Tag Archives: Dalmore

A Change Of Scene

Posted on Friday 26th of July 2013

Apparently this is what we've all come to fear these days...visual metaphors.

Apparently this is what we’ve all come to fear these days…visual metaphors.

I first started writing this blog in June 2010, those were heady days, you must remember them, it was the year of the ipad, oil spills, earthquakes and Justin Bieber. Was it arguably a more innocent time for whisky, possibly, bottlings were already pretty expensive, we already had the crazy bottlings but at that point they were such things as Glengoyne 40yo, we had yet to reach Constellation levels via Glenmorangie Pride. We had whiskyauction in Germany and McTears and Bonhams in Scotland. There were still bargains to be found here and there, Diageo’s special releases were offered at considerably more ‘drinkable’ prices. Retailers still rumbled on, ticking over their profits, trading as they always had. There was a recession, as there still is now, whisky was doing well, better than it ever had done. But much has changed in subtle ways since then. A lot has even changed in the past nine months since I last posted on this blog.

So much has changed

So much has changed

We now have an industry that is seemingly convulsing in different directions. There has been an increase in retail prices generally across the board, sharply in many cases, and an increase in the output of super premium releases, the bottles that court the £100,000 plus price tag and its associated buyers. We still proffer the same old sentiment ‘look how many bloody whisky blogs there are these days’ just as we did three, five even ten years ago, but blogging is no longer just hobby horse online witterings, much of it has morphed into a second tier arena of marketing (with a number of notable exceptions). New distilleries seem to spring out of the ground now like never before, almost every month a new one is announced. Words like craft, farm-scale, boutique, micro and artisan are all battered about in press releases like squash balls. But perhaps the biggest and most notable change, from my understandably skewed perspective at least, is the explosion of activity on the secondary market, or the auction scene as you might know it.

Scotch Whisky Auctions, Mulberry, Bonhams, McTears, Tennent’s, Taylor’s, Whiskyauction UK, Whisky Bid, Deluxe Whisky Auctions, World Whisky Auctions, Just Whisky Auctions, and last but by no means least, us, Whisky Online Auctions, will it never end? Probably not, there will be other players, and big ones too before long I suspect. We have become accustomed to looking over catalogues, sharing our mock incredulity at crazy prices, poking fun a silly estimates and discussing the hell out of the various merits and pitfalls of investment. This is a truly obvious change in the way whisky, in the more nerdy arenas at least, is acquired and traded. I spend a lot of time talking with people about the process and the ins and outs of this oddly alive secondary market we come to find ourself in but we rarely talk about why we have arrived here. So, here’s a few ideas on that front, in no particular order…

1: Recession

It’s a long standing fact that in times of economic hardship the two industries that seem to boom without fail are those that concern sex and booze. (I’m too ugly and shy to work in the former so I feel fortunate to have employment in the latter). There will always be people with plenty money but when the fiscal climate puts them on the back foot then instead of buying yachts and lolloping around the world in five star hotels they tend to stay at home and seek more domestic luxuries. This often takes the form of increased fine dining and buying more lovely booze. There is also the inclination amongst many to drink their way out of recession, just as they drink to celebrate success, they drink to blot out failure or misery, the cosy veil of alcohol provides many with a security blanket to their woes. However this is only half the equation, there is also the next point to consider…

2: Investment/Speculation

Just going out for posh nosh and a bottle of Chateau Lafite won’t directly bolster increased activity on the whisky auction scene. However these people with money to burn can easily become captivated by ideas about alternative/new investments. There has been quite a bit of noise in the press as of late about whisky as the new wine, liquid gold, the new great investment and other such silliness. This has brought new money to the market in quite a short sharp space of time. People are beginning to buy whisky at auctions with a far more scattershot attitude and little knowledge to provide design to their spending. This has played a role in some of the dizzying price increases that have been seen, even in the last year, particularly for Macallan. This in turn plays its role in bringing out more bottles, people see daft prices and generally think they’d quite like a slice of that money too. But it is not just new money or bored money that has done all this. There is also the more knowledgeable folks, geeks, industry people and aficionados that have learned these new patterns and played them well. These people work a mix of investing and speculating with the new limited releases. Some people do it very seriously as a means to make money, others do it simply for fun. Whatever the reason the accumulative effect drives prices up and brings new levels of both supply and demand that feed off each other. As long as the distillers continue to release limited but desirable bottlings then the auction scene will play it’s roll in providing a way for people who missed out (often a lot) the first time around to get their desired bottle the second time around. The fact that they’re more than willing to pay two to three times the original price has not gone unnoticed and the speculators are out in droves now. Just look at the swift turnaround of the Macallan Coronation last month.

