Bowmore 25 Year Old Burns Malt
1990 vintage single refill bourbon barrel bottled June 2015. A delicious example of the Islay favourite bottled at natural cask strength.
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Bowmore 25 Year Old Burns Malt
1990 vintage single refill bourbon barrel bottled June 2015. A delicious example of the Islay favourite bottled at natural cask strength.
Laphroaig – a significant birthday
This year’s Islay Festival is one of anniversaries and milestones. Along with Kilchoman’s 10th birthday and Jim McEwan’s retirement there are a pair of big-number celebrations: the 200th anniversaries of the founding of both Ardbeg and Laphroaig. We’ll have more about Ardbeg tomorrow, but for now we’re going to focus on Laphroaig.
It’s no secret that I’m a big Laphroaig fan. In fact, if you’re reading this on the day that it hits the blog – Tuesday 26 May – I’m probably at the distillery and almost certainly drinking Laphroaig. While I’m partial to a dram or two of their whisky, it’s only since starting at TWE and learning the finer points of whisky drinking from my former colleague Tim that I truly learned to appreciate Laphroaig’s whisky. Tim’s well known for his obsession – and his love letter here on the blog shows the depths to which he has fallen – but he’s not an isolated case, and the distillery has a long history.
The distillery during Feis Ile 2014
Founded in 1815 by Alexander and Donald Johnston, the distillery stayed under family ownership until the 1950s. Donald took sole ownership in the 1830s, but tragedy struck in 1847 when he died after falling into a vat of boiling ale. Neighbours Lagavulin stepped in to help, which planted a seed of rivalry between the two distilleries. While Donald’s son Dugald started managing Laphroaig in 1857 when he hit 21, Lagavulin remained the sales agent for the whisky he produced. In 1907, the Johnstons decided to take back the agency and Lagavulin owner Peter Mackie took the matter to the courts. Laphroaig won, and Mackie retaliated by blocking their water supply. They ended up in court again, and Laphroaig were victorious for a second time.
Mackie was not to be beaten and built a new distillery in the grounds of Lagavulin: Malt Mill. It had copies of the Laphroaig stills and was intended to produce a spirit to rival his neigbours. It wasn’t a great success, and by 1962 all of the distilling equipment had been removed – the buildings are now the Lagavulin visitors centre. While it may not have beaten Laphroaig, it has become a mythical distillery – helped to wider fame recently by Ken Loach’s film The Angel’s Share – with various old bottlings claimed to be whisky produced there.
Bessie Williamson at Laphroaig in the 1960s
In 1954, Ian Hunter, a cousin of founder Donald Johnston’s daughter Isabella, died, leaving the distillery to his PA and secretary, Bessie Williamson. She arrived at the distillery in the early 1930s and had been day-to-day distillery manager since the beginning of the Second World War.
When Williamson took over as owner, Scotch whisky was starting to explode. She’d seen the way the tide was turning, and was one of the key figures in promoting Scotch overseas, becoming the Scotch Whisky Association’s US spokesperson in 1961. While she sold her stake in the distillery to Long John in the 1960s and 1970s, she continued as managing director until she retired in 1972, an influential 40-year career in the whisky industry behind her.
Sales and acquisitions continued from the 1970s up until the present day. Last year, as part of the Suntory acquisition of Beam Global – who bought Laphroaig from Pernod Ricard, who in turn bought it from Allied, who had bought it from Long John – Laphroaig became part of the newly created Beam Suntory, and a stablemate of rival Bowmore, based just a few miles down the road.
Throughout its modern history, the core bottle of the Laphroaig range has been the 10 Year Old. It’s a Marmite dram, medicinal and smoky in a way that’s a shock to those not used to it. While its character has changed over the years, as production has varied and tastes have changed, it’s still the flagship, showing off what the distillery has tried to do in each era. Here’s where they are currently:
Nose: Singed lemons, cresosote-painted fences and pink shrimp sweets. There’s wood smoke and bung-cloth, with TCP and seaspray, as well as sweetness – toffee and candied citrus peel.
Palate: Oily on the palate, with charcoal and coal stoves to start. It’s not as sweet as on the nose, with layers of smoke, brine and hints of smoked fish. The initial dryness gives way to some gently fruity notes, with waxy apples joined by candied lemon and bitter Seville orange.
Finish: Barrel char, cinnamon spice and hints of fruit. A bonfire sits on the tongue, slowly fading to sweet anise.
Comment: Not as fruity as some of the older bottles, focusing on the core Laphroaig medicinal character with wood smoke as backup. Intense, distinctive and definitely Laphroaig.
