillery. I paid £150 each. They now auction about 3-4 times that value. Or even special bottles like my GlenDronach handfills – one of which was distilled on my 19th birthday and which I managed to handfill on my 46th birthday. My Flora and Fauna collections – even though not the greatest or the most expensive whisky, I’ve spent the time getting all the wooden boxes, nearly all the 1st editions (only 2 short now) and even have two Speyburn to complete the two sets. I’d have been horrified to lose these. As would my insurer I’d guess. Recent Flora and Fauna Speyburn auctions have seen a spike up to £2900 a bottle.

And this is the question it comes to; is whisky not just a commodity that requires monetary investment but also emotional investment? i think if you are solely buying it to drink, then perhaps not, but if you are collecting it for whatever reason then I suspect there has to be an emotional attachment. I knew this to be the case when I eventually was able to access the site to see for myself. The financial burden was covered, as I was insured, but how would the emotional burden be?


Wrecked Strathearn Inaugural Bottling. Irreplaceable.

I’ll cut to the chase – most of my treasured bottles were safe. Thankfully everything on a shelf was high enough, and those bottles on a pallet were mostly in AirSacs, which not only provided water resistance and saving most of my bottles, but also gave rigidity that prevented the boxes on the top layers hitting the water too as the cardboard box on the bottom disintegrated. Then the truth dawns – what about the bottles I kept in their cardboard cartons and not AirSacs? What if they were on the pallets? Sadly, because I well mark boxes with their contents, I realised I had some pretty expensive bottles or pretty irreplaceable bottles on the bottom layer.


this is why you insure your collection. Not an expensive bottle, but an example of water damage to a carton

It’s easy to get caught up in gloom. The best thing to do is celebrate what has survived. The aforementioned Glenmorangie and GlenDronach were safe. The rarest of my Diageo Rare Malts had also survived. But then I was seeing the Glen Albyn 1975, Brora 1982, Cardhu 1973 come out of boxes that had been devastated. My Strathearn bottles from the inaugural bottling of the first cask – both had their presentation box and certificate destroyed. My small Macallan collection took a big hit. My 80’s/90’s Macallan bottle, along with the 1824 series Amber, Gold, Sienna and Ruby – gone, although the 1824 series is largely still obtainable at reasonable prices. Glenmorangie Swamp Oak – gone. In fact, most stuff with a carton that was on the bottom layer of boxes on the pallet – gone.


The Glen Albyn 1975 26 year old was not so lucky with its carton.

It’s definitely an emotional time when you consider that most of the collectable value is gone. All the hard work gone. It’s not even as though you can claim on insurance for the hard work put in sourcing these bottles. That is when you may feel the most low. This is when we know what our connection with our drams is. Whilst mine started out being financial, as it is intended to pass this collection over to my daughter or use it to fund her place at university, I am now well aware it has gone beyond this. Perhaps you will feel the same if you have a decent collection, a sense of pride.

What I can’t lose sight of are two facts – I could have lost the whole lot, and others lost more treasured possessions than me. It all comes down with a bump when during the same bad weather people had homes, businesses and cars flooded. Other people in the storage units beside me lost personal possession such as furniture, photos, books, clothing. mementoes; it may seem like clutter to others, but they cared so much about it that they paid to have it stored. All very sad. And while my own tale is sad enough, at least it is easier for me to move on.


An example of label damage. Pity, prices are starting to rise for this one.

And I need to point out that my recent article on insurance was not only well timed, but has been reinforced by what I have witnessed over the past couple of days. People throwing out possessions, some of which looked antique had no insurance. I’ve been informed that out of 130 ground floor units, only 27 had any sort of insurance, and most of them was only the very basic £1000 offered by the storage facility. This reinforces the need to make sure you and your whisky collection are adequately covered. It’s bad enough losing memories, but don’t let yourself be out of pocket.

The bottom line is don’t think it won’t happen to you. I did but had insurance anyway. You have to remember that while whisky isn’t life or death, it’s more important than that.

I’ve an appointment with the loss adjuster next week. We’ll soon see what will be written off and what will be salvageable. Hopefully, fingers crossed that the soaked labels have dried out. I’ll keep you informed.

