From left to right: Edradour matured in very old Tokaji cask, Ardbeg Fèis Ìle, Campbeltown Longrow and Caol Ila Moch. Click to embiggify
These are the bottles I brought back from Scotland. At first I thought I was going to bring back 12 bottles, but once I got there, I realized that the logistics of bringing back 12 bottles were slightly mind-boggling. Was I going to get an extra suitcase? That would mean a huge (ok not so huge) “2nd bag fee” on BMI and Air Canada. Then there was also the custom tax issue, expensive bottles mean expensive taxes. Add to the mix that I only wanted to bring bottles that I couldn’t find in Canada, and trying to determine the actual value of the bottle was going to be a pain in the butt…*
I managed to sidestep all those issues by not finding a whole lot of really cool and unique bottles I wanted to bring back. That may sound like a negative, but really it’s not. Let me explain.
The best rules are meant to be broken.
Before I left, I had my heart set on a Dalwhinnie Manager’s Edition, for £250.00 (about 400.00 CAD). But after learning that the “Manager’s Edition” was really just a marketing thing – 14 distilleries came out with a Manager’s Edition – I moved on to other things.
The other thing I didn’t really want to do was to get a bottle without tasting it first. Of course, I ended up getting two bottles without tasting them first; the Ardbeg Fèis Ìle and the Edradour.
Of all the bottles I didn’t get, my only regret is the Dalwhinnie 36 year old that I saw at Loch Ness for £400.00 (about 650.00 CAD). C’est la vie.
Here’s what I got
The first bottle I got was the Ardbeg Fèis Ìle. Every year the distilleries on Islay come out with a special Festival Edition bottle. This whisky was matured in two Spanish ex-Pedro Ximenez butts and bottled at cask strength (55.1%). Only 1008 bottles available. Got it at the distillery, one day before the official launch for £80.00 (about 130.00 CAD). Some people are selling theirs on the Web for £325.00 (about 525.00 CAD) or more.
The second bottle I got was the Caol Ila Moch. Moch is Gaelic for “dawn”. This bottle was not a distillery exclusive, but was exclusive to the Friends of the Classic Malts. This is possibly a bottle that you could get online, if you’re part of the Friends of the Classic Malts and live – or are currently – in European markets: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom. How could I say no to a £30.00 (about 50.00 CAD) bottle?
The third bottle I got was the Edradour 2002 Tokaji Matured from Gordon & MacPhail, the oldest independent family owned and managed firm, bottling Single Malt Whiskies for over 115 years. This bottling has been discontinued for a while, and I snatched the last bottle available at the store. At £52.50 (about 86.00 CAD) it was a steal.
By that time, our trip was almost over and I had high hopes of finding something really special at the Dalwhinnie Distillery. Unfortunately, Dalwhinnie is one of those distillery that doesn’t seem to come up with many different products – they limit themselves to the 15yo and the Distiller’s Edition, both available in Canada. We did however taste a 20yo Double Wood and a 36yo (because they were out of the 29yo – what a shame!) while at the distillery, but those bottles were not for sale.
Thew last bottle I got was the Longrow 100 ° Proof, matured in the same style as it’s Springbank counterpart (mainly in bourbon casks) bottled at 10 years old and 57% (100 ° Proof). I got it from the very cool and helpful guys at Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop in Edinburgh. I was originally going there to get a packaging solution, but since they’re Scotland’s oldest independent bottler and I still had room for one more bottle, I asked the guys if they could suggest something unique. They started by asking how much I was looking to spend (£100.00) and what I liked. After telling me I didn’t need to spend nearly as much as that, they had me taste one of their home blends, taken from various Islay distilleries. No age, no distillery name, no information. Even the bottle had no label (the dram came from a cask, and if I had bought a bottle, they would’ve filled a clear bottle in front of me straight from the cask). The whisky was good, but not great. I pointed out what I liked and didn’t like about it, and they had me taste the Longrow, which was exactly what I was looking for. At £42.00 (68.00$ CAD), it was yet another steal.
I’m very happy with what I brought back. I have four very hard to get bottles, bottles that I’m pretty sure I’ll love when I drink them and I spent less than 350.00$ CAD, way under my 1,000$ CAD budget. Stay tuned for the tasting notes. 😉
* Note: It turns out that the way Customs calculates the taxes on the bottles you bring back is different than what I understood after reading their website. I thought you paid taxes on the value of the bottles – for example, if a bottle was worth 100$, I’d pay about 17$ for that bottle. It turns out that you pay taxes according to the alcohol by volume (ABV) on each milliliter you bring in excess of the allowed limit.
You can read all the recaps by following these links: