By Dominic Roskrow

Hard to put a figure on it...

I'm not one for snobbery, pretentiousness or elitism. Can't stand it. But if I've learned anything over the last few years it's that you get what you pay for and that quality comes at a cost.
I’m not one for snobbery, pretentiousness or elitism. Can’t stand it. But if I’ve learned anything over the last few years it’s that you get what you pay for and that quality comes at a cost.Let me explain; before I arrived here I spent 10 years working away from home and dragging a travel bag – my brother called it my sad bag – to a plethora of cheap hotels. And I mean cheap. The sort that attracted migrant workers from the north of England by the van-load, who in turn attracted a flock of very accommodating women.At one hotel the payphone had four pre-programmed buttons: one for a taxi company, two for takeaway delivery services, and one for pest control. I kid you not.I have come to believe that cost has little to do with anything and value for money, everything. People don’t mind paying if it’s worthwhile, it’s being ripped off that bothers them.This is obviously very much the case in the world of whisky, where aficionados appreciate the time and effort that goes in to producing quality whisky and rightfully get affronted when some conman fakes it.The appreciation of value was brought home to me dramatically on two separate occasions recently.The first was a whisky dinner held in the cellars of the offices of Berry Brothers & Rudd in St Jame’s, London. At £75 a ticket ($130) I thought it might be too expensive. The evening was, though, a total delight and one of those never to be forgotten occasions where price doesn’t come in to it.It’s a stunning setting for a dinner and the food, whisky and champagne that are served here didn’t disappoint, either.But what made this occasion so outstanding was the company. Our group was a diverse and eclectic one, linked only by a passion for whisky. It made for an extraordinary night with sparkling conversation about everything about and to do with whisky. The value of good company? Priceless.These sentiments came back to me on the Classic Malts Cruise, which I joined for a short time sailing from Oban to Caol Ila.On this occasion my company was provided by a crew provided by Classic Malts and our boat, Grampus; a couple of Swiss oiseaux d’amour who had won a place on the trip and spent it successfully balancing on a fine line between a romantic sailing trip in Scotland and mucking in with a group of hardened Scotch drinkers; and a bunch of American whisky ambassadors who bubbled with enthusiasm, and were a total credit to their employers, Diageo. Two days in their company and I defy anyone to argue that Scotch whisky doesn’t have a healthy future.On the face of it sailing down the sound of Jura and eating excellent food in St Jame’s have little in common. But in some ways they were very similar experiences. In both cases I had to leave prematurely and with a heavy heart. And in both cases the people I spoke to, without exception, were intelligent and stimulating.Both experiences were somewhat humbling.Spending time with these sort of people makes me feel like I’ve become a member of a special club. Although it’s not secret as such, few people seem to know about it, so membership remains somewhat selective. And as a result its members feel pretty pleased with themselves for having discovered it – like stumbling on a beautiful but near deserted beach, or discovering a brilliant but largely unknown rock band.It may cost a bit extra to get to that place – but boy, nobody can argue it’s not worth it.