Some things ARE Black And White

Taste Review #65 – Black and White Blended Whisky (1950’s Bottling)


How many times have we heard that things were better in days gone by? It’s certainly something that I’ve heard plenty of times and in some cases there may be a bit of justification in that statement. As a child of the early 70’s, I have very happy memories, but then again I also remember strikes, power cuts, uncollected trash and expensive fuel – so not everything was better. As we have propelled ourselves from the 20th century into the 21st, things are much improved. But is whisky?

Getting us into a sense of perspective, I’d suggest that this may not be true. Having a greater selection doesn’t mean that things are better for the whisky world than they were. Pressures of shareholders and demand have accelerated the need for production resulting I would say there a rising blandness in the whisky world and while none of the whiskies are bad as such, I feel there is much of a muchness.

This week’s sample has come from Cheaper By The Dram, managed by Whisky and Antique specialist Mark Littler. You might remember that I have done a series on cask purchases with his help and have also reviewed one of his other releases, the 12 year old Glenturret. This dram has come as a thank you for some help that I had given Mark – I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was overjoyed to be given a sample of whisky from the 1950’s – Black and White Blend. It has always been my ambition to taste a whisky from that era. An abortive attempt to do so occurred a couple of years ago with the purchase of a Glen Spey blended whisky at auction. I had questions over the provenance and authenticity of the bottling once I received it so had decided to keep it as an oddity rather than a drinking bottle.

Regular readers have probably noticed a relative lack of blends in my reviews and I give no apology for the fact that I don’t drink them often. That’s because I strive to find a character in a distillery through its single malt and that’s something that I look for. I’m not a snob and do not think that blends are inferior, but they don’t appeal to me so much. A telephone conversation with Mark led him to put the supposition ‘that a single malt is like a virtuoso violinist, yet a decent blend is like a whole orchestra’ with all the components in its correct place for maximum enjoyment. So I had to smile when I saw the cover note with this latest CBTD delivery. See below.


The orchestra is tuning!

And I have to say there may be a grain of truth in that, but we will see later whether or not this will be true in this case. Speaking of cases, this one arrived in its usual secure packaging with minimal information contained within. This is partly to discourage re-sale of these bottles at auction and to me it helps provide focus to the whisky itself, partly like a blind tasting where few if any details are known about the spirit.


Secure packaging

Black and White is amongst of the oldest whisky blends still being produced . It’s owner, James Buchanan supplied blended whisky that was made by Glasgow blenders W.P Lowrie. It was initially marketed as Buchanan’s, and was packaged in darkened bottles with white labels and was commonly known as Black and White whisky (which was to become the official name of the blend from 1902.) From 1885 this was supplied to the House Of Commons and was renamed Buchanan’s House of Commons Fine Old Highland whisky.

By the early 1900’s the logo of the whisky was to become an Aberdeen Terrier (also known as a Scottie Dog) and a West Highland Terrier. To help provide more whisky for his popular blends, Lowrie and Buchanan founded the Glentauchers Distillery beside Keith and also eventually obtained Convalmore Distillery in Dufftown when Buchanan bought out Lowrie in 1906. The whisky that Buchanan was producing was good enough to obtain Royal Warrants from Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York in 1898.

By 1915, Buchanan had joined forces with Dewars, becoming known as Buchanan Dewars in 1919. By 1925 they merged with John Walker & Son and Distillers Company Limited (DCL), now part of Diageo.

As we know, blended whisky was made as an alternative to low quality single malts. Blended whisky was smoother, more consistent and easier to drink. After the invention of the Coffey Continuous Still, grain whisky was easier and more efficient to make. When the law changed in 1860 to allow the sale of blended of malt and grain whiskies, single malt fell out of favour. Even now, blended whisky outstrips consumption of single malt. It may shock you to know that roughly 90% of Scotch whisky goes into blends.

So, is this whisky any good now, and how does it compare to current blends? There is only one way to find out….


The sample

Details

RegionBLEND Age – NAS Strength – 40% ColourBurnished. NoseOld linen, vanilla, strawberry, apple, walnut. Palate – Very light. Slight smoke in the back ground. Apple, oak, slightly tannic. Finish Wood spices, light peat, brine, lemon, slightly drying and warming.


The dram

Conclusions

I started this article by wondering if things were truly better in the past. I’m still none-the-wiser as to whether this can be verified. What I can tell you is that this is a dram that is definitely unlike a lot of whisky that I have drunk recently. It definitely has that old fashioned feel to it; light but with a certain amount of meatiness. Fruit is in the fore, and one wonders if this is an influence of stock from Convalmore, a now silent distillery that had long fermentation and slow distillation.

And it is when I think of Convalmore, I had a slight epiphany. This is a blend made in the 50’s. The whisky in it may have been made in the 1930’s or 40’s. As a consumer we do not know exactly what whisky is actually in the blend, but I got a slight Highland peat (as opposed to Islay) and a brine note. It is highly likely we are drinking a blend that contains substance from more than one silent distillery and using a process long consigned to history. At this point nearly every distillery would have been using traditional malting floors, so perhaps it does make a difference. Other whiskies that are known to be in this blend are Dalwhinnie, Port Dundas, Glendullan and Clynelish. Perhaps the latter gave the brine note?

The nose of old linen takes me back to my first review of a CBTD whisky, the 12 year old Glenturret from the 1980’s which had a musky taste about it too. It took a bit of getting used to, but once I realised it was just a more traditional style, I really enjoyed it. The nose in this case was just a linen note that provoked evocative memories of my childhood visiting my great-grandparents in their croft on the outskirts of Aberdeen. This old style whisky conjured up happy memories of a bygone age and that is sometimes what tasting a whisky as an enthusiast is about – letting the aroma and tastes play in your mind as you try to describe them as you recall the occasions you last experienced these sensations.

Putting my thoughts into a neat package, the only recent whisky that I can truly compare this whisky to is the Lost Distilleries Blend. While that was a cask strength blend consisting only of silent distilleries, not all of the whisky in that blend is likely to be relatively old, circa the 1980’s. I didn’t really enjoy that blend for what it cost – a full bottle is £300+. But it’s been blended for modern tastes. Black and White is from a different era – where men were men and didn’t have top knot hairstyles or man bags, children were supposed to be seen and not heard and wives only had to do housework and have their husbands tea ready for when they come home. Yes, not everything in the past was better, but this relatively uncomplex blend gives us modern whisky drinkers a glimpse into whisky past – something that is essential to do for those of us on a whisky journey of discovery. For it is true that it is harder to appreciate the present and the future without a good grasp on what has gone before.

And that is not a bad thing.

Availability of this 3cl dram which costs £14 from Cheaper By The Dram is now limited. Given the full size bottle can be around £300 on the auction sites, this is very little to spend to enhance your whisky experiences. Black And White does not seem to be available for sale in the U.K. at the moment, but the modern equivalent is available cheaply in Europe, in some cases only £12-£15 a bottle. Keep an eye out for this at auction, but if you are quick, you may just get the last samples at Cheaper By The Dram store. Perhaps Mark / CBTD may obtain more in the future and for those of us who want to compare old style whisky to new style, this would make a most excellent comparison. Should more become available I’d certainly be willing to drink it again. As I don’t score my whisky, this would get a “recommended and would buy again” comment instead. And that is definitely high praise.

