Taste

Making the grade

In a Whisky Magazine exclusive we go behind the scenes of this ambitious project
By Rob Allanson
Our considerations about the current state of the collector's market coincided with the release of the first six whiskies in Diageo's Managers' Choice selection, which will see the distiller releasing single cask bottlings from each of its 27 distilleries over the next year. Each bottling (at cask strength and non-chillfiltered) will give between £200 and £600 bottles depending on the cask.

It's a project which has generated considerable debate, most of which revolved around, the pricing - all in excess of £200 and the release of a Nine Years Old Oban as one of the first tranche of six.

We talked to Craig Wallace about choosing the whiskies and also Dr Nick Morgan, Scotch heritage director about the project and the reaction to it.

To round it off, we also have exclusive tasting of the entire Managers' Choice range.


Craig Wallace


Malt Whisky Specialist

WM: When the call came from marketing to select a cask from each distillery how did you start?

CW: I interrogated the inventory to find out what was available from each distillery, then looked at the different wood types and the ages which were available. Then I compared this with the whiskies which were currently available from each distillery and tried, where possible, to find a different cask type to what was currently available. It was a lot of work. Hundreds of samples, though it was relatively easy for the eight of us in Menstrie to narrow it down to seven or eight. Getting that down to the three that we were to make the final selection from was the hardest part.

WM: But presumably there were restrictions on what you could pick?

CW: No. I had the whole inventory to choose from. It wasn’t restricted in any way.

WM: Given you had to pick three from each distillery, did you try to choose an example from the three main wood types?

CW: It varied from distillery to distillery. Some would be good bourbon, some good European Oak. I brought in different wood types but it wasn’t a clear three options on each: one rechar, one bourbon one ex-sherry. It might have been three ex-bourbons. It was driven by quality.

WM: Was age a determining factor? These are expensive whiskies, so you would expect them to be older.

CW: Age wasn’t in my head at all, everything was driven by flavour and distillery character. I wanted to find three whiskies from each distillery with a balance between wood and distillery character, but which also had a twist, making them something which was both identifiable as coming from that distillery, but which wasn’t what you expected.

WM: But you already have your Special Release programme. How is this different?

CW: Special Releases are drawn from small batches of 10 casks or so, so the selection process is different. We are looking for parcels of spirit from, say, Brora or Port Ellen and then we create a whisky from that parcel. Here I was looking at an inventory of seven million individual casks.

This three whiskies from each distillery selected by the Menstrie team were then presented to all the managers at a tasting. It was up to them as a panel to decide which one was to be picked.

WM: Was this done blind?

CW: Yes and in groups with each manager tasting his own whisky among others. We then collated the results and gave the winning whiskies to each group to judge. At that stage they had the opportunity to say this isn’t up to scratch.

WM: And did they?

CW: Not always. We had our ideas as to what were the best, the managers had their ideas. It was.. a challenge! There was one in particular where they didn’t like our selection. We took their feedback, responded and re-picked.

WM: What of that 9yo Oban though?

CW: It’s an ex-sherry cask whisky and Oban isn’t normally seen like this, so there was one reason.

We felt would be a hit because it was sweeter. It hit the right buttons. It was different and unique.


Dr Nick Morgan


Scotch Knowledge & Heritage Director

WM: You’ve already got standard bottlings, Distiller’s Editions, Special Releases and other one-offs. Why this as well?

NM: The idea came from an ideas session last summer and at the end of the day one of the possibilities we felt was worth pursuing was single cask. We had a look to see if it was achievable and if would it make an impact.

WM: But we both know that malt whisky works in a different way. These are not cheap whiskies and are beyond the reach of most malt lovers. It’s hardly surprising that some are annoyed.

NM: As far as pricing goes I look at it in this way. If you are interested in guitars then you are perfectly aware that there are different products from the same maker at different prices. You can buy a basic Fender for £600, but there are models above that with tangible technical differences: an extra pick up, a whammy bar etc., then you have special editions and tribute editions above that. At that point, at that level, the tangibility of pricing becomes less significant than the number of these models and their ‘specialness’. Now, the person buying the ‘basic’ Fender knows these tribute versions exist, but they don’t resent the fact they exist. They don’t want or need them.

WM: But are you not risking alienating your loyal customers?

NM: It could be that we’ve got it wrong, but the commercial reports to date suggest that we haven’t and that the collectors market is different to the market of a smallish group of people who write blogs or discuss on forums. There will be a majority of people who haven’t read anything about it.

