Tag Archives: Talisker


September whisky auction results

Last night’s auction finished with a slew of prices at the upper end of the sale that might once have been described as eye-popping. But think what it says about today’s secondary whisky market and how much things have changed in the space of only about 3 years, that we can look at a Macallan 65-year-old Lalique for £41,100, or a Bowmore 1964 Fino for £15,600 and simply take those prices in our stride? How times change… 

Also interesting was the 1996 hogshead of Tobermory that fetched £12,700, not in the same league as other bigger named distilleries of similar ages, but this is a serious price for a name like Tobermory. It seems casks are now very much part of the fabric of whisky auctioneering. And, arguably, where the smart money went in recent years.

Most of the bottles at the upper end of this sale were predictably on the high side. Results such as the Bowmore Gold for £12,400 or the Macallan Anniversary Malt 1968 for £3300 were all pretty typical. More telling – and perhaps more interesting – was the Lagavulin SMWS 111.1 selling for £4100. Another of these bottles that shot from sub four figures to this sort of result in a very short space of time. And further evidence of the hunger there is out there, not just for older, sherried Islays or Lagavulin, but for Scotch Malt Whisky Society rarities. Especially low numbers.

Other tasty examples were the Wray & Nephews 1962 25-year-old commemorative rum. The name Wray & Nephew carries some serious clout amongst rum lovers so it wasn’t surprising to see it fetching £2600. Another long undervalued bottling was the Gordon & MacPhail Secret Stills Talisker 1955 which fetched £2350. Again, this bottling was hovering around the £400-600 mark for quite a long time and it is underrated liquid so it’s nice to see it garnering a little more limelight.

The Lagavulin 38-year-old Syndicate bottlings all held strong at £1600 a piece. Exactly the same result as the Dalmore 1981 Matusalem Sherry Finesse bottling. I know which one I’d rather drink, but that just goes to show how varied the secondary market is these days in terms of a buyer profile. And how the effects of that spending is creating multiple bubbles and effects. Speaking of Lagavulin, it was notable that the 1985 Special Releases 21-year-old hit a muscular £1400, further confirming this bottling is comfortably on its way to the £2000 mark.

In terms of milestones though, perhaps the most notable was the Oban Bicentenary Manager’s Dram. Two bottles of which finished up at £1100, comfortably across the four-figure line. This bottling has been going from strength to strength lately, it will be interesting if it settles down now or continues it’s almost month by month march up the price range.

Laphroaig 1969 Connoisseur’s Choice performed well at £1000 and the Ardbeg Mor 1st release held strong at £950. While other examples of the Manager’s Dram series also continued to perform well, the Clynelish, Aberfeldy and Cardhu bottlings hitting £750, £725  and £675 respectively. While a 1980s 15-year-old Springbank knocked the ball out of the park at £700. These older official standard range Springbanks are good indicator that it is wise to never underestimate Springbank. Even today it’s probably worth putting aside a case of the current 10-year-old every so often. You never know how things will be in 10 – 20 years… 

One long underrated bottling it was good to see doing a little better was the Glen Calder 40 year old at £550. Technically a blend, this beautiful old dram really just tastes like a late 1940s single malt. Nice to see it getting a bit more recognition. Impressive in a different way was the Compass Box Hedonism hitting £525. Exactly the same price as the Dunvilles rotation 1948 half bottle. Another juxtaposed pair that illustrates the wildly different spending habits and buyer profiles which are converging to create today’s secondary market.

It’s interesting to see how a large proportion of Port Ellen bottlings are sitting around the £400-500 mark rather consistently these days – especially numerous independent examples from the likes of Douglas Laing. I think these bottles are still worth buying at this price. Sooner or later there will be a market shift upwards to the £600-800 range and not long after that four figures will loom on the horizon. On a 3-5 year investment, these look like good buys. Not to mention if you’re a drinker looking for a slightly more reasonable Port Ellen – most are terrific drams!

Back to the Manager’s Drams and the Talisker 17-year-old landed on £400. Unsurprising as this terrific bottling was never going to sit around the £200 mark forever. In all likelihood, this one will continue to rise steadily for the foreseeable.

In terms of bargains then, once again and rather predictably, there weren’t many. The I W Harper 1946 – 1952 looked interesting for old Bourbon fans at £260. Just as the Johnnie Walker Liqueur looked totally bewildering at £235 – the contemporary power of a brand name! The Balblair 1986 CASK bottling by Gordon & MacPhail was a good buy at £195, as was the Glenfarclas 1990 Family Cask 9246 at the same hammer price. Both exceptional drams.