Thanks go to Mark Littler for supplying this sample. I wasn’t that optimistic about a blend to start with when I saw it arrive, but I’m really glad I did not miss out as it was delicious and a worthwhile journey into the past. Remember, sip don’t flip!

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

Photos – Authors Own

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It needn't be dreary in the Garioch.

Taste Review #58 – Glen Garioch Founders Reserve.

Believe it or not, my title this week does actually rhyme. It does help if you are from the North East Of Scotland to know how to pronounce Garioch or at least you could have heard it from others in your whisky journey. But for those unfamiliar with Doric, the pronunciation is ‘Geery’. It rhymes with dreary, but then I have already told you that. And Doric lives up to many of the often underhand tricks that English can also play on its non-native speakers, and that is that sometimes it is pronounced ‘Garry-och’, but usually only when it is being used as a surname.


The Doig Ventilators over the disused kilns. Blue skies as well.

Glen Garioch distillery is one of the oldest in Scotland, having been established during 1797 in the Aberdeenshire village of Oldmeldrum, a small market village some 18 miles north of Aberdeen. Currently it is the most eastern distillery in Scotland, a title that it obtained in 1983 when Glenugie beside the port of Peterhead closed. It was my local distillery when I lived in the land of ‘Fit Like’ (Doric for how are you?), and passing through Oldmeldrum, it was easy to spot the two ventilators on the top of the kilns, yet I never visited. Not until early March this year when I was staying in Aberdeen and I decided to treat my parents to an afternoon out. Despite Aberdeen and shire’s reputation for dreary grey buldings, weather and equally grey and dour people, this was a glorious early spring day with a treat of some blue skies.


The malting barn. Floors sadly out of use.

Glen Garioch was established in 1797, although it is reckoned that they were legally distilling before that, albeit there is no existing proof. Two brothers, John and Alexander Manson started the distillery just to the south of the Aberdeen – Banff road. They were in a perfect position for one of their main ingredients – Barley. The North East of Scotland produces massive amounts of barley, and according to our guide, 40% of Scottish barley used in whisky production comes from the Garioch valley, which is entirely possible, as during summer the fields are full of barley, and the soil is good quality with lower levels of nitrogen, which distillers like.

Glen Garioch passed through a few hands before becoming part of DCL in 1937. This continued until the late 1960’s. DCL (a forerunner of Diageo) in the mid to late 1960’s needed a distillery to produce heavily peated malt, as there was a problem with droughts on Islay and Caol Ila was getting refurbished. They had a choice between the original Clynelish distillery (now known as Brora) or Glen Garioch, but unfortunately the Oldmeldrum distillery had problems with its water supply and Brora was chosen to supply the heavily peated malts. DCL sold Glen Garioch to Stanley Morrison (who also owned Bowmore) in 1970, and his first task was to find another water supply. The manager at the time, Joe Hughes contracted Alec Grant (the father of the current manager) who found a spring on nearby Coutens Farm. It’s known as the silent spring, as it could not be seen or heard flowing, but enabled the distillery to increase its production tenfold.

The next crisis to hit Glen Garioch, along with many other distilleries in the 1970’s was the fuel crises in the 1970’s. The cost of operating the distillery was high, but Stanley Morrison installed heat recovery equipment, which allowed heat from the distilling process to be recycled, and was used to heat the kilns as well as feeding heat to an acre of green houses and a further acre of poly-tunnels for growing tomatoes and kiwi fruits. This came to an end in 1993. Sadly in 1994, the distillery also brought an end to malting its own barley, preferring to buy in ready malted barley.


The Porteous Mill is still going.

In 1994 the distillery was bought by Beam, and by 1995, Glen Garioch fell silent. 1995 was the last time the distillery regularly produced a peated malt. However, it isn’t all bad news, and by 1997 after some renovation, the distillery opened again, producing an unpeated malt.


The three stills. Spirit still No.1 out of service.

Glen Garioch is an old, small distillery. It only produces 500,000 litres annually from one wash still and two spirit stills, albeit the No.1 spirit still is currently out of service due to the copper now being too thin. Apparently the wash still has the longest Lyne arm in Scotland. You can still see the tradition coupled with the modern; the Porteous Mill, the old Kilns plus stainless steel washbacks and mash tun squeezed into old buildings. But does the tradition convert into making a decent whisky? Well, it’s time to find out


The sample

Region

Highland

Age

No Age Stated

Strength

48% ABV

Colour

Light Golden Honey.

Nose

Malty, biscuity, sweet. Very light smoke to it. Fruit, Apple, touch of floral – I get a whiff of Turkish Delight of it. Vanilla is in there too.

Palate

Slightly oily mouthfeel. Sweet vanilla, creamy buttermilk and green apples. Hint of citrus sharpness with wood spices.

Finish

Short but quite a spirit glow on the way down. At 48% I’d advise adding water, which I had to do afterwards. Dry, but not astringent. Oak spices, a hint of smoke, probably from the Bourbon barrel. Citrus is in there as well, and only became apparent at the end as the spirit left my mouth fairly dry, but it was like lime and a hint of chocolate.


The dram

Conclusions

If there is one thing I can say about my tour at Glen Garioch, our guide Chris gave an excellent tour and one that was full of information and passion about the distillery. However, (and this was not his fault) the tour was to fall short with the whisky supplied for tasting. The basic entry Founders Reserve is actually not a bad whisky, but after having such a good tour and quite a pleasant nose and palate, the finish totally let it down for me. It’s a shame as I had been smelling it a good portion of the way home in the car due to a leaky sample bottle, and my mouth was watering. The unfortunate reality was that my mouth became like the Sahara Desert afterwards, and I needed to take the water I had set aside for adding to the dram. Because I was doing my typical Aberdonian thing and was too tight to spring for a 5CL sample, I made do this time with the 1.5CL sample given by the distillery.

Although the finish was a bit too dry for me, it wasn’t not in a lip and tongue puckering way. The warmth in the spirit I think just overpowered the nice aromas and palate, which to me was just a little bit disappointing. However, Glen Garioch Founders Reserve is not alone in this – many whiskies I seem to sniff turn out to have either a palate or finish that didn’t match the aroma. My favourite whisky of the past 12 months was exactly like that. Again, it may have been better had I hadn’t been tight and sprung for at least a 5cl miniature.


Casks sleeping

So, with that last point in mind, don’t pay too much attention to what I say on this review, as I just don’t have enough liquid to build a relationship with this whisky and understand all the various components. However, it did become more pleasant with a drop or two of water. I would say that the vintage expressions or those with age statements would be a lot better. It is my opinion that they have bottled this at 48% to hide the fact there is some young whisky in it, but it shows in a very slight rough edge. But that’s just my opinion. There is the good point that at 48% you know that it is not chill filtered, but unfortunately this has got colouring added..

