Smart Shopper/Dumb Shopper

I saw a funny thing the other day. Or perhaps it was a scary thing: the Bonham’s auction results. I’m not going to beat up on Bonham’s this time, but the high bidders are going to take a hit. Scotch, and more recently, American whiskey prices are climbing for some reasons that are legitimate, and others that involve speculation and idiocy. I see a lot of bottles sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars and prices from store to store vary a lot. Now if you can save five bucks on Jack Daniel’s by driving 10 miles, you probably won’t bother; but if you’re searching for a 1955 Glen Ambrosia , then perhaps you should sniff the air before dropping your money like a teenager in Tijuana.
I’ve collected some pretty bad rookie mistakes from the recent Bonham’s, New York auction. Keep in mind that auction or private sale prices should always be less than retail. Note: European VAT removed.
Macallan Anniversary 25 year old

Retail: $1099 – Holiday Wine Cellar
Bonhams: $1428
Balvenie 1971- 33 year old

Retail: $720 – Sendliquor.com
Bonhams: $833
Macallan Select Reserve
1946- 52 year old


Retail: $4016 – Lion’s Whisky
Bonham’s: $7735
Glen Grant 1958- 49 year old


Retail: $435 – Arkwrights
Bonhams: $773
Springbank 25 yr- Millennium


Retail: $1002 –  The Whisky Exchange
Bonham’s: $1011
Bowmore Bicentenary 1964
Retail: $1596 – John Gordons Wine
Bonham’s: $3094
Mind you it did not take me long to find the retail prices.  The internet is a marvelous thing.  The world is interconnected, so use it.  I’m not sure how many specialized drink “searchers” there are out there, but my friends and I use http://www.wine-searcher.com/, and spring for the Pro version.  Search anywhere in the world immediately.  Cripes, this sounds like an ad but it’s not.  If you buy whisky and value your money, use it or something like it.
TIPS
• For Americans, some of the big shops like The Whisky Exchange, Royal Mile, Master of Malt, and WhiskyBase will remove the 17% VAT and ship overseas.  Some smaller shops won’t remove VAT or won’t accept credit cards.  Also, bottles are 50mL smaller in Europe than the US.  It’s a 7% penalty but often worth it.
• Don’t assume that a shop with traditionally bad prices won’t have good deals.  The whisky shop near my home has some prices that make me laugh, except when wine-searcher.com finds a bottle that’s the best price in the world.  That makes me happy.
• If an online shop lists in checkout that they are out of stock and can restock in 3 days, then forget about it.  They’ll never get that Laphroaig 40 in stock again, no matter what they say.
• The best gauge in the world for current whisky prices is whisky-auction.com.  Their “past auctions” search is difficult to use but the data is golden.
Please, please, please don’t be an idiot and drive up prices; unless of course it’s with a bottle I’m trying to sell myself.  In fact I think I might auction off that Macallan 1946 I’ve been sitting on for a long time.  I just hope that Lion’s Whisky can ship it to Bonham’s before the next auction starts.

Bonhams Auction Embraces Datieness


Mr. Herz,
You recently criticized Bonhams Auction for dating what is likely a 1938 Ardbeg as ‘Circa 1900’. Sir, that was unfair. Modern thinking has evolved quite a bit since you left school, and you clearly have been out of the loop. Think about it: nowadays men can wear a dress and use the women’s restroom if they ‘feel’ feminine. Since they ‘feel’ that they are women, who are we to say that our ‘perception’ of an Adam’s apple and whiskers is more valid? We have evolved. Even more progressive than that is the new theory of “Datieness” that has been embraced by the New York intelligentsia, but clearly hasn’t made it to the backwoods of Los Angeles yet.