We look forward to seeing what the distillery’s 200th anniversary brings, with a 15 year old already sold out and the promise of more to come. Hopefully while you read this, I am sat on the pier at Laphroaig with a glass of something special in my hand. Don’t worry, I’ll probably fall in the sea in a moment and karma will be fulfilled.
Nose: Raisin butter, pears and red apple skins. Some strawberry notes and very creamy.
Palate: Some meat notes, Parma ham and very herbal. Some coriander, black pepper and toasted fennel seeds.
Finish: Lingering cold meat notes with lots of juicy fruits. A real summertime whisky.
Nose: Rich, meaty sherry notes. Very intense with some treacle notes and lots of dark fruits.
Palate: Thick and chewy with lots of sherry, and hints of balsamic vinegar. Black cherries, chocolate orange and a background creaminess.
Finish: You can chew this all night. A big whisky. Toffee, blackberries, treacle and golden syrup. Proper Whisky!
Summer 2015 Small Batch a rare vintage from one of the greatest of all speyside distilleries.
Nose: Soft and juicy. Peaches, passion fruit, soft lime notes and also kiwi and watermelon.
Palate: More juicy fruits. For such a delicate whisky this feels very thick. Olive oil, hints of Sauvignon blanc and lots of syrupy fruits.
Finish: Dried citrus fruits with some soft woodiness. Creaminess grows but mingles with lots of thick tropical fruits.
Summer 2015 Small Batch. A very limited vintage
Nose: Herbal; honey glazed ham with mulled wine, blackberry jam and vanilla pods.
Palate: More jammy fruity notes on the taste with growing spices of cloves and cinnamon.
Finish: Dried bananas and lime pickle come through with natural yoghurt and strawberries.
www.ralfy.com visits an old friend with Whisky Review 542 – Ardbeg 10yo malt re-reviewed 2015
£25M NEW SPEYSIDE MALT WHISKY DISTILLERY OPENED BY FIRST MINISTER
Chivas Brothers, the Scotch whisky and premium gin business of Pernod Ricard, has moved to secure future malt supplies with the launch of the Dalmunach Distillery. The £25m state-of-the-art operation has been opened on the site of a former silent distillery on the banks of the River Spey.
Dalmunach Distillery, named after the nearby pool in the River Spey on whose banks the new facility sits, was officially opened today by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The completion of the distillery in Carron sees the culmination of an investment package which has increased Chivas Brothers’ malt whisky distillation capacity by 17% as it looks to support long-term global demand for its brands.
Situated on the site of the former Imperial Distillery which was mothballed in 1998, Dalmunach has been built using the latest innovations and environmental expertise such as heat recovery technology. It is the most energy efficient distillery within Chivas Brothers’ portfolio, with a 20% efficiency improvement over traditional distilleries. Chivas Brothers recently won The Sustainability Award at The Drinks Business Green Awards with Dalmunach praised for its design efficiency.
Dalmunach is capable of producing up to 10 million litres per year, with the high quality Speyside style spirit used in bestselling blended whisky brands within Chivas Brothers’ portfolio, which includes Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute.
Every element of the distillery design, including the unique still shapes, has been geared to producing the very highest quality Speyside malt whisky with a rich, fruity character, a vital ingredient to the highest quality blended Scotch whiskies.
Local Speyside companies were heavily involved in the Distillery’s construction and five permanent employees have been recruited.
Laurent Lacassagne, Chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers, comments: “Today is the latest culmination of our ongoing investment to satisfy the growing demand for our brands.
“Dalmunach Distillery is an excellent example of securing the future of the industry by respecting its heritage and it’s fitting that the remnants from the old Imperial Distillery have been built into an extremely efficient distillery with an architecturally stunning design. It is a real pleasure to see this piece of land in Carron which has had a role in whisky making all the way back to 1897 play a future role in whisky production.
“With the opening today, over the last three years we have expanded our malt whisky distillation by 17% as part of an annual capital expenditure commitment of £60m per annum. This investment continues and we have already begun work on significantly increasing capacity at The Glenlivet.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, said: “Scotch Whisky is one of Scotland’s iconic brands and is in huge demand all over the globe due to the exceptional quality the industry produces. It is hugely important to the Scottish economy and its protected EU status means it has an unmatched international reputation.
“The Dalmunach Distillery is one of a 115 across Scotland and it is a sign of continued investment from Chivas Brothers. It’s also fitting that this facility opens in the Year of Food and Drink as we celebrate and promote the magnificence of our natural larder.
“We want to work with firms to sustain and build on the success the industry enjoys – this distillery will play its part in that and will also contribute to the continued growth of Scotland’s economy as a whole.”