I was tempted to buy a bottle of the 15 year old they had for sale there, as it was £85, and I thought that was just a bit too rich for me. It’s not unreasonable to charge that much for that age of whisky, but you know you can get it cheaper elsewhere. I’ve come to realise that unless it is a special limited release, you’ll always get whisky cheaper elsewhere compared to the distillery shop. Tourists don’t always have the same purchasing opportunities compared to the locals.

Do I recommend this whisky? No, I personally will not be buying a bottle of it, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t. At 48%, this gives you an excellent opportunity to play about with water to see the effects drop by drop, but I’d say best maybe try doing this with the 12 year old. It is also bottled at 48% and costs around £45. The Founders Reserve costs around £35, which for a 48% whisky is indeed good value, and while I think this whisky will appeal to some, it didn’t appeal to me. With the aroma I can sense there is something good happening with this distillery, though not this expression. Perhaps I need to pop in past while next in the area to maybe buy a couple of miniatures to retry at the later date.

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

This Is Not A Drive-By.

Taste Review #57 – Glentauchers 1991 (G&M)

Glentauchers is one of those distilleries that flies beneath the radar. I have to say that it doesn’t seem to be well known at all. And in all fairness, I fly past it on a regular basis as it is right beside the A95, halfway between the Morayshire town of Keith and the hamlet of Mulben. Flying past it is maybe stretching it a bit. There is a bend right beside the distillery houses where a bridge also narrows the carriageway slightly. Up until 5 years ago or so, there was also a strange camber on the road as you went over the bridge which used to force you out into the middle of the road as you went round the bend. I’ve lost count of how many times I have passed it and almost needed a change of underwear. Yet still have to sit and review one of its whiskies.


Glentauchers Distillery

The Glentauchers distillery was another of those distilleries built at the end of the 1890’s, and was established by James Buchanan & Co. to provide fillings for its Black And White blend. This was to become a role that the distillery was to play for its whole life so far, as one of those distilleries whose main purpose is to provide whiskies for blends. As was the case for so many distillery companies, James Buchanan eventually merged with DCL, which would eventually become part of Diageo, although this was not the fate for this distillery – it wasn’t to survive the whisky downturn in the 1980’s and was mothballed at the same time as Convalmore which was also formerly owned by Buchanan / DCL. However, fate was kinder to Glentauchers than it was to Convalmore, and it was bought by Allied Distillers in 1989, with full production resuming in 1992. By 2005, Allied Distillers became part of the Chivas empire, whose parent company are Pernod Ricard.

Today, Glentauchers still carries on, and has been used as a training distillery by Pernod Ricard. Apparently it is a distillery that has limited automation, ensuring that staff have to learn how to distill whisky manually. The malting floors are not part of this as their operation ceased in 1969.

The Glentauchers distillery despite sitting right beside a main road does not have the have the same visibility, yet finding bottles of Glentauchers is not hard. There are plenty of bottlings available from independent bottlers. I own a couple, one being from First Cask, and another being a bottle in the Dancing Stag range from Robert Graham. A quick look online sees that there are bottles available from many of the well known independents such as That Boutiquey Whisky Company, Signatory, Douglas Laing, Berry Bros, but most notably is Gordon & Macphail, probably the oldest continually operating independent bottler, based in the Morayshire town of Elgin, and it is from this bottler we have this week’s sample.

Finding original bottlings of Glentauchers are few and far between. As mentioned above, it is a spirit usually for providing for blends, notably Ballantines. There has been official bottlings – there was a 12 year old released in the 1980’s and in 2000 it was part of a set of 6 different whiskies released by Allied Distillers – all at 46% and 15 years old, meaning that in the case of Glentauchers they were using the DCL distillate. In 2017 an official bottling was released at 15 y.o under the Ballantines brand.


The Bottle

Region

Speyside

Age / Vintage

1991 / 16 years (Bottled 2007)

Strength

43%

Colour

Pale Gold

Nose

Peaches, Honey, biscuity cereals, vanilla, slight apple note. To start with I got a hint of solvent, but that disappeared after I left the glass to sit and breath.

Palate

Slightly oily mouthfeel, yet still quite light. No real overpowering flavours. Spicy oak note with a little fizz on arrival. Sweet, apples, honey, toffee, hay. Hint of lemon peel. Spicy notes soften with the addition of water.

Finish

Short to medium. Oak, slightly bitter, lemon. After water added very slight vegetal taste on departure.

Conclusions

This was a long time coming and I am disappointed in myself that I waited so long to taste this whisky. I’ve always liked the appearance of the G&M distillery bottlings. They look bold and classic, even reminiscent of a bygone age. You see I am a bit of a romanticist about Scottish Malt Whisky, and I prefer to think of it as just a wee industry and not the global behemoth it has become. The diagonal distillery name sloping up to the right reminds me strongly of that other Buchanan owned distillery, Convalmore. If you look at the Diageo Special releases from 2006, 2013 or 2017 you’ll see why.

But we have to move away from the labels, as they do not make whisky taste any better. I didn’t know really what to expect from this whisky, as it is one I have not had before, and I have to say I was very impressed. I drank most of my sample neat, but as towards the end of typing this out, I noticed time was marching on and it was nearly bed time. So, rather than neck it, I decided to see how things would play out with water.

As it was 43%, I didn’t really think it needed water. I really enjoyed the dram neat. I am sure that if it was delivered at a higher ABV, I would definitely be adding water to maybe soften it to get a great easy drinker. My dram from the previous night was a Lagavulin 16, and at 43% that was also drunk without water, and was fully enjoyable, yet I didn’t get all the complexity that you can find in Lagavulin. However getting back to Glentauchers, I don’t feel that there is a complexity there to find in this bottle, but that’s ok. Not everything has to be a challenge and it is important that we remember that we drink whisky because we enjoy it. Constantly seeking for something that isn’t there is just going to lead to a disappointment and spoil what is actually a decent dram.

I paid £7.80 for my 5CL sample in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill in Inverness. It’s a very touristy shop, and I was only in there to conduct some business connected to my wife’s business. It was when walking past the till I noticed the miniatures for sale. Of course, in a shop like this, you know that you are probably paying over the odds, but this is a bottle I always wanted to try. I had the chance to buy the 1996 bottle, but I noticed this 1991 hiding behind a few others. Going by the flawed mantra of older is better, I dug this one out – if I remember rightly it was also cheaper, so it satisfied the needs of my inner Aberdonian. Result!

A little bit of research into the bottling codes on the label reveal that this was bottled in 2007, which makes it 16 years old. I had seen something about the 1991 vintage also being bottled in 2010, but this is unconfirmed. This means the distillery was definitely producing before coming out of mothballs in 1992, and this must be some of the first spirit created by Allied Distillers.