Yours in Spirits,

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

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

All content and photos are subject to copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

All things come to an end

A summary of a successful summer

It’s Wednesday and you may be wondering where this week’s whisky review has gone. Well, I’m amazed to tell you that I’ve run out of whisky to review. I’ve been at work since 24th April (that is not a typo!) and while I’d built a considerable backlog of whisky reviews, this has now run out. I guess I didn’t realise that I’d still be offshore in August. By time I got off this vessel, I’ve done 110 days away from home and 105 without touching dry land.


Over 100 days of nightshift saw some pretty decent sunrises

I think this gives me a good excuse for running out of reviews.

And now, I realise after such an abstinence that probably drinking one dram will leave me in a state that will leave me unable to write a review. So there may be a small hiatus before the reviews start again. Don’t worry, they will start again as soon as possible.

Just because I’ve been at sea doesn’t mean that I haven’t been able to advance my whisky journey. I’ve been keeping an eye on the whisky world and have thought through a couple of articles that should be of interest. I have also been continuing to gather more whisky for tasting and sharing, including my first Scotch Malt Whisky Society full size bottlings which were purchased at auction for reasonable money.


My distillery reserve collection has had a Glentauchers added to it for little cost

I’ve also bought a couple of historical drams from Cheaper By The Dram, which includes the first Highland Park edition that was released as a single malt and a dram from the long deceased Glenury Royal distillery. This has led me on to thinking about the theory of older whisky being superior than contemporary whiskies. This I think needs investigating and I may require some volunteers to either prove or disprove this concept.


Some more old whiskies to compare

As you may have seen on my Facebook page, Scotty’s drams has also been listed in whisky broker Mark Littler’s blog as one of the Whisky Blogs to keep track of, as well as my Instagram page. I’m grateful to Mark for his recognition, so I must be doing something right. You can see the entries by clicking on these links – Scotty’s Drams Instagram Page Review and Scotty’s Drams Page Review


Previous Cheaper By The Dram tastings this year have revealed interesting results

All in all, despite being a busy summer for me work wise, it still has been successful in several ways.

Lastly, I cannot end this article without hoping that all of you had a good summer under the current circumstances the global community finds itself. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused great disruption to life as we know it and I hope you have all kept safe. It was my intention to have a Scotty’s Drams meet up at the tail end of the year but I do not think that this will be possible but keep 3 days free for sometime in the next year.

****STOP PRESS****

As you may have seen on my other social media channels, the storage locker that I keep the majority of my collection in suffered flooding to knee level on 11/08/2020. Unfortunately the facility flood prevention barrier was overcome. I have not been able to get access to the site but needless to say it is not looking good for some of my rarer drams. While I did have shelving, some of my boxes were on pallets.

It may be some time before I am able to review again, but will try and keep things going on Scotty’s Drams.

As one door closes, another opens and this may give me the opportunity to start with a new focus.

Just remember – check you have insurance!!

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

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

All content and photos are subject to copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

Come On And Celebrate!

Whisky to mark an occasion

We all know that whisky is an excellent drink to use for a celebration and in Scotland it is very commonly used as such. Events such as the birth of a child have a social celebration known as a ‘Head Wetting’ which is where the birth is celebrated by the father going out with friends for a night out to commemorate the new born. I wonder how many heads are sore the next day when a crying baby may be the last thing that you’d appreciate with a hangover!

An alternative route to celebrate an occasion is to perhaps seek out a special whisky and open the bottle and have a more restrained night (in or out). This was the route I initially took when my daughter was born. 10 years prior I had paid a visit to Glenmorangie distillery and bought two of the Truffle Oak finishes for £150 each. The partner I had at the time and myself were considering the possibility of a child and I thought one of the bottles would be appropriate for a head wetting. However, it was not to be, and the bottles went into the back of my drinks cabinet waiting for that special occasion.

Fast forward 10 years, and my wife and I were blessed with a beautiful baby daughter and the subject of a head wetting came up. I thought about the Truffle Oak Glenmorangie bottles, and how I would love to try one. This was also about the time I had decided to start collecting bottles more seriously so I could perhaps have a little nest egg for the little one when she was older. A quick look on the internet for retail and auction prices for these bottles showed that I was not going to be opening the Glenmorangie, but instead picked a Bruichladdich Yellow Submarine instead. These were the days when you could pick up a retail one for under £200 and auction prices were even lower. It was my first time tasting this bottling, and I suppose the fact that I used it as my head wetting whisky makes it that little bit more special, and not just the fact that it has a tie in with my day job.