The distillery architecture of Dalmunach has been inspired by the shape of a sheaf of barley reflecting the core ingredient of single malt whisky. It houses eight unique copper pot stills, with a tulip shape used for the wash stills and an onion shape used for the spirit stills, replicating those from the Imperial distillery which was situated on the site from 1897 until 2012. In a departure from tradition, the stills have been positioned in a circular design that provides a unique aesthetic for the future.
Other original features from the previous distillery have been carefully incorporated to ensure a sense of heritage remains intact. Red brick from the original mill building has been reclaimed to create a feature wall in the new entrance area, and wood from the original washbacks has been used to form an entrance ‘drum’ and adorn the gable walls of the new tun room which contains 16 new stainless steel washbacks. A new 9.5m diameter mashtun has been installed which draws spring water for production from the site’s original water sources. Dalmunach also features a unique hexagonal spirit safe housing four safes with a waterfall feature which is a first in the Scotch whisky industry.
The Dalmunach Distillery will not be open to visitors but will be visible from the nearby Speyside Way walking trail. Great care has been taken to ensure the external façade of the distillery is in-keeping with its surrounding environment and the traditional architectural style of the region, thus providing an interesting and fitting new viewpoint for passers-by.
The design and construction of the distillery was overseen from start to finish by Douglas Cruickshank, who stepped back from his role as Chivas Brothers’ Production Director two years ago to concentrate on the new build until its completion.
Douglas commented: “All the people involved are justifiably proud of their part in this very successful project. Dalmunach is a shining example of the collaboration of many functions within Chivas pooling their knowledge, experience and creativity to deliver a modern distillery that has surpassed all expectations in respect of visual impact, plant performance, energy efficiency and spirit quality.”
The completion of the project is a fitting end to Cruickshank’s career which began at the age of 15 at the Imperial Distillery, he now takes retirement having come full circle restoring distilling to the same location after a 16 year slumber.
Contractors employed during the construction of Dalmunach Distillery:
Architects Archial, Inverness
Robertsons Construction Northern ltd, Elgin Main contractor
WR Simmers, Keith Structural steel
Forsyths Ltd, Rothes Copper (stills, condensers, safes)
LH Stainless Ltd, Keith Process pipe work & vessels
Briggs of Burton Plc, Burton on Trent Mash tun
Advanced Electrics Ltd, Keith Electrical installation (ex. still house)
John McNicol & Co, Glasgow Electrical installation (still house)
Buhler Ltd, London Malt handling & milling equipment
Kerr Compressors Engineers Ltd, Glasgow Compressed air equipment
Cochrane Ltd, Annan Steam boilers
McCormacks, Rothes Scaffolding
Blyth & Blyth, Glasgow Civil Engineers
About Chivas Brothers
Chivas Brothers is the Scotch whisky and premium gin business of Pernod Ricard, the world’s co-leader in wines and spirits. Chivas Brothers’ award-winning portfolio features some of the world’s most revered Scotch whisky brands including Chivas Regal, the world’s first luxury whisky and the no.1 Scotch whisky in China; Ballantine’s, Europe’s no.1 Scotch whisky; The Glenlivet, the world’s no.2 single malt whisky; and Royal Salute, the world’s only exclusively prestige Scotch whisky range. The portfolio also includes two of the world’s leading English gins – Beefeater, the world’s most awarded premium gin, and Plymouth gin – plus a selection of highly acclaimed single malt whiskies, including Aberlour, Longmorn, Scapa, Strathisla and Tormore. The range is completed by a collection of blended Scotch whiskies which includes 100 Pipers, Clan Campbell, Something Special and Passport Scotch.
The Dalmunach achieved shortlisting for the:
- Architects’ Journal AJ120 Building of the Year – AJ120
- Commended in Commercial Building of the Year – Scottish Design Awards
Late June Outturn Offerings
Cask No. 76.119 $155
‘On Christmas day in the morning!’
The panel were whisked away to the excitement of Christmas morning as a child. Aromatic spiced orange mingled with eggnog, sugar puffs and milky hot chocolate sprinkled with nutmeg. Still in their pyjamas, the panel dipped into their stockings to find cranberry, pomegranate and red currants with Hubba Bubba gum. Water opened glugg infused with orange and mint, cola bottles. Fragrant lavender, saffron and lemon thyme wafted from the glass. Fresh wood from a homemade dolls house gave a grippy quality to the reduced taste which tingled with ras el hanout spiciness. Lingering flavours of pomander completed the festivities.
Drinking tip: Well now…Christmas day!