Glentauchers in Allied Distillers collection circa 2000

While this bottle is discontinued, a quick look on auction sites reveals that it is available under £50, and if you are lucky this will also include auction fees, though you might have to add a little more to also cover the P&P. I think that this represents good value, and I would be happy to pay that for this dram. Therefore you will not be surprised to find out that I do recommend this whisky and if I see this as a 70cl bottle, I would be happy to buy it for my drinking collection. It would be sad to miss it, just as I miss the hair raising adrenalin rush of going round the bend next to the distillery now the camber has been sorted. My undercrackers are more grateful though,

One last tip before I go – I forgot to mention that there is no such place as Glentauchers. The distillery was built on the site of Tauchers Farm, and Tauchers Wood is on the other side of the road. Thought I’d better mention it in case you want to have a pilgrimage up a non-existent Glen.

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

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

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Getting Lost Isn’t So Bad

Taste Review #55 – The Lost Distilleries Blend, Batch 10

Welcome to this week’s whisky review, and we continue to work through my rather large stash of miniatures to bring you tastes throughout Scottish Whisky (and beyond – but not just yet!). This one is a superlative whisky, and I will almost have to call it a unicorn whisky though it is a lot more than that. For this review, the blend I will be reviewing is a blend of several unicorns!

When thinking of the lost distilleries, my mind cast back to one of the more famous, or infamous signs in Aberdeenshire, that of Lost. This road sign has been stolen countless times, to the point that the sign arm is now welded to the pole, and more substantial concrete put around the base. For you that do not know, Lost is actually a farm close to Strathdon, and you could be forgiven for feeling lost when you don’t find anything substantial. There are certainly no distilleries here, although the A944 through Strathdon takes you through the Cairngorms and joins onto the A939 Cockbridge to Tomintoul Road. Essentially the back door to Speyside going over the ski route to the Lecht resort. With a change of direction at Corgaff towards Braemar opens up the opportunity to visit some of the Perthshire Highland distilleries over another ski-route through Glenshee, officially the highest main road in the U.K.


One of Aberdeenshire’s more famous roadsigns

So, now it is time to refocus on whisky. Why did I pick this dram? As per usual, I was doing my usual troll through the auction sites to see if there was anything worth buying in the bargain basement, and two small samples of this came up, and I got them for an absolute steal given the normal price for the drams.

Let me just list the distilleries that are in this blend.

  • Port Ellen (Islay / to be reopened)
  • Brora (Highland / to be reopened)
  • Glen Mhor (Highland / demolished)
  • Rosebank (Lowland / to be reopened)
  • Caperdonich (Speyside / demolished)
  • Imperial (Speyside / demolished)
  • Mosstowie (Speyside – distilled in now decommissioned Lomond Stills at Miltonduff)
  • Glenisla (Speyside – experimental peated whisky reportedly made at Glen Keith Distillery)
  • Glenlochy (Highland – demolished)
  • Craigduff (Speyside – experimental peated whisky reported to be either Strathisla or Glen Keith)
  • Port Dundas (Lowland – Single Grain Whisky / demolished)

That is some roll call of whisky, so let’s get cracking on it!


The sample

Region

Blend

Age

NAS

Strength

51%

Colour

Golden Straw

Nose

Slightly solvent to begin with – wood polish moving quickly onto vanilla, chocolate, cafe latte, almonds. A hint of smoke

Palate

Oily mouth feel. No large kick considering its strength. Sweet to start with, with raisin and vanilla notes, Toffee building into some spicy oak notes. Light smoke

Finish

Quite long. The spicy oak continues, almost like curry spices. Warm and tempered with a creamy feel. A slightly bitter note at the end.


The Dram

Conclusion

This dram confuses me a bit. There is an impressive roll call of spirit in this dram that is never going to be seen again. Lets face it, even with some of the distilleries being rebuilt will not result in an identical spirit of the past. Given this fact, one has to wonder why they have done this, as the individual character of each malt has been lost. I have to say though, the oily mouth feel made me think of Clynelish, so I am wondering if this is a remnant of the Brora component in this mix.

The solvent and polished oak are clearly from the grain whisky, and given my experience previously with the Invergordon 42 year old excited me a bit, but most of it got lost until the end when a spicy oak built up.

There is an elephant in the room. A 70cl bottle of this dram costs around £350. I hate to say it, but this is not worth that at all. I do realise that you cannot get any of the component parts cheaply at the moment, and in any case, a 70cl bottle of any of them would probably cost as much as this blend. So I’m left feeling kind of lost. I think if I had a chance to buy a blend with lost distilleries in it, I’d more likely be buying a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label Ghost.

But my friends, let us find an upbeat note. Master of Malt charge £26.65 for a 3cl nip of this. To me that is still not good value. However, I was lucky enough to pick up 2 of these samples at Whisky Auctioneer for £16.80. Now that is a bargain. Sadly, this blend wasn’t really to my taste, so I may be looking for a new home for the second sample.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Or join me on my other social media channels below. Also, feel free to share, and 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

Whisky Photographs author’s own.

Roadsign to Lost FarmStanley Howe / Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 2.0

What's The Story, Tobermory?

Taste Review #54 – Tobermory 10

The latest review crosses over to the island of Mull. It’s been a while since I’ve done a west coast island that isn’t Islay, and seeing as there is only one distillery on Mull, it is an easy one to cross off the list.

I have a small confession, and this is one that shouldn’t affect things too much. Actually it’s two confessions, but still that shouldn’t matter. Getting the first confession out of the way, Tobermory is a distillery that I have absolutely no experience of at all, but for me that is not a bad thing as my Scotty’s Drams project was all about getting into things I wouldn’t normally drink. I’ll come to the other confession in a wee while.


Tobermory pier and Main Street

What did excite me about this review more than anything else was this was one of the easiest titles to come up with. I do try to make it a little bit witty or to reference something else, or even be a bit risque, though for some reason I had the Oasis song ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory?’ in my head for this entry. However, those of us with young kids should remember the Children’s BBC programme ‘Balamory’ which was based around a fictional island community set in Tobermory. The catchphrase was “What’s the story in Balamory?”. I didn’t want people to think that was my favourite watching. I still prefer Danger Mouse, The Magic Roundabout and Rhubarb and Custard. Damn! I’m showing my age…..

So what is the story in Tobermory? Well, it’s one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, having been founded in 1798, a date proudly proclaimed on it’s bottle and on the side of the distillery. It was formerly known as Ledaig (pronounced as LetchAIG) and was formally licenced in 1823. It went through a couple of other owners before coming into the hands of Distillers Company Ltd, a fore-runner of Diageo, who closed the distillery in 1930 due to the fall out from prohibition in the USA. The distillery was silent for another 42 years until reopening under the Ledaig Distillery (Tobermory) name in 1972. However, production had to be halted by May 1975, as storage space had run out at the distillery due to delays in a bonded warehouse being built. This eventually caused the loss of 14 jobs, and the distillery went into receivership.