WM: But aren’t the bloggers and whisky anoraks the very market you have been careful to nurture?

NM: They are.

WM: Is there a sense of disappointment at the reaction then?

NM: Yes, I am disappointed if that relationship has been damaged because of the misinterpretation of our aim. I’m surprised given it happens all the time in other categories. So yes I’m disappointed and surprised.

WM: But it was pretty much inevitable don’t you think?

NM: I think one of the things I’ve read explicitly, or implicitly, on the most active blogs has been a perceived arrogance on the part of Diageo and I think that this in turn has angered people .. and much of it is driven by the
unusual context of being Diageo in Scotland at this point.

WM: Why though did you break cover and respond in person on one of the blogs?

NM: We were invited privately to respond but then the invitation was made public which then created a weight of expectation. The decision to respond wasn’t made lightly and a calculated risk and given the initial response had then to go through lawyers the final reply was, inevitably, more anodyne.

WM: The decision to launch a 9 year old Oban at a high price could be seen as provocative, though.

NM: Age wasn’t a factor in choosing the whiskies or selecting the prices. It was £200 for less well known, £250 for better known and £300 for the best known. We were offering something unique. We have done whisky by region, we have done it by rarity, we have done finishes, but we have never done single casks in this way and no-one else can do 27 single casks from their own estate.

WM: But isn’t that what independent bottlers do?

NM: I doubt that many independents could come out with 27 single casks in this way and 27 which were good. Independent bottlers don’t have the number of casks which Craig and the team can draw from. IBs, with the exception of old colleagues such as G&M and others who buy new make, are purely opportunistic. In my mind this offering is truly unique.

WM: Could the reaction be seen as being part of the growing pains of what is actually a new category?

NM: When you see outbursts of indignation like this then, yes, it does reflects a howl of anguish against the process of taking malt from a niche artisanal category into luxury. In that respect we are following other respected colleagues and as usual, are following on. What everyone has to remember is that all whisky firms, no matter what their size, are out to make a profit.

WM: You used the term luxury, which is something that has never been part of the Diageo malt marketing strategy. Is this a volte face?

NM: What we’re doing here is going back to what is in the bottle and giving unique, flavour-driven propositions which examine distillery character and the influence of maturation. It’s luxury in one aspect but it is not driven by luxury marketing. We are committed to playing in premium and this is just one aspect of that. Distillers Editions are premium, Special Releases are premium. All malt is premium!

WM: So are you content?

NM: Never. We’ll sit back, assess and see where to take it.


The First Six Releases



Cardhu

1997

Type of oak: First fill American oak hogshead.
Strength: 57.3%
Colour: Light gold.

Nose: Very fresh and clean. High-toned and lemon-fresh with floral touches. Light vanilla-accented oak influence. With water there’s drying hay, almond, then a shift to vanilla ice cream/hot gorse as the oak has its say.
Palate: Clean and buttery then an overwhelming citrus flavour. A little more oak shown with water. Clean and approachable.
Finish: Little flat but of decent length.
Comments: A vibrant, zesty and direct example.

Score: 3 out of 5


Glen Elgin

1998

Type of oak: Rejuvenated European oak butt
Strength: 61.1%
Colour: Gold with light greenish rim.

Nose: Higher alcohol than the Cardhu, some sawdust and red apple juice with cinnamon dusted on the top. There’s weight with water alongside runny toffee, a singed note.
Palate: A huge spice hit with typical Glen Elgin mid-palate solidity. More of the apple, some poached pear poached, orange peel.
Finish: Green apple this time. Clean with a hint of ginger root.
Comments: Typically juicy texture, but that extra appley note takes it off in a new direction.

Score: 3 out of 5


Linkwood

1996

Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 58.2%
Colour: Deep gold with amber hints.

Nose: Immediate integrated oak influence:date and green fig preserve, prune, old grass clippings, sandalwood. It’s lightened with water: dried banana, lemon and lime, layered fruits.
Palate: Medium to full-bodied with very ripe/dried black fruits and, once again, tingling sweet spices leading into cream toffee. Complex: apricot paste, fruit chews but still has the grassiness of youth and a balancing tannic grip.
Finish: Smooth then a surprising spritzy zing.
Comments: A high-quality Linkwood that’s retained distillery character even with bold oak.