3: The Core Traders

People are not solely interested in whisky as an asset of finance. The age of innocence may be dead but the love people have for this spirit is accelerating unbounded. More and more people are coming to love whisky and they desire to taste and acquire as much of it as possible. More people are graduating all the time from the shop floors to the jewels of obscurity, beauty and rarity offered by the auctions. The legendary bottles become rarer and appear less frequently in this climate, every bottle opened helps boost the prices for the remaining bottles. A bottle is opened and shared, those that taste become those that seek and the more that seek the harder they all have to seek and the higher they have to bid, this is how it has always worked with the older bottlings. The internet has proliferated knowledge about the great whiskies and rendered easy the routes of access to the auctions. I’m looking at you Facebook, Twitter and Whiskyfun. In reverse people are more aware of what their bottles are worth and as such a serious auction scene has developed to serve them and provide that crucial link between an ever expanding gaggle of buyers and those with the goods to sell. This leads neatly onto the next point…

4: The stagnation of retail

Unless you have a serious set of very busy and moneyed customers then it is very difficult to keep up as a retailer of rare or older whiskies. What happened not so long ago is that retailers and traders would go to an auction and buy bottles. Then they would put the bottles in their shop/on their site with a price tag that allowed for VAT, their costs in acquiring it and some profit. When you could buy Macallan Royal Marriage for £400-600 then this was a workable system where they’d get a buyer at £1200 before long. The buyer paid for the retailer to do all the work in sourcing. Now the route between buyer and auction has become so narrow and convenient that prices are no longer competitive for most retailers at auction. Retail for whisky has been largely confined to new and modern releases. The amount of money and spending power that has migrated over the past two years to auctions, both online and traditional, away from traditional retail, is quite staggering and one of the main reasons for the huge growth in whisky auctioneering.

5: Fun

Buying and selling whisky at auction, when done right, should be a lot of fun, especially for the buyers, it can no doubt be frustrating to see someone else’s bid keep thwarting yours at the last minute but the thrill of the bottle you do win is always sweeter and longer than the fluttering resentment at those you miss. As has been proven very clearly over the past year, there’s always another auction around the corner and always another bottle to get. The sheer volume of supply that we’re currently witnessing also allows for a fair share of bargains. Look especially at the lower end pages of the online auctions, see how many more modern bottlings go for prices well below their current retail marks, even including a 10% commission charge these are still great buys for anyone’s money. They are also essential for any auction as they provide a way for new people with great enthusiasm and interest but perhaps less money to take part in and enjoy the process of an auction. It’s certainly more thrilling than simply clicking ‘add to basket’.

So, that’s my take on why we find ourselves in the state of affairs we’re in. Where does it lead, is it sustainable, what does the future hold for whisky and can Adam Sandler ever truly be stopped? These are all worthy and important questions but they are not for this article and not for today. Instead, to finish and to celebrate in a small way being back at Whisky Online here’s a wee worthy dram very much in the spirit of the times despite being a creature of the past…

Suitably enough I obtained this wee gem for song in an auction not too long ago.

Suitably enough I obtained this wee gem for a song in an auction not too long ago.

 Strathisla 10yo. OB Chivas bottling circa 1960s. Torino Import. 43%. 75cl. 

Colour: White wine

Nose: This is one of those bottles that as soon as the cork is out the scent just seems to ooze around the room. It’s a style I adore, the wood is almost completely invisible, instead you have a whole meadow of wild flowers, hessian, lamp oil, very gentle fragrant waxy tones, various fruits such as lychee, elderflower, juniper and gooseberry. It’s hugely mineral as well, a pristine, highly chiselled profile with really elegant farmyard notes in the background and little touches of soot, fresh herbs and a little butter. Harmonious and really beautiful.