Now that we are thinking of picking a whisky to celebrate a pivotal moment in our lives such as a childbirth or a similar occasion, I have been looking for a decent bottle that marked my date or year of birth. I do have a couple from my year of birth, but the vintage bottlings for me just aren’t the same, so I am constantly on the look out for a whisky that was distilled or bottled on my actual day of birth, but this is like looking for a needle in a haystack. So, I have to make do with bottles that were either distilled or bottled on one of my birthdays, and I have been a little more successful in this endeavour.

It was a visit to the GlenDronach distillery in early summer last year that achieved my first bottle – I was driving and couldn’t drink, so had to sit out the end of the tour tasting, but the guide then pointed out that their hand filled bottle was distilled on what I quickly worked out to be my 19th Birthday. This 26 year old bottle was quickly snapped up and I even got a wee sample to try. Driving away from the distillery I had calculated that I had shot my bolt a bit early. My birthday was in 4 days time, the date the whisky turned 27 years old. I managed to sneak away to get another bottle which was bottled and distilled on my birthday. I would imagine there are very few bottles like that available and it joins the Glenmorangie Truffle Oaks in my remote storage where I can’t be tempted to open it.


Guess which one was bottled at 27 years old to the day? The same day that I turned 21 again too!

It was a Facebook messenger conversation a couple of months ago that made me think of this once more. One of my former work colleagues had asked me about the possibility of getting a bottle of whisky that had the date of his son’s birthday on it. Now, I made him aware that the chances of me being able to find one were as likely as trying to find a drop of wine in the North Sea (not quite what I said, but a lot more acceptable for public consumption!) but I’d have a go. An initial search on the internet was unsuccessful, but I told him to leave it with me and I’d have a go. Challenge accepted!

I’m now going to be writing this article so you can see what I tried and how I was eventually successful. Just to warn you, it took a month and while I did achieve my aim, it was not without it’s frustrations.

A simple Google search will just throw up too many random results. You will easily find the vintage year, and you might even be lucky enough to get the correct month, but if this is going to be a momento of a birth, it isn’t close enough. The vast majority of vintage whisky just has a year on it, so to achieve the correct date we will have to look at three main types of bottlings to secure a victory – Hand Fills, Single Casks and Special Editions. Because most bottles are filled with whisky that is the result of a marriage of casks, you will never be able to achieve a date of distillation. I think that this is important, as the date of the birth will coincide with the date of the whisky creation, which for me gives a more powerful symbolism to the bottle.

To find hand fill bottles with a specific date, the easiest way to achieve this if you ever want to have a bottle of whisky bottled on the date of your offspring’s birth is to get a friend to visit a distillery and purchase a handfilled bottle on the day that your child is born. I would suggest it may not be polite for you to do this when your significant other is going through labour and may create considerable friction in your relationship. There is no way that I would try that, although I was close enough to a distillery on the date of my daughter’s birth!

With hand filled bottles, I would suggest that there is a slight drawback to know that somebody else bottled it, so loses it’s personal touch to the special event that you are trying to commemorate, but that all depends on how special you want this to be. By far the easiest bottles to find are those from single casks, where it is easier to find a larger availability of dates, and certainly easier to search for.

If you think a single cask bottle would be appropriate, then you have to ask yourself will it be drunk? Of course, it depends on whether or not you are giving it to somebody or keeping it for yourself. But to help you search I found it is easier to look at distilleries that are consistently producing good single cask produce. What you may find that if you can get a date that is within a couple of days of your requirements, it is a case of being patient. Sometimes distilleries go through a run of bottling single casks. I found this to be true of GlenAllachie as one of my early targets to source a bottle for my colleague, but could only get within 2 or three days and not the actual date – close but no cigar.


Distillery releases at visitor centres are good bets as they often list both distilling dates and bottling dates. They also include distilleries long lost or without visitor facilities

Since these bottles were unlikely to be found at retail, I decided to hit the auctions. The simplest way to search was to look for a particular vintage year. If there was too many results, I found I got mixed returns by using different date formats in the search boxes of the auctioneers. You have to be persistent in trying everything. You also need to be smart about filtering your search results – being Aberdonian I always search for the low prices first as why would you want to pay more than you had to?

