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Over the past year I have auctioned a couple bottles of my Lady of the Glen through an auction website (www.whiskyauctioneer.com). Auctioning is a fascinating part of the industry which I was initially wary of because of my lack experience in auctioneering and I had not anticipated my product being popular in an auction environment due to the relatively new nature of the brand. However, I learned from an auctioneer at Whisky Lounge 2013 that any bottling which is individually numbered from rare casks is ideal, especially if the number of the bottle is low!
Recently my interest has been fanned by stories in the press of casks being sold for record breaking prices; one cask of Macallan fetched HK$1.952 Million at Spink Auction. In the back of my mind I was aware of a family friend who attended Post Office and Police auctions and came back with some amazing bargains like a pair of Mike Tyson boxing gloves for a song! For me, the auction room was a mysterious place where a unique item could be acquired by the savvy bidder at a reasonable price but now I view auctions as a more laid back environment where you can take part from the comfort of your own home and where you can purchase good quality whisky not just for the purposes of adding to your collection but for drinking.
Reading Jemima Sissons’ article ‘Buying Spirits at Auction’ June 13 2014 one of interviews with the International Director of Wine in Europe and Asia for Christie’s reveals that when buying an old spirit, “a good bottle is pretty much guaranteed (compared to buying an old wine bottle)”. The article continues to claim that whisky auctioneering is a niche market with only 100 major whisky collectors worldwide. It also becomes apparent that there are many different motivations for buying at auction; a restaurant owner would attend to get some rare Whisky that would improve their Whisky gantry and others would view it as an opportunity to invest, take for example the W Club which has a post on Whisky investment advice.
At the auction you could be overwhelmed with the array of Whisky on offer, so it is important to have product knowledge and to understand the reasons why you are buying or else it could be like going to a supermarket hungry which is never good. The obvious traits like looking for Whisky from closed distilleries (Littlemill, Caperdonich, Port Ellen, St Magdene and Glenugie) or bottles which are marked for special occasions i.e. anniversaries of events are common knowledge. But, there are other factors which you can take into consideration when attempting to understand the value of a bottle of Whisky.
Again, Jemima Sissons’ article identifies further points to help a bidder know what to look out for, the most interestingly in my opinion I have noted below.
• Japanese Whisky as there are only a few distilleries now
• Pre Prohibition American Bourbon (pre 1920)
• Pre 1950 Irish Whiskey
To reaffirm it is important to know why you are at the auction if it is to buy to drink or to buy to sell now or in the future. Earlier I mentioned the W club and on that page there is a referral to David Robertson who suggests building a portfolio of whisky as an investment, he identifies five key sectors
1. Contemporary Icons, such as limited release Bowmore or Ardbergs
2. Silent stills, which is whisky from distilleries no longer operating such as the Lady of the Glen 21 year old Littlemill
3. Hidden gems, which are less obvious whisky distilleries which a gambler would expect to increase in value
4. Trophy bottles, those being your age old Whisky from distilleries famous for quality
5. Antiques, the really old stuff such as Pre World War 2 Macallan
You can Read more about David Robertson here
To get a general idea of Whisky value you could visit the Whisky Exchange making sure to input the distillery name in the general whisky search and then trolling through the relevant distillation dates, bottling dates and if you have it the cask numbers to give you an idea of how much a Whisky is worth which is similar to your own or one you want buy.
If you have considered auctioning some of your Whisky an Auction House or website can value you it for free and all you need to do is provide a photo and a little detail. Should you choose to list your item there will be a process to confirm authenticity prior to listing and you can expect a listing fee and/or a commission for the auctioneer.
There are plenty of auction sites and shops out there too so you can afford to be savvy and find the right one for you. Coming into the festive period these auctions will be busy with people coming to raise some Christmas cash with those looking to get affordable whisky bargains or unique gifts for friends and family.
Should you wish to know some more about auctioneering please feel free to get in touch with me and I can perhaps guide you on your next step.
Lady of the Glen’s 26 year old Bunnahabhain will be released in the coming weeks. This will be the first Islay release for Lady of the Glen and I couldn’t be more proud because it hastens us further toward that point where Lady of the Glen will have sold a Whisky from each of Scotland’s Whisky regions. However, regardless of its geographical location this particular Whisky still meets the high quality standards set by each previous release.
First a little bit about the distillery’s history. Bunnahabhain translates from the Gaelic ‘The Mouth of the River’ and it was founded in 1883 on the North of Islay. Built during the 19th Century Whisky boom, there are only around twenty other distilleries in Scotland created during this time which are still active now. Bunnanhabhain is fortunate to be amongst this century old distilleries as it was mothballed it 1999. It did reopen eventually and now sells it Whisky through various avenues including Independent bottlers and its own release. The water source for distillery is the Margadale River.
