By Jonny McCormick

Ask the Expert

Send your questions to or by post to: Q&A, Whisky Magazine, 6 Woolgate Court, St Benedicts Street, Norwich, England, NR2 4AP
I ’m hoping that you could help me with some information on a bottle of Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Ardbeg. Distilled in 1974, the label says it was bottled in 1996 at ABV 40%. I am hoping that you might have some tasting or historical notes as I have been unable to find any online. I admit that I am loathe to open the bottle for fear that it may have some collectable value which, again, I have been unable to verify.
K. McCormack, by email

Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin have released a number of Ardbeg bottlings distilled in the 1970s under their Connoisseurs Choice label and they are not infrequently seen at auction. For many Ardbeggians, the 1960s and 1970s were an invincible period of distilling and 1974 in particular has yielded high value collectibles such as Ardbeg Provenance and Ardbeg Double Barrel. The distillery continued its own floor malting operations until 1977 which resulted in quite variable peating levels between batches, a topic which generates fierce debates at comparative tastings. There are favourable historical tasting notes for Ardbeg 1974 Connoisseurs Choice bottlings if you have a copy of the Whisky Magazine Tastings book or Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion Third edition, though be aware that they are probably not relating directly to the 1996 release. While the official Ardbeg 1974 bottlings can fetch large sums at auction, the Connoisseurs Choice bottlings are not able to match them. However, McTear’s, Glasgow had your exact bottle in their 6th June 2012 sale which had been given an estimate of £150-200, but sold below the low estimate at £120.

I received a bottle of Glenfiddich Pure Malt Special Old Reserve as a leaving present from my previous company. There is no age statement. The trademark triangular shape looks much more prominent than bottles of today. When was it bottled, roughly what age would it be, and is it worth anything?
Clint, Japan

This is a non-age statement Speyside whisky that may date back to the 1980s or 1990s. Although legally this means that the whisky must be more than three years old, the liquid in your bottle will have been matured for around 8-12 years old. Glenfiddich entry level whiskies spent more than a decade without carrying an age statement which gave greater flexibility in stock management to the blender. Eventually, they brought in the 12 Years Old age statement, acknowledging the consumer pressure which was responding to age statements at the time. However, do not underestimate the importance of this classic bottle design, as it was the successful marketing of their distinctive triangular bottle of single malt whisky that established Glenfiddich as a world-beating brand through the 1960s, 70s and 80s. These days, the equivalent bottling would be their signature 12 Years Old, though you’ll notice how the angles have softened in successive packaging redesigns. The ubiquity of the Glenfiddich Pure Malt Special Old Reserve means that it does not hold enormous collectible value and would only realise
£15-30 at auction. My advice would be to crack this one open and savour the contents.

I would like a valuation for an 18 Years Old bottle of The Macallan, matured in sherry wood. The box says it was distilled in 1977 and the label depicts a ceiling rose and underneath is states “HBOS plc. The Mound, Edinburgh”. There is no year of distillation on the bottle itself. Is this just any 18 year old bottle put in a box or was this HBOS labelled one specifically distilled in 1977? I have acquired the bottle but know nothing about whisky.
P. Donaldson by email

For many years, the small copper stills of The Macallan featured on the reverse of the Bank of Scotland’s £10 note. It seems only fitting that one day, the distillery would reciprocate and allow the bank to feature on the reverse of The Macallan (HBOS plc being the name of the large banking group formed by the merger of Halifax and Bank of Scotland). It certainly wasn’t distilled specifically for the bank in the 1970s and as The Macallan 18 Years Old 1977 was released in 1995 and HBOS was formed in 2001, the liquid is more likely to be an 18 Years Old from 1982 or 1983 slipped into a 1977 box according to information from a former HBOS employee who knows the bottle. Its redemption is this that this was a private corporate bottling which makes it rather rare and collectible. While the standard release of The Macallan 18 Years Old 1983 is valuable (a bottle sold at Christies, London in June for£300, and another for £490 at Bonhams, Hong Kong), your HBOS version has not been seen at a live bidding auction yet, although it has achieved more than £1000 on eBay and could potentially fetch more at the right auction.