Ask The Collector – September 2007

We return to our regular schedule of Ask the Collector – the last Friday of each month.

We still get lots of requests for valuation of whisky, but many of the requests are from people who can’t read. 2 basic rules are consistently violated:

  1. Send a picture.
  2. Before asking, take a look at the”Ask the Collector” article archive to see if your bottle has been valued previously. If I get another request to value a Chivas Regal Royal Salute Spode decanter, I’m going to go f’ing postal.

And to be honest, we’ve been getting a lot of simply uninteresting bottles.

But we march on . . .


And now another installment of our very popular “Ask The Collector” column in which Sukhinder Singh of The Whisky Exchange answers questions about the value of collectible whisky.

We generally respond to questions within a day or so (completely
dependent upon Sukhinder’s schedule).

Remember, when you are in London, you can visit The Whisky Exchange in Hanwell or at their satellite shop at Vinopolis near the Borough Market. And of course you can always visit The Whisky Exchange on-line.

Ground Rules

Still getting way too many questions without pictures or posted as comments. These emails/comments will not be answered. Sorry!

  1. Before emailing, please look through the
    old “Ask The Collector” stories, to see if a similar bottle has already
    been appraised. If we get another question about the value of a bottle
    of White Horse from 1990, I’m going to put my head through the screen.
  2. Some people have been leaving questions
    for Sukhinder in the comments. This is a no-no. I will assume any
    questions left in comments are for other readers to answer and NOT for
    Sukhinder – If you want Sukhinder’s expert opinion please use the “…Ask the Collector” email address in the link to the right.
  3. No questions will be considered without an included picture. I spend too much time asking people for pictures. Starting in 2007, I’m afraid we can’t respond to any questions which don’t include a picture of the bottle. If
    you don’t include a picture, you won’t get a response. Make sure your
    pictures include the fill level as well as the label and any
    distinguishing characteristics!
  4. If Sukhinder makes an offer to buy your bottle, please do him the courtesy of responding whether you accept his offer or not.
  5. Please visit The Whisky Exchange – either in person or via their website. Let’s support Sukhinder, as he is providing this valuation services for free!

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The 2008 Malt Whisky Yearbook is nigh

Ingvar Ronde (Editor of the Malt Whisky Yearbook) tells me that he
is in the midst of finalizing the 2008 edition – and soon it will be
off to the printer.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get a stack to sell again this year. Pre-order interest anyone?

Here’s what to expect in this year’s edition

Mwyb2008Some of the world’s most distinguished whisky writers also join us
this year:

David Stirk tells us about a Scotch producer
sailing under French banner, when he depicts the fascinating story of
Chivas Brothers.

It has been a bumper year for Scotch whisky,
but will it last? Ian Buxton looks at the historical precedents for
Scotch Whisky´s “Golden Age”.

Are they scientists or artists or a bit of both? Gavin D Smith has met with the Master Blenders.

How should whisky face competition from other drinks? Dominic Roskrow suggests the way to go.

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Compass Box Fall Line

Compass Box let me know that they have 6 limited edition releases ready for Fall/Winter 2007.
I’m feeling sick today, so you are getting the "talking points" version of this. Deal with it.

No Orangerie ("Orange-er-ie") this year. Damn.

And remember. if you want Morpheus, Maximus, or Juveniles – contact the retailer/restaurant and NOT Compass Box (or me).

The run down on the fall releases:

Flaming Heart

  • Available in all Compass Box markets.
  • This is the 2nd release.
  • 717 cases (4302 bottles) produced.
  • Style: Very big, rich, peaty 100% Scotch Malt Whisky.  Peaty, smoky notes enhanced by rich, sweet, spicy (clove) undertones from new French oak aging.  Digestif style.
  • Recommendations:  Neat or with water.  Serve in a red wine glass diluted with chilled water with game dishes.
  • Distillery Sourcing:  Primarily from distilleries in the villages of Port Askaig (Islay and Brora (northern Highlands).  Whisky ages between 10 and 16 years-old.
  • All whiskies aged in first-fill and refill American oak casks for primary maturation.  Some receive a secondary maturation of 18 months in new French oak barrels.
  • Bottled at 48.9%.  Natural colour.  Not chill filtered.

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Springbank wants to get you some learnin'

You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a whisky school now-a-days, and why not? The more schools that pop up, the more likely you are to spend some quality production time at the same place your favorite dram is made.

