Insane In The Membrane?

How Black Friday Causes Specialist Suffering.

I have to apologise from the very start of this article. Of course that is not like me at all, no Sir-ee! Mainly because the title of this article is from the a song on the Cypress Hill Album ‘Black Sunday’. Ok, wrong day I suppose for what I had in mind for this article. And while it is NOT like me, I actually own this album and listen to it on a rare occasion and enjoy it. You can’t listen to shoegaze all the time (apparently). What is at least accurate to some degree in my opinion is the topic today does have a slight whiff of insanity about it, although probably of a type we may not be aware of and suffer from in varying degrees. It’s about how we allow ourselves to become blind to the obvious.

The pin is out of the grenade. Time to get heads down. Incoming!

Once again my conscience has been pricked to write an article in defence of a body of people that have been undera silent attack for quite some time and since March 2020 this has been intensified. Unfortunately it is whisky drinkers that seem to be the people who allow it to happen, albeit not doing the attacking themselves. Given how friendly the whisky community is, I’m surprised that there seems to be little promotion and concern to people that are vital to our hobby, passion, or more to the point – obsession.

Independent whisky shops have had a tough time of it for some time now. This is something I raised on my blog Facebook page back in March of this year, going as far to break my anonymity and release a couple of videos. Use the Facebook links below to navigate to the page if you want to see the videos. In most cases these smaller retailers cannot compete with online retailers such as Amazon and don’t have the collective buying power of chains like The Whisky Shop, Oddbins or Majestic to name one or two. And you can forget any hope of being able to complete with any of the supermarkets.

What triggered this was the amount of people who seemed to be upset that there seemed to be not very many Black Friday deals on Amazon this year. I’m not having a go – in full disclosure I’ve bought booze from Amazon when I’ve seen a bargain, but usually it is when I cannot get a bottle anywhere else at that time. An Old Pultney 17 was my first bottle that I did this with just after it was discontinued and latterly when Glengoyne 18 was slashed to £70, though that was just before the change of packaging and it was bought for stash. Maybe for later of course…

Some independent retailers like a laugh on Amazon. Only £80 – £120 including fees at auction.

In a quick moment of research, certainly here in the UK are a myriad of places that do online only retailing. Drink Supermarket, Master Of Malt, Drinks Direct, 31 Dover, and Spirit Store are just a handful and I’d be sure that this would be replicated overseas where specialist whisky retailers may be thin on the ground. Even Whisky Exchange which does have a couple of shops probably makes the vast majority of its profits from online trading.

Look. I’m not trying to make anybody feel bad about seeking a bargain. It’s been a tough year for everybody with many people locked down for long periods of time; people losing their freedom, contact with family and friends, their jobs; people possibly losing a lot more. And I can hardly hold the moral high ground as I have made the occasional purchases from some of these retailers, especially Master Of Malt as the Drinks By The Dram give me a chance to taste older or more expensive whiskies without having to cough up for a full bottle. However let’s look at this from a slightly different perspective.

While online shopping may be very convenient and cheap (as an Aberdonian I can assure you this is very close to my heart!), let’s look at some very plain to see facts that often get ignored and I see no evidence to the contrary that we seem to be suffering selective blindness to these issues. Amazon does not need your money. Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s do not need your booze money. Let’s face it, despite the fun of #WhiskySanta, a company giving away £250,000 of drink does not need your booze money. However the hypocrite in me is very happy to promote the company by making my #WhiskySanta wishes. If they are generous enough to ‘pay’ quarter of a million quid for over a month of free social media advertising I’m taking my chance. You can bet your bottom dollar that an independent retailer of Whisk(e)y would probably wet themselves if they thought they could make £250,000 of profit, let alone be able to afford to give it away. And they certainly do need your custom.

A Facebook post by a local retailer. If you live close to Inverurie, Aberdeenshire I’m told it’s a great place for the ‘over the shoulder Boulder holders’. It’s not just whisky retailers that struggle against Amazon.

Speaking of local experience here in the Highlands, I can think of at least 4 local-ish (50 miles away still counts as local!) independent whisky retailers that have suffered the double whammy COVID has delivered. Not only were they forced to close their businesses when COVID first took hold, the businesses concerned were also in tourist areas, so once they’ve been allowed to open, there’s a lack of the normal crowds to sell to. I’m thinking of shops in Aberlour, Dufftown, Tomintoul, Pitlochry, Tyndrum, Inverary and Skye to name a few. The cancellation of the Spirit Of Speyside festival this year hit our region hard and without the same footfall, the whisky retailers in the area have had to rely on online sales to generate income. It doesn’t mean independent whisky retailers in large towns and cities aren’t suffering too – at least they have more chance of local footfall than one in the middle of the Cairngorms.

A brilliant Discovery from an independent shop and bottler in the tourist area of Highland Perthshire.