Palate: Punchy and very sharp with some hyper clean mineral and citrus qualities, honeysuckle, pollen, white berry fruits, green fruits, muesli, nutmeg, caraway, herb liqueurs, mint tea, just lovely really. More big waxiness, menthol notes, a little old tobacco flavour, green tea, eucalyptus oil and marzipan. There’s plenty going on and it’s all perfectly composed.

Finish: Long and drying, almost aridly fizzy in a way with notes of lemon curd, custard, pastry, a touch of wood ash, mineral smoky tones, some spice, some more white and citrus fruits and finally something a little meaty and herbaceous.

Comments: Old style whiskies can beautiful but also very difficult and often ‘unsexy’, this shares many of those attributes but it’s actually really very charming. Not to mention devastatingly quaffable, I love how much personality there is and I love how the distillate does the vast majority of the talking, perfect wood in other words. It feels like a much gentler and more refined version of some of those old high octane Clynelish for Giaccone. Anyway, it’s really brilliant and not particularly expensive either. A great summer dram too.

Score: 92/100

Out With The New, In With The Old

Posted on Saturday 31st of December 2011

This image from the Vancouver riots seems somehow appropriate for 2011. Almost makes me wish I'd been there. Almost makes me wish it (probably) wasn't photoshopped.

By any measure this has been a tumultuous year, 2012 has a lot to live up to it seems. It’s going to need more than the Olympics and a pile of hogwash about the end of the Mayan calender to compete with what 2011 has thrown at our feet. The Arab spring, an increasingly introverted and suicidal Euro, the UK Economy being run by a bunch of public school boys who still don’t understand why the general population can’t simply inherit some money to ease their financial quibbles. In Britain we had riots, marches, fury, extensive government cuts and a Scottish government of increasing popularity making good their promise and laying the framework for the potential dismantling of the UK. In America they had their own economic woes, they had less money than Apple at one point, and then there was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Europe finally caved and went begging to China for spare cash, everyone’s favourite EU leader Berlusconi sadly had to go due to his country managing to have some kind of anti-economy based solely on under age prostitution, ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties, whisky faking and bribery. Angela Merkel proved herself to be the Girl Guide of Europe, David Cameron failed to deny he was a Synthetic Android from the Alien film franchise and Nicholas Sarkozy remained short. China continued to become massiver and massiver and to ignore ever increasing grumbles about its rather lax attitude towards human rights, after all who cares what others think when you have that much disposable income. Greece finally collapsed after years of reliance on an economy based solely on plate breaking and Ireland still writhes in the grip of the great cappuccino famine of 2011. This was also the year of the phone hacking scandal where Rupert Murdoch and his underlings managed to create the buck that never stops. Dictators of the world fell like playing cards in a wind tunnel this year, who can forget the blood lusty, yet satisfying way Colonel Gaddafi was gunned down in the streen, HA! Happy times. The most recent one though was North Korea’s comedy miniature despot Kim Jong-il who died, we can only assume from reading his official biography, from the fact that he never defecated. An impressive feat although it did explain why he spoke utter shit for most of his life. His copycat fat son is everyone’s favourite to win Despots On Ice 2012. Oh, and Bin Laden got shot in the head by Navy Seals. Apparently the reason he wasn’t forcibly extracted back to US soil to stand trial was that he was defending himself with automatic loaded wives, or something like that according to a memo from the CIA. So, a tumultuous year all in all.