Lady of the Glen’s Bunnahabhain was distilled on the 16th November 1987, the same year Thatcher won her third term in the UK, the Simpsons first hit the screens and I was born. On the exact date of distillation it was coincidental that number 1 in the pop charts was T’Pau – China in your Hand. It was aged in a single refill American Bourbon cask, numbered 2470. It has been bottled at cask strength (50.01% ABV) and there has been no colourings added - this is non-chill filtered as has been every Lady of the Glen. The yield is approximately 205 70cl bottles and as past buyers know each bottle will be individually numbered and presented in bespoke gift bags.
This will be Lady of the Glen’s first release which sells in 70cl, 20cl and 3cl bottles. The tasting notes will appear on the bottle but they are held as follows
Vanilla ice cream and banana sweets on the nose. Velvet smooth and luscious on the mouth with maltiness and the slight hint of smoke at the very end on the palate. With a drop of water more sherbet sweets on the nose and more floral notes while on the palate there are more exotic fruits and melon.
This is not your big peaty whisky or your typical Islay for that matter. This is good for those palates that are perhaps dipping into Islay for the first time or who are perhaps averse to the strong peat associated with Islay.
I found it exceptionally difficult to price this Whisky due to one reason – It’s unique. Although I could price it to similar casks, they are not at cask strength as Lady of the Glen’s is and there is a large difference in price between different distillation dates where the age is almost the same because quality of Whisky must have greatly varied depending on when it was distilled. Independent reviews will assure of you of the quality of this Whisky. I have valued it at £130.00 per 70cl from the website which includes delivery.
Over the weekend I attended my first ever gin tasting. Previously, I had been of the mind that gin was not a particularly diverse drink but one which I still greatly enjoyed with tonic and lime.
To begin with here is the definition of Gin from the course – Gin is potable spirit flavoured with juniper and other botanicals (such as coriander, angelica, lemon and orange peels) either by compounding or distillation. More simply put, all gins are basically neutral spirit, (high strength vodka) flavoured with juniper and various seeds, berries, roots, fruits and herbs.
Originally I had arranged the course as a belated Mother’s day gift because my mum was and continues to be a drinker of ‘mother’s ruin’ so I felt it appropriate to book us both on a gin tasting to learn a bit more about it. The wee course was held at56 North in Edinburgh and I would encourage anyone to book direct with them because it’s a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon for people who are new to gin or have historically only tried staple gins like Gordons, Bombay Sapphire and such.
At your table you are guided through eight different gins ranging from your Tanqueray, Export strength to Sloane’s Dry Gin from Holland. In between, you get to sample Edinburgh based Gins and even a Shetland Gin.
Interestingly the unique thing about a gin tasting is the value that is placed on the tonic water used. Each gin is tried neat at first and then you are given a selection of tonics to choose from to adequately compliment your gin. You select your appropriate tonic by identifying how well it can stand up to the flavour of the gin and attempt to create the right balance. Fever Tree although the most expensive tonic complimented all the Gins I tried well and I would say that Fentimans was my least favourite because of the strong taste and fizz. The best combination I tried was the Portobello Road with the Fever Tree it was exceptional and afterward I had an entire glass with a big slice of grapefruit.
I love learning and I found that Gin distillation very intriguing. It follows a two stage process; the neutral spirit is made and is then flavoured through re-distillation with botanicals (seeds, berries, roots, fruits, herbs and spices). The most fascinating aspect of Gin is the multiple re-distillation processes available to distillers,
Steep & Boil, where the botanicals are steeped in the neutral spirit (watered down) and after adequate maceration the spirit is distilled in the pot still.
Vapour infusion, where the botanicals do not come into contact with liquid spirit at all! They are placed in a basket inside the still and only encounter the spirit as vapour. The botanical-infused vapour then condenses into a botanical-infused spirit and water is added to reduce to bottling strength.
Vacuum infusion, similar to the Steep & Boil, the spirit is redistilled with the botanicals under vacuum so reducing the temperature at which the ethanol alcohol boils.
And 5. Individual Steep & Boil and Individual Vapour infusion, each botanical is steeped and boiled separately and then the numerous resulting single botanical distillates blended together to create the finished gin or using Individual Vapour infusion method the individual botanical is held in separate baskets in separate stills and similarly blended together afterward. Although the most expensive method this affords the greatest control to the Gin maker when they create their blend of Gin.
Gin has strong links with whisky too. You will find that a number of new whiskey and whisky distilleries will produce Gin to keep them ticking over until their casks are ready i.e. Brecon Gin and Penderyn Gin in Wales each do this.
