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
Every Christmas, I buy my brother a bottle of single malt from my local bottle shop. He is a big lover of whisky, but he prefers to drink it as he's not an investor or collector. He's getting married next year almost exactly three years after he met his wife to be, and I was wondering if there was any way to get him a bottle which was put into the cask on the day they met (bonus points if it is bottled on the day of the wedding), so that the whisky inside was a record of their relationships so far. Is this something a distillery would be able to assist with and which are more likely to help with such a request?

Before new make spirit can be called Scotch, it must be matured in an oak cask for three years. So, the prospect of matching up a filling date with a bottling date in order to buy a single bottle that parallels the significant dates of their relationship is impossible. You could explore clubbing together with friends and family and making your brother and your sister-in-law joint cask owners. Then they could enjoy the benefits of watching their whisky mature as their marriage blossoms and could look forward to bottling it for a future anniversary? If you pick the right distillery, they may even accede to a request to fill it on their wedding day. There are a handful of operating distilleries offering cask ownership schemes this year including Strathearn, Annandale, and Ardnamurchan.

I have an old (unfortunately empty) bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label. Can you advise how old the bottle is likely to be? Labels are intact and it has a screw cap. The following is printed on the inside of the main label 77-288-4. Embossed on the underside of the bottle is JWSC281R7.

Unfortunately, publically available information on batch numbers and bottlings codes are not available, but it is easier to make approximations on age based on packaging styles. Fortunately, you can still buy a fresh bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label, one of the world's most popular whiskies, for around £20.

I am looking for a bottle of Bushmills 1608 400th Anniversary whiskey. Can you give me advice and possible costs on finding one please?
B. Lynn

This limited edition from Northern Ireland was released to commemorate the 400th anniversary of when the license to distil was granted to Sir Thomas Phillips to 'Make, Draw and Distil "Uisce Beatha" within the territory called the Rowte in County Antrim'. Diageo, then owners, commemorated this landmark with this non-age statement blend called the 1608 Anniversary edition. It was shortlisted for Best Irish Blended No Age Statement at the World Whiskies Awards in 2012. These bottles do appear at auctions every month or two and currently fetch £55-£65, so you should be able to get one for a sensible price if you keep checking the auction listings.

I have a small collection of whisky that I started to build over the last six months. I'm really keen on building an investment collection of whisky (I'm not planning on consuming it all). I wondered if you had any tips or recommendations for a newbie and any particular bottlings that I should focus my attention on at the moment?

Whisky is an alternative investment involving greater risk, and buying the right bottles requires knowledge and experience. Happily, that means plenty of reading and sampling. Most gains are made from buying at retail and reselling at auction, so take advantage of limited editions from the big brands as they appear, whether that is from online retailers, or special festival bottlings. The Whisky Magazine Index will give you an idea of what brands are most traded, and indicate recent bottlings that have performed well. Closed distilleries have done well in recent years, but they can be expensive. Sign up through the brand websites to get the opportunity for exclusive bottlings, read reviews to see which releases are highly rated, and follow social media channels to get the first word on scarce bottlings. Ultimately, you are trying to buy bottles that someone elsewhere will be prepared to pay more for at auction.