To cut a long story short, eventually I got a hit on a bottle from the Arran Distillery. This took me about 3 weeks searching every now and again when I had a spare moment. Initially I found a bottling from the day before the required date, but when I realised the date I needed was a Friday, then I found other bottles of the same whisky from the following week so then I was certain there would likely be similar bottling on the date required. Some further persistence paid off and within a couple of hours found the bottle I needed.

Let’s just say I hadn’t found THE bottle, but only had identified the edition I needed to find in the auctions or rare whisky shops. But if you have been paying attention to what I write, you will know that if something has been in an auction once, then it will turn up eventually in the future. You hope that it is not an in-demand bottle or that you don’t get somebody else bidding against you which will possibly force the price up. And it is here you have to make a difficult decision – how much do you pay for the bottle you are searching for? How important is the significance of the date?

Well, I took the common sense approach – I looked closely at the bottle – it had condition warnings about the state of the outer packaging, and what wasn’t noted was slight damage to the front label. The next thing you have to consider is how many of them were produced?.l Because this was a wine cask finish in a single cask, just over three hundred were available on the date I required. Researching the prices of other auctions revealed a hammer price between £85 and £150, but I didn’t do a thorough search, as it was only to give me an idea. Using my usual auction strategies, I obtained the bottle for a hammer price of £65 which adding the usual fees and P&P came to £85.


Captured prey – the Arran bottle acquired.

Whilst this is not a whisky that was distilled on the date required, given that this was over 14 years ago and the amount of releases since then, it was going to be like searching the world for a specific grain of sand. We can choose to look at it from the sense that the bottled product was created on the same day, and hopefully that has enough significance for the recipient whether it gets opened or kept in a cupboard for a wee while longer.

Of course, when thinking of celebrating significant birthdays, if you are close enough to a distillery that does hand fill, I would suggest taking a trip there with the intended recipient to commemorate not only the day, but a proper day out making memories. In the case of my colleague, this is what I suggested happens for his child’s 18th and 21st birthdays. Will these bottles be worth anything financially? Only if somebody else wants the same date, Indeed my GlenDronach handfill is making about £60-£70 more than I paid for it at auction, but then factor in the fees, then no, it’s not making a lot more, but time will tell. There will be a demand for vintage whisky in the future, but whether or not sherried whiskies are popular in the future remains to be seen. Vintage GlenDronach frequently does well at auction so not too worried.

I haven’t mentioned much about the third type of bottle – special editions. These will be rarer and therefore harder to find, especially for a specific date. And we know what this is likely to do for prices but regardless we have to know what the prices are so we aren’t overpaying.

Lastly, sometimes it is just down to luck. You just need to keep your eyes open when looking around distilleries, especially for single cask releases. Independent bottlers are also often good for detailing dates such as Signatory vintage. It is just a case of looking around.

Of course, you could always have a cask filled on that very date, but that’s an entirely different kettle of fish, and I’d advise you to look at my articles on cask purchase before proceeding down a very expensive route if you hope to taste it.

I hope this has given you a few pointers. Funnily enough as I was writing this article, somebody contacted me about this very issue, although they were looking for vintage Macallan. Talk about good timing! Cone time I will be looking for a vintage whisky for my daughters birth date, but as she’s not even four yet, there may be some time to go yet before anything is released.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

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

All content and photos are subject to copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

Technical Difficulties

Why normal service isn’t always possible.

In the United Kingdom, we are now into our third week of lockdown due to the Coronavirus. This has caused a mild difficulty for me writing Scotty’s Drams; some of it you may notice and some of it you may not. For those of you who follow my blog through WordPress and not the other social media channels I use will have noticed that sometimes I re-publish pages. There is a good reason for this – the majority of my blog has been written on my phone, but occasionally I choose to type it on a laptop. This is because I can publish an article a lot quicker. For some reason what was on my phone and on my laptop wasn’t matching up and was causing a bit of an issue. It has caused some of the previous blogs to disappear, and I’ve had to republish.

The other slight technical difficulty is trying to monitor the passage of time. Being on lockdown has very much been similar to working offshore where the only way you know the passage of time is either looking at the calendar or by the menu for the day. So this means I am writing my weekend article on a Friday again, as the week has blasted past without me realising I have to put some thoughts down.