A few other interesting facts or opinions about Gin
It originated from Holland
It tastes better with Lemon
Vermouth should be best left to the 80s
The second largest market in the world for Gin is in Uruguay
If you want to learn more about Gin and you live in or near Edinburgh definitely visit the 56 North Bar or signup to a class. It has one of the largest gin collections in Scotland at over 100, I believe the largest gantry is in London and it has over 300 different Gins. You can also track Gin Monkey who has nice blog posts and gives you adequate instruction to create a Martinis.
I doubt HWM ltd will release a Gin under Lady of the Glen anytime soon but tasting different spirits and expanding your palate by trying new flavours is important in my opinion.
After the Whisky Lounge last year I was a much changed person. Consuming high volumes of high volume whisky samples can do more than give you a headache the next day and a feeling of anxious worry, what did I do or say to some people that could or has been construed the wrong way?!
On reflection of last year’s event my friend, Bob (my leather jacket wearing Whisky loving comrade from last year whom my wife recommended join me because she was busy) and I started our day at 11.30am at the Fidlers Arm in the Grass-market with a steak pie rather than the coffee and Pork sandwich quickly devoured last year. After our hearty meal we meandered up to the Hub on Castlehill fashionably late at 1230ish as opposed to first ones in last year at 1200.01, we would take our time…this time.
It was another fine showing from the Whisky Lounge team, with a great variety of drams on offer and the same system in place as last year – your sampling glass (now with water dropper) and two white tokens. Bob, my Whisky drinking buddy, forked out the additional money for those prized black tokens which would give you those under the table special drams. I was really looking forward to the event this year because although it has the big companies like Diageo and you get your other big whisky brands like Highland Park, The Macallan, you also get to see what other businesses are doing like A.D. Rattray, Compass Box and Berry Bros and you know there will always be a little gem of a stall like the Diplomatico stall; which was handing out rum this year.
My favourite stand was the Scotch Malt Whisky Society stand which had some great malts and really enthusiastic ambassadors too. The dram I liked the most was the Craigellachie 23 year old which had a lovely warm smokiness. Also good were the Clynleish and the 24 year old Mannochmore. However, strangely enough my ‘must buy’ item was not a whisky - it was a Diplomatico rum which was 80% pot still. I like rum and I thought this rum was brilliant, so if you ever get the chance give it a go!
I decided to find out what all the fuss was about with regards to the Highland Park – Freya and utilised my black token for a sip. Not bad but with all the hype you come to expect a sparkler in the glass so it’s difficult to meet expectations.
The Whisky Lounge always feels like a reunion of sorts because you get to catch up with whisky friends from all over. It is also great to meet new people who share a common enjoyment of Whisky and because everyone is a bit tipsy it allows for a lovely relaxed environment. It never hurts to have a friend on the other side of the stall either…
When the day finished up around 4.30, Bob and I were surprised at how sober we were so we sauntered down to Mum’s where we had some tremendous sausages and mash and then completing our day in doctors with a pint watching the Man Utd game. It was a great day out because I had managed to keep notes on the handy ‘whisky festival map’ and I had not got so inebriated that the train journey home was not an horrific ordeal in contrast to last year. Roll on next year!!
The first part of this blog is being written by Bob, who partnered me at the Whisky Lounge this year.
I say Vol. 2 but I'm not 100% as the first volume is somewhat of a haze, up until I wake up locked in my own garage at 2am. It was with this in mind (that and a threat from my girlfriend that if I ended up puking everywhere I was sleeping in the bath) that I set of in search of a more restrained experience.
Volume 2 of the Whisky chronicles started out with some 6 string bass and a great steak and ale pie, it could only go well. After a grand start I set out with my whisky-brother, Gregor, to sample some of the finest and most delicious alcoholic beverages known to man.
The event started at 1200h but not wanting to appear too eager (and to cut down on drinking time) we arrived at 1230h, handed over our jackets (in my case two...don't ask, it's not exciting), grabbed some black tokens for the rarer whiskies and then headed upstairs. We followed our well trained noses straight to the whisky and got drinking.
Last time we managed to start our evening with really hairy chested whiskies which, while delicious, left our mouths tasting like peatbogs for the remainder of the evening. Not wanting to make the same mistake again we pointed our finely tuned palates to the lighter flavours on offer and moved through the event with a thirsty gusto for the remaining few hours.
There were many great showings from so many companies but the truly stand out appearances were from Indian Whisky (from Goa) that managed to shift my misplaced prejudice against any whisky that isn't Scottish. Light and fragrant with a fruity sweetness it wouldn't feel out of place with a Speyside label on the side. The non-whisky stands were great aswell, despite feeling slightly out of place, they offered a nice break from cask strength whisky when you needed to be able to feel your mouth again.
As this entry comes to a close I will let you all know what my black token went on, I'm sure you're all dieing to know. The General – Blended whisky (Stay with me here) 70% 40 year and 30% 33 year. Don't ask me any more than that I drank it quite late on.
Thanks for reading, Laters Taters.