Another soon to shift bottling, I suspect, will be all these 1980s Highland Park 12-year-olds in the old screen print dumpy presentation. Most contain wonderful, old school, subtly peaty, sherried Highland Park. They’ve sat, across almost all auctions, around the £160-200 mark for quite some time and represent pretty great drinking value at that price. I suspect it won’t be long before they move into the £250-300 range – then beyond. Might be worth snapping one up before they do. A 1952 – 1977 Hine Cognac also looks highly quaffable, and something of an anomaly at £140.

Generally though, it was slim pickings for bargain hunters in this sale. As ever the market remains powerful and a weak pound hits UK buyers but helps sellers. The fever of whisky is far from diminishing. Let’s see what next month brings… 



Alex Barclay Miniature Auction Part 2

Auction 2 of 5

It’s time for the next instalment of our auctions dedicated to the Alex Barclay Miniature Collection. A couple of months ago, Wayne, Harrison & Sarah travelled to Birmingham to collect over 5000 miniatures from Alex Barclay, president of the Mini Bottle Club. The collection is so large that we are splitting it into five auctions of around a thousand bottles each. For more information about Alex’s extraordinary collection, check out our exclusive interview on the blog here.


This month’s selection includes a very large number of miniatures from two of the UK’s best independent bottlers: Gordon & MacPhail and Signatory.  Both of these companies were well ahead of the game and have played important roles in creating the market for single malt whiskies as we know it today, so of course there are some absolutely fantastic bottles up for sale in this auction.

The headline minis in this month’s auction include some very rare old vintage malts from highly sought-after distilleries.


Gordon & Macphail were the de facto official bottlers of Macallan for many years, and the auction has several great examples, including the high strength Macallan 100 Proof, Macallan 15yo 100 Proof and a very rare 4cl version of Macallan 15yo 100 Proof for Italy.  They also bottled what is widely believed to be Macallan as the Pride of Strathspey – there’s a wonderful 1937 Pride of Strathspey 50yo included this month.  Not to be outdone, Signatory, who are also famous for their vintage bottlings, have this cask strength Macallan 1964 bottled early in the company’s history in 1992.


Staying with blue chip distilleries and there are some fabulous 50 year-olds from Gordon & MacPhail, including three Mortlachs from 1936, 1938 and 1939 and a Glenlivet 1940, all with the Book of Kells-style font.  These are in great condition considering they were bottled thirty years ago in the mid to late 1980s.


Gordon & MacPhail were also early bottlers of Talisker, and there are a few of their iconic bottlings including this Talisker 100 Proof from the famous black label ‘Eagle’ series and a couple of lovely Talisker 1955 Cask Strength bottlings from 1992 and 1993.


Both G&M and Signatory have 1967 Laphroaigs in this auction as well, with the G&M Laphroaig 1967 an early brown label Connoisseurs Choice bottling from the early 1980s  and the Signatory bottling a cask strength Laphroaig 1967 bottled in 1995.


There are hundreds more brilliant single malts available from both these bottlers in this month’s auction, with very rare experimental drams from Mosstowie and Glen Craig, seldom-seen long-dead distilleries including Coleburn, Convalmore, Glen Flagler, Kinclaith and Ben Wyvis and, of course, a slew of highly desirable drams from more familiar ghost distilleries such as Port Ellen, Rosebank, Lochside and Brora.  

The really rare stars of this auction, though are even older. The depth of Alex’s collection never ceases to amaze us and this is illustrated best by the amazing old blends and single malts from the 1950s, ‘40s and even earlier.  

72799-1033-1The headline-grabbers here are a pair of minis blended using whisky from Orkney’s fabled Stromness distillery, which closed in 1928 and was demolished during the 1940s: Old Orkney and Old Orkney Relics Grand 12yo, the latter a truly beautiful bottle that sadly has preserved only a small amount of its original contents.


These treasures line up alongside more familiar gems including brilliantly-preserved examples of White Horse 1956, King George IV, Black & White, a fantastic, very rare Cardow (Cardhu) bottled late 1950s or early ‘60s, a stunning old Islay Mist in incredible condition and a gorgeous, very old Ainslie & Heilbron’s King’s Liqueur. More esoteric ancient treasures include an antique Strathmohr (not to be confused with the later Strathmore) and the medicinally-themed Special Fortification. We don’t know very much about this one, other than it’s very old and the label is wonderful – many of Alex’s miniatures are real works of art.