Colour: Dirty copper
Cask: Refill butt
Age: 18 years
Date distilled: July 1995
USA allocation: 180 bottles
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits
Cask No. 7.103 $220
A venerable library – polished wood, candles, hessian tapestry – with a fruity complex behind (over-ripe pears, bananas and pineapple). Then an empty fireplace (cleaned out for the summer) or dusty store, with dried marjoram. The waxy notes increase with water (church candles, on brass candlesticks), then tablet, vanilla fudge, linseed oil and vegetable oil, ‘spice drawer’ and dried orange pomander. The taste, straight, is sweet overall, with traces of scorched newspaper in the finish, and a hint of cinnamon toast mid-palate. Warming, with nutmeg and sandalwood in the aftertaste. With water the taste is more waxy; rich and sweet, with dried orange peel.
Drinking tip: With a good film on Sunday afternoon
Colour: Polished mahogany
Cask: Refill hogshead
Age: 29 years
Date distilled: October 1984
USA allocation: 54 bottles
Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow
Cask No. 9.100 $125
Coffee and cigarettes
We were enticed in with flapjacks and macaroons, coffee with cream and deep vanilla notes. It was a Parisian cafe serving creamy panna cotta and rich espresso martini. There was sandalwood oil and hints of coconut and sweet tobacco. The palate had butterscotch, burnt coffee and an ashy feel, then Murray Mints and a woody finish. The diluted nose had toasted crumpets and offered menthol cigarettes with an Americano and dark chocolate. There was a Café Crème tin on a pinewood table and some light floral notes. Our taste buds tingled with paprika, ginger and liquorice root, then cigarillos with strong coffee and a cinnamon aftertaste.
Drinking tip: While watching the film or having your own discussion
Colour: Olive oil
Cask: First-fill barrel
Age: 12 years
Date distilled: August 2002
USA allocation: 90 bottles
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet
Cask No. 4.191 $180
A Romp in the Heather
A first impression of peach and rose Turkish delight. And then a delicious romp of carrot cake, golden syrup and buttered crumpet. Warm cedar wood polished with linseed oil. Distant burning heather moors. The mouthfeel is chunky and meaty with soy and black pepper. Hessian bags full of ash. Salted caramel, butterscotch and dark chocolate. Water released mint and crispy seaweed. Waxed jackets and new Wellington boots. The finale is ash smoked sausage and menthol cigarettes. The panel agreed that it was like been grabbed up and rolled around in lavender, damp moss and heather. What a delight!
Drinking tip: Choose your partner carefully for this one
Cask: Refill hogshead
Age: 22 years
Date distilled: May 1991
USA allocation: 120 bottles
Flavour profile: Lightly peated
Cask No. 53.210 $190
This nose had a little bit of everything one might expect – peat smoke, tea chests, tobacco, pine resin, sea breezes, bandages, puff candy, peanut brittle and smoked salmon, to name just a few. The palate was a delight – a good whack of smoke and toffee apple sweetness – but nicely complicated by aniseed, liquorice, Brazil nuts, sesame oil, soy sauce, five-spice powder, salt and vinegar crisps and smouldering sawdust. The reduced nose was softer and sweeter, with caramel, treacle, old tawny port and pork crackling, while the palate found some mint and ash in the finish. Fantastic stuff from Islay’s biggest distillery.
Drinking tip: Could accompany a stir-fry or aromatic duck – or an evening bonfire as the stars appear.
Colour: Toasted barley gold
Cask: Refill hogshead
Age: 24 years
Date distilled: December 1989
USA allocation: 60 bottles
Flavour profile: Peated
The Outturn can be viewed online here: SMWSA Late June Outturn
Please visit www.smwsa.com for more information.
Jim McEwan, production director at Bruichladdich (until 23 July 2015, at least)
The opening weekend of the Islay Festival isn’t normally a time for sadness, but yesterday saw the end of an era: Jim McEwan hosted his final warehouse tasting at Bruichladdich. While we don’t expect Jim to disappear when he retires in July, it was his final tasting while still the distillery’s production director. However, he treated the occasion as he always does: as a time for celebration. Whisky was drunk, toasts were toasted and the crowd helped give him a roaring send-off. It’s all a long way from where he started his whisky journey, back in 1964.
Islay-born, at 15 years of age he was ‘just a skinny little guy’ and was taken on as an apprentice cooper at Bowmore. ‘I wanted to be one of those tough guys, and smoke a pipe and drink whisky,’ he told me at a recent tasting at The Whisky Exchange Shop. ‘I never smoked a pipe, but I acquired a taste for whisky.’ In those days there were more than 800 coopers in Scotland, and it was a lucrative business, ‘paid by result’, with apprentices doing the hard jobs that helped the journeymen make their bonuses.