However, all was not lost, and the distillery did reopen in 1979 (which is the year one of my favourite ever songs was released – Are Friends Electric?) but this time under the name of Tobermory Distillers Ltd. This sadly did not last long, and after three years the distillery fell silent again. Some of the bonded warehouses were sold off for conversion into apartments and other storage uses, which made it look as though the days of Tobermory having a distillery where probably slipping away. The early to mid 1980’s were a dark time for Scottish distilleries, and many other more notable sites closed, especially if they were too small or limited in space to modernise, or had higher costs.

Of course, we all know this story has a happy ending, and the distillery opened in 1989, and by the 1993 it was taken over by current owner Burn Stewart, who themselves got taken over in 2013 by the South African company Distell, who also own the Bunnahabhain distillery on Islay and the Deanston distillery in the Highland region.


The Distillery at Tobermory

This isn’t a big distillery, and in 2017 it closed for two years for upgrading, but the capacity of the distillery was not altered, and remains at 1,000,000 litres a year. That isn’t a lot, especially when you consider that the distillery also produces two runs – There is the unpeated whisky which is marketed as Tobermory, and the heavily peated whisky known as Ledaig, which is peated to around 30-40ppm. This leads me to my second confession – for a long time, I was under the impression that Ledaig was a separate distillery. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago I realised, even though I’d been collecting whisky on and off since 2006. Well, there you go. Drinking Famous Grouse isn’t my only shame!

It seems going by the distillery web page that there are only currently 4 core bottlings, and the 10 year old that I have to taste for you today seems to have been discontinued. however this has been replaced by a 12 year old. There is also a 42 year old bottling, and on for Ledaig there is a 10 year old and an 18 year old available.

Anyway, writing all this info before I have a sip has given me a mouth as dry as Mother Theresa’s sandals, so let’s move onto the process of getting some whisky down my neck. My wee dram has been airing while I typed this up, so should be fully ready for a tasting.


The bottle

Region

Highland

Age

10 Years Old

Strength

46.3%

Colour

Light gold

Nose

Quite a fruity hit at first with a very active green apple there, followed by malty notes and some creamy vanilla and caramel. Light oak.

Palate

Quite assertive but not overpowering in the arrival. Noted a slight astringency in the development, but all very polite and pleasurable. Fruity, in that there are apples and pears there, perhaps stewed as there is a bit of sweet leading to bitter in the development. The astringency fades and a nutty gingerbread appears, and the start of a maritime note. This is drying on the mouth which leads onto the finish

Finish

Medium to long finish. Very pleasant. I got quite a bit of salt in the start of the finish, with the continuing gingerbread spiciness. Perhaps a bit of star anise as well. Right at the end, a chocolate note develops.


The poured dram

Conclusion

This wouldn’t normally be a go to malt for me, which is a shame, as this was really pleasurable, and I liked the notes I got from this whisky. The main points in my round up would be the fruity aroma, the gingerbread spice which has quite a constant spicy feeling in the mouth, though in a really nice way. It is important to know that I sampled this dram neat, and with being 46.3%, it didn’t seem to be. It was just right and well balanced between spirit and cask. Best news is that I found another sample in my hoard.

I don’t know where this whisky matures, but the maritime notes are there, and although not that strong to begin with, build up quite nicely, but don’t become overpowering. The one thing that concerns me is after I made my notes up for the taste test, I had a look at other notes to see how mine compared. I was surprised to see that people were recording a peat and smoke there. I never got that at all, especially because this is supposed to be an unpeated whisky. However, I wonder if they are experiencing something left over from the production schedule of Ledaig?

I can’t tell you how much this sample cost me, as I bought it at Inverness airport, but I don’t think it was much above £6. However a full bottle will set you back around £50. This in my opinion is a bit much for a 10 year old whisky, but given the enjoyment I got, not unreasonable. However it is discontinued so price may rise. If price is not a concern, then it is a good malt, and scores 4/4 on our ABCD scale – Age statement, Bottling strength of 46.3%, No Chill Filtering, and although it doesn’t mention on the bottle or box that it is not coloured, a bit of research on sites selling it in Germany reveal it is not coloured. This must be a Burn Stewart thing, as the Deanston bottles are similar. Not being subjected to artificial colourings is something that should be shouted out.

If you want something a bit more available and cheaper, I would suggest the Old Pulteney 12, but this has a stronger maritime note.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Or join me on my other social media channels below. Also, feel free to share, and 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

Tobermory Main Street – Tom Parnell. Shared under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 Licence

Tobermory Distillery – De Facto – Shared under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 Licence

All Other Photos – Author’s Own

Kicking It Old Skool

Taste Review #52 – Macallan 10 (Old Style)

No. I am not trying to get down with the kids. I am definitely not a cool person. But today’s review will be a refreshing piece of nostalgia, and we are going to be looking at whisky that many being produced today need to learn from. There may be a bit of Macallan bashing, but this is purely incidental, certainly not intentional and could be equally aimed at many other distilleries.


1990’s Macallan

How many of us remember a time when whisky was good? Hasn’t it always been good? Can it get any better? With Single Malt Whisky having exploded over the past couple of decades, the choice has never been better. However with this taste review, I want to put a concept to you. I want each of you who reads this to think about it to yourselves. And if you can be bothered, I’d appreciate feed back, either in the form of a comment below the article, through facebook, instagram, e-mail or even twitter. If your only means of communicating with me is carrier pigeon, then by all means send it, however I can’t promise that my dog won’t eat it. So if you are General Melchitt and your pigeon is called Speckled George, definitely don’t send it. (Fans of Blackadder Goes Forth will get the reference!)

I’m going to put to you the concept that some whisky is not better than it used to be. I would say it is demonstrably not worse per se, but definitely not as good as it used to be. I would say this has happened and continues to happen due to the large amounts of different editions through different age statements, non-age statements, cask finishing and the lack of decent aged stock available. This is something that all distilleries will suffer from. Each one is trying to obtain, keep or improve its market share.

For a while, I have felt that this applied to Macallan. This is not because I want to rebel against Macallan, as everybody seems to like them and I don’t want to rebel like a stroppy teenager. It’sbecause I feel the focus has moved. While I still believe that they do still make quality whisky, I feel that quality is definitely subdued. This was highlighted to me during a visit to their distillery in October last year.

The building itself is a marvel. You will have never seen a distillery like it, and I doubt if we will ever see one again, certainly not in the near future. Outside it looks more like an extension of Tellytubby land, but inside you can see the architectural masterpiece it is. The tour is good value too, albeit it seems very corporate, although now thinking about it, this is not a mistake. This is deliberate.

The Macallan archive is a wonderful masterpiece, with hundreds of bottles on the soaring shelves. But it is here we start to make our comparisons. One of my bugbears with Macallan is the amount of NAS they are releasing. To look across the way, we see the shop, where many of the products there have no age statements. But as I said before, some of what I am saying about Macallan can be applied to many distilleries, as aged stocks run low.