There’s really something for everyone in this month’s auction! Good Luck, and Happy Bidding.




Our latest auction closed with more than a few surprises. Not least around the upper end of the sale where the top lot was, unsurprisingly, a hogshead of 1989 Macallan. However, with a hammer price of £70,200, it suggests that prices are beginning to cool off a little for bonded stocks of whisky, certainly in comparison to other recent results we’ve achieved for Macallan casks. Although, it’s worth remembering with this cask that the ABV was rather critically low, which no doubt was reflected in the price.  Putting this in perspective, £70,200 is still way above what would have been, until very recently, considered standard market value for such a cask in bond.

On the flip side, £25,600 for a cask of 1994 Tobermory seems surprisingly expensive, even in today’s market, for a less widely lauded make such as Tobermory. Somewhat understandably cask 5015 was a butt and cask 39, which fetched £17,100 a hogshead, even though, that’s still a hefty price for 1994 Tobermory. Further evidence that no matter what cask you’re sitting on, if it’s got a bit of age to it, you could be in for a pretty nice surprise at auction. It’s certainly an easy way to capitalise without the hassle and cost of bottling. 

On to the bottles and it was good to see Bowmore back at the top of the sale. The ‘coulours’ trilogy of Black, Gold and White seem rather unstoppable these days with respective prices of £18,700, £11,900 and £14,100. All of them outstripping even the Macallan 1946 at £11,100. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to taste one of these bottlings of Bowmore, it’s not hard to see where such intense prices come from. These are some of the best and most distinctive spirits ever made by human hand in these bottles. 

One of the biggest surprises of this auction, at first glance, is the Springbank 1965 SMWS 27.7 which fetched a rather staggering £6100. Even for a 60s Springbank, this is eye-catching stuff. However, look a bit closer and do a bit of digging and it becomes a bit more understandable. This bottling hasn’t shown up at auction in years and, at 60.2%, it looks to be a pretty remarkable dram. There are numerous series collectors out there for all manner of SMWS bottlings these days so it’s hardly surprising that when such a tasty rarity surfaces, in today’s bullish market, competition is so fierce. 

Other rather striking results which speak to the nature of today’s secondary market include the old 1960s official bottling of ‘Cardow 100% Pot Still‘ which finished up at £5800. Such a rarity in near immaculate condition was always destined to do well so in many ways this isn’t so surprising. Although it is a sobering reminder of just how much of rich man’s game serious old and rare whisky has become. 

Joining the Cardhu was the uber rare bottling of Macallan 12-year-old at 100 proof by Gordon & MacPhail bottled in 1971. There is a 15-year-old version of this which is slightly more common, but the 12 is indeed the definition of scarcity. This pristinely preserved version deserved its £5100 hammer price. What’s more, it was nice to see a non-official Macallan take one of the top Macallan spots in the auction for once. For serious whisky lovers, this is a dream bottling. 

Speaking of dream bottles, perhaps the most beautiful examples in this sale were the pair of Taliskers bottled in the 1950s by Wolverhampton & Dudley. Examples have shown up in the distant past at auction, but to find two such perfect examples today is really like being handed something out of a time warp. Little wonder they fetched £4600 a piece. The kind of bottle you’d kill to taste. 

Other bottles in the upper end of the sale that stuck out were the official Springbank 1965 Local Barley for £3000. Looking at the prices of 60s Springbanks in general, both here, elsewhere and at retail. It seems there is something of a pretty serious upward shift in prices occurring across the board. I doubt it’ll be long before we start to see these kinds of bottles regularly break the five-figure barrier. 

The 50-year-old 1949 Glen Grant by Ian MacLeod at £2900 was a solid result for this bottling. While the Glenugie 1966 by The Bottlers for £2700 was also seriously impressive. Glenugie is another name which is currently rocketing skywards in price. For anyone who has tasted some of these 60s Glenugies, it is hardly surprising. 