The majority of independent retailers have not got the same profit margins to reduce stock prices and remain viable. Some are forced to deal with wholesalers as they cannot buy directly with the distilleries or bottlers, further reducing competitiveness with online only businesses. To be fair to Amazon, there is plenty of independent traders use Amazon market place, but this is still not perfect as this still involves selling fees that further reduce margins. And therein could be the reason that there wasn’t so many Black Friday deals – perhaps the majority of them in the past have been supplied not from Amazon but small traders. They certainly cannot afford to be giving massive discounts at the moment.

Independents have greater overheads that the online only businesses don’t. And unlike Amazon they don’t have methods of avoiding a fair tax bill

The greatest benefit to dealing directly with an independent trader is that you’ll receive something that you’ll never get online – by buying over the phone or in person you’ll receive a personal service. Think about this when you next shop with an independent whisky retailer. They can tell you what is new. They usually have a great knowledge of the whiskies they sell. If you can visit one, you may get to try before you buy; something that has often seen me buy more than expecting to. You can build a relationship where the retailer may be privy to information that maybe of interest to you and they may tell you first, or at least keep a hard to find bottle back for you. At least one Whisky Twitterer has said he enjoys this type of situation and I have also found myself in this pleasant position too.

Never has a Twitter sponsored advert been so appropriate on the day of publishing.

This whole subject brings me back to a similar situation in a different retail environment; music. As I alluded to at the start of this article, I’m heavily into music, especially indie / shoegaze / post rock. There used to be a shop in Aberdeen called One-Up, of which I was a very regular customer. I always used them as the chances of finding something new, exciting and possibly undiscovered was high. But the ultimate draw was the service. The staff were excellent and one in particular, the well known shoegazer in local circles, Yogi Duncan used to recommend bands and albums to me so I could listen to it before making a decision. This was music I’d never have heard otherwise and would not be likely to see the suggestion on iTunes. You just don’t get that specialist service online and are at the mercy of an algorithm to suggest what you might like in the future. Just because some tracking cookie sees I’ve bought one album, doesn’t mean I’ll like the whole genre though it’s certainly cheaper to take a risk on a £10 CD than a £70 bottle of whisky.

It came to pass that CD buying fell out of fashion. People turned to downloads and with large overheads compared to online sales and a desire of one of the business partners to retire meant on the 18th of January 2013, One-Up closed for good. Since that store has gone, I’ve gradually fallen out of buying music. Perhaps it’s my age having an influence as well, but in the past 2 years I’ve found myself downloading more and more; my once proud music CD collection all but stagnated. For me nearly 8 years on, I and many others from the North East of Scotland still mourn the loss of One-Up

Gone yet not forgotten. And sorely missed by many. Thanks for the memories Yogi.

Regardless of my feeling, while digital retailing doesn’t mean we’ll fall out of love with whisky (goodness no!) it does mean we risk slowly falling out of touch with a more intimate way of connecting with the industry. If we only see what is advertised on line or by who we follow on social media, to me it just becomes a cacophony of marketing noise and other people’s opinion. The lack of personal contact within the whisky retail industry really means to me we are all perhaps following around on each other’s coat tails and are at the mercy of anonymous algorithms and advertising budgets which pigeon-hole us and see us getting targeted into purchasing blandness.

Let’s be clear however, as there is more we can do. It isn’t just spending our hard earned cash at independent whisky retailers that helps. Many of us on social media have our own blogs. Why not give one of the independent retailers a shout out on your blog? Review a bottle bought from them. Better still, if they bottle their own or have exclusive bottles to their shop, review one. I recently did, and the email that I received from the owner was one of pure gratitude. Not just because I genuinely enjoyed the whisky he had bottled, but because as an independent retailer in an area highly dependent on tourism it had been a tough year and he was over the moon to see his products promoted in such a way. 

It’s understandable we all have a budget but try to spend wisely whilst maximising your whisky purchasing power and remember the small guys

My blog is tiny and insignificant. However due to my review of his whisky, I know of 25 confirmed bottle sales as a direct result of what I said. Maybe only 4% of the bottling run, but that is sales that put money into a local business and a local economy; not into the bottomless pockets of CEO’s who don’t care a jot about whisky but just want your cash. If you don’t spend your whisky money at Amazon or get a Black Friday deal from an online only retailer, they aren’t that likely to go bust. Of course not everybody has the funds to avoid being frugal when it comes to whisky purchases, this year especially. The Mr Grumpy in me understands the situation and there is nothing wrong with that. Note: I’ve seen some whisky cheaper in an independent shop than on Amazon. Some retailers do promotions on free shipping if spending over a threshold amount. Shop wisely.

For Goodness Sakes! He’s gone off on one again. Don’t worry. Almost finished.