Macallan has been known as a distillery that exclusively used sherry casks, and one of the six pillars of Macallan is the quality of their casks. However, since 2004, they have been releasing whisky that has been made not just in sherry casks, but now uses Bourbon casks. Not that I have a problem with this as such, as this doesn’t make a bad whisky. However, it just isn’t as good as what has gone before from Macallan in my opinion.


one of my old style Macallan bottles

The tour I took at Macallan also gave us a sample of 12 year old Double Cask which is matured in American and European Oak, and the 15 year old Triple Cask which is also matured in a Bourbon cask. This, as far as I know isn’t the result of re-racking but a mixture of casks in the vatting prior to bottling. I never got a chance to try them at the distillery, as I was driving – and of course we all know drinking and driving is definitely not cool. So I got them to take home.

This fact was something that excited me, as I had a sample of a 10 year old Macallan from the 80’s or 90’s which I had been given by Matteo at the Speyside Whisky Shop, and I really wanted to write a review that compared all three, but the samples from the whisky tour just didn’t give me enough to write an objective review. However, although both drams were quite pleasant there was something that was very obvious to my palate. The old style whisky blasted the other two into outer space. Just no comparison.

Here are my tasting notes for the older whisky.


12 Year old 1990’s Macallan

Region

Speyside

Age

10 years

Strength

40 % abv

Colour

Deep gold

Nose

Proper sherry nose. Dates, plums, raisins, tobacco note, hot chocolate powder. More of a toffee note appears when water added. 

Palate

Instant, intense sweet hit on the arrival, with pretty much every note in the nose also on the palate. 

Finish

Medium to long, gently fades away. Slightly drying in the finish, toffee, dried fruits and a hint of spicy wood.


The dram

Conclusions

What I write now may be paraphrased from another article that I have written elsewhere about Macallan, but I’ll try and keep to the appropriate portions here.

I am indebted to Sorren at ocdwhisky.com for an article he wrote about whisky blogging. One of the things he said was that no whisky manufacturer deliberately makes a bad whisky. I know I might have had a bit of a rant over Jura Journey and Glen Keith, but Sorren is right. It’s just tastes are different, and you can’t like everything. However, that doesn’t mean that distilleries can get away with reduced quality whisky.

Of course, with a shortage of aged stocks, plus a decline in sherry drinkers has probably meant that sourcing quality casks has become harder and certainly more expensive for Scotch whisky producers. I would contend that Macallan has safeguarded the premium casks for their more expensive whiskies, which can cost thousand of pounds. However, they aren’t going to be doing that exclusive for whisky that is in the sub £100 bracket if they can get away with it. Use of Bourbon casks reduces the demand for sherry casks. This is something Macallan has been releasing since 2004. So, my concept I am trying to get you to think about is that have Macallan (or other producers) slowly weaned us off the premium whisky and onto something that is still good, but not as good?

I certainly feel this way, as the old-skool sample that I had was absolutely fantastic, and I almost regret giving my brother-in-law a small sample of the small sample I received. In a normal state of mind I wouldn’t have shared, but my brother in law is a good bloke and he very much appreciated his share. Is it a case of what we used to get as a standard 10 year old is now the quality standard for the 18 year old or above? I may have to take the plunge and buy a more expensive bottle to find out, or chum up my more generous Macallan drinking friends.

This is why I feel that with Scotty’s drams it is good to use the samples of older whisky, in particular my bargain basement miniature buying at auction is actually a valid exercise. The ten year old Macallan in the picture above is auctioning for around £300. The 12 year old I’ve seen as high as £450. A smaller sample is good for reminding us what has gone before and gives us a point of reference.

What is your take on this subject?

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here

Sorry for the double publishing – there was an error generated that caused the link to display incorrect information. It won’t happen again. Actually it probably will, but I will still be sorry.


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Or join me on my other social media channels below. Also, feel free to share, and 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 Photographs author’s own.

Under The Hammer

Why you need to be careful with on-line auctions

For a few years now I have been a regular user of on-line whisky auctions to start boosting my collection, as well as selling some of my bottles that I have no further need to keep. Recently I have spent some time selling around 40 miniatures at auction and was very happy at the price that I received. I also was selling my Macallan Folio 5, which I needed to get rid of on account of the amount released – it didn’t have the rarity value that I desire to enable to keep it. Of course, I then had to contend with the flippers and those also offloading their Macallan purchases that didn’t meet their expectations.

Throughout this article, I am not going to mention any auctioneers by name, however I will give the websites of the auctioneers that I use for buying, selling or both.

While on-line auctions offer a relatively easy way of buying and selling there are a few things that you need to be aware of that can catch you out. This is in particularly true when you are trying to sell something at the same time as a lot of other people. Unfortunately this was the problem that I had when selling my Macallan, and it isn’t just the auction you are taking part in – there are often two or three on-line auctions running at the same time. Of course many of those in the market will often see the way prices are going between the auctions and will bid accordingly – if they get outbid on one auction site, it is no problem just to start bidding on another site.

In my case, I wanted to offload my Macallan as soon as possible, so I had to pick an auctioneer that was going to hold an auction soonest and that I was able to get the bottle submitted in time. One thing you have to consider is that some auctioneers have better exposure than others, but the flip side is that those auctioneers are also more likely to have more submissions of the same article when it comes to trying to offload a sought after release. One thing that counted against me was that one of the biggest auctions was taking place when my auction started, and it had 200 Macallan Folio 5 for sale. It goes without saying that the more there is of something available, this then suppresses the price somewhat, but the good thing is that for Macallan Folio Editions, the demand is there, so you shouldn’t suffer. Perhaps I should have put that in italics, as there are no guarantees.

If you are worried about the price that you may receive back for any sales, the important thing is to place a reserve on it. This usually costs an extra £4 – £7 depending on auctioneer. I cannot stress this enough – perhaps it is better not to sell something that doesn’t make it’s reserve, and gives you the chance to either re-submit it to another auction or perhaps keep to sell another day. It gives me no pleasure to report that one of my friends in the whisky community went to sell his Macallan Easter Elchies Black 2019 and the auctioneers recommended no reserve. To my friends dismay, there was 90 other bottles in the same auction and as a result lost around £100. So, if you need a return – set a reserve.


Don’t get hammered at auction. Stick to your price and don’t overpay

Setting a reserve is something I think is also being used by some to manipulate the market, especially in the case of new releases. Many auctioneers do not let you set a reserve above Recommended Retail Price (RRP) for 6 months after a new release in an attempt to help stop the flippers setting high reserves to guarantee them a return which in my view is greedy, immoral and detrimental to a whisky release where people see pound signs instead of the liquid in the bottle. Admittedly, the best this can do is just kick the can down the road in limiting the prices, and anybody is free to bid above the RRP, but at least limiting reserves helps others. One auctioneer that I deal with has said they use common sense and don’t limit any reserves but it’s on a case-by-case basis. If it’s not unreasonable, you’ll get a higher than RRP reserve.

