For some of us, the ‘situation’/’pandemic’/’non-zombie apocalypse’,… has provided the opportunity to reflect on what’s important and who’s important. Just short of two months since the regular world stopped/changed, and finding myself in a malaise, it’s time to get off my lazy-lockdown lard and tackle life’s more fundamental work. Time to let go!
Time to let go of things. Things I’ve hoarded and stored in flats, houses, garages, and lofts for decades, much of which I’ve kept since childhood. Perhaps behind this wave of surface change is a greater need to let go of my deeper emotional connection to those things, and in doing so, change the course of the direction of my life?
Looking back, reading Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-changing Magic of Tidying‘ had started the cogs turning years before now, but it wasn’t until the end of April this year – when my neighbour asked me whether I wanted four dining room chairs – that the substantial work begun. I didn’t want four dining room chairs. I don’t have a dining room table. I have a piano where a table might go, yet eventually, even the ‘old Joanna’ would go. My neighbour suggested I could always sell the chairs and keep the money! Those chairs sold that day as did two bikes [out of seven!], within an hour – such was the flurry of market activity because of the resulting combination of lockdown restrictions/recommendations and the fine weather.
Within a few weeks I’d shifted my [early childhood] Britain’s farm set [including broken plastic fencing I had initially thrown in the bin [don’t!], and cricket gear I’d been assembling since I was around seven years old when I would practise sweep shots with a tennis ball against the garage wall in the style of Ian Botham [or ‘Iron Bottom’ as some Indian’s used to say].
Of the most significant clearances was my original Action Man collection [see pic], though that sale was some weeks in the making. Dealing with time-waster after time-waster, the train set also took ages to sell [eventually going to a professional county cricketer] as did 100s of records [still with a few to go months later] – though the 18 immaculately-kept Beatles records I had saved from landfill in the early 2000s proved far easier to shift.
Whilst in the midst of this selling frenzy came a sudden and unexpected realisation. It was time to let go of my whisky collection! It was time to let go of the bottles I was keeping/hoarding for a ‘special occasion’, bottles I would/could never open because they had [wildly] exceeded their intrinsic value on the secondary market, and even bottles I had little-to-no attachment to. I had, however, developed an attachment to having a collection, sets, styles, closed distilleries, one of each distillery,… “You are an addictive collector”, is how one friend described me. It was time to let go of the attachment to attachment.
It took of the best part of a working week to choose [agonise over] and prepare 115 bottles [see pic below] in the nick of time for Whiskyauctioneer’s Monday 17th July deadline [whilst continuing to sell other non-whisky-related items left right & centre]. After initially deciding to have my carefully selected hoard picked up by the auction house from home, after a number of discussions and meditations on the matter, I realised my calling. I would deliver the bottles I had been collecting for 12 years, in person – a whisky pilgrimage if you will – from Brighton to Perth. In some cases, these liquid treasures were re-packed the very cardboard boxes & packaging they were once delivered to me in, readied to be transported and returned to the country where most were made, matured, bottled, and shipped from, back to the very auction house where the majority of the bottles had been acquired.
Letting go of these bottles wasn’t easy. I had developed emotional/nostalgic/sentimental feelings towards my whisky collection because it represented/reflected an epoch from innocence to adulthood. After a few days of struggle, doubt and deliberation, I was left with a handful of bottles I was undecided whether to keep or let go. Neither were Karuizawa.
One of them was a second bottle of Thomas H Handy I’d bought at Milroy’s in February 2013 [after Jim Murray’s bible award recommendation], and a second single cask Kavalan I’d bought at Whiskylive in 2014. Fortunately, I’d kept samples back from both open bottles. Now’s the time to decide whether the Handy is worth around £400+ to me [originally paid £110], and whether the Kavalan is worth, goodness knows [I originally paid £107]. Will these bottles stand up to what the secondary market will pay and will they stand up to my current perception of smell & taste years later, now I’m [even] harder to please? Let’s find out.