Anyway, despite the boredom of lockdown, I have still found myself tied up with various things, and this has meant that I have not written a Saturday Article. I could, but I feel that this would be of lower than normal quality, which is a path that I do not want to go down. However, I have made my third video, which I will give a link below that teaches us how to drink whisky in a very rudimentary way, but covers all the basics – especially the last point! I will do a more serious video later. All I can say is that I am glad I was able to nail the video quickly, as it could have ended up a bit messy! For those on you who do not follow Scotty’s Drams on Facebook, the link to the video is here.

Moving away to something a bit more positive, I often quote from Winston Churchill. Of course, being Scottish I am not a big fan of Winston’s politics or his ideas of empire, but the man also knew how to speak with many famous quotes and orations. One of my favourites was the one he made about how a pessimist sees the difficulties in opportunities and how an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Using modern technology has been great to communicate our love of whisky along with being able to share it, with events on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Being a less than sociable person, I have shied away from these, as they are a bit too impersonal, and if I can’t meet or speak to people in person I’d often not bother joining in – I’d rather enjoy whisky in the immediate company of people. As is so many times the case in the whisky community it is each to their own preferences, and if you can get something out of this, I’d encourage you to take part.

Lastly, a couple of weeks ago I hinted that perhaps Scotty’s drams could have a gathering. Of course current events totally blow the chance of that happening right out of the water this year, but I am thinking of perhaps in early spring next year? Let me know your thoughts so I can get an idea of numbers and to what you’d find more beneficial – a city meet up for a night, or a couple of nights in Speyside region, perhaps taking in a distillery tour? Mull it over and let me know so I can formulate a loose plan,

Sorry for the low content of whisky thought this week, but next week will be better. Maybe.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

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

All content and photos are subject to copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

Got Nuthin’ But Time….

what to do when things are quiet

Unfortunately for some, life does tend to place obstacles in the way of being able to enjoy a good dram. For me, that major obstacle is my work. As I write this, I’m currently in Kristiansund, Norway getting ready for another phase of an offshore project. This has meant whisky activities have been somewhat curtailed.

That does not mean I have not been busy.

At the moment, there is a handful of online auctions occurring, and if you fancy a 26 year old GlenDronach with a signed box from the most powerful tangerine skinned golf course owner in the world (his day job is running the USA) then perhaps take a look at this page on whiskyauctioneer.com. This might help my reviews improve as I will be able to buy more whisky.

But other than shopping in the online bazaars, what can a whisky enthusiast do to while away those quiet hours with not much to do?

As we are slowly approaching the end of the year, you can maybe consider what whisky goals you have for the next 12 months. This is what I am doing. There is so much to experience in this whisky-world, and now I am coming close to achieving the completion of a major collecting policy, I want to consider more the drinking side of it. I may even consider membership of the SMWS.

In quiet times, there is the space to research about whiskies you want to try, for those of us with limited budgets or those who have more disposable income and want to push the boat out wisely.

I am also looking forward to trying new whiskies, some of which I have had for some time, and would like to share with some of you in some way.

Continuing on the looking forward theme, I’m looking into attending a whisky festival, probably Spirit of Speyside next year if work and family permit. Attending these events can also be tied into a family holiday if your spouse is sympathetic to your hobby. Speyside is a great place to vacation, as long as you can deal with inclement weather.

Of course, you could always recommend my blog and or Facebook page to your whisky drinking friends. Just saying….. 😉

For my last look forward, and plus a look back, I’m thinking of what I can do to move Scotty’s Drams forward a bit. I’m limited in the I.T technologies, and prefer to keep the blog fairly basic, as we then concentrate on the important stuff of whisky. And perhaps whiskey too in the future. There is no shame in my looking back, as I am looking back to all the amazing people and contacts I’ve made since starting my whisky journey, from people in the street, on the train, retailers, fellow bloggers (in particular I really like www.barleymania.com – cheers Tobi, I manage to not to copy but am inspired by your samples!) and also people at work. During this trip offshore, I’ve already spoken to more than one person who has an interest in whisky, and that my readers, is another contact way beyond work.

To paraphrase a couple of quotes and merge into one –

“There are no strangers in whisky. Just friends you haven’t met yet.”

Have you made any new whisky friends or contacts?