Springbank, a perennial fan favorite and the distillery that literally put Campbeltown back on the whisky map, has announced their own Whisky School.

The "headmaster" will be Springbank’s Director of Production Frank McHardy, who will be on hand throughout each of the five-day “terms” to pass on the extensive knowledge he has gained during 44 years in the whisky industry.

Frank McHardy explained:

Springbank’s status as the only distillery in Scotland to carry out 100 per cent of the whisky-making process on-site, from malting the barley through to bottling its own whisky, makes it the ideal location to learn the craft which has been practised in Scotland for hundreds of years.

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More Highland Park scoop

Yesterday we talked about some information from Edrington (courtesy of John Hansell) about the cancellation of the Highland Park Single Cask program.

Today, I’m the one with the inside information from Highland Park.

I’ve been told that they plan to do a 21-year old specifically for U.S. airport duty free shops. Finally, a reason to put your toiletries in a damned plastic bag.

Also, the 40 year old Highland Park, which you may have heard rumors about, will be out in February 2008.

UPDATE: Although the 40 will be released in February, it’s not due to hit the US until Summer 2008.

What does John know?

If you think I get a lot of inside information, you should meet my friend John Hansell.

Name sound familiar? John publishes a little magazine called Malt Advocate and is behind the Whisky Fest shows (with Amy Westlake, of course).

Yeah, that John Hansell.

John started a new feature on the Malt Advocate site called "What Does John Know", where he is giving me a run for my money breaking new whisky-world news.

Like this recent story where he tells of Highland Park officially announcing the end of their Single Cask bottling program:

just spoke with my contact at Edrington and he told me that the
Highland Park single cask bottling program offered to specialty
retailers and restaurants throughout the United States is being
discontinued, effective April 2008. Yes, now is the time for you to go
out and get a bottle if you want one.

Of course I may have mentioned a rumor of this at some time in the past :)

I have great aspirations to attend both the San Francisco AND New York Whisky Fests, but Fall is a busy time in the world of whisky, and since most of my travel comes out of my own pocket, I have to make sure my travel plans don’t exceed my travel budget.

But you should make every effort to hit these Fall shows.

On Michael Jackson's Passing

Of course by now, you all know of the untimely death of Beer & Whisky writer legend Michael Jackson on August 30th.

At the time of his death I was in the middle of Nevada’s Black Rock desert with no access to the outside world. I did not learn about his death until my return. As such, I had no opportunity to write a timely & fitting tribute.

But of course a web site dedicated to whisky couldn’t let his passing go without mention.

I first met Michael some 15 years ago when he hosted a beer tasting
in Washington, DC. I was just getting into craft brews and his passion
for the topic struck me and delivered me whole-heartedly into the mind frame of "Drink Better". At that tasting Michael signed a beer glass for me which my wife subsequently placed in the dish-washer – returning the glass to it’s pristine, pre-signatorial state. She is, of course, no longer my wife.

Years later, Michael signed a book for me with the simple inscription "Keep Writing". For a journeyman in the world of spirits writing, being recognized by THE master was a special moment for me. Just as special is the fact that a signed copy of my book resides in Michael’s Library.

In my subsequent meetings with Michael he was always kind and encouraging. I’m really quite sad – not only that I’ll never get to run into him again – but that I won’t be able to enjoy new words of wisdom from him.

The whisky world is truly a poorer place for his passing.

Gary Regan knew Michael better than I and recently had this to say in his Ardent Spirits newsletter:

The world lost a great man on August 30 when Michael Jackson, the man
who almost singlehandedly saved the world’s craft brews from
extinction, brought single malt scotch to the attention of the planet,
and paved the way for all modern-day beer and spirits writers, died of
a heart attack at his London home.  He will, indeed, be missed by
millions, and his tireless work will not be forgotten.

Ian Buxton has known Michael for quite some time and contributes this about Michael:

I had the privilege knowing Michael since February 1984, when we met en route to various Czech breweries – a trip full of incident, recalled with great fondness when we met last, earlier this year.

Having written extensively on beer, by 1987 he had begun to develop an interest in whisky that became both encyclopaedic and authoritative.  His influence on the development of single malt whisky in particular cannot be over-stated.  He was the single most influential modern writer on whisky since Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart and, arguably, the most important since Alfred Barnard in the late 19th century. The distilling industry recognised this with various awards, most notably his nomination as a Master of the Quaich.