Thomas H Handy 2006/2012 6yo Rye Whiskey [132.4 proof] 66.2% WB88.18
- N: Very much in the style of the ‘Rare Malts’ series with an austere [peppery] yet inviting ‘ethanolic’ outer casing and [perhaps a Lochside-esque] vanilla fruitiness. The abv strength is formidable and little changes occur in the glass some forty minutes later. Give it an hour, however, and I’m marvelling over a joyous fruity herbal bouquet. There are fleeting glimpses of murky oaky confectionary & baked treats, though this American rye remains stalwart with the majority of its cards kept close to the chest.
- T: That is a remarkable entry. This is one classy brute that hits a level above of where you might expect it. It’s still as cherryade-y as I remembered it and seemingly zingier with water [at first]. It comes with some heat, but boy is the spirit clean & crisp yet also peppery, closed, spirit-astringent, and with a weird weightiness that is both formidable and yet delicate. Adding water brings out more of the herbal, dry-medicinal qualities [with only slight harks to Elijah Craig’s 12yo]. Then, fruity, slightly toffeed yet somewhat gooey & dry into,…
- F: ,…. chocolate and oak,… and fresh berry-fruit tannins,.. zing > zing and > zing. It’s at the death where an after-party ignites with a harmonious wave after echoey wave of everything that’s gone before.
- C: What’s so great about this whiskey is that no two pours are ever going to be the same, but is a bottle worth £400? I’ll miss it when the rest of my first-bottle samples are gone – how I could have been so diligent and restrained with the first bottle, I don’t know? – but my thinking is another stunning 6yo will be along soon enough. After all, this isn’t whisky from a bygone age nor from a closed distillery.
Tonight it scores 90 points [and goes to auction].
Kavalan Solist Sherry 2006/2013 6yo Cask #S060821051 [btl #394/521] 57.8% WB88.16
Though the picture below doesn’t do the deep treacle-black colour any justice, aside from some bonkers Karuizawa’s or the odd all-sherried Edradour, I’ve not seen many other [naturally-coloured] darker whiskies.
- N: If the Thomas H Handy required a while to get reacquainted with, the Kavalan is as familiar and comfortable an experience as the long-anticipated arrival of a best friend. What I love about this bottling is that it’s initially unclear whether it is whisky, rum, cognac,…rye,.? It’s bits of everything, all bases covered. From the nose at least, I’m already pretty certain this bottle is not going to auction.
- T: Wowee, and as I remember it from 2014. It doesn’t hang around too long, but within those few seconds, a million thoughts & chemical reactions seemingly take place. The arrival is rich on herbal=demerara-sugared prune juice with a quick shift down from 5th to 3rd,… spirit-true & correct,….
- F: ,… and shifting to a mid-to-high-rev second gear that reveals more sherry cask-led descriptors from the nose and some of the vibrant waxy-cellulose oak – yet there’s no excessiveness here nor a shift down to first gear or to neutral either. It finishes as ultra-clean spirit surrounded by cask influences. Unlike how a significant number of whiskies had begun displaying in abundance around this time , this doesn’t finish with vanilla and seasoned sherry syrup, thank goodness!
- C: I remember talking to a number of people about Kavalan’s rising prices in 2016. One ambassador told me – with prices then reaching £250-300 – that Kavalan couldn’t make Solist whisky quick enough to meet demand. Looking on auction sites today, I see that prices have fallen a touch and settled. No point me selling a bottle I bought for £107 in 2014, when it may realise only £20-30 ‘profit’ [minus fees], especially one I’m so fond of. Furthermore, I think the quality of Kavalan’s Solist output has changed/dropped noticeably in the last 2, 3, 4 years, so this early expression is valued. For the nose and arrival alone, the bottle is a keeper [along with 53 peeps, according to Whiskybase, who have bottles from this very cask in their collections]. I’m pleased I bought two bottles. I shall savour the second bottle for years to come.
Scores 90 points
10 thoughts on “Letting Go #1: Impulse”
Enjoyed reading this series, but I’m curious as to why you went all the way to Scotland when you could have taken them to Whisky Auction in London.
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