2020 has a lot of negative things to look back on. Don’t let it be the beginning of the end for a friendly independent whisky shop. Perhaps make an effort to reduce or let go of our building dependence on cheap online only sales. Once lockdown is finished, be sure to pop into one of the independent spirit retailers close to you. They’ll thank you for it. 

Feedback is welcome on this subject. My aim isn’t to offend but highlight the smaller businesses that struggling on an already uneven playing field. What’s your opinion?


After One Up closed, Yogi Duncan was working in an Oddbins in Aberdeen. He could have become my shoegaze, wine and whisky guru, but sadly I left Aberdeen the same year as the lights went out at One Up forever. Then the nearest independent music shop was Imperial Records in Inverness, but sadly this closed the following year in 2014. Another store with a stunning customer service lost to the digital shopping paradigm, a service made more special due to the owner Mark and I having some great conversations based on initially realising a shared love of the music of Galaxie 500.

Yours in Spirits


Index of tastings here

Index of articles here

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

Photo Credits

One Up, Allt Dour; – Authors Own

Old Pulteney 17 – Amazon

Katsize Lingerie – Facebook.

All others – Shutterstock

Profits and Losses

FOMO should not rule your whisky journey.

It has been a nailbiting and momentous week here at Scotty’s Drams HQ. I lost my job as the premier hypocrite of the Strathspey and Badenoch area, when my Macallan Folio 5 did sell at auction and I made the grand total of £37.20 after taking auction fees into account. I don’t even have the title of the worst flipper in the world, as at the same auction, some people were taking losses over £230 on their Macallan Easter Elchies Black 2019 release – one of the many Macallan releases that did not have numbers confirmed and turned out to be a lot more than people anticipated.

In other auction action, I submitted a bundle of whisky miniatures to a couple of auctioneers, and the items at Whisky Auctioneer in Perth did a lot better than anticipated. I had the opportunity to buy around 50 nips from a guy locally who was selling them on behalf of his mother, as they belonged to his late father’s estate. I paid £50 for them, as I didn’t really have time to inspect them properly and I had no idea of what they were worth. Imagine my surprise when the total hammer price was £211! With me being me, (and the local area as well as the whisky world being very small), I had told him that if it made much more than £50, I’d give him the profits, so nobody could think I was taking the mickey or taking advantage of people. Believe it or not, I do want Scotty’s Drams to be known to have a smidge of integrity! It has been a great result for myself, but especially to the recipient of the extra cash and I am glad it is going to a good cause.

The final thing that I want to point out for this week was the news that retailers were slashing the prices of the Game of Thrones editions as released by Diageo in collaboration with the HBO series. The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt were offering around 30% discount on the 9 bottles, and I had seen on line that another retailer were said to be offering 40%. You can imagine the response on the social media channels about people who feel conned that they paid significantly more to collect the series. I will remind you that I warned about this in my article I wrote about the Game of Thrones whisky set back in November 2019. Click on the link if you want to be reminded of what I said.

I’ll not go over old ground, as this will make the article unnecessarily long. However, I can understand the angst of people who feel conned, but why did they pay so much in the first place? They believed the hype of a limited release that was never really going to become rare – not in the next 40 years or so anyway……. I bet the person who paid £1400+ for his set at auction feels especially aggrieved, especially for one of two things – a lowering of the retail price will crash the auction price. This is definite for the short term and most likely for the medium to long term. Why do I think this? It is only the truly gullible or those who cannot get it any other way will pay more on an auction site than it costs at retail. Secondly, now the retail price has dropped, potentially many are going be offloading it ASAP if they don’t want to drink it, thus probably ensuring a very easy supply to secondary market at auctions. Additionally, because of such a large price drop, the perception of quality has been damaged and any last vestiges of thought about the range being a collectable commodity that will make healthy profits have been blown away.

We have to also remember that people thinking it was a limited edition were conned into thinking this, or what is much more likely that they chose not to look at the facts. This whisky was released in massive numbers, probably tens of thousands of bottles per each edition. Coronavirus is still rarer than GoT whisky. The only way it was limited was that Diageo has probably set a limit in the time for these products to be marketed. I doubt they consciously limited the production over that period, given the amounts in circulation.

Let us put that into some sort of perspective – in December last year Bruichladdich released 3000 bottles of their Octomore X4 series. This is the quadruple distilled single malt, that is part of a series that has been released as spirit and at 3 years old. When it was placed in their online shop, the website crashed as people tried to get hold of a bottle. I was lucky, and after 4 hours trying I managed to get 2 bottles. Still, when you look around, you can still get hold of it at auction, albeit at substantially more than the £150 release price. I bought 2 as I intend to drink one and put the other alongside my other X4’s as a collection. Even at 3000 bottles, which is only around 10 casks worth of whisky, this is not especially rare. How much less rare is the GoT whisky? I do hope that you have got my point here, as we now have to expand on what probably drove the demand.