Despite his great experience and the increasing severity of his advancing illness he retained a charming enthusiasm.  Recently, on a particularly unrewarding distillery visit, I observed him making extensive notes, as was his lifetime habit.  When I asked what on earth he could find to write his reply characterised his innate modesty and unbounded gusto: “There is always something new to see”.  I am looking for it still!

Over the past 23 years I grew to admire not just his writing, his wide-ranging knowledge, his passion (over-used word) but also the good humour and fortitude with which he bore his long-standing illness.  His importance as a writer on both beer and whisky will grow in the future but for now we mourn the loss of a comrade, loyal friend and true guide.

I took this photo of Mike Miller (Delilah’s Chicago, IL) chatting with Michael at the 2006 London WhiskyLive.


Jonesing for a new Compass Box?

If you are one of the many fans anxiously awaiting the latest masterpiece from Compass Box, your wait is over – but you’ll have to visit Milroy’s of SoHo in London to score a bottle.

Milroy’s was excited to let me know that they have teamed up with John Glaser to create Morpheus, a limited edition bottling made specifically for Milroy’s

The description: Beguiling flavours reminiscent of cinnamon fruitcake topped with candied orange peel, shaped into dreamily warming peat.

Damn, that sounds good.

Compass Box “Morpheus” (the Greek god of dreams) is a bespoke bottling made for Milroy’s of Soho.  In keeping with the whisky’’s name, we pursued a visionary notion:  the combination of strong peaty notes with an underlying richness and sweetness (due to partial aging on new American oak, something rarely seen outside the dreams of the typical Scotch producer).

Morpheus” is a limited release bottling of just over 900 bottles, bottled in August 2007.

Introductory offer price – £39.95

Contact Milroy’s to reserve yours. I did.

A legacy comes to an end

Today Bruichladdich announced the release of the final installment in their "Legacy Series".

Though labeled as a 34 year old whisky, there are ample amounts of six casks from the 1965 and 1970, in addition to the
1972 vintages.

Jim McEwan says It’s a cracking dram –  as can often be the case when ‘the whole’ is even
better than the individual component casks. It makes for a sensationally compelling whisky. Sure,
we have more great old casks,  but we have new ideas for these. It will be a real shame if folk merely ‘collect’ this legacy of Legacy,  I truly hope it will be savoured  too –  that’s what it’s
really for.

Jim’s tasting notes: it’s a suitably special dram, very creamy,  all vanilla, crème caramel and  butterscotch. Hints of banana, apricot, marzipan, maple syrup, and cinnamon – even  pear and mint.

If I can taste half of those flavors I’ll be suitably impressed.

Bottled at a cask strength of 41%. Exclusively matured in ex-Bourbon casks, the release is limited to 1,704 numbered bottles and will retail for £200.

The series features
labels created from oil
paintings of Hebridean seascapes by renowned local artist Frances Macdonald. The
6th bottling features the painting “Evening Surf”.


For you crazy collectors out there here’s the full lineup:

Sept 2002 – Legacy 1 – Bruichladdich 36 year old @ 40.6% – numbered limited edition of 1,500 bottles
Oct 2003 – Legacy 2 – Bruichladdich  37 year old @ 41.8% – numbered limited edition of 1,500 bottles
Nov 2004 – Legacy 3 – Bruichladdich   35 year old @ 40.7% – numbered limited edition of 1,572 bottles
Nov 2005  – Legacy 4 – Bruichladdich 32 year old @ 47.5% – numbered limited edition of    900 bottles
Oct 2006 –  Legacy 5 – Bruichladdich 39 year old @ 40.9% – numbered limited edition of 1,690 bottles
Oct 2007  – Legacy 6 – Bruichladdich 34 year old @  41.0% – numbered limited edition of 1,704 bottles

Best of: The shape of the bottle

Still on vacation . . .

I am NOT able to approve comments whilst gone.

Originally Posted – October 12, 2005

The shape of the bottle

I received an interesting question from a reader:

Dear Kevin/Scotchblog,

I have a simple curiousity about the bottle designs of the various
single malts. Particularly, why do most have a similar shape in the
neck area with a slight ‘bulb’? Is this just a design that developed
into a bottle trend or is does it have a technical/scientific reason?
Any light you could shed would be helpful. Thank you.


I’ve never come across any
mention or discussion of the particular shape of the traditional whisky
bottle in any book, so I thought maybe, I’d missed something…

So, I thought I’d ask some of the experts to see if they knew of any
concrete reasons for this. Several experts simply said "Beats me." But
some others thought they’d take a whack…

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