Datieness

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Datieness is a “date” that a person claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. [1]
______________________________________________________________________________
Datieness is changing the way we look at dates and, Mr. Herz, it’s coming whether you like it or not. You say that 1938 isn’t 1900? Is 38 years here or there really an issue? Take a peek at any new elementary school history book (non Texan) and open the page to the year 1900, the year that the Union defeated the Confederates in the Battle of Shiloh while Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain negotiated for peace. Thirty eight years isn’t much if you ‘think outside the box’. You, Mr. Herz, are trapped inside the box and I pity you.

My recommendation is that you stop complaining and open your eyes to how datieness and chronologic relativism can benefit you. Don’t like the parking at Disneyland? Park in the senior citizen spot. Don’t like the $75 ticket? Tell them you’re 2 years old. I’m sure they’ll be fine with that. Mr. Bonham himself refers to his wife as ‘circa 1900’, and she takes it quite gracefully.

You are also overlooking that the owner of this fine bottle ‘swears’ that it is from 1900, and if that doesn’t make you “feel right” enough, I’ll remind you that he swore on his “grandpappy’s grave.” His grandpappy’s grave, Mr. Herz, is a far more evidence than your silly claims of glass bottles that didn’t exist before 1934 and tax stamps bearing a 1938 date.

Sir, if you wish to speak with me in person about this issue, I can schedule you in next week or the year 2050. Same thing, really.

Great Buys for New Scotch

One of my quests in life is not only to find great whisky but to find good whisky deals. Of course there are the classics, like the $32 (£20) Laphroaig I get down the street, but there are some new players too. I’ve found three bottles that have piqued my interest in the last few months. I was about to write about how these reviews were completely unbiased, but then remembered that two of the three were poured freely at events for my club, and the third will do the same this week. Honestly, I like the folks who offered these free tasting events. How can I not? So is it a coincidence that I’m only listing scotch I’ve gotten as freebies? No, these guys are out “pushing” these whiskies because they are worth it and they know it. The distilleries have put in the effort to produce good bottles and they are sealing the deal with top ambassadors and even a master distiller to make sure the world knows what they have. I tip my hat to them and thank them for a job well done.

Low Range – Tullibardine Aged Oak
Tullibardine was quite recently a discarded distillery. Its stills lay cold for 8 long years when Whyte & Mackay lost interest in it in 1995. Under a new independent ownership the distillery revived the brand and did their best with what stocks they had, hoping to rekindle interest in a name that was only recognized by the most ardent of scotch enthusiasts. Although they’re selling older stocks of Whyte & Mackay-made whisky, the Aged Oak is their first major and mature release under the rebirth, and is impressive for the price. In a tasting that involved a lot of teenaged Tully bottles and this young whipper snapper, youth won out. The victory wasn’t decisive, but when we learned the price difference there was no doubt that it was the best deal on the table and likely one of the best deals in any whisky store. It was relieving for all of us that the malt quality had improved, unlike many major brands that are clearly coasting with whisky that isn’t nearly what it was decades ago. And to top it off, as of 2011 Tullibardine has a new owner, Picard Vins & Spiriteaux, who came in and decided that the distillery needed an update and facelift. Picard, one of the most popular employers in France, had enjoyed success by using Tully in their own Highland Queen brand. They believe in the spirit and company and are willing to make the investment needed to bring the distillery to the top of the game. I imagine that by the time my son is old enough to drink with his dad, there will be plenty of Tullibardine on my shelf for him to choose from.

Tullibardine Aged Oak – known (non-blind)
Price: $38 US, £23 UK.

• Nose: Rubbing alcohol and toffee. Not so great.
• Palate: Vanilla, olive oil poured from a leather cup. Nice mouthfeel. The finish has a bit of lemon too.