I came to this thought based on another article I had read online. Another blog / review site I like reading during my online wondering is The Dramble. Indeed I recommend it. It has a collection of writers, although most of the content is written by its co-founder Matt Mckay. He recently wrote an article about the Talisker Distillery Exclusives, and he raised an interesting point about these distillery exclusives, and how some people feel this is unfair as they are missing out if they can’t get to the distillery. I had to laugh as they certainly missed the point of exclusives. Matt touched briefly on the FOMO fanbase. For those of you who aren’t as hip and down with the kids and street language, I can tell you that FOMO stands for ‘Fear Of Missing Out’.

Let us face it, some of us do have moments of fear that we are going to miss out on something. I am no different. Back in those dark, dark days when I was on the Macallan mailing list, I entered the ballots and crossed my fingers. I never wanted to flip any bottles – I wanted to own something that would be worth a bit of money in the long term. Of course I was trying to avoid paying the money the secondary market would eventually command. So it comes to pass that I guess in the case of the Folio 5, I have to be honest with you and I took my eye off the ball. The unforced error of not really noticing there was no commitment to limit the numbers to the same level as usual was a mistake many had made. After all, no numbers were officially confirmed for Folio 4, and it was accepted around 2000 bottles were released. Surely Macallan wouldn’t do the dirty and release 20,000 bottles, ensuring 18,000 could not collect the full set? That’s exactly what they did.

The problem I feel with limited releases (and I speak only as an enthusiast with no part in the whisky industry) is that too many people have seen the profits that some people have made and are now only too keen to buy a whisky and hopefully make the same profit. Those with little experience also misunderstand the meaning of limited release. A limited release can still have hundreds of thousands of bottle released as long as it’s only sold for a fixed time. Releases such as Ardbeg’s annual release, coupled with pretty much anything Macallan releases on a limited basis normally initially makes money and drives the flippers and those determined to obtain a bottle to buy and sell in a frenzy similar to that when a lamb is dropped in a pool of piranhas. This has perhaps provoked people who do not normally buy whisky as an investment to perhaps want a piece of the action. It is a very dangerous game to play with no knowledge and people have, and do get financially burnt by it. I’ve been buying and selling whisky for 6 years now at auction, and I know – even I get caught out sometimes, but I accept the swings and roundabouts of what I collect.

The only way such a release of whisky could ever hope to become rare and expensive is if people drink it. And while with GoT this is still theoretically possible, the whisky released was never the best products the distilleries were capable as of and there was just so many bottles released. I’ve tasted a couple of the GoT editions, and they are pretty so-so. Not bad but not good either.

So why have the prices dropped so far? I would guess that now Game of Thrones is completed and no new episodes are to come, the series has dropped out of immediate public consciousness and now they are not buying it in the same amounts. My limited experience with retail in other areas would suggest this creates excess inventory to get rid of and to do this then the easiest way is to drop the price.

Fear Of Missing Out – not having the whisky from your favourite TV show, or not being able to collect it in order to make a profit at a later date is probably what has driven this release. Possibly a bit of intrigue to see how each edition ties into each family in the story. But to be fair, it isn’t just limited to the gimmicky release that GoT obviously was. It is the same with every release from Macallan, Ardbeg, Bruichladdich amongst others. Our admiration for the brand, our desperate desire to have something no other collector has, or at least have it first, or to even just get a couple to flip so those desperate enough can get their hands on it blinds us to some harsh economic realities if we don’t take into consideration the realistic supply an demand in the future.

And here is the crux – FOMO often takes our attention from the most important thing – the whisky itself. Consider that in the whisky world that fully missing out is a rare thing – what’s on the market will eventually come around again, at least in the secondary market, and when it reappears, it may come back cheaper. FOMO is driving a monster in the whisky market which has the risk of eating itself, something those who have felt cheated over Game of Thrones are now realising, but it can be applied to those who overpay for anything. I’ve seen Macallan Folio 5 auction for a hammer price of £900. If that person failed to win the original Macallan ballot, how silly do they feel now when they could have bought mine at auction for £320 rather than overpaying the first flipper that came along? The signs of the greatly increased out-turn were all there when they were appearing on auction sites before the Macallan Ballot was complete, so why would you pay nearly 4 times the RRP?

Marketing is something that we as whisky geeks that we all have to be aware of, as it so often promises something and very often does not meet our full expectations. Fair play to Diageo – they shifted shed loads of non-premium whisky at non-premium prices and those who know very little about whisky or have duller palates are suddenly exposed to nine distilleries in the Diageo stable. Where they will not get people continuing to buy GoT bottles as it is limited, they will then most likely start buying the more profitible (for Diageo) releases from these distilleries after they made GoT fans more aware of their offerings. Diageo really couldn’t lose from this venture.