Not all auctioneers are the same, and when thinking about the reserves I have seen on other auctions for Macallan Folio 5, one around the same time had a bid on it for £600 and still had not reached the reserve price. In my opinion, the auctioneer is assisting the flippers, and it’s a bit unfair to those who value the whisky over the profit. What was not understandable is that there were several others available in the same auction – so why would somebody bid on one bottle way over the price of others that were available in the same auction that were a lot cheaper. If there is a bottle I want in an auction, and there is more than one available, I bid one, then if I get outbid, I then bid on a cheaper one. I personally think there is more behind the bidding of a bottle that seems to have had more bidding action than others, but we will deal with it later.

Some auctioneers publish reserve prices, and I think that is a good idea, as you know straight away what is expected, and you can tell if somebody has overvalued the whisky. If the reserve is hidden, then you should only bid to a level that you are comfortable with and don’t be tempted to incrementally bid to find out what the reserve is as you may be stuck with a bottle you can’t afford or may be overpaying for.

And this is a really important point. Generally speaking in a conventional auction, you can see who you are bidding against, as there will be an assistant on a phone or at a computer terminal. With an on-line auction you don’t have that facility. Sniping a bid (bidding at the last moment) has been eliminated by on-line auction by any bidding automatically extending the auction, but shill bidding I think is also prevalent as well. While auctioneers say that they are on the lookout, sometimes the bidding patterns don’t make sense, when people are bidding on one item, when there is another one equally as good but a lot cheaper. My whisky auction insider says there is very little that can be done to detect this, as it will only really show up if using the same hub. If your friend or family relative is bidding from another location, there is pretty much no way of telling.

One other hazard of on-line auctions is that you are physically unable to check the merchandise. If you have any doubt at all, make sure that you contact the auctioneer – they will supply extra photos on request, and if it is practicable they may allow an in-person visit to inspect the item. Not so handy for those of us who live in the more remote areas. You need to be sure you understand what you are buying.

I cannot recommend this enough, and be aware of what you are buying. RESEARCH! Know the price for a given condition. I’ve seen many auctioneers optimistically list lots as rare, but they aren’t. A quick look through other auction sites will reveal how often these turn up. I was recently given a wee task to source a bottle with a specific distillation date as a birth date. This wasn’t the easiest to find, and certainly getting harder to source, but does this make it more expensive? No – it doesn’t. If one shows up at auction then you can bet your bottom dollar another one will eventually. Set your price as to what you want to pay and wait.

Deciding your price is crucial. By all means do not bid your maximum price straight away, as often people will keep bidding until they outbid you. Best put a lower maximum in, and as soon as you are outbid, bid again. That way you may be able to pay less than the maximum you were prepared to as some people give up when they see somebody consistently upbidding them.

One thing my auction insider let me know is that they are presented with a large amount of fakes. OK, perhaps not masses, but the percentage is higher than you might expect. I have one bottle that I bought at auction for £35 that was part of my bargain basement hoovering towards the end of an auction to buy a whisky from the 50’s or 60’s. I had to query it, as the volume and strength were not printed on the bottle, and the label felt wrong. While the auctioneer assured me that this bottle was not a fake, I have my doubts, therefore will not be drinking it, but use it as a show piece. Do not assume that the auctioneer has spotted a fake, as it isn’t always apparent, and if they are handling hundreds or thousands of bottles for one auction, there is the chance one may slip through. It is also wrong to assume it is high value bottles that are the ones being faked – those are the ones that are checked more closely. It will be the cheaper ones that may suffer from counterfeiting more often than not.

The archive at Macallan distillery when it opened in 2018 was found to contain suspicious bottles. If they can’t tell, what chance have you got?


One is fake, the other is genuine

My last point is that beware of auction hype. One auctioneer had a superlative auction of a private collection that was to be broken up. Yes, there was some spectacular bottles there, but they were in the minority. A lot of bottles were missing boxes or had low fill levels. Just because it was part of an extensive collection does not make that worth any more. In all it was quite disappointing, Due to the Coronavirus, I am not sure if the second part will go ahead as planned in April 2020, but we will wait and see. Given the quality of the first half, I am a bit underwhelmed. If you have done your research, you will know what it’s worth, and bid accordingly – don’t get carried away and overpay, unless it’s a must-have for your collection, though even then exercise a wee bit of caution.

But for all the pros and cons of on-line auctions, I have bought older bottlings a lot cheaper than I would have got them retail. I have been able to complete collections that would otherwise be impossible, and I have been able to drink some unusual and rarer whiskies. You just have to keep your head when everybody around you in the auction seem to be losing theirs.

There is a list of on-line whisky auction sites I use or regularly browse below.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty


Whisky Auctioneer – http://www.whiskyauctioneer.com

Just Whisky – www.just-whisky.co.uk

Whisky Hammer – http://www.whiskyhammer.com

Scotch Whisky Auctions – www.scotchwhiskyauctions.com

The Grand Whisky Auction – http://www.thegrandwhiskyauction.com

Whisky Online Auctions – https://www.whisky-online.com/auctions/

Speyside Whisky Auctions – http://speysidewhiskyauctions.co.uk

Royal Mile Whisky Auctions – http://royalmilewhisky.auction

Robert Graham / Global Whisky Auctions – http://www.globalwhiskyauctions.com

WhiskyAuction.com (Based in Germany) – http://www.whiskyauction.com


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My dirty secret

Confession is good for the soul…. supposedly.

This week is going to be much better than last week. Because I am writing my Saturday article on Monday, this will mean that I have no confession on Friday that I have nothing prepared. In fact, the way I feel now, that confession would be much better. Indeed I’d rather just not give you all a Saturday article and admit failure than give up the source of my shame.

For this, it grinds my insides even more than telling you that since my wee accident with the garage door, to this point not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips. It’s kind of ironic that a chap who writes a whisky blog and collects bottles has become temporarily tee-total. I have to confide that my whisky sin is worse than that.

Much worse.

It is an old proverb that says that confession is good for the soul, but this time I have my doubts, for the evidence of my shame will be on the internet, not just here but on another site for all to see, only you won’t know which one as there are some details that you just don’t need to know.

I’ve become a hypocrite.

Now that the truth is out, I can continue along the same theme as my article from last week in which my Macallan Folio 5 arrived. With the news so much more had been released than the 2000 per edition previously, it wasn’t going to meet my expectations. As I said last week, my intention had been to swap for a Folio 4, and maybe sell in the long run, but with Macallan reportedly releasing 18,000 more Folio 5 than Folio 4, the price of the former will never achieve the price of the latter.

Of course, I could always sell it on without a profit, but just cover my costs, but I do have a small amount of morality left, and I couldn’t sell my bottle to somebody knowing that even though they were just paying essentially what I paid, the price of the bottle is likely to fall below even that. That’s just taking advantage of people.

Lastly, I could always drink it. But I’m sorry, no Macallan NAS at £250 is worth that. Plus, when we take in consideration the excessive packaging, that alone must take up at least £20 from the RRP, and once drunk, what do I do with it? I’m not a Macallan collector in that way at all.

Even if I sell it to another punter who will drink it, I’m not sure my conscience will let me sleep at night knowing that I’ve met somebody face to face, or even a follower of my blog to sell them a whisky which in a couple of months will be a lot cheaper. That’s not how I roll.

