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 recently bought a bottle of Bowmore Bicentenary edition 1779 - 1979. The top of the bottle is sealed with wax but a little crack has appeared on the edge and a small piece of wax has fallen off. Is it normal that the wax has developed a crack over the years? Will I start to lose my precious whisky? Should I attempt to restore the wax somehow, and if I do, will the bottle lose value? I thought about applying parafilm but I don't know if it will damage the wax further? Could you give me some advice?
J. Carignan

There are a number of notable collectible bottles that have wax seals: Ardbeg Provenance 1974, Glenmorangie Sesquicentennial Selection 21 Years Old, Black Bowmore 1964, and your Bowmore Bicentenary to give but a few examples. In the long term, many wax seals can be prone to cracking and splitting, creating an anxious situation for the drinker and collector. Now, remember that the cork, not the wax, is the bottle's primary closure keeping your whisky safe inside. The integrity of the cork can deteriorate over time, depending on how the bottle has been stored. Corks can dry out, disintegrate, or loosen, potentially leading to evaporation. If that bottle has a wax seal that has become defective concurrently through cracking or chipping, then evaporation is more likely. Many collectors use low permeability wrappings to reduce the risk of evaporation, though individual products can react with packaging under certain conditions. Undeniably, significant ullage and wax seal disintegration can adversely affect the resale value of your whisky. Similarly, a bottle may look tampered with after restoration work to the closure. Hairline wax cracks on bottles with good fill levels do not put off the majority of buyers who accept these imperfections in older releases. Significantly, more online auctions mean fewer buyers are inspecting bottles before bidding.

I'm in search of a smooth-tasting Scotch, single malt or blend for around $30. I had a bad experience with Bowmore Legend - huge headache and it tasted harsh to me. Do you have any thoughts about Speyburn 10 Years Old? Johnnie Walker Black Label? Compass Box, Great King Street? I know I like Macallan 12 Years Old, but it's expensive at $50 to $60. Your expert guidance is welcomed.
S. Havens, USA

A budget of $30 makes it tough to be a single malt Scotch whisky drinker, but it's not impossible! I can recommend Glenmorangie The Original, The Glenlivet 12 Years Old, and Speyburn 10 Years Old as quality, good value drams for easy drinking. Speyburn is a brilliant dram and much underrated in its native Scotland. Compass Box, Great King Street is approachable, moreish, and versatile and I highly recommended it without hesitation. If you find some whiskies seem harsh and you don't enjoy the sensation of 'the burn', then maybe grab a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey. It's terrific value for the flavour and goes down a treat thanks to the triple distillation. You should explore the smooth, smoky signature of Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years Old and the rich, Speyside heart of Chivas Regal 12 Years Old.

I bought four bottles of Karuizawa in recent years when you could still find it in stores. What are the ones I have worth today?
P. Becker, France

Karuizawa 12 Years Old Sherry Cask 1999 bottled in 2012 at 61% - a three bottle mixed lot of similarly aged Karuizawa fetched HK$30,000 at Zachys, Hong Kong last January. Assuming equal value your bottle could be worth £860. Notice how this bottle doesn't have a cask number, suggesting a vatting of different sherry casks with the youngest liquid from 1999. Karuizawa 28 Years Old 1983 Noh Bottling 57.2% sold for £2,700 at Whisky Auctioneer in May, though current bottles are managing £2,000 - £2,300. Karuizawa 1981 Cask 6256 57.5% (2011 bottling for Speciality Drinks) makes £1,900 - £2,000 with slightly higher prices in Hong Kong live auctions. Finally, the Karuizawa Noh Multi-vintage 59.1% is worth £1,300 - £1,500 though it has nudged close to £2,000 at PolyAuction and Zachys in Hong Kong. Overall, your quartet of Japanese whiskies is valued in the region of £5,500 to £6,500.