The important thing to bear in mind is that if we are true whisky geeks, FOMO should never really guide us – our palate should in the first instance, but I have to admit that I can miss this myself, and often become a bottle chaser, which is an unhealthy habit. FOMO and bottle chasing can and does lead to missing out on other things, though you often miss that point as well. How ironic.

For those amongst you reading this who have more experience than me, I hope that you are nodding your head in agreement, for you know the truth that things will eventually come back around. You may have to wait somewhat. I have that feeling with the Dailuaine I lost out on in the week previous to last. We have to move on….

In summary –

  • Don’t always believe the hype on new releases.
  • Never plan on making money, and only spend what you can afford to drink. That is what you might be doing if the price crashes
  • Make sure you know how many are being released
  • Don’t be afraid to miss out. There are thousands of fantastic whisky expressions out there, and because you don’t have one, this means you have money for another.

Yours In Spirits.


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 by clicking on the link.

Better Dramming Through Chemistry?

Will age statements soon be in hours?

It has been a fairly vexatious fortnight for Scotty’s Drams. During a quiet moment at work, I was reading an article about an American company who can make a whisky in not years, but age it in a matter of 24 hours.

The timer for ‘aged’ whisky

I’m not kidding. Click here for the link to the article. Not only that, but another Facebook page (Great Drams) wrote an article about it, so I’ve delayed mine in an effort not to be seen as a plagiarist.

With regards to not having to waste* time ageing whisky, I’m sure this would be good for the bean counters and the shareholders, but is never going to be good for the consumer. Here’s why.

1/ Although natural ingredients are used to flavour the whisky instead of ageing in a barrel, this should never be. In my opinion, there should only be 3 ingredients. Water, Yeast, Malted Barley. And E150a if absolutely necessary.

Glenfiddich 24. Is that years or hours?

2/ Making a whisky in this way means you are taking away any character. The stills, the barley and yeast strain mean nothing. Even the cask influence is now obsolete.

3/ To me a good whisky is made by a great distillery coupled with a great master blender. For instance, Glenallachie has certainly taken a forward bound with the arrival of Billy Walker. His 12 y.o core expression is fantastic. That’s the skill we want and not just somebody in a white coat.

Things went awry in the Famous Grouse Lab

4/ Where is the soul in the liquid? I like the idea that my dram has been slumbering in a cask for however many years. It has taken on the character of the place it was matured, hopefully in a dunnage warehouse. For a coastal whisky, I want a brine influence and I’m wanting it from the cask, not because somebody has added some salt to the vat.

5/ What about Single Casks? That would be pointless, as you can just cook up a recipe for your whisky. I like the variation of single casks, as well as the influence of the wood, depending on the cask type.

Would we even need wooden barrels any more?

Why would we do this??

Obviously this is down to cost. If a product doesn’t need to be matured, then the need to hold something in a warehouse for 10, 20 or however many years is gone. Going down this route is only for financial benefit of the producer and not the consumer.

Without wanting to go down a political path, this is one of only one threat to Scotch whisky from the US. There is already talk about the US insisting that the minimum age for Scotch New Make Spirit to be called whisky being changed to 2 years instead of 3. Of course, in the light of Brexit, the UK is likely to cave into demands in order to get a trade deal. It needs the revenue of a trade deal. Tax revenue on almost £5bn industry, this will make whisky a commodity that the UK treasury will not want to affect the export of. Especially to its largest export market, and certainly won’t want to see any tariffs added, which will be devastating to the UK Treasury and the Scottish Whisky Industry.

But how would the refusal of artificially aged whisky equally affect the export market and tax revenue if the markets for Scotch reject it? It is a double edged sword.

Scottish whisky is sold on not only its quality and taste, it’s also partially the tradition, the legend, and the perceived quality. Take this away by taking away the maturation period would put a big nail into the heart of the industry. What distillery would sully its brand so after decades or centuries?

The Distillery of the future?

Fortunately, the Scotch Whisky Association doesn’t expect the status of Scotch Whisky to change, but in uncertain times, we just don’t know. The other plus point is that it won’t catch on if people don’t buy it. Hopefully the people who regularly read my articles want to drink quality and not quantity, and aren’t afraid to pay a little bit for it. May it stay that way my friends. You will have a much more fulfilling whisky journey because of it.

Can there be a worse whisky than Grouse after all??

Slainte Mhath

*its never a waste of time to carefully age a great dram.

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Let’s go Shopping!

Your friendly local whisky shop is waiting……

One of the best ways to help you build your whisky collection, knowledge or experience is to visit your local whisky shop. My journey between where I live and my hometown of Aberdeen takes me through the vast bulk of the whisky producing region of Speyside. I pass many distilleries whose produce simply isn’t available in a supermarket, which makes a visit to a decent whisky shop essential.