Score: 4½ out of 5


Mortlach

1997

Type of oak: First fill American oak barrel.
Strength: 57.1%
Colour: Light. Straw.

Nose: Big, scented and slightly earthy with masses of garden mint and a light ginger note.
Palate: Solid and very chewy with a surprising peppermint lift. Then comes soft vanilla, that earthiness once more. The oak seems tight.
Finish: Medium-length and slightly nutty.
Comments: An a-typical Mortlach which, when stripped of its normal European oak trappings, seems a little exposed.

Score: 3 out of 5


Oban

2000

Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 58.7%
Colour: Amber

Nose: Rich with some prune, toffee apple, bitter orange marmalade. There’s pent up energy in this one: maybe it’s the ginseng note. Gets sweeter with water where a youthful grassiness is revealed behind orange pekoe tea.
Palate: Has lots of zest and a tight grip. The Seville orange returns, as does a touch of brine. With water it is soft and very clean. Chewy and deep.
Finish: Long, caramelised with a light peppery note of youth.
Comments: This turbo-charged Oban has greater depth and concentration than the 14 Years Old. Young? What’s age got to do with it.

Score: 4 out of 5


Teaninich

1996

Type of oak: Rejuvenated American oak hogshead.
Strength: 55.3%
Colour: Full gold

Nose: Intensely fragrant. Light sawdust, bergamot, beeswax applied to pine furniture, then spearmint and lychee.
Palate: There’s the minty lift, then grassiness along with creme brulee and mashed banana. That intensity remains even with water: freshly cut meadow grass, pistachio. Very clean and pure.
Finish: Crisp. Some oak,
Comments: Teaninich is a love/hate distillery. This is bang on distillery character even down to its slightly aloof quality.

Score: 3½ out of 5


Forthcoming releases




Auchroisk

1999

Type of oak: First-fill European oak butt.
Strength: 60.6%
Colour: Deep gold.

Nose: Initially, it’s somewhat reminiscent of draff, or soggy muesli with a certain heat from the alcohol.What starts as crispness soon becomes a dominant nuttiness,Snickers bars, then a sweetness from the oak.
Palate: The muesli alongside light straw, brazil nut creaminess, then comes a slightly gummy texture. The nuts dominate.
Finish: Dry oatcakes.
Comments: A surprise. The healthy option.

Score: 3½ out of 5


Benrinnes

1996

Type of oak: Refill American oak hogshead.
Strength: 59.3%
Colour: Gold.

Nose: This has the expected weight of a Benrinnes with truffle oil, hint of tea-smoked duck, freshly cut pine fence posts and fruit compote. There’s a fibrous earthiness there as well that brings to mind the Mortlach.
Palate: Ripe fruits, stewed apple, hint of elderberry, little crunchy touch of malt. Dense with a heaviness in the middle of the tongue.
Finish: Gentle. Now the wood shows: creamy with a limey citric lift.
Comments: Not what those who know the Flora & Fauna bottling would expect, but a chunky substantial example.

Score: 4 out of 5


Blair Atholl


Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 54.7%
Colour: Full gold.

Nose: It starts with the oak:all date, some prune, plumped up dried fruits even a whiff of fresh peach and smooth cream toffee, then comes sealing wax, balloons, rape-seed oil, peanut like maltiness and a slight greasiness.
Palate: It’s this tongue-coating oiliness which is the first onto the palate, almost to a soapy consistency. Then it lightens and the fruit returns, fresh this time; raspberry, bilberry, greengage.
Finish: The malty underpinning dominates here.
Comments: A slightly contradictory dram where the distillery character is fighting with the cask.

Score: 2½ out of 5


Caol Ila

1997

Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 58%
Colour: Deep gold.

Nose: Immediately we’re down on the seashore. There’s wasabi notes, fresh white fish, then burning juniper bushes.The smoke is restrained but somehow all-pervasive.
Palate: Quite dry and fairly medicinal: elastoplast, iodine, a slow burn of peat smoke.Typically oily, a hint of biltong with water where the depth given by the cask begins to show itself alongside that shellfish quality picked up on the nose.
Finish: Long, lingering and smoky.
Comments: A gentle Caol Ila.

Score: 4½ out of 5


Clynelish

1997

Type of oak: First fill American barrel.
Strength: 58.5%
Colour: Bright gold.