Mid-Range – Tomatin Decades
Back in the days of bell-bottoms and peace signs Tomatin was the biggest beast in Scotland with 23 stills cranking out booze for blends in fantastic quantities. Like the pants it fell out of fashion with the blenders, thanks in part to conglomeration, and is now just a morsel of what it used to be. Realizing they could no longer rely on blends to keeps the lights on, they polished up the ol’ Tomatin logo and started producing more single malts in a strategy to rebrand itself. Gone is the crummy black label Tomatin I bought 7 years ago, which got demoted to lighter fluid. Their new lineup is solid and can stand proudly in the pantheon of single malt brands. Emphasizing how serious Tomatin is about getting the word out, we were being poured by none other than the master distiller himself. Douglas Campbell wasn’t above visiting a rec room in the less fashionable corner of Los Angeles to speak to 20 lowly scotch lovers. Douglas has been with Tomatin longer than some of the mortar, and to commemorate his resistance to leave, casks from every decade he’s worked at the distillery were vatted together to make Decades. This was the bottle that immediately stuck out as the winner of the bunch, even before I knew what it was. The casks used are written in the fancy box, but not the formula, which he had scribbled on some paper:

One 1967 sherry hogshead
Two 1976 refill hogshead
Two 1985 refill hogshead
Four 1990 refill bourbon barrels
Three 2005 1st fill bourbon barrels (peated)

Now let’s see how they celebrate the secretary who’s been around since ’58.

 

Tomatin Decades – Known (non-blind)
Price: $85 US, £65 UK

• Nose: Sugar plum candies (yes, it’s Christmastime)
• Palate: Watermelon jolly rancher with a faint hint of rubber band. The long finish leans toward fresh cut hardwood. Good scotch.

High Range – Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3

Balvenie’s not going to sneak up anyone.  They’ve been the epitome of consistency and quality for years.  Everyone likes it because there’s nothing to dislike.  Unfortunately, universal approval comes at a cost because it avoids the polarizing flavors that puts the ‘love it or hate it’ fun into scotch.  Balvenie’s the best friend you ask to the prom after your first choice shoots you down.  Good ol’ Balvenie.   Actually, great Balvenie can be readily found if you crank your head up to the tip top of the shelf, behind the locked glass.  Balvenie 30 will set you back £350 in the UK and over $600 in the US.  Want the 40 year old?  Multiply that price by 6.   Fortunately, while running the corked gauntlet with Balvenie’s Sam Simmons at the Nth Tasting, I came across this champ.  Granted, everything in the room was good, but when told the price on the Tun 1401, I wasn’t expecting scotch nirvana in my glass.  It matched the 30 year in quality, at less than half the price.  Batch 3 is a US release but I’ve heard Europe’s Batch 2 is very similar and mostly sold out.  Tun 1401 is a vatting of 7 bourbon and 3 sherry casks into a tun, a very large 2000 liter cask that looks like something out of an old winehouse.  The different malts “marry” for three months into a new cohesive whisky before being pumped out, which you can see in this video (try to find the Balvenie ambassadors.)

Actually I think I’m going to buy a few more  bottles before I hit the ‘send’ button on this article.

Balvenie
Tun 1401 Batch 3
– Known (non-blind)

Price: $240 US

  • Nose:
    Dark fruits.  Plums, Cherry snow cone syrup.  Rich, strong, andfantastic.
  • Palate:
    Flash of sweet candies.  Cherry and licorice sugar plums. Hints of mint.  The mouthfeel could be thicker, but the flavor isoverwhelming enough as it is. The finish leans toward orange wedge candies andthe slightest hint of Spanish cedar.  Not a scotch for dessert… a dessertin itself.

Balvenie’s not going to sneak up anyone. They’ve been the epitome of consistency and quality for years. Everyone likes it because there’s nothing to dislike. Unfortunately, universal approval comes at a cost because it avoids the polarizing flavors that puts the ‘love it or hate it’ fun into scotch. Balvenie’s the best friend you ask to the prom after your first choice shoots you down. Good ol’ Balvenie. Actually, great Balvenie can be readily found if you crank your head up to the tip top of the shelf, behind the locked glass. Balvenie 30 will set you back £350 in the UK and over $600 in the US. Want the 40 year old? Multiply that price by 6. Fortunately, while running the corked gauntlet with Balvenie’s Sam Simmons at the Nth Tasting, I came across this champ. Granted, everything in the room was good, but when told the price on the Tun 1401, I wasn’t expecting scotch nirvana in my glass. It matched the 30 year in quality, at less than half the price. Batch 3 is a US release but I’ve heard Europe’s Batch 2 is very similar and mostly sold out. Tun 1401 is a vatting of 7 bourbon and 3 sherry casks into a tun, a very large 2000 liter cask that looks like something out of an old winehouse. The different malts “marry” for three months into a new cohesive whisky. You can see them filling the tun in this video (try to find the Balvenie ambassadors.)