Although my journey does take me past a few towns with whisky shops, the two I tend to visit are the Whisky Shop in Dufftown and the Speyside Whisky Shop in Aberlour. This is not because of the other shops being lesser quality , but solely because these are on my direct route between home and Aberdeen, and stopping there is easy.

So what does visiting these types of shop give you over shopping elsewhere for your drams? Firstly, it can give you an excellent choice of whisky that you are quite simply not going to get in your local supermarket or off licence. You will find whiskies from all five Scottish whisky regions and world whiskies too. Don’t think it is all about the whiskies, Scottish Gin is represented too, and apparently 70% of Gin distilled in the UK is actually made in Scotland. Don’t quote me on that though.

Secondly, you are going to have the ability to obtain special releases or collectables which your local off- licence may not stock.

Thirdly, you are going to be able to speak to people who have a very good knowledge of the whisky industry, and where better to be based than in Dufftown? With a total of nine distilleries over the years (count them – Mortlach, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie, Pittyvaich (demolished), Parkmore, (Silent), Dufftown, Glendullan and the sadly silent Convalmore), where better to start a whisky shop than there? The area is filled with people who have worked or work in the whisky industry. With this we have a visit to the Whisky Shop in Dufftown.

The Whisky Shop, Dufftown

Depending on which route I take home, I am often passing through Dufftown, and WSD is a great place to stop off to browse their well stocked shelves, with many of the items for sale are at decent prices. This is the shop where I tend to buy the majority of my miniature bottles for the taste reviews I provide as part of my blog. There is always a good selection, and just in miniatures alone, you can get a good experience of Scottish whisky, not to mention the great selection of full sized bottles.

Mike, Vicky and Kat are always ready to chat, and I have always received excellent service there. One of my best purchases there was a whisky aroma training kit, which was actually cheaper than the majority of online retailers. Quite a win!

My other go-to whisky shop is a new arrival, and is the Speyside Whisky Shop in nearby Aberlour. I cannot avoid going through Aberlour to get home, unless I take the Lecht route, but this would drag me past the Whisky Castle in Tomintoul (will visit sometime!). The Speyside Whisky Shop is one of the shops that I noticed opening, and was trying hard to resist thinking it was just another faddy whisky shop, but curiosity won me over, and on the first visit, I walked out with a bottle of Old Pulteney 17, also cheaper than many online retailers. Plus, Emily who works there is a former employee of a local well known distillery, and certainly knows her stuff.

Speyside Whisky Shop, Aberlour

I had an interesting experience at the SWS during my first visit. The card machine wasn’t working very well due to BT working on the phone lines, so I ended up telling one or two whisky tales. This has helped form a customer – retailer relationship, which is invaluable when you visit a whisky retailer. Why? Because the shop owners will then know your tastes, what you are looking for and may be able to suggest one or two things that you may not have thought about.

Since then, I’ve been able to pick up Glen Moray Cider Project and also the three recent wood finish bottlings from GlenAllachie. I had to pay for them while offshore which may have been the first time Matteo has had to take a payment over a satellite link phone!

Just like the WSD, Matteo and Emily also provide a first class service that makes it a pleasure to shop there.

Don’t assume that you have to visit in person – both shops will ship internationally, subject to postage rules in your country.

These shops, and perhaps your own local whisky shop can provide so much more than an online retailer. Don’t just go to an online retailer assuming that the cheaper price is worth it – you have to remember to apply shipping charges. An even better reason to visit your friendly local specialist whisky shop.

However, you have to remember one thing when visiting your local specialist retailer. Your manners.

These people are specialists, and to be honest, unless you are directly involved in the whisky industry, or you are Richard Patterson, Jim McEwan, Billy Walker, Jim Murray or Charles Maclean amongst the multitude of genuine experts, then you aren’t really an expert. You are like me, just an amateur with an opinion. Don’t go in these places thinking you know the price of things, that you are getting ripped off, or deserve to get unlimited free samples. You do not. By all means, have a bit of a craic with the staff, but respectfully. Chances these guys know far more than you. Don’t criticise their prices; great shops like this are usually small independent retailers, and don’t get mass discounts, as they don’t purchase hundreds of bottles at a time. Yes, their prices may be a little bit more than a typical online retailer, but you are paying for the personal service, and I’ve also said, factor in delivery charges, and you’ll often find your local whisky shop cheaper.

And, especially in Speyside, don’t ever say that these shops are tourist traps. Nobody is forcing you to go in and spend your money there. If you want the definition of tourist traps, then go to the chain whisky shops, especially in Edinburgh and Inverness, where I have seen 20CL bottles go for as much as £13 more than RRP. Miniatures often cost more, due to their small size, but the expense of the glass packaging. Vicky in the WSD told me last time it is harder to get miniatures, possibly due to lower demand.

