What a decade! How much has changed? Ten years ago I was married and living in London. I’d never been to Islay or Campbeltown, I’d only visited one distillery and I didn’t know my flaughter from my lauter. All change!
Prices prices prices!!! Just one example for now. In 2013, I bought ‘the’ Yamazaki Cask Collection Sherry bottling [WB89.53 WF90], for £93 – now commonly valued around £5000. Further reading on a brief reflection over prices: [WLP].
This decade saw the end of an era for affordable and available pre-1980’s treasures, most now premiumised and largely confined to display cabinets/museums, the auction-house merry-go-round or [blessingly] by the 1cl via ‘old & rare’ festivals. Unexpectedly then, was the announcement of the proposed re-opening of Port Ellen, Rosebank and Brora. Exciting new times!
And as Ralfy celebrates his 10th year in true Ralfy style, this decade has seen the explosion of bloggers, vloggers and the interactive online whisky community.
A large chunk of 2019 saw me [re]-engaging with:
- The Cognac Show [10-post write-up starts HERE], where I tried my oldest spirit to date: an 1811 Croizet & Co Reserve Royale Cognac [WLP86] – [see pic]
- Whiskylive [4-post write-up starts HERE]
- Campbeltown Malts Festival [9-post write-up starts HERE], after Arran & Lagg [WLP] followed by a brief trip to Western parts of the Lowlands [WLP] and English distillery[s] [WLP].
- Later that summer saw a visit to Holyrood [WLP], The Vaults [WLP] and then outstanding Stauning [WLP]
- The Whisky Exchange Show [write-up coming soon] proves, just like the Cognac Show, to be a wonderfully organised and significant annual delight.
WHISKY FATIGUE & REJUVINATION
After the summer, whisky fatigue set in. As incessant rain drew me indoors and closer to the screen, I was email-bombarded by whisky release after release, many harbouring average whisky behind weak stories, tenuous celebrations [‘Black Friday, starts Monday!?], and inflated price points. I had similar feelings regarding the second-hand auction market, not only from the seemingly endless flow & recirculation of bottles and rising prices, but by the number of auctions themselves. There seem to be two or more each week in the UK alone, and try finding a bargain now! Even the price of miniatures has risen astronomically. Having said that, for price & quality combined, there are some fabulous old & rare bottles to be had around the £200-350 mark, though for many of us, that’s ok for a one-off or occasional purchase. The affordable bargains I have found this year [see below], have all been from retailers.
News of the sad demise of Balblair’s vintages in spring was followed by, on 14th October, the end of scotchwhisky.com. As an important contributor to the site, Angus MacRaild’s article on the matter [at whiskyfun.com], is a worthwhile read.
Aside from this seasonal fatigue, I’ve been stupidly busy [as a musician], as well as [sometimes] drinking less for health benefits. As a result, I’ve tended to move away from actual whisky drinking to more community-based pursuits. Reflective of our contemporary age, this move has occurred more frequently towards tinterweb. I see online broadcasters such as Ralfy, Aqvavitae and Captain 3D for example, celebrating the contemporary whisky landscape whilst nurturing the expanding cultural wave of engaged & engaging ‘whisky folk‘. For me this positive and forward-thinking view is driven home by the ‘Miles Davis of whisky’ Dave Broom and his film Amberlight. Carried by Dave’s insights, knowledge, passion and commitment to whisky and all it entails, a film viewing and Q&A session at the ever-fabulous Duke of Yorks cinema in Brighton [attended by Malt n Copper and Chris of The Last Drop, amongst others], enlightened and enlivened my perception and passion for the whisky scene coupled with an invaluable historical backdrop. Seeing a large cinema full of whisky enthusiasts with drams in their hand is a fitting way to celebrate the end of one decade and onto another, with a positive mindset and renewed interest in the evolving and innovative global whisky hinterland, away from brand, stuffiness, tartan and ‘Scotchland‘,.. and into bars, clubs and online communities full of like-minded people interested in talking about and sharing whisky.
MY WHISKY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR [90+]
- Glenlivet 25yo Ob. Royal Wedding Reserve  – [PIC]
- Springbank 1965 Lombard Jewels of Scotland [WLP92]
- Fettercairn  Un-Ob. 44.9% [WLP92]
- [Revisit] Arran 1996 15yo Ob. cask #1968 [WLP91]
- Bunnahabhain 37yo TBWC [WLP91]
Tamdhu 1973 35yo G&M [WLP91] – [PIC]
- Bowmore 27yo TBWC [WLP90]
- Bunnahabhain 31yo SMoS Director’s Special 42.5% 
- Bunnahabhain 1988 Wemyss Single Cask [WLP90]
- Caol Ila 1984 34yo Cadenhead [WLP90]
- Glen Grant 1988 30yo A D Rattray cask #9173 [WLP90]
- MacPhail’s 1938 50yo G&M The Dram Taker’s 
[It’s been a good year for independent Bunna]
- Ben Nevis 10yo Ob. [WLP89]
- [Glengyle] Kilkerran 12yo Ob. 46% [WLP90]
- Springbank 15yo Ob. [WLP89] – [PIC]
OTHER SPIRITS [90+]
- Bache Gabrielsen Hors D’age Ob. [WLP91] – [PIC]
- Frapin Plume  Ob. [WLP91]
- Bache Gabrielsen 1971 Ob. [WLP90]
- Vallein Tercinier Lot 89 Ob. [WLP90]
- United Rum Merchants Special Consignment 1939  – [PIC]
- Foursquare 2004 Patrimonia [91/92]
- Pliznifotianliario 12yo Foursquare Un-Ob. 
- Savanna HERR  Velier 
- Cambeba 10yo  Ob. Organic 39% 
- Balblair 1996 21yo G&M for Whisky Shop Dufftown – £75
- Bladnoch 1989 30yo Cadenhead Sherry Cask – £140
- Cooley 1992 11yo/[26yo] Cadenhead Single cask [WLP89] – £100
- [Glengyle] Kilkerran 12yo Ob. – £30!!! [WLP90]
- Vega 1985 33yo NNS Limited Edition #5 – €105
TOP TIP OF THE YEAR: An argument for not wetting the corks of your closed bottles.
I know many who routinely wet the corks of their unopened bottles because they are worried about cork breakages. A breaking or broken cork on opening, whilst annoying, isn’t the big issue. Though there’s very little talk of it on the net, what’s more alarming is introducing your precious liquid gold to the cork [& cap] and its associated glues, waxes, TCA’s etc. Wetting a cork with high-volume alcohol may likely increase the chance of it [the cork] being affected, infected, drying out, cracking and failing. I’m keeping my whiskies away from their corks for the time being until someone else tells me otherwise. Let me know your thoughts. Further reading: [SW]
For next year, I’m planning to [re]-attend/visit,..:
- The Old & Rare Show [now in London!]
- More SMWS outturn and ‘Member Takeover‘ events, Malt n Copper and tOMoH tastings
- The Cognac Show
- The Whisky Exchange Show
- Whiskylive [maybe the Paris edition]
- Campbeltown Malts Festival followed by Islay [Ardbeg & Laphroaig], Mull, Skye, Lewis & Harris and beyond – at least that’s a rough plan
- Mezcal & Tequila Fest [WLP], which I’m told will be returning in 2020]
- Engage more with people and communities, online or otherwise when time allows
- Catchup on all my notes from 2019 including Rumfest and TWE Show
- ,…and as I said in last year’s Christmas message, Maltstock and The Whiskybase Gathering are forever in mind.
Until all that, Merry Christmas and a Happy New year! Expect more posts very soon.