 
Actually I think I’m going to buy a few more bottles before I hit the ‘send’ button on this article.

 

Charbay – The American Hop Whiskey

Perched nearly 2000 feet above Napa, a little distillery nicknamed “Still on the Hill” has been quietly making some of the best whiskey in America. Charbay is a name that doesn’t get tossed around a lot, unless you’re Californian and pay top dollar for quality drinks. It’s run by the Karakasevic family, which is on its eighth generation of distillers. Miles, the family patriarch, emigrated from Yugoslavia and founded his little family distillery, Charbay, forgoing the “Karakasevic” family name which rolls off the tongue like thistles and saltwater. The company makes vodka, wine, port, brandy, and quite frankly anything you wouldn’t admit to drinking at a checkpoint, but who cares… this isn’t Alcohol.com. That’s where Marko comes in. Miles’ son is a bit of an experimenter, and a good one at that. His Charbay Whiskey is arguably the best whiskey in America. Granted it’s quite different than bourbon and rye and is hard compare within those categories. Actually, it’s hard to categorize it anywhere because he did something unusual. He distilled beer. You just scoffed at my ignorance, didn’t you? No, Marko distilled BEER, not a wash similar to beer, but bottles of beer that he popped open and dumped into his still. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. They probably didn’t make him open thousands of bottles, but it was completed beer, hops and all. That’s why Charbay Whiskey is in a class of its own… a hop whiskey.

Among the very small whisk(e)y loving community in southern California, Charbay has a cult following, not because the drinkers or the product are weird (sorry, cultists), but because it’s what we refer to as ‘great s%#t’. Here’s the catch, Marko works his butt off to make it and he knows it’s good, so he charges premium prices. Charbay Whiskey can set you back over $300 if you’re lucky enough to find it. Reviews from those in the know range from solid to raving and even neighborhood local (American football) quarterback Joe Montana has dropped a significant amount of Super Bowl bucks on Marko’s creations (no word on whether he owns cask #16 or not.) Since part of my charter is to recommend where to spend your money, I’m ready to tell you. Here it is: Charbay Whiskey is great, but $300 is a lot of money. We’re talking fine scotch money here. If you’re just a whiskey dabbler and money is tight, pay your light bill. If you insist on trying new things and/or have money to spare, Charbay Whiskey should be at the top of the list because it’s unique and exceptional. They have another younger range called Doubled and Twisted, which per friends’ advice (I haven’t had it) is best enjoyed in a cocktail. I have reviewed the first Release, Charbay Whiskey I, as an A-. It’s mostly gone now but I’ve done a formal review of current release, Charbay Whiskey II at the end of this article. For those outside California, Charbay will find a way to sell you its wares if you contact them.

Marko Karakasevic was kind enough to offer Whisky.com an interview. He called late because he had to save someone caught in a deep ravine near the distillery. Marko believed the angels had already taken their fair share at Charbay.