Don’t demand free samples, or don’t get huffy when asked if you are likely to make a purchase, certainly not in Speyside. Bear in mind it is a tourist area, and if a small shop like this was to give out free samples to tourists willy-nilly, especially of the good stuff, they will be out of business in seconds. Once that seal is cracked, the bottle is worthless.

To emphasise the point, go to your local pub and ask them to give you a sample of whisky to see if you like it or not. The refusal is likely to offend. It’s a business, not a charity. And don’t come out with the total pish that you were going to spend several hundred pounds. Chances are you weren’t, so don’t bother embarrassing yourself. There aren’t that many people who spend hundreds on a bottle to drink so stop pretending.

Leave being a tightwad to the Aberdonians. We know how to do it properly.

Certainly don’t belittle the staff if you do happen to think that you know something they don’t or when you don’t get the free samples you mistakenly think is your god-given right. The world of whisky is one that should be based on shared interests and friendships. It is certainly one that I have experienced in my whisky journey by speaking to retailers, work colleagues, people whom I have given a whisky tasting or talk to and even people that I meet on the train.

If you think this negative behaviour and total lack of manners exists in the whisky community, then check out the WSD Facebook page. Unfortunately, this has happened recently and is not an isolated incident with self entitled arseholes everywhere. Don’t be an arsehole. Be a bon vivant. Much more fun and socially acceptable.

So, basically, to wrap up, if you want to be a member of a great fraternity of whisky enthusiasts, expand your horizons and visit your local specialist whisky retailer. Now. Spend your money there, knowing that it will be purchases well made. Don’t go there looking for Famous Grouse or Bells. Put your brown paper bag over your head and go to your supermarket for these purchases in complete anonymity. Or claim it’s for medicinal purposes.

Don’t go asking for Bells or Famous Grouse without adequate disguise.

Lastly, if you are the sort of person who is the boorish arsehole in the WSD post, please remove yourself from my following, or please be ready for some whisky re-education. We’re all friends here, but in the majority of cases, we’re yet to meet.


This article was written without any input from the shops mentioned, and I am not tied to them in any way, nor do I receive any payments or benefits from them. I prefer to remain entirely independent in my views, and being in the pocket of a retailer or producer compromises that. This article is based solely on the fact I visit these whisky shops the most. But if anybody from the WSD or SWS is reading this, I’ll be happy to accept some takeaway samples to review of the three GlenAllachie wood finishes. Of course, I’ll demand to pay for them! (That’s the Aberdonian in me coming out!).

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Why Whisky Collectors Aren’t Spoiling It For Drinkers

Whisky Myths Smashed #3

I’ve decided to write a controversial article for a change, and this one will definitely divide opinion. It would certainly be interesting to know the opinion of the people who follow this page, but please allow me to get my tin helmet on and get deeper into the trench.

Fire In The Hole!!

One of the Scotch Malts of the moment I would say is Daftmill. I was given a sample of their third release, the Winter 2006 bottling of which only 1625 were made. To be honest, it smells as though it’s going to be a fantastic dram, and therefore I have bought a bottle for my collection. But to be honest, I don’t think this will be enough and I’m looking for another one for drinking.

Desirable to drink and collect.

Trouble is, this bottle is now pretty much only available on the secondary market, and now the price is rising rapidly. It’s in the territory that it may soon cost too much to drink if I obtain a second bottle. And here we come to the question – are collectors spoiling the market for those who choose to drink?? While I firmly believe this to be more myth than fact, there is evidence that some collectors are damaging the market. I’ll deal with those people later.

So why do I tend to believe that collecting doesn’t harm the drinking market? I’ll speak from the point of view that the majority of my collection was widely available at one point with the exception of say 10% of my bottles. And there is straight away the crux of my argument. The vast majority of them were at some point available at a reasonable cost. Therefore, a drinker has just as much opportunity to purchase these bottles as a collector. If a collector decides to put a couple of bottles away for a rainy day, that is his prerogative.

If a drinker does not have the savvy to purchase these bottles before they are discontinued then more fool them. A good case in point is Old Pulteney 17. These have been discontinued since 2018 and already prices are starting to rise. This is nothing to do with collectors pushing the price up, but more the fact it is a very decent dram, demand is high and thus begins the theory of the price being dictated by supply and demand.

A drinker has just as much opportunity to stow supplies away as a collector to ensure a continued stock of their favourite tipple. Plus, given the resources at everyone’s disposal nowadays, information on whether or not a dram is to be discontinued is usually available in the trade press or the multitude of whisky web pages.

When it comes to buying bottles at auction, not only is price dictated by supply and demand, it is also dictated by how much an individual wants that bottle at that time. Often bottles go above their true value due to people wanting to complete collections or somebody being inexperienced in auction purchasing. It’s also worth remembering that rarer bottles are sometimes bought at auction so they can take their place on the shelf of a whisky bar, where they are available to purchase, therefore drinkers do get a chance at sampling rarer Drams.