And there we will leave it for this week. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but the internet is spectacularly crap here and I thought I’d have a break.

Next week’s review is a double header; not just one whisky but two from the village of Dufftown. I’ll give kudos to those of you who guess which ones.

Slainte Mhath!

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.


photo credits

Nae photos this time 😉

A Beatle Free Submarine

The story of the other Yellow Submarine

This is a small story on why I have picked my current cover photo on my Scotty’s Drams Facebook page.

Yellow Submarine WMD II (whiskyauctioneer.com)

The series of whisky known as WMD that The Yellow Submarine is part of, started due to the USA spying on Bruichladdich distillery around the time of the Iraq War and the investigation into Weapons of Mass Destruction. This provoked a clever marketing strategy and a bottling of a 19 year old spirit, only this time WMD stood for Whisky of Mass Distinction.

WMD #1 Big Brother is watching

It is quite appropriate to use the WMD tag, as after a good session, I do feel as though my brain had been subjected to chemical warfare.

WMD II came about after another interesting story. It’s better to read it straight from the horses mouth.

Click here for the full story of the yellow submarine

These remotely controlled submersibles (ROV’s) were used by the Royal Navy to plant explosive charges beside mines as a way of neutralising them. One of my work colleagues worked on them in the Navy, and my day job is working on larger and more capable ROV variants in the Oil and Gas industry to build oilfields. Quite a few followers of my FB page are also in the same branch of the oil industry as me.

Why one different?

the devil is in the detail

If you look closely at the tins, you may notice only one has an official tin, the others have no yellow submarine on, and the edition label is from a hand held labeller. This is because they were from the first batch. I never noticed this when I bought them at auction, as they were bought as drinkers. It goes to show to pay attention as these would be the ones worth more in the future.

It is part of the legend that when the submarine was first found, the MD of Bruichladdich, Mark Reynier, took the opportunity to possibly name a future whisky as WMD II – the Yellow Submarine. He had some labels hastily designed and printed, then stored away. So hastily, that the word whisky is missing from the label, which is a legal requirement. Some months later, when the Royal Navy did turn up to collect their equipment, Mr Reynier is supposed to have grabbed a few bottles of an untitled spirit, slapped on the labels, and Dymo printed the tins, and took a load down to HMS Blyth when it called to Islay so it could collect the errant submarine.

It is hard to say how many 1st run were labelled this way. As far as I know there were three batches of 4000 bottles – in total 12000 WMD II were produced with much of the final run reported to going to the Submarine manufacturer. I’d imagine most have been drunk.

In 2018, there was a 25 year old release of the last barrels, which had lain to one side in the warehouses and forgotten about. Only 1991 bottles of this spirit were produced and titled WMD III – The Legend Resurfaces. In the current Bruichladdich style, they are opaque, but bright yellow.

Hangover ahoy! (remy-cointreau.com)

Current prices at auction (2019)

WMD I – 19 year old £400 – £700 (440 bottles)

WMD II – 14 year old £175- £400 (12000 bottles)

WMD III – 25 year old £330 – £600 (1991 bottles)

Submarine being sunk. Going down!

It is a special dram, and having only tried the WMD II, I can tell you that it’s a very smooth, unpeated Bruicladdich, worth every penny. I’ll do a taste review of this dram eventually, but thought for now followers of my FB page may be interested about the tale of the Yellow Submarine.

Unlike the Beatles, this is a whisky that is definitely not over rated.

Slainte Mhath!


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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

Credits given in photo title, others authors own

All photos used under fair use policy.

Excess All Areas….

When too much is not enough

Just a short article this week, and probably won’t be a very popular one amongst alcohol enthusiasts, but it is one that needs to be said. After all, a pendulum has to swing both ways.

It was after I had purchased the bottle of Haig Club in order to do the taste review of a single grain whisky (and a cheap one at that), I noticed the price in the supermarket was £22 for 1 litre but £25 for 70CL. This is a bargain, and shouldn’t be argued with, but as a personal licence holder, I know pricing like this is actually against the recommended guidelines in Scotland which are set down for ‘on sales’ in licenced premises. However it is allowed in off-licence sales as long as it is above the minimum price per unit. It is seem as bad craic in the regulatory world to actively encourage a person to drink or buy more than they normally would, and could fall in the bracket of irresponsible promotion.