Here a little cheat sheet:

• Charbay Whiskey I: Aged 2 yrs in New American Oak
• Charbay Whiskey II: Aged 6 yrs in New American Oak then aged 4 yrs. in stainless steel
• Charbay Whiskey III: Aged 12yrs in American Char 3 barrels
• Charbay R5 IPA Whiskey: 2yrs in Chardonnay French Oak
• Charbay Whisky Release S: Big Bear Stout Whisky Aged 2 yrs in French Oak
• R5 Light Whiskey: Aged in stainless steel
• Big Bear Stout Light Whiskey: Aged in stainless steel
• D&T Light Whiskey I: Aged 1 day in French Oak, then aged 2 yrs. in stainless steel
• D&T Light Whiskey II: Aged 4 yrs in French Oak, then aged 2 yrs. in stainless steel

The Interview with Marko Karakasevic, creator of Charbay Whiskey

Andy: So there was no Charbay Whisky… and then there was. How’d it come about?
Marko: I started to brew beer in high school. More and more, I made different beers with different grains, hops, and yeasts. I had yeasts from the winery to use and those made different beers for sure. Prior to brewing beer, I was learning to ferment wine with my dad. I soon learned that whiskey is a distilled beer… jump to 1999 and Dad and I took 20,000 gallons of Pilsner beer and double alembic distilled it. It took 3 ½ weeks 24/7 non-stop to make 20 barrels. All the hop flavors came over, but some were lost due to being lighter than alcohol and vaporized out with the CO2. We barreled in new American Oak because this stuff was so different than any other whiskey, so we wanted a bit of flavor profile that people could associate with. The guys at Bear Republic let me do whatever I want while they are brewing my loads. They’re the nicest guys and are wonderful to work with. I distilled Racer 5 (beer) last year and it is probably coming out early next year.

Andy: 24/7? Had to do that or you just wanted to get it done faster? I’m not a distiller myself so I have no idea.
Marko: Running 24/7 is how I was taught. Your beer or wine won’t oxidize on you, so you don’t have as many heads and tails (first and last of the liquids produced during distillation) to deal with. Plus, if it took 3.5 weeks of 24/7, that would have taken 1.5 months doing one run a day.

Andy: So you take pilsner and make Charbay I, which is possibly the best barley whiskey ever made on American soil. What are the specs and how did it sell?
Marko: It sold out! It was in the barrel for only 24 months, the very least it had to be in the barrel for. I found 2 barrels that I liked, pumped them into a tank, and bottled it un-cut, unfiltered, splinters and all. 129.4 proof. I am very excited about my whiskey program at Charbay. I’ll release some after 24 months, save some for a 110 proof 6 year soak, and then a couple of barrels at full strength after a 12 year soak. The next release, Charbay Whiskey III, will be a 17 case release. 138.2 proof. I’ll be waxing and labeling it next week.

Andy: Soak?
Marko: My slang for barrel aging.

Andy: It had to be aged 2 years to be called whiskey? (In California)
Marko: There are several regulations on each style or “class” of whiskey. Some have minimums, some have type of oak requirements (new or used and char #3). One of more stupid laws in US Whiskey is the one about Tennessee Whiskey: it must be at least 51% corn, charcoal filtered after distillation, aged in new char#3 barrels at least 2 years, then charcoal filtered one more time just to make sure there is no body left and the finish lasts about 0.6 sec.

Andy: Some would say the faster it goes away, the better.
Marko: I am happy that I can distill whatever and however I want. I’m not trying to take over the world, just trying to make the best product I can. My style of distillation is this: the nose will be very nice, the taste will explode with flavor, and the finish will be long and show even more flavors that were not in the front of the taste, be it rum, whiskey, tequila, or brandy. I distill them all and stay true to my style. I think it took about six years or so to sell out (Charbay I) at $350 a bottle. There was no real track record for a California Pilsner Whiskey.

Andy: Charbay I is mostly gone. Is Charbay II still available?
Marko: Charbay Whiskey II was barrel aged for 6 years, then cut to 110 proof and stored in a stainless steel tank for 4 years, then bottled two years ago. It was a five barrel release, about 1,500 bottles or so. I have 19 or 20 cases left in my distillery.

Andy: This is going to drive some people crazy in Scotland because it goes against scripture… your whiskey ages (changes) in stainless steel?
Marko: Oh yes, Scotch does too; everything does, tequila, rum, brandy, wine, beer, vodka.