But what about the year in Whisky? Well as the above image suggests it was a very good  year for publicity stunts. Dalmore, Macallan, Glenfiddich, Old Pulteney, they all clambered over each other, slavering at the gums like hounds of the baskerville with marketing diplomas. Desperate to conquer the squalid back pages of the press with their fetid little bling bottlings, or to tell us that Jim Murray, the greatest gift to whisky since domestic violence, had endorsed their product with his latest super score. There were other things afoot in whisky as well with the ‘world’ whiskies starting to finally gain the recognition they deserve. People continued to complain about the Ardbeg Committee with staggering levels of naivety, as if it was actually supposed to be some kind of exclusive country club instead of a big, oily marketing engine that runs on raw, self perpetuating nonsense. Maybe in 2012 people will actually stop complaining and realise that it is the way it is and they can’t help it so just stop approaching me at festivals and complaining to me because I happened to work at the distillery for two summers while at uni as if that somehow means I can just call up someone at Moet Hennessey and ‘have a wee word’. Gosh it feels good to get things off your chest. In related Ardbeggy news, the great blender Rachel Barrie left Glenmorangie and headed to the Bowmore/Glen Garioch/Auchentoshan stable and proceeded to say some very encouraging things about future production methods, although I’m still waiting for a reply to a comment I made on her facebook status about doing some more peated Glen Garioch, time will tell. The rush for Port Ellen 11th release drove consumers into a frenzy of mindless violence that ended in further outbreaks of rioting throughout the whisky shops of Europe. Lady Gaga got five cases though.  Whiskyfun turned 9 this year on July 28th, selfishly only 8 days after my own birthday thereby overshadowing that event in the whisky calender for so many people. I’ll get you yet Valentin (shakes fist). There has been much speculation over what Serge will do once Whiskyfun turns 10. However we all know he will convert the site into an online scores auctioneering base where companies bid thousands of euros (or francs depending on how things are looking come August) a time for whatever score he is offering that week. The first score will be 98 points and we know Inverhouse are already putting together a bid for their new non-aged, Iron Bru finished An Cnoc. Good times ahead.

The Hadron Collider, a big player in the whisky scene of 2012? Also don't do what I just did and run a google image search for 'Large Hardon Collider' by mistake.

So what does 2012 hold for whisky? I suspect we will see even higher prices, more fakes, the pointlessness of the ‘most expensive bottle ever sold’ war will spiral into the cosmic belly button of utter despair and consume all who dare venture near, like a black hole of fat, sweaty bollocks. The German Independent Bottling market will continue to blossom providing the best whiskies and the best prices. Kilchoman will continue to get better with age. Richard Patterson will host a tasting in the Large Hadron Collider. Ralfy will move to Sky One. Joel and Neil from caskstrength.net will open for the Pope at Glastonbury. Fred and Stuart Laing will merge into a single, two-headed person like Zaphod Beeblebrox from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Port Ellen 12th release will be released in the style of Red Cross aid parcels in Ethiopia. UN soldiers will throw armfuls of them into baying crowds of angry whisky lovers armed to the teeth with pitchforks and ipads and just hope for the best while a representative from Diageo looks on via a satellite link up and calmly motions to his minions to begin ‘phase 2′. The Olympic opening ceremony will be sponsored by Bruichladdich, Jim McEwan and Boris Johnson will open the show with a beginners guide to Coopering. Octomore will be peated to 1 trillion ppm thus causing a tear in the space time continuum and creating what is known as a ‘phenolic irregularity’. Dave Broom will be the new Doctor Who companion and Martine Nouet will be the new Doctor Who. Daftmill will buy Diageo, George Osborne will retire from politics and re-open Brora with his vast personal fortune and Nick Clegg, finally overwhelmed by his spineless guilt, will commit suicide live on national television by downing a thousand miniatures of Edradour. So an exciting year for us all to look forward to.

Be sure to tune in for Nick Clegg's 'dram with destiny' in 2012.

On a personal note it is difficult to comment too succinctly on a  year that was racked by so much intensity, belt tightening, death and downright misery, purely because for me it was far and away the best year of my life. I travelled and made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, I found a great new job, moved into the best flat I’ve ever lived in with the best flatmate I’ve ever had and I’m in a position where things seem to be looking up. I am, in short, incredibly lucky and I try to realise it every day. So the final tasting of 2011 will be one themed around starting as you mean to go on, at least for as long as possible, I’m not sure how many more great Brora tastings I’ll be able to do..? A worrying thought indeed.

Brora 1970-2002. 32yo. Douglas Laing ‘Old & Rare’. 58.4%. 70cl. 

Huge thanks to Wayne for opening this beauty.

