By Jonny McCormick

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Last year I hosted a whisky tasting to benefit our local animal shelter. We had a good mix of newbies and aficionados so we are planning another event this year. We are in a small county of 20,000 two hours north of Santa Fe in New Mexico, USA. We are fortunate to have a great distillery there (Santa Fe Spirits) and the owner has agreed to come up again and help with presenting. Last year, we tasted Isle of Arran 10 Years Old, The Balvenie 14 Years Old Caribbean Cask, Glengoyne 21 Years Old, Glendronach 15 Years Old Revival, Lagavulin 16 Years Old, and Santa Fe Spirits Colkegan. Rather than the usual regional themes, I'd like to try something fun for the next tasting - maybe an animal theme?
Tibby, New Mexico

There is no shortage of animals, beasts, and critters on the labels of whisky bottles that you can use to design a themed whisky tasting, so here are my suggestions. For deer, look no further than The Dalmore range of single malt Scotch whiskies or a bottle of Stagg Jr Bourbon. Diageo seems to have an animal-friendly labelling approach with the habitat of certain wild animals linked with specific distilleries on the Flora & Fauna series. These themes extend to the Manager's Drams, and some Special Releases if you can stretch to buying rare bottles at auction. Concentrating on fur, rather than feather and fin, seek out a Scottish wildcat (Clynelish), otter (Blair Athol), badger (Dailuaine), or red squirrel (on the rare Aberfeldy bottling). Horses appear on High West's Yippee Ki-Yay and Rendezvous Rye. Cats were a rare sight on whisky bottles until the Mars Lucky Cat series arrived from Japan. For dogs, try Douglas Laing's Scallywag Speyside blended malt adorned with the family's fox terrier, or track down a vintage bottle of The Westie from Arran's Icons Collection. Sorry, but Copper Dog and Jameson's Blender's Dog just don't count. If it's white dog you're after, then Santa Fe Spirits Silver Coyote is the obvious local choice. No animal tasting would be complete without a bottle of Douglas Laing's Timorous Beastie.

My Mum is having a clear out and came across a Beam's Bicentennial Limited Edition Series 1976. I'm assuming it wouldn't be great drinking but wondered if it's worth keeping?

These are rather dated collectibles containing Bourbon aged for 100 months. Provided the bottle is sealed and intact, there is no reason to believe that it won't be good to pour. Hopefully, it should give you an intriguing vintage drinking experience whether you drink it straight up or use it to create an authentically 'old fashioned' Old Fashioned. Although these bottles are offered at low prices online, the market for rare and vintage Bourbon is picking up, so placed in front of the right audience, it could potentially sell for more than you think.

I have a sealed bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label that I'd like to sell. I'm not a huge whisky drinker, and as I've recently had a baby, the money would be more useful for me. I've had a look on eBay and it seems that I can probably sell this as a collectible bottle to circumnavigate the restrictions on alcohol sales. But does this actually work? This is a 75cl bottle, which seems an odd size to me, as I was under the impression that the modern bottle size was 70cl. Does this mean it is potentially more than 20 years old? Any advice as to whether an auction would be best for me? What should my starting price be?

Firstly, eBay does not permit the sale of alcoholic beverages or collectible containers containing alcohol so this is not an option for you. That policy was designed to prevent alcohol sales to those under the legal age for drinking, but inadvertently, it turned out to be a shot in the arm for the online specialist whisky auction businesses, which boomed in the aftermath. More likely, a 75cl bottle will be a contemporary bottling from the US rather than a vintage bottle. I would recommend you consign your bottle on a specialist whisky auction website, without a reserve, and you could expect it to reach around £90.