Dalmore 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lagavulin 1979 38 year old by the Syndicate and the Laphroaig 19.0 anniversary bottling all hit the £2000 on the head. For the Lagavulin, it was the first time it had gone this high, which suggests a slow and steady climb even higher from here on out. The Dalmore result shows this distillery still had some serious clout at auction, even for what might be considered less impressive bottlings like the 1973. And for the Laphroaig, it’s generally a case of rarity with this bottling. Most were consumed upon release due to the lottery system under which it was sold. Whenever it shows up at auction there is usually a bit of a scuffle to get it. 

Some other notable results above the £1000 mark were the Bunnahabhain 1968 Auld Acquaintance at £1350, how long before this great bottling hits the £2000 mark? A Macallan 1962 Cadenhead Dumpy looks almost cheap at the same price of £1350 however, considering its quality and scarcity. And rounding off the £1350 club was the Ardbeg 17-year-old Cadenhead Dumpy. A natural if slightly soft price for this equally historic bottling. 

The Isle of Skye 50-year-old showed good progress cracking the £1000 mark for the first time, while the Bowmore Sea Dragon 30-year-old conversely seemed a tad soft at £1300. Dipping below the four-figure mark it was lovely to see two stunningly preserved old blends, the Benmore Liqueur Scotch Whisky and the Duffs Liqueur Scotch, both hitting an understandable £975 a piece. 


Looking through the rest of the auction there were many impressive results. Too many to mention. Notable examples would be the two Oban 16-year-old Bicentenary Manager’s Drams at £925 apiece, outstripping even the official Oban 1969 at £850. Similarly, the pair of Ord 16-year-old Manager’s Drams for £600 a piece lent further weight to the continued upward march of the early Manager’s Drams series. 

Beyond that, almost every lot was hitting its market value. Normally it’s possible to pinpoint one or two notable bargains or stand out anomalies. However, on this occasion, it really was a case of slim pickings. It seems that, in this day and age where more and more people are migrating their spending from retail to auction, prices are only solidifying, even at the £30-60 range of an auction. Interesting times… 



Macallan goes from strength to strength on the secondary market today and the top end of our latest sale only serves to underpin this fact. Results like the Macallan 1938 for £12,000 , breaking the previous record price recorded in our April sale two months ago of £11,600. The 1965 Anniversary Malt at £3500; the Annie Leibovitz Masters of Photography at £4000 and the Private Eye at £3200 were just a few of the universally impressive results for this zeitgeist distillery.

However, perhaps more interesting and illuminating was the Bowmore 1969 Fecchio & Frassa single cask which finished up at £7600. A deeply impressive result which builds on sister cask 6639 which we sold in November last year for £5500. The desire to posses these legendary and rare old bottlings of incredible whisky is skyrocketing just now, but likewise the knowledge and understanding of these whiskies is also becoming more widespread.

Also interesting was the Glen Grant 10 year old bottled in the 1960s by Peatling & Cawdron. An extremely rare and interesting example of the old classic Glen Grant labelling which fetched a whopping £2600. Not so long ago bottlings such as this one very rarely went outside the £400-600 range. This is a good example of how desirability is beginning to step outside the more obvious distilleries as knowledge and understanding of these old rarities increases across a wider range of wealthy buyers.

There were a few interesting Ardbeg results such as the 1974 single cask 5666 for £1950 – suddenly the £500 retail price in Oddbins doesn’t seem quite so steep. Then there was the 1966 Cadenhead 32 year old Ardbeg for £1800. Both these bottlings – amongst others – seem to have been at this price point for a while now. It’s likely we’ll soon see these sorts of Ardbegs jump up another level in value I suspect.

The old Andrew Usher Green Stripe from around 1900 hit a very respectable £1650. It’s always a pleasure to find bottles such as this one – true pieces of liquid history help brighten any whisky auction. Other notable four figure results were the Rare Malts 1977 Brora at an unusually impressive £1300. And, in what is likely the most expensive Pittyvaich ever, the 1974 26 year old single cask by Kingsbury fetched a mighty £1250. Every distillery has its legendary bottling and this, unequivocally, is Pittyvaich’s.

Dipping below four figures there were some solid results for the likes of Laphroaig 30 year old with three examples at £1000, £975 and £925. One of the wonderful Oban Bicentenary Manager’s Drams at a hefty £925. And a White Horse Lagavulin at £875, another bottling we’re always happy to see and once again performing consistently well.

At this level of the sale almost everything performed toward the upper end of its market value, although the Talisker 1952 21 year old for £875 did seem like something of a bargain. Goes to show they can still happen even in today’s heady climate.