Andy: Hmm, wine for sure but if scotch aged like wine everyone would be saving it. I think the Scots would say it’s negligible. You?
Marko: I do agree not as much as wine, but it ages in stainless steel, mellows out, and doesn’t get all oaky. I can’t stand over oaked anything. I want to taste what is in the barrel, not the barrel. I don’t buy a bottle of oak extract with hints of grain, smoke, and peat, but it seems that is what is happening these days. Please direct me to a whiskey that you can taste and have the flavors of the beer be the dominant flavors and the oak only accenting and complementing the flavor.

Andy: Okay, without a time machine a perfect check can’t be done. The best we can go with is Marko’s 4 year memory. How would you say Charbay II compared with the whisky prior to the 4 year steel aging?
Marko: After the 6 years of oak aging, I put it into the stainless. It had extracted a ton of oak (in my opinion) and then it was time to let it age and mesh all that oak to all the Pilsner flavors. Did it really require me to do it for 4 years? Not really, I wanted to pull it and not get any more oak. It definitely aged and mellowed out in the tank. When it was time to bottle, it was totally ready. The 12 year version has even more oak, but I think this whiskey has so much body that it can handle 12 years and not have the oak dominate. For me, I like the 18 to 24 month (barrel) soak.

Andy: But you said 2 years is minimum.
Marko: Well, Charbay Whiskey (non-light) is in the “hop flavored” category they created for us back in 1999. It has no age requirement.

Andy: Nice. What products are available now and what is on the horizon (whiskey)?
Marko: The next release of D&T Light Whiskey is from 2005, aged in French Oak for 4 years and then aged in stainless for 2 years, and I’m about to release it. Cask Spirits in SF bought the whole thing and it should be about $85 for a liter, 35 cases, 99 proof. Next is Charbay III, 17 cases, 138.2 proof, distilled in 1999 from Pilsner and pulled out of barrel this October and bottled. Also coming out is the Charbay R5 IPA French Oak Aged Whiskey distilled from Racer 5 IPA beer from the Bear Republic Brewery, aged for 24 months in two year old French Oak barrels that had Rombauer Chardonnay in them. The whiskey will be 99 proof. I also have Big Bear Stout called release “S” to release both in the 24 month French Oak aged. There will be Light Whiskey versions of both.

Andy: The last Doubled & Twisted was barely aged, right?
Marko: The first D&T was barreled in used oak for one day, and pumped out the next, to appease the TTB so I could call it Light Whiskey.

Andy: Are you US only?
Marko: Yep, and Charbay.com.

Andy: no plans to share with Europe?
Marko: No connections and it’s a bitch to export. California will suck up a large majority of it, and Manhattan.

Andy: Let’s say a guy in Germany reads this and wants to buy Charbay. What are his best chances?
Marko: I think we can find a store that will ship to him. I know we have shipped to Norway via a shipping company here in the Napa Valley.

Andy: And now for the final question because I run a club and always get asked this type of thing: price?
Marko: the light whiskey and the 24 month olds will be about $55 and $85. Charbay III will be $350.

Andy: $350? A lot of people will be asking why.
Marko: I’ve lost at least 3% due to evaporation per year plus what has been sampled, so the price reflects the lost product, plus the cost of using bottle-ready beer, new barrels, and I actually want to make a profit selling this. I don’t get $350. I have to sell it dirt cheap to my distributor, he makes a $100 on it, then the store makes a $100 on it, plus the government gets about $4 per bottle before it goes out our door, and there is the (California) State Excise tax, and sales tax. I often wonder how much it costs to brew a gallon or 3.785 liters of distillers’ beer out of 2 row barley. I use bottle ready beer that I really like to drink.

Andy: But not peated, right?
Marko: Not peated. Hops? Oh hell yea!

Andy: Desert island, one SCOTCH bottle. What is it?
Marko: I’d be stoked to have a bottle on the island, but I’d probably end up cutting down a tree, boring it out, finding a bottom plate or stone, and a top plate or stone, and making a still to ferment wild fruit and make brandy.