Colour: Straw Gold

Nose: Why do other distilleries bother making peated whisky? This is just another typically perfect early Brora. A myriad of farmyard, industrial, coastal and medical qualities with farminess taking the initial lead. Just beautiful! Opens up slowly with lemon skins, oils, mineral notes, pebbles, sea salt, camphor and tar. Sea air, brine, coal and a perfect underlying waxiness. It’s definitely leaning more towards coastal guises now. Lots of sea spray, lime juice, olive oil, seaweed, white flowers, sandalwood and tcp. It’s just massively fresh and vibrant. Just stunning, lets see if water can improve it even further… With water it just becomes almost hyper coastal, like raw sea water and oysters. Lemon juice, raw peat smoke, old kilns, iodine.

Palate: Massively oily on delivery, like boiler sheds, thick green peats, tar, peat oil, drying medicinal notes, smoked cereals, sea water, green olives in brine, hay, hessian and treacle. Smoked vanilla (?), chilli oatcakes, black pepper, Riesling, melted butter and chopped chives. Shellfish, crab meat, smoked mussels, fresh lemon juice, cured ham and more salt. With water: a really luxurious, elegant peat comes through now, loads of olive oil, bonfire smoke, burning grass, wax, smoked cereals, peppered mackerel and some wonderfully farmy notes of engine oil and horse stables.

Finish: Very long with drying peat smoke, wax, cereals, tar, white pepper, burnt toast, camphor and fish oil.

Comments: Another incredibly Brora, I think the 1970 and 71s were not quite as stellar as the 72s in my opinion. It seems like they were still experimenting and constantly tweaking the recipe, in 1972 they must have got things very right. However, this is all relative as this one is still galaxies ahead of most modern peated malts.

Score: 94/100

Brora 1972-1995. 22yo. OB Rare Malts. 61.6%. 70cl.

This is one of several truly legendary early Broras from the Rare Malts series.

Colour: Gold

Nose: Ouch! The word beast could have been invented for this one. Imagine a peat, honey, salt and turpentine smoothy and you’re not far off. Quite closed even after a long time in glass, aggressive and difficult but even with all that grumpy, miserly austerity it is still quite beautiful. Struck flints, big, raw mineral notes, hay, horse stables, burnt grass and old petrol cans. A true powerhouse whisky. I think we’ll add a bit of water straight away… with a little water it starts to freshen out a bit, salt, lemons, limes and a nice manure quality all start to make themselves felt. Becomes intensely ‘Brora’ with a huge farminess and notes of coal fires, seaweed, parsley and wax. Lets try another little bit of water: it actually got even better, now its super fresh, leafy, smoky and very medicinal. A stunning and perfect mix of all the classic Brora characters. This is one of those whiskies that swims like a fish, it absolutely needs careful time with water to bloom, but when it does, my god it’s magnificent.

Palate: Neat it is an aggressive bag of gravel, wet earth, green, concentrated peat oil and feisty minerals. Some farmyard hints of stables, hay, horses and tar then muesli, rope, wet leaves, coal and mercurochrome. With a first dilution… wow, a perfect profile, all on minty, leafy peats, all kinds of wax, a dazzling array of coastal notes and different oils. Perfect but lets try a little more water anyway… the peat gets even oilier, almost simmering like an old Ardbeg, oily, fat and mouth coating with a wonderfully farmy dirtiness. Superlative notes of seaweed, tar, tcp, bread, olive oil, brine, anchovies, kippers, black and green peppercorns, hummus, matchsticks and more salt. It’s quite incredible really, we’d best stop.

Finish: Ask me in 2013 how it’s coming along

Comments: I’ve wanted to taste this one for a long long time and, thanks to the generosity of Mr Brora (aka Serge) at D-Day I was finally able to. All I can say is these bottles are now expensive for a very good reason, they’re fucking brilliant whisky. Water is essential with this one, even adding it in increments it seems to change drastically with each new dilution. You could literally play for days if you had a full bottle, adding a little water, then a bit more whisky, seeing just how epic you could make it, mind the ‘ground zero’ of perfection if you like. There’s nothing being made anywhere in the world today in my opinion that can hold a candle to this kind of whisky. Maybe for 2012 the industry could look to the past a bit more for future inspiration.