So, with morals securely stored in a dark place, I made contact with an auctioneer to arrange pick up of my box. We had a nice chat about Macallan (Whisky Geek Scotty was in check this time!) which in my opinion could summarise the conversation by saying Macallan have definitely made an impact to the secondary prices of a few of their recent releases.

Indeed, the auctioneer made a very good point about how Macallan really should look into their application of the ballot system and how it really should be for known amount of limited bottles, something buyers of Edition 5 and Easter Elchies 2019 are probably thinking too. I’ve an article about that written, but will give it a break with the Macallan writing after today. Just to give your senses a rest if nothing else.

In all fairness, I should have seen the warning signs and not just blindly entered the ballot. No evidence of the likely age and no numbers of Folio 5 released. Plus there was a commitment to buy if you won the ballot, unlike the Easter Elchies 2018, which gladly at £750 they did give you a little breathing space.

The conclusion? I’m glad it’s going but I do hope that I recover most of my money from it, if not make a small profit. As from the comments from last weeks article, take the money and spend it on something you’d really enjoy drinking. That’s a great point, and already something has already popped up. Not telling you what it is, as you may outbid me.

As an aside to this article, my dealings with the auctioneer revealed that I could not set a reserve higher than the RRP. This is a great move as it helps limit the rip off profiteering that some online auctioneers facilitate. Of course, the price may go higher, but that is because of what people are willing to pay rather than people being taken advantage of through limited availability and the crazy prices some of the greedy, impatient or ill-informed are prepared to pay.

And these people all do exist. A quick look at an online auction reveals just under 120 bottles of Folio 5 available. Some ill-informed person has already bid £560, yet still hasn’t met the reserve, which means the auctioneer is essentially helping the greedy.

On the other side, there is bottles there still for sale under RRP but there is just over a day to go as I publish this and these may well make a profit yet. But seeing this gives me squeaky bum time, though it reinforces my belief that the price will plummet. Indeed, out of 118 bottles, 42 will still fail to make a profit going by current bids and not including the cost of getting them to the auction house.

Perhaps Macallan planned this mass release deliberately to ensure more whisky gets drunk, and I have to grudgingly doff my cap to them, but given the demand for the brand world wide, I am still sure if they were open about the amount produced it would sell out. Either way, do they care about the secondary market? They sell their product anyway, and surely that is all that matters? This is part of the Macallan article I am attempting to write, but my keyboard just defaults to ‘rant lock’ and I don’t fancy libelling anybody.

With that, it’s now time to go and think about what dram for later on. After all it’s Saturday night!

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Slainte Mhath!

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

Ice Ice Baby!

To add ice or not? That is the question.

For another Saturday article in a row I find myself on a Friday afternoon with nothing written to give to you the next day. With all the big splutter that I have decent articles in hand (and some controversial opinions too!) I find myself like a damp squib. Not to worry, such is the world of whisky that there is always something to write about. While I cannot guarantee a long article, I can guarantee points to think about and mull over

Today was boiler service day. I have an old oil boiler that is spluttering along and I keep saying to myself it’s on its last legs, but my local plumber comes and waves his magic and boom! It’s like new again. However it was my plumbers turn to be subjected to whisky geek Scotty, but we had a very interesting conversation. You see, my plumber likes ice in his whisky.

Yes. I know. I’m quite aware that many of you may have given a sharp intake of breath, but as they say in much of Scotland – “Haud yer wheesht!” That’s Scots for shut your mouth.

Everybody is an expert on how a whisky should be drunk. But in many of the cases they are wrong. Let me put my expert hat on and explain why you should or shouldn’t put ice in your whisky.

Why you shouldn’t put ice in your whisky

Whisky is an alcoholic spirt that contains many different flavour and aroma compounds. Without going into any science at all as that is boring and geeky, these aromas are formed by the evaporation of the spirit in the glass. A curved glass such as a Glencairn, sherry copita or even a wine glass will concentrate these aromas so that when you put your nose to the glass, you’ll get a smell of the spirit within and this will be a precursor to the taste. Even if you are not going to be doing an evaluative tasting of the whisky, getting a smell of it before it hits your lips is important. This is because as the smell goes up your nose and down the back of your throat, parts of the aroma will be coating the back end of your tongue. This is prepping your mouth for the delight that is to follow. Unless you have chosen your whisky poorly or your host is a cheapskate.

If you put ice into whisky, or any other alcoholic spirit, this hinders the taste, as the spirit will not evaporate as efficiently and the aromas will be locked into the liquid. Therefore you are missing that little bit of taste. Furthermore, the taste components will also be that little less mobile and the temperature of the liquid is going to stun some of your tastebuds, so you just aren’t going to be able to taste the fullness of what is in your glass.

You don’t need to knife anybody who likes ice in their dram.

Why you should put ice in your whisky

Well, if we are all the same the world would be a boring place. Irregardless of why you shouldn’t put ice in your whisky, if that is the way you like it then why not? If you want to put soda water, lemonade or coke in your drink, that is entirely up to you. I’ll contend that it isn’t right, and that it would be a waste to do that to an expensive whisky, but if that is how you will enjoy it more then that is entirely up to you. And you get the kudos of being the guy who doesn’t give two hoots if you are seen to be putting ice into a 72 year old Macallan. Or mixing it with Irn Bru.

So what about these whiskies that should be put in the freezer?

Let me tell you under no circumstances put any whisky in the freezer. It is just a gimmick. The ones I know of that recommend this are Dalwhinnie Winter Gold and Johnny Walker “White Walker” (part of the Game of Thrones package). You know why they recommend you do this? It’s because you aren’t drinking the best whisky that Diageo have to offer. Winter Gold isn’t that bad if drunk normally, but you’ll get a far better dram out of the 15 yr old.

Winter’s Gold got its name as it is made from spirit distilled in the winter months. As Dalwhinnie is one of the highest distilleries in Scotland and uses traditional worm tubs, when the winter weather is at its harshest this has an effect on the condensing rate of the spirit vapour in the tub as the cooling water is a lot colder than normal. Therefore it has an effect on the taste. Putting the bottle in the freezer will just obliterate any taste that is there.

As for Johnny Walker? I’m not a fan. Especially the Game of Thrones series, as it is just a way of separating people from their money.

Remember – gimmicks get you to drink more sub-premium whisky in my opinion. And GoT contained very little premium whisky.

Conclusion

So, whether you like ice in your whisky or not, it is important just to chill out about it. While I will always recommend tasting a whisky neat first or with a few drops of water, I’ve often thought how some whiskies may taste nicer with a bit of ginger and ice. Remember in your quest for taste experiences, whether you take ice or not isn’t really important if you want to. It’s more important to think outside the box and not be stuck inside one.

Anyway, with that in the bag, and written before the clock passes midnight, I hope that my plumber enjoyed the drams that I sent him away with so much that he forgets to post his invoice although chance will be a fine thing!

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

photos – Shutterstock