Manager’s Drams continue their skywards march, a pair of the excellent Clynelish 17 year old fetched an impressive £600 apiece. Similarly bottlings that sat around the £300-400 range for a long time are starting to noticeably jump up. Good examples being the Springbank 21 year old tall bottle at £625, the Macallan Elegancia 1990 at £600 and the Glen Grant 1965 Queens Award at £600. Although, conversely, at this price range there were also a few bottles which seem to have softened a little, although probably only temporarily. Examples being the Macallan 10 year old from the late 1970s at £575; the Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition at £575; and the Glen Mhor 1965 Cadenhead Dumpy for £525.

Other notable results around this end of the auction were the Gilbey’s Redbreast 10 year old from the 1960s for £550 – although interest in older Irish Whiskeys is only bound to increase these days. A pair of 1980 Dailuaine Flora & Fauna cask strengths for £525 each. And a 1930s Gilbey’s Spey Royal blend for £500, this isn’t normally a brand that commands too much at auction but this beautiful old example clearly got bidders interested. Surprising that it edged the 1950s Logan’s at £450. Macallan madness was also alive at this end of the sale as well with old examples of 10 and 12 year olds from the 1990s fetching £430 and £450 respectively. Brand power? Or just plain daftness? Time will tell…

Looking for bargains and once again there are slim pickings. A Glenlivet 1970 Duncan Taylor 39 year old looks pretty tasty at £290 – especially when a 1990s litre of Scapa 10 year old fetched £300! And a Balvenie 1974 15 year old by Signatory was a snip at £220. Although bargain of the sale should probably go to the Talisker 1979 21 year old Cadenhead for £215. But by and large most bottles hit or surpassed their market value. In fact, if this kind of sale proves anything, it is that the notion of a ‘market value’ in an increasingly brief, tenuous and unreliable concept in this day and age of whisky auctioneering. We bid in interesting times no doubt.


April Auction: SMWS Collection

Our April auction is upon us and we’ve got a very special group of lots – a remarkable collection of over seventy rare old bottlings from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society sourced from a private collector in Macclesfield. Most of these bottles were bought in the 1990s and there are some very rare editions from highly-sought after distilleries.

If you’re not very familiar with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, here’s a few facts to get you going and to explain why we’re so excited about this collection.

  • The Society was founded in Edinburgh in 1983 and is therefore celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. In those 35 years the Society has grown enormously and is now represented, at last count, in 21 countries outside the UK.
  • The Society began as a private club led by Pip Hills, who had been cycling around Scotland visiting distilleries for some years. Hills clubbed together with some friends to buy a cask of Glenfarclas which they would share and drink together. The remainder of that cask became the first Society bottling when the club was formally established in 1983.
  • The Society’s original premises are at The Vaults in Leith, Edinburgh. A London bar and tasting venue was purchased in 1996 with the proceeds of a share scheme for members, while a second Edinburgh venue was established in 2004 at 28 Queen Street, in the same year that the Society was purchased by Glenmorangie.  The Society was sold in 2015 to a consortium of private investors.
  • SMWS single malts have always been bottled at full strength from single casks, without dilution, chill-filtration or additional colouring.  These practices were very unusual in 1983 but are now common among independent bottlers.
  • Distillery names are never mentioned on Society bottlings.  Instead, each whisky is identified by a two number code and occasional clues in Society publications. The first number represents the distillery, and the second identifies the cask. Therefore, the first bottling from the first distillery was 1.1, while 43.10 is the tenth bottling from the 43rd distillery. Lists of which numbers represent which distilleries are widely available on the internet but have never been confirmed by the Society.
  • Casks are chosen by the Society’s Tasting Panel, who approve each bottling and compose concise tasting notes to be published on the label and in the Society’s in-house magazine. As each bottling is from a single cask, expressions from the most popular distilleries sell out very quickly.

Now you’re up to speed on the key facts, here’s a small selection of the highlights from our auction this month. There’s a few areas of interest as follows:


Old vintages: Highlights here include a pair of Bruichladdichs from 1968 and 1969, a Glen Garioch 1968, a Glenturret 1969, and one of the absolute standout lots, a 26 year old Ardbeg 1966 – the last bottle of this we had sold for £1600 over two years ago, so who knows what this will end up going for.