Andy: Aw shucks, so your favorite scotch is a brandy? Fair enough, but don’t say that in Scotland!
Marko: Hey, don’t get me wrong man, if there is grain on the island, I’ll make whiskey. No fruit, root, leaf, or grain is safe around me!

Charbay Whiskey II – Andy Smith/known
• Nose: Fantastic! Red oak, mulling spice candle, nail polish, and new tennis ball can (Penn or Wilson, not sure.)
• Palate: Christmas tree sap, nail polish, isopropyl alcohol, grass, and hops. There’s a lot going on. The finish sort of leans toward the hops. FYI, I don’t like beer at all, and although the hoppy flavor brings beer to mind, it didn’t offend me in the least. Very enjoyable.

{see the scale}
Charbay Whiskey III

This isn’t out yet, but I’ve had an informal preview of what it is likely to be. It surpasses Charbay II in my opinion. Look for it in the coming months.

Welcome to Full Glass Class!!

Whisky.com has a new blogger.  Me.  Why?  Well, because I opened my big mouth while enjoying a cigar and conversation with the master of Whisky.com, Michael Castello.  After waxing proudly about how I’d like to get on a soap box and lay out my thoughts on whisky, Michael offered me the chance to do just that, here.

There are already plenty of bloggers out there already doing what they do better than I ever could.  To be honest, I don’t want to do what they do (although I’m glad that they do it.)  So, why am I relevant and what can I offer you?  To be honest, there are tons of people who know more about whisky than I do.

Whisky distillation?

I don’t make a thing.  I’ve never even been to a scotch distillery.  I’ve heard the process explained a dozen times and I’ve forgotten it that many times.
Am I a big collector?

I’ve got a lot of bottles but I’d barely make a blip compared to the big boys.  I know folks who have been collecting for 30 years and practically have whisky museums.  There are billionaires who buy old Dalmores like they’re bubblegum.  Not me (sadly).

Encyclopedia Whiskytannia?

I can barely remember where my car keys are when they’re in my hand.  I google.
Expert taster?

I can hold my own, but some people do that for a living.  They are better, that’s why they have books.
So what am I good for (if anything?)

Ever since I started the LA Scotch Club with my friend, I have become a whisky mentor, not a whisky master, but a friend that knows what you need to know, even if you don’t know that you need to know it yet.  I started a scotch club because I wanted to share what I knew, and I wanted to learn from others.  My friend and I knew there was more to know but we didn’t know where to begin.  What do we buy?  Where do we buy it?  In time, I got a better idea, and now I’ll share with anyone who cares.

What I’ve become pretty good at is showing people who love whisky how to be whisky lovers.  I’m the buddy who’ll lay the truth down.  If a whisky is bongwater, I’ll tell you to avoid it.  If it’s great, I’ll tell you where to scoop it up at the best price.  If you don’t know what you’re looking at, I’ll explain it to you.  If there’s juicy whisky gossip, I’ll dish it out.

We’ve all been to whisky tastings to learn more, but the instructors’ goal is to sell, so there’s a conflict of interest.  Every distillery has a representative advocating for their brand.  I’m an advocate for you, the whisky drinker.  I’m just a regular guy who loves good scotch.  I don’t get freebies mailed to my door and I’m certainly swimming in tank of gold, so I have to make sure that the whisky I buy is worth it.  My friends share what they know with me, and hopefully I can do the same for you.

In the whisky world there’s BS, there’s exaggeration, and perhaps even worse.  It’s all fun and games until some poor chap such as you blows a Christmas bonus on a $200 bottle that tastes like a wet sock.  I promise that I’ll do my best to be honest and forthcoming.  If I was a bit more urban and could pull it off, I’d say I was going to “keep it real”.  I can’t, so “honest and forthcoming” it is.
And there we have it. I’ve just whined for two minutes and offered you nothing.  I’ll do better next time.  Let’s just pour a dram.