Nose: Immediately aromatic and slightly herbal, alongside lifted citric notes: kumquat especially though lemon is in there as well; then ripe summer fruits: apple, maybe even quince. With water, a big hit of melting candle wax.
Palate: Avery spicy start, nutmeg, alongside these soft and gentle fruits and just a touch of the sea. Water allows buttery oak to show alongside creme brulee. The wax makes it coat the mouth.
Finish: Long and smooth with citrus.
Comments: Clynelish distillery character is waxy and this is the waxiest I’ve come across in ages.

Score: 5 out of 5


Cragganmore

1997

Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 59.7%
Colour: Light gold (surprisingly light given the cask type).

Nose: The initial nose is all about a deep oiliness, but then it appears to lift and becomes surprisingly light and estery: pineapple, strawberry, with a honeyed quality.
Palate: That juicy fruitiness continues on the palate alongside a drying touch of malt.Only with water does the fruit cake mix from the cask come into play along with a meaty, tomato like note.
Finish: Big and toffee like. weight.
Comments: Needs time in the glass to build up in power, but worth that wait.

Score: 4 out of 5


Dailuaine

1997

Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 58.6%
Colour: Burnished gold.

Nose: A substantial and heavy aroma that’s full of mixed dried fruits, then hard treacle toffee.This quality keeps getting deeper until you are into steak pie gravy territory.Water allows some lighter characters to emerge including, strawberries.
Palate: Smoky, or rather smoked tea.Then the dense black qualities take over:liquorice, brambles, raisin, blood. Chewy and clean.
Finish: Rich with a little grip and curry spice.
Comments: A solid and slightly serious gentleman but one worth seeking out.

Score: 4½ out of 5


Dalwhinnie

1992

Type of oak: Refill American oak hogshead.
Strength: 51%
Colour: Bright gold.

Nose: One of the older examples, this has a nose which is like saddle soap/dubbin that’s gone a bit hard and tacky. Behind that are some heavy florals, currant leaf and a touch of sulphur.
Palate: Ripe and fruity, a hint of apricot, some tangerine marmalade, a bee’s worth of honey.
Finish: Whipped cream, but short.
Comments: The lack of length and that obtrusive sulphur knocks it down.

Score: 3 out of 5


Dufftown

1997

Type of oak: Rejuvenated American oak hogshead.
Strength: 59.5%
Colour: Light gold.

Nose: We had draff earlier (see Auchroisk) now we’ve got malt bins and it’s this maltiness that gives a slightly peanut oiliness that coats the tongue, then there’s a lift of pink grapefruit before nuts and wood come through.
Palate: Lots of cereal along with that tongue-clinging quality. Almond flakes, chestnut flour. Light and quite simple.
Finish: Dry and nutty.
Comments: It does what Dufftown does, but little more.

Score: 2 out of 5


Glen Ord

1997

Type of oak: First fill American oak hogshead.
Strength: 59.2%
Colour: Full gold.

Nose: What’s unexpected here is the big hit of blackcurrant/Ribena that kicks things off. Then comes grass and smoke before ripe pear, Russet apple, moss and Chinese green tea.
Palate: There is more of the cask on the palate: firm grip, sweet spices, bramble jelly and that thread of woodsmoke carrying through.
Finish: Nutmeg and then vanilla ice cream.
Comments: Though a big package this shares the pure and uncluttered thread that runs through most of these.

Score: 3½ out of 5


Glen Spey

1996

Type of oak: New Wood.
Strength: 52%
Colour: Very pale.

Nose: Very light and a little closed. Some blanched almonds, lemon, lime zest.
Palate: Very clean, light, fresh and speedy.This doesn’t hang around but gives a dusting of flour, a hint of butter and then disappears.
Finish: Clean, dry and short.
Comments: This is a weird one. A whisky aged in a new barrel that’s not been toasted or charred. Result? A little fluffy bunny caught in the glare.

Score: 1 out of 5


Glendullan

1995

Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 58.7%
Colour: Dark with red glints.

Nose: Significant oak-derived aromas dominate here: Dundee cake, sweet plum jam, raisin, hint of ginger in syrup, dark chocolate, black banana.
Palate: Weighty with massed raisin and clootie dumpling characters. The dark chocolate is now hot chocolate, even with some marshmallows floating on the top.
Finish: Thick, long and fruity.
Comments: A lesser-known, and often fragrant, player which has gone over to the dark side.

Score: 4 out of 5


Glenkinchie

1992

Type of oak: refill European oak butt.
Strength: 58.1%
Colour: Light gold.

