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
The bottles I couldn’t afford when I first discovered my love of whisky still haunt me. I remember visiting Macallan when they were selling Macallan Cask Strength bottlings for around £85. On my first trip to Ardbeg, Lord of the Isles cost £99, and I remember seeing a huge range of Rare Malts at Dalwhinnie distillery, including a Brora 1982 for £75 a bottle. If I knew then what I know now, I would have bought them all, but back then, they were out of my price range. The truth is, I can’t bear to look, but what are those bottles worth now?
N. Curran, Edinburgh

You are not alone. I suspect all of us have a similar story of ‘the one that got away.’ For me, it was the time I was in Paris and squeezed in a visit La Maison du Whisky knowing that I only had space for one bottle in my luggage. On the shelf, there was mind-boggling selection of Japanese whisky from a distillery beginning with K and I had to leave them all behind bar one.

Visiting distilleries is an excellent opportunity to acquire rare bottles, providing you can afford them. The Macallan Cask Strength bottles were a series of 50cl single sherry cask distillery bottlings with hand written labels released in the early part of this century. Each whisky was selected by whisky maker Bob Dalgarno, and presented in a simple cardboard tube. Sorry to say, but one of these expressions sold at Scotch Whisky Auctions last December for £2,200. Ardbeg Lord of the Isles contains 25 year old whisky, probably distilled in the late 1970s, and should come boxed with the original scroll. These currently fetch between £700-£800 each. The Rare Malts bottlings continues to grow in value every year, but certain closed distilleries such as Brora are now in a different league. While Brora 1972 regularly exceed £5,000 a bottle, the Brora 1982 20 Years Old still makes a very reasonable £600-£800 a bottle. Today’s new releases are tomorrow’s collectibles; you may have missed these specific bottlings in the past but I am anticipating a bounty of highly desirable collectible whiskies to be released in 2018, so get out there and hunt down some new acquisitions.

I’m trying to find out the name of a whisky that my late grandfather used to keep in his house. All I can remember is the bottle had a picture of a whisky still on a cream label with old-fashioned writing. Can you help?
M. Johnston, London

I believe you are describing a bottle of Glendullan 12 Years Old, bottled by Macdonald Greenlees Ltd in the 1970s or 1980s. This whisky incorporated an illustration of a copper pot still with the G of the distillery name flowing from the lyne arm, with a sketch of the distillery buildings and chimney in the background. Scour the auctions and you might be able to find an original for £100-£150, or pick up a modern bottling of Glendullan and raise a toast to your Grandfather’s memory with a glass of his favourite tipple.

In my possession, I have a bottle of Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix. I feel like it has become too valuable to drink. Should I sell?
D Little, York

This Glenfiddich limited edition from 2010 has become rather popular. Its release coincided with the harsh winter when snow and ice gripped parts of Scotland for a couple of months. On Speyside, the considerable weight of the packed ice led to a warehouse roof collapse at Glenfiddich distillery. The image on the Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix tin shows the extent of the damage, with the twisted wreckage of the corrugated roofing bent over the densely packed pallets of casks. Storing the casks upright may have increased their durability and protected them from being destroyed when the roof fell in, compared with a dunnage warehouse. Although Snow Phoenix was a limited release I suspect it is one of the most traded Glenfiddich expressions this decade. Your dilemma is a common one faced by many whisky lovers; too cautious to open the bottle because of its rising value, rather than remembering the price you purchased it for originally. I would encourage you to open and savour the taste of this fine whisky, but if you are thinking about selling, it is attracting bids of £300-350.