George regretted his second Famous Grouse

It got me thinking about our attitudes to alcohol. While I have no qualms about anybody who reads the dribble I write on my blog having a problem with alcohol – we are all grown ups after all, for some they have no control. It is when one or two isn’t enough, and you rely on alcohol to relax.

I’m not wanting to preach what you should and shouldn’t do with regards to drinking – that is up to you to decide, but over consumption of alcohol has well documented negative effects on a person’s health. It doesn’t stop there, as excessive over consumption also affects those around you like your family and friends. This is why I try to emphasise quality alcohol over the quantity of alcohol consumed. After all, so we not want to experience the finer things in life?

So, how much is too much?

The amount of alcohol that is safe to consume according to the UK government has changed over the years. The Royal College of Physicians recommended these limits as a guide.

Low Health Risk – Women up to 14 units, men up to 21 units

Increased Health Risk – Women 14 – 35 units, men 21 – 49 units

High Health Risk – Women over 35, men over 49

The problem was with these guidelines was that people tended to save them for the weekend and drink them in one or two consecutive days. As a student I seem to remember doing something similar, but this is known binge drinking and is now recognised as quite harmful to health.

Current recommendations are for women 2-3 units a day and men 3-4 units a day, with 2 or three alcohol free days a day. The current NHS guidelines are 14 units per week for both men and women (Aug 2019).

But what is a unit? How do we calculate the amounts we are drinking?

To calculate the units of alcohol there is very simple calculation.

% abv x ml / 1000.

Therefore a 40% whisky nip of 25ml can be calculated

40 x 25 = 1000

1000 / 1000 = 1 unit.

This will highlight why we need to be careful with cask strength whiskies. A 63% whisky would have a unit value of almost 1.6 units. Bear in mind these are measured amounts that are standard in the UK. It could also be 35ml, which makes our 63% pour have a value of 2.2 units. Plus, how many people actually measure their pours at home?? I do, having a 25ml and 50ml jigger. I’m not being tight, I’ll happily pour more, but it gives me and my guests an idea of how much they are drinking and can pace accordingly.

Pours in other countries can be a standard 40ml, so remember this while abroad.

There are further dangers of mixing your drinks. How many of us may have a glass or two of wine with a meal? One small 125ml glass of 12% wine is 1.5 units. How many of us have the big glass(es)? Add a couple of aperitif whiskies after and your 14 unit weekly budget is reached and beached with hardly any effort.

Driving isn’t the perfect mixer for your drink

There is also the issue of drink driving. Don’t even assume that there is a safe limit or time for you to start driving after a drink. Just leave the car at home, or be a responsible adult and have a drink free day. The average healthy adult can metabolise 1 unit of alcohol an hour, from the point you stop drinking but this can vary from person to person. If you have your 14 units of alcohol in one day, don’t think of driving the next day. And if you plan enjoying yourself in Scotland, then the drink drive limit is nearly half that of the rest of the UK. Take a public transport, get the wife to drive you to work or just pull a sickie.

It’s easy for me to preach. I work in a job I have to go without booze for weeks at a time, but who doesn’t enjoy a drink after work? Truth is that living with a toddler and in a rural area where I rely on being able to drive, I need to be careful, or life gets difficult.

I’m going to leave it to you to decide what is right for you, but put the gut rot down and let’s continue to concentrate on quality over quantity.

Don’t become a muppet with drink

If you feel you want to know more about this subject, please visit the independent Drinkaware website. It is full of helpful information. Click here to visit the site. This link will appear at the bottom of all my blog posts from now on.

Keep informed. Keep safe. Keep Enjoying – responsibly.

Now I’ve done my bit of public responsibility, we can now look towards the next taste review. And don’t worry. I’ll still alert you to the drinks bargains I see.


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or liking sharing this article by clicking on icons below.

If you prefer not to use Facebook, follow the WordPress blog by clicking on the link below which will deliver any blog posts to your inbox, including reviews, distillery visits, whisky news and advice.


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.

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.

Gone.

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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Friends in Spirit

Why we are all whisky apostles

There are a few things that can be guaranteed to bring people together. Family and similar faith beliefs are two things, following a sports team another. Can whisky join people together in a similar way?

Yes it can.

