Island Life: Johnny Fowle

Island Life: Johnny Fowle

We send some of the whisky world’s great and good off to our desert island. What will they take? This edition, Sotheby’s Jonny Fowle

Caskaway | 06 Dec 2019 | Issue 164

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Jonny joined Sotheby’s London Wine department as a spirits specialist in April 2019. Born and raised in Edinburgh, Jonny has always had an affinity for whisky. He started his own business in 2012 providing whisky training to clients including Mandarin Oriental, JW Marriot and The Peninsula, and provided masterclasses on behalf of some of Scotch’s most revered brands.

He also worked as the UK’s National brand ambassador for several Japanese whisky, gin and rum distilleries. During the last few years, his focus has been on brokering casks and rare bottles of Scotch and Japanese whisky.

Whiskey #1


Family Cask 1986, Spring Release

I was born in 1986 and tend to collect whiskies from that year when I can find them. Among the best I have tried is this Glenfarclas. I’ve been lucky enough to try it twice before and still keep a couple of bottles on my shelf at home. It’s one of the more heavily sherried Family Casks I’ve had and very warming for those cold, lonely nights. This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one ‘86 vintage.

Whisky #2


12 Years Old Samaroli

Samaroli bottles these days are hard to come by, so if I spot one in a whisky bar I’ll really dig deep enough to try one. This year I was fortunate enough to try a few and among them was this incredible bottle that we opened at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. That night we tried some amazing whiskies from 1970s Highland Park to a 1938 Macallan Red Ribbon, but this Samaroli really stood out for me. It showed incredibly vibrant, rich winey notes and the ABV still seemed high after 30 or so years in the bottle.
If I couldn’t take this whisky, then I would dream about it.

Whisky #3


12 Years Old First Fill

I love this whisky. Straight forward, inexpensive, unpretentious and delicious! I introduced my colleague Yassmin from the Sotheby’s wine team to this recently while we were in Austin, Texas and she was instantly converted! Balvenie is one of those distilleries that is hard not to love. Very 'craft' considering its size (it is family-owned after all) and the cereal character really shines through in this expression with balanced Bourbon cask sweetness.

Whisky #4


Chichibu IPA 2017

Although at odds with my proud Scottish heritage, I’m a big Japanophile so I have to include a Japanese whisky in the mix. This isn’t a standard whisky by any means, but an out there citrusy, white winey concoction dreamt up by Ichiro Akuto who finished this expression in IPA casks from a local Saitama brewery (these must have been some hoppy beers!). I first tried this at Venture Distillery in Chichibu and had never had anything like it. I couldn’t find it for sale anywhere in Japan, so when I finally came across some bottles in the UK I snapped them up. A dram for when you’re looking for something truly different!

Whisky #5


Feis Ile 2017

This whisky was released on my first trip to Feis Ile. I was staying with the Wills family and helping out with the Kilchoman open day. At the end of the day everyone involved was gifted a bottle of this festival release and I opened mine almost immediately.
It’s a 100 per cent Islay bottling, vatted from a Bourbon hogshead and a sherry butt, far richer than their annual releases. I love this whisky; I think it could be the greatest expression so far from Kilchoman and brings a lot of memories with it. I have a real soft spot for this lovely distillery!

A brief final luxury

As much as I would like to pick something off the wall, I think I might have to bring my iPad. As long as I can watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, listen to the Adam Buxton Podcast and play music I think I’ll be happy. Hopefully the battery lasts until I get rescued! (We never mentioned anything about coming back, but you are in good company – ED)
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