One follower of my WordPress blog, Tobi at always seems to be trying older and exotic drams that have me salivating. I myself still purchase second bottles to drink if they are affordable. And here is the next point; some of the whiskies I collect would be out of reach for a normal drinker. Not many drinkers will pay £500 for a bottle for consumption. So how can I be, as a collector, of putting the cost of bottles out of the reach of the average drinker?

And this magic figure of £500 brings me to the start of my next point; some whiskies are not really meant to be drunk. Some are designed to be collectors items. Macallan would be the case in point. Remember the furore at their distillery when Genesis was released? It cost £495. Within a month, bottles were being auctioned for nine times that price, with the highest being that I saw £4500. The cause? Flippers.

Flippers are the people whom I believe to be causing the greatest damage to the secondary whisky market prices. That same bottle of Genesis can now be picked up easily for sub £2000. While the price may go up over time, due to the amount of people who have solely bought it as an investment, and the amount still trading on the secondary market, I believe it will be a few years before any significant rise is seen. If I was the person who paid £4500 (+12.5% for Commision and VAT which brings the true cost to £5062), I’d be very sick.

Don’t believe the hype.

And it wasn’t just Genesis. Fast forward to the release of Macallan Easter Elchies Black 2018 (EEB 2018). Same story. Released at a price of £750, and in lower numbers than Genesis (1958 vs 2500 or so bottles I believe), the prices spiked at nearly £3000 within a short space of time. Now, prices can be as low as £800, which by time the seller has made the cost of shipping from Macallan to home and from home to the auction house, then the sellers commision, they’ve actually made a loss.

Yet again a similar story for Macallan Folio 4. Only £250. Yet the frenzy in the secondary market coupled with the crazy prices was like a pool of pirañas which hadn’t eaten for a month and a lamb falls in….

This just isn’t about the whisky. Macallan will price their products according to the cost of the ingredients. EEB 2018 at £750 would in theory have the most expensive whisky in it, yet because of packaging, Folio 4 which was a third of the cost of EEB 2018 yet has seen more consistent higher percentage returns. Genesis, also cheaper than EEB 2018 and had a greater outrun, is holding a better return. It is my belief that these whiskies are for collecting and not drinking. And it is with this I do have some sympathy for the drinkers who complain about collectors putting the prices up. £250 is affordable to drink, although on the upper end of the scale for many I would guess. People are actually just paying for the hype, the brand and the packaging. To be honest, although Macallan isn’t a bad whisky, there are better and more accessible malts. Tamdhu and GlenDronach would get my vote above Macallan, and in a blind taste test pre-Scotty’s Drams, I indeed did pick the GlenDronach Allardice compared to an 18 year old Macallan.

And paying that amount for a NAS whisky that few will ever drink is madness

And here is the last thing that drinkers have to suck up. If the bottles are getting cracked open, the availability goes down, especially in limited run bottlings. As more get drunk, and the supply gets less, the laws of supply and demand kicks in as rarity increases, and therefore the price. That’s an inescapable fact.

Before I close out this article, I’d like to say that as a collector, I do open the odd bottle here and there. My favourite collectable to drink is Bruichladdich Yellow Submarine 14 year old. I’m on my second open bottle, with three more to go. With a total outrun of only 12000 bottles, and only 3000 in the first batch (I have a couple of those), either way I’m contributing to the rise of the price, therefore would be castigated by a drinker who moans about the rising prices. A collector can’t win.

Yellow Submarine being sunk!

Yes, whisky is meant to be drunk, just as a car is meant to be driven. But you can’t accuse a millionaire that he is stopping you experiencing a Rolls Royce when his sits in a garage for most of the year. If you want to sip on rarer whisky, try visiting your local whisky bar. Yes, a dram will be more expensive, but it saves you from buying the whole bottle, and you can still have the experience. It’s like getting to drive a Lamborghini for a track day without associated overheads. I’ve did so for a 1938 Macallan. And again recently for a 12 year old Rosebank Flora and Fauna.

You want to taste rare? You have to pay.

As for the Daftmill? I’m sure the Cuthbert family will be delighted this whisky has created such a stir, regardless if it is drunk or not, as this will secure future sales. It goes without saying that eventually there will be another Winter 2006 off the market as I succumb and pay the going price, but this one will be opened like many of the 1625 made already have. I plan to try and find a way to share this with some of my page followers as a reward for supporting my creative outlet. Keep your eyes peeled.


Do you agree or disagree with my sentiment? I invite comments from all sides of the argument, but as it is a slightly contentious issue, all I ask is that any comments are respectful.

Opinion. Going Nuclear.

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