Nose: Late spring/early summer aromas of thyme, lemon balm, green melon, Muscat grapes, night-scented stocks. High-toned and delicate.
Palate: Gentle, flowers and some creaminess and fresh fig.Seems to be hiding its qualities.
Finish: Slightly bitter.
Comments: For me, this is more of a work in progress rather than the finished article. Kinchie is a shy beast at the best of times, this is timorous.

Score: 2½ out of 5


Glenlossie

1999

Type of oak: First Fill American oak barrel.
Strength: 59.1%
Colour: Pale gold.

Nose: The aromas of summer: cricket bats being rubbed with linseed oil, grapes, freesia. Very up and direct. An intriguing antiseptic note with water along with toasted marshmallow.
Palate: Peppery, zesty and grassy with the oak now delivering a menthol/eucalypt hit. Lots of lemon. Light and perfumed.
Finish: Clean fragrant and lifted.
Comments: Another lesser light that’s shining brightly. One of Martine’s whispering whiskies.

Score: 4½ out of 5


Inchgower

1993

Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 61.9%
Colour: Mahogany.

Nose: Solid and heavily cask-influenced to the point of being resinous with some sandalwood/patchouli incense, then briny notes, neoprene and rubber. Halloween by the sea.
Palate: A big apple hit, then a saltiness that’s like an over-reduced sauce that also suggestive of a singed smokiness. Dark fruits once more alongside a firm grip.
Finish: Salty.
Comments: Love or hate... I’m in the latter camp.

Score: 1 out of 5


Knockando

1996

Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 58.5%
Colour: Very dark.

Nose: Autumnal.If the Inchgower was Halloween, then this is bonfire night. Roasted chestnut, warm wellington boots/hot water bottle, leathery, autumnal and fireworks.
Palate: The sulphur continues on the palate though here there’s also a cereal note, then molasses, pot ale and cattle cake.
Finish: Long and fruity with some acidity.
Comments: It’s a Knockando for sherried Aberlour lovers.

Score: 2 out of 5


Lagavulin


Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 54.7%
Colour: Deep amber.

Nose: A powerful range of aromas here: squid ink, dried seaweed, rosemary thrown on a beach BBQ, creosote, Latakia tobacco, dried fruits.
Palate: Full-bodied and concentrated. It starts with dried fruits, smoke in the background, but this element begins to build. Mulberry, earthiness, burning wood and just a touch of brine.
Finish: Dry smoke, but sufficient dried fruits to sweeten the effect.
Comments: Massive but sophisticated.

Score: 5 out of 5


Mannochmore

1998

Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 59.1%
Colour: Full gold.

Nose: A significant oiliness that in this case is more along the lines of extra-virgin Spanish olive oil, lots of fruit, some lemon and black pepper.
Palate: Big soft and clean but there’s a bit of a battle going on between green olive freshness and soft sultanas.
Finish: Gentle and sweet.
Comments: It’s clean and approachable, but a little undecided on which way to go.

Score: 3½ out of 5


Royal Lochnagar

1994

Type of oak: First fill European oak butt.
Strength: 59.3%
Colour: Mahogany.

Nose: Generous and rich with lots of walnut, damson jam, mulberry backed with dried hay, some crunchy malt and raisin.
Palate: A soft release of sloe-like fruits, elderberry, sticky raisin, ripe plums. The grip is there but not overt, Balanced with a layered complexity.
Finish: Dry grass then into cassis and, at the very end, a touch of smoke.
Comments: One of the best in the range.

Score: 5 out of 5


Strathmill

1996

Type of oak: New wood.
Strength: 60.1%
Colour: Very pale white wine.

Nose: As with the Glen Spey, pretty closed but with water there’s lots of marzipan, candy floss and sweetness.
Palate: A light and powdery feel that makes it reminiscent somehow of a perfume counter: a head-spinning mess of scented talc, strawberry, pineapple and unnatural floral notes. Loses it with water.
Finish: Wheat chaff.
Comments: An interesting experiment, but one that might best have been kept in the lab.

Score: 2½ out of 5


Talisker

1994

Type of oak: First fill European oak hogshead.
Strength: 58.6%
Colour: Full gold.

Nose: One first nosing this is a very briny expression, all sea-washed pebbles and wet dulse, before the hickory/heather root like smoke emerges on top.
Palate: Balanced and peaty with a salty surge. Water makes it considerably more gentle allowing that very sweet white fruitiness to reveal itself alongside that smoked rock salt.
Finish: Long with a pepper scented quality.
Comments: Takes no prisoners. Recommended.