While I try hard to avoid plagiarism, there are certain things that have to be copied on account of their absolute truth. The first thing that I am going to reference from another source is the saying “There are no strangers in whisky”, which came from my friend Roy who runs Aqua Vitae, a YouTube channel basically doing what I’m doing, but he’s further down the road than I am in his journey, plus he’s doing his as a vlog (video blog). I won’t do that any time soon as I don’t have the time due to my day job and family. Plus I have a perfect face for radio! Hahahahah! But his point is true; whisky is a drink that is meant to be shared. Think of most Scottish weddings or golf outing, and the hip flasks are full to the gunwales at the start and they get shared. A traditional gift in Scotland is a Quaich, a two handled bowl to share and pass on whisky. Sharing your dram is the thing to do, even if you are a collector or an investor. Make sure you have bottles that you can open and share!

My second item of plagiarism for this article is from the Scottish comedian, Billy Connelly. He’s definitely a like or love act, but I have a few of his performances on my iPod, and his method of describing a comedic scene is second to none and usually has me in fits of laughter. One of his sketches involve the description of a typical woolly jumper and bearded hiker in the Scottish Highlands maybe 30 or 40 years ago. The line he uses that I am thinking of is when the hiker says “There are no strangers, just friends you haven’t met yet!” I can’t deliver the punch line, you need to hear it for yourself…..

Anyway, recent experiences this week have got me thinking about this. And my ultimate act of plagiarism is based on these experiences.

Railway line side of Dalwhinnie distillery.

My first experience was on the train to Glasgow. As I had booked a ticket, Scotrail automatically book you a seat. However on a 4 carriage train, they seat all the reserves together. The carriage was packed and I had a rear facing aisle seat, without a table and there was somebody sitting beside me. Cutting a long story short, he was part of a group that had been touring whisky distilleries in Scotland, and all of them were quite experienced in whisky matters. Of course, we started talking about whisky experiences and although not a drop of spirit passed through our lips, the essence and enthusiasm for the spirit did. I was pretty sad to need to leave the train at Perth to change for Glasgow. An hour and a half of journey disappeared in an instant.

The secondary reason for going to Glasgow was to pick up a small batch of old whisky miniatures that I won at auction, and to see if there were any bargains in the specialist whisky retailers I visit. In both retailers I stood and had discussions with the assistant, and picked up some tips, thus passing another 40 minutes. In the Robert Graham (1874) shop on West George Street, I also picked up a Ledaig (Tobermory) miniature which was bottled under the Robert Graham brand of Dancing Stag. This was to be used as a thank you for my neighbour who was going to be exercising and feeding my dog in my absence.

Robert Graham shop on West George Street , Glasgow

Within the batch of miniatures was one produced for the 350th Anniversary for Dunoon High School. A conversation with another neighbour revealed that they went to that school. As I never bought the batch for that one (it was the one for the Royal Hotel in Kingussie I wanted) I gave it to my neighbour who is overjoyed. Some of you reading this may know who it is, and it is through my gift that you have been invited to like this page – I hope you enjoy it!

Anniversary bottle of blended whisky

Anyway, we need to be moving on to the conclusion, and it comes down to this; there are quite a few followers on the Scotty’s Drams business page who I know, but maybe won’t see again, or not for a long time. There are people I have met on the train who I told about this page (and I noticed the likes going up, but I think privacy settings are stopping me seeing their names on the list – if you are reading send a message Steve, Mark & co.) and there are my neighbours who now have a relevant bottle for them through the gift of whisky. The conclusion is, and the product of my copying others sayings gives this –

“There are no strangers in whisky, just friends you haven’t met yet.”

Certainly this has been true for me. While I try not so much as to evangelise too much, as everybody has a different tolerance to this, when we share our whisky experiences, we effectively become ‘Whisky Apostles’ as we spread the word. There are no real barriers (even if you put ice in your single malt – although that is close to the line!). Nobody really is trying to get one up; there is no competition. We just want to pass on what we know.

Full size Ledaig 2008 Dancing Stag.

Finally, it is worth bearing in mind that when we offer a traditional toast with Whisky, it’s usually “Slainte Mhath” which is Scots Gaelic for ‘Good Health’ and pronounced “Slanj-a Vaar”. When we have a whisky, we wish those sharing it with us all the best, and why wouldn’t we?

With this, I’ll bid you a goodbye in whisky friendship.

Slainte Mhath.