By Jonny McCormick

Ask the Expert

Send your questions to editorial@whiskymag.com or by post to: Q&A, Whisky Magazine, 6 Woolgate Court, St Benedicts Street, Norwich, England, NR2 4AP
I have just returned from Fèis Ìle 2013 and bought a total of five festive bottles. Now, at £350, the price of the Bowmore bottle is more than the sum of the Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich. If you are only going to invest in one bottle, which one would you choose?
A. Woo (Hong Kong)

There were 10 bottles released to coincide with this year's Fèis Ìle. This includes all nine operating distilleries on Islay and Jura including two bottlings from Bowmore. Scotch Whisky Auctions, Glasgow sold a complete set of 10 bottles for £1,650 in July gathered by a diligent festival goer. We will set aside the moral arguments of buying whisky with an eye for profit versus the sheer pleasure of drinking them, as your question pertained to investment only. Trading on Fèis Ìle bottles for investment purposes is all about supply and demand. The Lagavulin bottle was plentiful and lower priced.

While these are still likely to rise in value, there were 3,000 bottles produced. Ardbog is an official limited release Ardbeg, therefore purchase was not limited to those people who made the journey to the island. The Bunnahabhain is another fantastic whisky and it is much more limited with only 606 bottles. However, Bunnahabhain festival bottlings do not seem to attract the same high auction prices as other brands. The Bruichladdich Jim McEwan's Tribute bottling marked his 50 years in the Scotch whisky industry and was very popular with only 700 bottles available. You can be certain that in creating this bottling marking his extraordinary career, Jim McEwan's motives were not to help others to make a fast buck.

The Bowmore 1988 was the most expensive Fèis Ìle 2013 release at £350, which means you need to achieve a much higher hammer price at live auction to make a profit. For example, if you think a 20 per cent short-term profit is reasonable (£70), you need to reach a hammer price of over £500 to cover the cost of the seller's commission, tax, insurance, and catalogue charges. However, above £500, the number of people prepared to place bids of this magnitude begins to fall. First time out, Scotch Whisky Auctions sold three bottles of Bowmore 1988 Fèis Ìle 2013 for between £430-450. At £450, these vendors would receive a profit of £39 (11 per cent) on their bottles by selling immediately after the festival while the £430 bottle would make a six per cent profit of just £21.40. That's a hard way to make a fortune. On the positive side, there were only 300 bottles released making this bottling quite scarce. If you examine the previous Bowmore 25 Years Old Fèis Ìle bottlings, both the 2012 and 2011 bottles have made £700 at Scotch Whisky Auctions. The 2010 bottle has made £1,000. Most likely, you have made the right choice of investment bottle and this should give you confidence about the future value of this bottling. Time your sale carefully.


I have found a few bottles of Teacher's Royal Highland Scotch Whisky 12 Years Old that I believe are from the 1980s. I am trying to get some information and reviews. I opened one and in my opinion, it is different and much nicer than the current Teacher's Highland Cream which I enjoy.
R. Farrugia

These are more modern than the 1980s given the bottling strength of 43% rather than 40%. These could be 1990s or even early 2000s at a push. The volume of 75cl could be from a non-UK market but then Teacher's is popular in the UK, India and Brazil as well as other countries.

As a blended Scotch whisky, the producers would like you to believe that the taste is consistent over time and that this whisky will taste just the same today as it did in decades past. In reality, we know that the taste profiles of blends can evolve subtly over time and that you may prefer one to another. The older blends will be drawn from component whiskies made in a different era. While tasting notes were not easily available in the 1980s before Whisky Magazine, I have found a brief tasting note in The Scotch Whisky Book by Mark Skipworth published in 1987. He describes Teacher's Highland Cream as "Malty, clean tasting. Quite dark in colour. Recommended with a little water." One final point about old blends: do remember that the colour of the whisky may not necessarily be due to the casks alone, as many blends contained spirit caramel. Enjoy drinking them.