Low Cask Numbers: These are always highly sought-after and are hard to come by as many were bottled long before collecting whisky became popular. There are a lot of these in this fantastic collection, including the first ever SMWS bottlings of Glen Scotia, Craigellachie and the incredibly rare Glencraig (distilled on a Lomond still at Glenburgie). There’s also the second bottlings from Clynelish, Glen Ord, Miltonduff, Glenturret, and the closed distilleries Imperial and Glenugie. Bidding on all of these lots will be absolutely fierce.


Closed or Rare Distilleries: We’ve got single-digit casks from closed distilleries including Dallas Dhu, Millburn, North Port and another standout lot: SMWS 61.3, distilled in 1977 at Brora. There are also several bottles from distilleries that are rarely bottled independently, including Dalmore, Talisker, Isle of Jura, Scapa, Glenlossie, Royal Brackla and Lagavulin.


Popular Distilleries: Clearly our collector had very good taste, as there are some mouth-watering lots from great distilleries.  We particularly like the look of long-aged Clynelish 1983 and 1976, and the Ardbeg 1977 and 1974 – these classic vintages will be fought over, as will Brora 1981, Highland Park 1976, Laphroaig 1978, Caol Ila 1983, heavily sherried expressions from Ben Nevis and Glenglassaugh (both from the 1984 vintage) and the special edition society bottlings: Longrow 1990 – the first release from Longrow, bottled for the Millennium, another Longrow 1990 bottled for the opening of the Queen Street venue and last, but certainly not least, the famous Glen Grant 1972 bottled in 2001 for the Society’s 18th anniversary.


We’ve only really scratched the surface here – there are dozens more fantastic SMWS single malts available from this amazing collection in our auction this month. Check them out now, there really is something for everyone. Good Luck and Happy Bidding!


Good Spirits Whisky Tasting – Hosted By WOA

Last Saturday I hosted a whisky tasting at the Good Spirits company in Glasgow. The premise of such events is to promote Whisky Online Auctions, educate people about old bottles that you can generally only find at auctions and for Good Spirits to get a bit of kudos for hosting the kind of tastings you can’t really go to anywhere else in Glasgow. The reality is that it was simply a good excuse to crack open a clutch of rather tasty old bottles. I wasn’t sure what to expect with quite a few of these once I’d put the line-up together but in the end I was pleasantly surprised. Here are some rambling and overlong tasting notes for your distraction and mildly informative amusement.



Haig Dimple. Spring Cap. 1950s. 70 proof. 


Colour: Slightly orangey gold

Nose: Immediately pungent with notes of tyre inner tube, slightly stale camphor, tool boxes, old sheds and old copper coins. Typical old spring cap taint and OBE that is to be found in many of these old spring cap sealed blends from the 40s and 50s. Given a little time though there are some pleasant notes of hessian, hay, nice medicinal touches and a pretty old style phenolic character bubbling away underneath. One of those whiskies where you can feel there’s a delicious old dram in there, it’s just a bit buried by capsule taint and old bottle effect.

Palate: Less taint apparent in the palate; immediately there is a lot of peat, iron wool and various metallic notes but also resin, camphor and something pleasantly mineral. An old barn yard with a broken down Fergie tractor and tins of mysterious oils lying about the place. Very old style in its character and composition but also obviously quite a bit of OBE.

Finish: Very drying and spicy with some wood smoke, white pepper and more oil and mineral qualities. Medium length.

Comments: I really like these old blends from the 1950s and earlier where there was a considerably higher malt content than modern counterparts. After all these years in the glass the malt really shuts out the grain and gives you a great overall impression of the generic character of malt whisky in Scotland in the 1940s/50s. It’s just such a shame about the taint from the spring caps and the OBE, it really makes it kind of hard to score as you can feel there is a fantastic whisky just simmering away underneath. What’s also interesting is how for so long a lot of whisky aficionados raved about spring caps as the best type of capsule for preserving a bottle’s fill level. This may be true but after tasting quite a number of these bottles over the years I feel that corks are really the best for preserving the actual character of the whisky. Speaking of which…

 Score: 77/100

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old. – 

Stopper cork. Late 1930s (late King George V). No strength statement visible but probably 70/75 proof.


Colour: Light amber – an aged Sauternes.

