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JHB's rudimentary FAQ

Q: I'm visiting Scotland in the near future. Can you suggest places I might go and see>

A: This is a very personal selection but depending on time available an itinerary might include:

  1. Edinburgh - Castle, High Street, Princes Street etc. And there is the Whisky Heritage Centre up by the Castle (I'm ashamed to admit I've never been there)
  2. Glenkinchie Distillery, 15 miles South-East of Edinburgh
  3. The Forth road and rail bridges
  4. The A9 trunk road up past Pitlochry (and the Edradour Distillery) and Killiekrankie
  5. The Queen's View over Loch Tummel
  6. The Spey Valley and any number of Speyside distilleries
  7. The Great Glen (including Loch Ness)
  8. Fort William, Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis
  9. Skye
  10. Spean Bridge
  11. Glencoe
  12. The Trossachs
  13. Loch Lomond

Those form an approximate loop starting at Edinburgh. If you fit that lot in and the roads between you will have seen a representative sample of the best of Scottish scenery

If you are desperate to visit distilleries, these are in two major clusters (you can see this from the main index maps). By far the largest collection is in Speyside - if you drive through the area you will see them signposted everywhere and these pages will give you map references (the full set is in the spreadsheet). The second significant collection is on Islay.

Q: Where can I purchase good/rare/specialised malts in the States?

A: There are numerous outlets that stock a good range of malts. I suggest two things:

  1. Go to your favourite index site (Yahoo/Alta Vista/InfoSeek etc.) and look up Scotch or Whisk(e)y and you'll see numerous retailers. I keep a list here in the "onward links" page but the main indices are better.
  2. Get a copy of the "Malt Advocate" magazine which covers beer and whisky - they regularly have a list of specialist shops in the back.

Q: I'm thinking about investing in a cask of whisky. What should I do?

A: Read the articles below before you do anything, be very sure you know what you are doing and be very, very careful - most such schemes are scams.

Q: What is the difference between a 'single malt' whisky and a 'pure malt' whisky?

A: A single malt whisky is the product of one malt distillery. A pure malt whisky should be pure malt but may be a so-called 'vatted' malt - the blended produce of several malt distilleries. NOT the same as a blended whisky which will be a blend of malt and grain whiskies.

Vatted malts can be adjusted to meet particular requirements of taste but appeal less to purists (such as myself!). Single malts are more authentic and the really good ones will be better than any vatted malt but they are more variable.

Q: I've come across a really old bottle of whisky - will it be worth drinking? Will it be OK to drink? What should I do?

Whisky does not mature in the bottle unlike wine so from a drinking point of view the 'age statement' ("12 years old" etc.) which tells you how long it was in the cask is more important than the chronological age. It is also a rare whisky indeed that improves past 25-30 years in the cask - most get 'woody' after this point. From a curiosity point of view the calendar age matters rather more.

If it is a modest whisky then I doubt that it'll increase in value much with calendar age (though you could get lucky and find a buyer that has more cash than knowledge or just likes the feel of an old bottle). If it is a good one then it will increase a LOT in value with age. If your whisky is a blend I'd expect it to be in the first category and probably won't show an age statement anyway.

There are always exceptions so don't take my word for it!!! A 60 y.o. Macallan has been known to fetch £10,000 at auction.

I'd say:

If you like curiosities, keep it unopened

If you want something nice to drink see if you can find a buyer and a good price then use the cash to buy a good single malt!

If you want to keep it for a long time by the way, keep it in the dark and cool if possible - a wine cellar is ideal.

Q: Can you please give me the address of....

A: No I can't I'm sorry - it costs phone calls and takes too much time to look such things up and remember I don't get paid for this.

The organisation who can help you is the Scotch Whisky Association.

It represents all the principal firms of distillers and blenders (but not retailers) engaged in the Scotch Whisky Industry, and has about 120 members. It exists to protect and promote the interests of Scotch Whisky and the Scotch Whisky Industry.

The head office address is:

20 Atholl Crescent
Edinburgh EH3 8HF.
Tel: 0131-222-9200
Fax: 0131-229-9248

The address of the London Office is:

The Scotch Whisky Association
14 Cork Street
London W1X 1PF.
Tel: 0207-629 4384
Fax: 0207-493 1398