Score: 5 out of 5


Commotion at the Collecting House


By Serge Valentin

‘Our whisky is for drinking, not for collecting!’ the Scottish distillers and bottlers always scream in unison, though this never prevents them from explaining how collectable their newest release is, be it lavishly packaged or not. Lack of coherence?Double speak? Plain dishonesty? Probably a bit of everything.

On one hand, collectors may proportionally ‘destroy’ (ie drink) less products than ‘pure’ drinkers, but it’s also the aim of any marketeer to see as much of his products being sold AND ‘destroyed’. On the other hand, a genuine collector buys dozens, in some cases hundreds, of his favourite whiskies per year, so this small crowd cannot be sneezed at. The fact is that whisky collectors represent a small but steadily growing niche market.

“The number of collectors is increasing. The Yen is strong these days and the prices of some bottles are still reasonable — for the Japanese!” says Hideo Yamaoka, who owns a vast collection in Tokyo.

The problem for the distillers is that these ‘bloody’ collectors almost never listen! And when they do, it’s often with derisive grins and raised eyebrows. Tell them that this or that new bottling is ‘highly collectable’ and they will usually either burst out laughing or dash off. This, by the way, will not prevent a few of them from discreetly buying the new wonder, especially when they specialise in one brand and just cannot bear having a hole in their collection.

In my view, that behaviour borders more and more on masochism, as I’ve seen some collectors being thrilled with the news of a new 40 Years Old priced at £5,000 that they just cannot afford to miss. ‘I do however think we are pretty close to the pain tolerance’, says Hans-Henrik Hansen, a Danish hotelier who owns the largest Glenfiddich collection in the world.

So, have prices risen too high? Most collectors answer ‘yes!’

Geert Bero, a famous Belgian Ardbeg collector, confirms: “There are plenty of outrageously priced bottles out there that will be still available in a couple of years. And very young whiskies are being sold at too expensive prices”.

Although, as Yamaoka-san says, the number of collectors is increasing, it’s also the case that the heavily specialised collectors who will buy just anything bearing their favourite brand’s name represent a minority. Many of them either quit collecting when some distillers brutally raised their prices two or three years ago, or decided to focus on old bottlings only.

Recent marketing strategies have raised quite some eyebrows too. “Special editions, vintage releases, represent only a small percentage of production, they are often older versions; so higher prices can be normal. If distilleries use these special editions to increase reputation and image by marketing them at high prices, consumers may eventually reject them. In the same way, when distilleries release multiples versions, cask numbers, batches and label variations in order to feed the collectors’ market with many different versions that could have been vatted together, they also create some resentment and lassitude from the buyers” says Humbrecht.

That said, the vast majority of the new collectors do not specialise at all, or rather specialise in exceptional whiskies only. Only reputation and word of mouth seem to sell to the ‘new collector’, even if some reputations may be undeserved. Why? Because they can see, on various auction sites, that only the most excellent whiskies see their value increase or even stay stable.

Very often, but not always, these much sought-after bottles are ‘poorly’ packaged, and don’t even come in fancy presentation cases, but the whisky inside is brilliant. If a new bottling is excellent, it will sell fast.

So, what’s the ideal collector’s bottle today? Probably a brilliant single malt whisky, not obligatorily old and not obligatorily from a blue chip distillery. “I still believe strongly in bottlings from lost distilleries. These are still sensibly priced compared to their big-name counterparts,” says Sukhinder Singh, from The Whisky Exchange, himself a big collector. “Today it is more about the whisky and most true collectors don’t give a damn what the bottle looks like. The simpler the better!”

Don’t get me wrong, fancy packaging and 20th century advertising drivel do still work, just not among collectors. Ultimately and with the power of the new media, it’s the collectors who will decide on what’s really collectable or not, not the distillers/bottlers.

Are distillers/bottlers now seen as being too greedy? Govert van Bodegom, who owns a large Longmorn collection, says: “The prices are too high. Everyone in the industry, both distillers and independents, wants to make profit.

Will the market collapse? I don’t think so. It’ll probably mutate towards a state where true collectors and oligarch types (smart and rich, but not educated in whisky) will diverge more and more.

In short, the former may buy more ‘the liquid’ while the latter will buy more ‘the packaging’, but it is still to be seen if one brand can address both markets at the same time.