Nose: Beautiful! This is quite a way from the Dimple. Bags of delicate phenols, resins, oils, wax, long aged yellow Chartreuse, light spices, some candied orange peel, camphor, little medicinal complexities, the list goes on… Just one of these perfectly preserved old, quite high malt content blends that shows little or no grain influence at all leaving you just an impression of a very old, pre-war style of malt whisky with a much bigger peat influence and much more pronounced balance between wood and distillery character. Goes on with notes of tea tree oil, aged cognac and dark rye bread.

Palate: There’s still bite and freshness about this even after nearly eighty years in the bottle. Lots of peat but it’s an older style, drier kind of peat, more on rootiness, herbal notes, camphor, minerals, wax and soot. A style that comes from more extensive use of floor maltings and deeper cut peat. Becomes more tarry as well with notes of gentian and Clacquesin (look it up!). Pure pleasure.

Finish: Good length, earthy, rooty and phenolic with all these little touches of wax, mead, hessian, tar and a lingering farmy quality.

Comments: An exemplary old blend from which the malt component really sings high and loud. Beautifully classy, old style and quite emotional considering this style of whisky is completely extinct in today’s industry. I think that when you can find these bottles with corks and decent fill levels then they can be a recipe for absolute drinking pleasure.

Score: 91/100


Glenordie 12 Year Old. 1980s. 75cl. 40%.


Colour: Gold

Nose: Straight away you get this beautiful and brilliant waxiness, lashings of minerals, stone fruits, slight coastal freshness, ripe pears, greengages and sandalwood. It’s a style which is very typically ‘old highlands’, quite close to nearby Clynelish from the same era and totally distillate driven; the wood in this one is very quiet. It’s not overly complex but the personality is big, direct and beautifully structured and poised. Becomes a little more buttery after a few minutes with notes of fresh herbs such as chives and parsley.

Palate: Good punch for 40% with more of a continuation of the nose than anything else. Lots of thick waxiness, slight phenolic notes, lemon skins, cereals, herbs, minerals, pebbles, little grassy notes, fresh brown bread, sunflower seeds, olive oil. Once again this is almost totally distillate driven, the wood has played a perfect supporting role but is in no way dominating, there’s just a wonderfully understated sweetness towards the back of the palate.

Finish: Not the longest but leaves a wonderful mix of waxes, breads, olive oil and mineral notes. Very refreshing and hugely drinkable.

Comments: A bottle of the old Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12yo bottled around the same time as this one will set you back around £300-350 at auction; these bottles go for about £70-90 and are better whisky in my book. Although it is important to bear in mind that there were quite a few different batches under this label and not all are of the same quality. Old Glen Ord – distilled pre 1980 – is one of the real unsung treasures of whisky for me. I love this distillate driven style with huge personality in every part of the whisky, the fingerprints of the distillery are all over this one. It’s not a sexy style by any means and is probably an acquired taste for many, but it’s well worth seeking out as there are so few whiskies bottled these days that reflect this style.

Score: 90/100

(Would have been higher with a slightly longer finish)

Bruichladdich 1986 – 2001 15 Year Old.

Country Life. Oloroso Sherry Butt. Cask: 356. 800 bottles. 70cl. 46%.

4Colour: Polished Copper

Nose: Immediately rich with dark fruits such as prunes, cognac soaked raisins and dates with lovely rising note of orange peel and a over-arcing saltiness. Beautifully clean sherry that really feels like it has come from a proper european oak sherry cask that has held proper Oloroso. Goes on with an elegant nuttiness like fresh hazelnuts and peanut brittle then notes of fresh, wild strawberries and brown bread. After a while some signature Bruichladdich green fruits begin to arise giving the whole thing a wider, slightly more complex profile. Very enjoyable.

Palate: Thick and syrupy at first with a big, stodgy sweetness of sherry up front which moves into a much more drying, slightly tannic profile towards the back of the palate with big notes of dark chocolate, all kinds of nuts, prunes, cocoa powder and nice biting spiciness from the wood. There’s not as much evidence of distillery character on the palate as on the nose but there is still a lean saline streak running through it which gives the overall impression of atlantic freshness. Becomes a little earthier with time and more herbal perhaps with a rich espresso note. Still mucho tasty.

Finish: Not too drying with good length and more lovely notes of nuts, cocoa, espresso and dark fruits, some maraschino cherries also.