Score: 96/100

Whatever happens next year I hope you can all become happier, wiser and more aware in everything you do and achieve. Enjoy the simple things in life, strive to make things better for yourself and all those around you. And above all, don’t take things too seriously.

Happy Hogmanay from all of us here at Whisky Online. Slante!

Angus. 31/12/2011

Consoling Dalmore

Posted on Wednesday 1st of December 2010

Poor Dalmore. No sooner had they set the record for the most expensive bottle ever sold than those nasty people from Macallan come and rain on their parade with their ludicrously overpriced bottling. I mean £100,000 is indeed a budgetary strain but $460,000? Well that’s just plain gauche darling, next stop £1,000,000. Anyway this is not the only bee in their metaphors lately, apparently some Dalmorians (Dalmatians?) were none too pleased when I recently described Fettercairn, another malt from their stable, as ‘weird’ on these blog pages recently. This is understandable as all five of you that read this blog might now never buy Fettercairn again. So the upshot is that I am feeling a little sorry for Dalmore as of late so lets console them by reminding them just how brilliant their whisky can be (hopefully, I haven’t actually tasted either of these whiskies before but I have confidence.)

The current 40yo at £1400. One of Dalmore's 'bargain bin' expressions.

Dalmore 40yo OB. Bottled 2009. 40%. 70cl.

Colour: Mahogany.

Nose: Rich notes of rancio, old leather, walnuts and putty. Highly polished, clean, nutty sherry with plenty of supple fruit character and christmasy cheer. Slight meaty tones are balanced by hints of morello cherries, dark chocolate and old, waxy furniture. Stewed sultanas, fresh marzipan and icing sugar, a big old cake of a dram. Quite a refined nose really, nothing aggressive about it at all, lots of Dalmore marmalade notes coming through after a while, very typical.

Palate: Impressive presence in the mouth for only 40%, big notes of blood oranges, rancio, mushrooms, cough medicine and a little tincture. Lovely drying fruit and wood qualities with clean, flickering tannins, cloves, muscovado sugar and little hints of mint leaf and rum (Mojito? ). Now some very aromatic and complex spice character with loads of different little sub flavours. Great development and wonderful flavour profile.

Finish: Medium length with violets, more bitter chocolate orange notes, candied peel, dundee cake and a little lingering tannic bite.

Comments: The nose was good but the palate was even better, in fact it blooms on the palate in a very surprising way, the nose is shy by comparison. A lovely old Dalmore, a great example of the aging potential of this make.

Score: 90/100

Distilled in 1960 this is another of Serge's birthday drams. Thanks again Serge. I think this will become some sort of mantra in the coming weeks as I plough through all the stuff that came back from France.

Dalmore 25yo OB. 1960-1985 (the year I was born). 296 bottles. 43%. 75cl.

Colour: Indian Rosewood

Nose: Phew! This is a big fruity creature. Plums, all kinds of fruit eau de vie, greengages, fresh pears, baked apples, lychees, oranges, foam bananas, it just goes on and on, beautiful. Some notes of damp earth and liquorice as well with some lean meaty notes and more Dalmore marmalade aromas. Cigar boxes, wood resin, hints of marshmallow and even a little rooty peat. This smells more mature than 25 years but maybe time in the bottle has done that. Now there are lots of minerals along with notes of hessian and pebbles, perfect old style sherry, big, round and full but very clean.

Palate: Incredibly big, mouth-filling and earthy with some really lush green fruits as well. Great attack, really feels much bigger than 43%, similar to the 40yo in that respect. Bags of spices and some slightly woody phenolic notes with sandalwood, cedar, old pencil cases, graphite and leather. Cumin, horse stables, some grassiness, prune juice and preserved lemons. Lots of complexity and great balance, lets quit while we’re ahead.

Finish: Looooong, with a big fanfare of fruits, different woody notes and spices. Brilliant.

Comments: 25 years in a great cask followed by 25 years in glass = Great Dalmore!

Score: 92/100

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