Comments: A very satisfying dram, one I remember trying years ago not long after it had been released and liking it a lot. Trying it again I feel it’s better than I remember it. One of these great early bottlings of Bruichladdich by the new ownership team in 2001 that was later sort of overshadowed by the plethora of ‘stuff’ that got released. It’s worth remembering that this same batch of 1986 sherry casks went on to end up in Blacker Still so it’s interesting to try one of the batch at an earlier age. A very clean sherry cask that still holds pleasing glimmers of distillery character underneath and is overall highly quaffable.

Score: 87/100

Mortlach 10 Year Old.

Editor’s Nose. OB for Insider Magazine late 1990s. 70cl. 60.5%. A curious official bottling of Mortlach done for the 10th anniversary of Insider Magazine in the late 1990s.

5Colour: Oaked Chardonnay

Nose: A not unexpected zing of alcohol at first sniffing, but despite this there is a very ‘Rare Malts’ feel to this. It’s immediately very austere and distillate driven with notes of pears, fabric, muesli, olive oil and touches of camphor. It really has something of this ‘United Distillers’ philosophy about it. A lot of the 1990s/early 2000s Manager’s Drams and Rare Malts really had a similar kind of oomhpy, very pure kind of profile that was heavily towards refill wood and distillery character. Lets add some water and see what gives… With water the glass quickly seems to overflow with minerals, citrus notes, more grassiness, more olive oil and some garden fruits.

Palate: Neat this is much in keeping with the nose: hot and austere. Very grassy, lean, mineral and quite punchy with an elegant natural sweetness about it like a vanilla laced honey. Slighty herbal and floral with a little more breathing and some very pleasant notes of cereal, buttered toast, fresh bread and sesame seeds. But generally this needs water… With water: herbal liqueurs, butter, caraway, lemon oil, green tea, green peppercorns, more muesli and cornbread.

Finish: Long, grassy, lemony and playful with little flashes of green fruits, buttered toast, mirabelle eau de vie and eucalyptus.

Comments: A big dram that needs to be wrestled to the floor a bit. The sort of whisky where you can have a lot of fun if you’ve got time and some water. There are probably about three or four different whiskies in a glass of this if you go drop by drop with the agua.  There is pleasure to be had and the quality is high but it’s not an easy dram and it remained seemingly immovable in its austerity. A whisky for tories perhaps…?

Score: 83/100

Talisker 1989 – 1999 Friends Of The Classic Malts. 7000 bottles. 70cl. 59.3%.


Colour: Straw/Gold

Nose: It appears a pop-up kipper smokery has set up shop in this glass. Seriously kippers, whelks, seashore, fresh scallops, smoked mussels; basically a whole shellfish platter. Pretty typical Talisker with lots of pepper, huge coastal aspects and a wonderful undercurrent of rich, green fruitiness. Notes of seaweed, iodine, tcp, tar and various ointments. Hugely expressive even at cask strength. Very chiseled and sharp with a growing note of fresh lemon juice – you could do a great ceviche with this one – and thick tincture and mercurochrome notes. With water: it’s still lethally sharp with great poise and structure. The water does seem to merge the lemon juice notes with the medicine, pepper and peat though so that what you’re left with is perhaps even better balance and more immediate gluggability. Or a glass of Talisker 10 year old you might otherwise say.

Palate: A big lean slab of peat at first which quickly acquiesces to black pepper, lemon juice, smoke mackerel, tar liqueur (Clacquesin again – look it up), shore pebbles and more medical complexities. Pure, blade like, classic Talisker to be honest. With water: it’s fruitier with water, lemon juice becomes lemon oil and we get more little subtleties such as smoked tea, cereals, yet more tar, gentian eau de vie and a pleasing lick of white pepper. Once again we are left with a perfect glass of Talisker 10 year old.

Finish: Very long, focussing on minerals, citrus notes, pepper laced peat, tiny smoky notes, a kipper fanfare and more medicine. A toothbrush non-requirement whisky.

Comments: Basically a cask strength version of Talisker 10 year old, which is obviously nothing less than fab. Once again I do recall trying this one before quite a long time ago but I’m convinced it is better this time. Perhaps that is my perspective or time which has done that but I can’t help but feel the fact that this has now had over fifteen years in the bottle is a help. Cask strength peated whisky plus a good number of years in the glass seems to breed only complexity in my experience. Anyway, a very classic, delicious Talisker.

Score: 90/100


These types of old bottles are often found in our monthly auctions, so keep your eyes peeled and have a rummage.

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