Things haven’t changed too much in the Bowmore warehouses since Jim’s days as cellar master
Jim graduated to being a journeyman and later became cellar master at Bowmore, taking over from his mentor, David Bell – the oldest working cooper in Scotland, who retired aged 70 years old. ‘I’ll never forget the day,’ Jim recalled. ‘He came up to me with the keys in his pocket for all the warehouses, [put them in my hand] and said, “It’s your turn now, Jim.”‘
At 28 he moved to Glasgow to train as a blender for Morrison Bowmore, whose business was booming. He nosed up to a 1,000 casks a week, helping to build blended whiskies designed by the master blenders to be shipped around the world. He worked his way up to chief blender at Morrison Bowmore, but after eight years on the mainland he got the opportunity to return home.
‘I got the call to go back to Bowmore and take over as distillery manager. I couldn’t believe it. I never thought this would happen in my lifetime. A boy from Bowmore, who started work with a hole in his trousers; a skinny little runt who’s returned home. I said yes immediately.’
Japanese drinks giant Suntory had just taken over, and with McEwan at the helm they invested heavily, creating the Bowmore we know today. Along with refurbishing the distillery, they made sure that they spent wisely on Jim’s passion: casks. ‘[Suntory] were very generous about buying casks. No holds barred. If you wanted sherry butts, you got sherry butts; if you wanted port pipes, you got port pipes.’
However, Jim was not to stay on the island, and became a roving ambassador for Bowmore. He travelled the world, teaching drinkers about whisky and ‘bringing Islay malt to people who had no idea what Islay malt was’. However, things were happening on the opposite side of Loch Indaal to Bowmore, and the next step of Jim McEwan’s career called.
Bruichladdich distillery – the next stage of Jim McEwan’s career
‘At this stage I’d been 38 years at Bowmore and I loved working for Suntory, but it was a killer on the road. So I got this phone call from Gordon [Wright, of independent bottler Murray McDavid], and he said, “There’s some of us getting together and we’re going to buy Bruichladdich. Would you be interested?” Immediately my heart said yes.’
The purchase went through, and the revitalisation of Bruichladdich begun. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing, as Jim recalls: ‘I remember walking through the gates on 6 January 2001. I couldn’t believe it: it was a bombsite. Derelict. Ghosts everywhere.’ However, the local community were behind them, and work began. Within a few months the distillery was on its way to being restored.
‘There was something about the guys, their attitude and their passion that said ‘you can move a mountain’. And we did. On 26 May that year, at 7.29 in the morning the first new spirit ran down the line. The rest of the distillery was a state, but we were making whisky again.’
One thing that makes Bruichladdich stand out from almost all other distilleries on Islay, is the lack of peat in their whisky. With six out of the island’s eight distillers producing heavily peated spirit, they picked up criticism for being against the regional style, which Jim wasn’t standing for: ‘I was tired of people saying that Bruichladdich wasn’t a true Islay as it wasn’t peated. From 1881 to 1960 it was peated. I resurrected a peated malt and called it Port Charlotte to stop those people. Then I decided to make Octomore to shut everyone up for ever.’
He’s still obsessed with casks…
Jim McEwan retires on 23 July 2015, exactly 52 years since he started as a cooper’s apprentice. With their whisky range in place and new owners Rémy Martin allowing Bruichladdich to be ‘unafraid of the bankers’, as Jim puts it, they are stronger than ever and ready to start a McEwan-less existence. That said, we doubt they’ll get rid of him completely – he does live next door.
|A “Speyside” 23 Year Old Exclusive Malts Bottling Single Malt Scotch Whisky Cereal grains, honeycomb, richness and, a nice chewy texture to this dram.||$174.99|
|Exclusive 1991 Blended Scotch Whisky If your diurnal dram is nearly always a single malt Scotch whisky, this 21 year old Exclusive Blend may blow your mind. Maltfreak, June 2014.||$99.99|
|North Highland Distillery 14 Year Old Exclusive Cask Bottling Single Malt Scotch Whisky Fiery, full-blooded affair.||$94.99|
|Dalmore 18 Year Old Exclusive Bottling Single Malt Scotch Whisky Orchard fruits, whiff of smoke and oily fruits such as rambutan.||$149.99|
|A “North Highland” 20 Year Old Exclusive Malts Bottling Single Malt Scotch The nose is rich, round and robust, with dried fruits and nuts.||$174.99|
Hi folks. We are now live with the 51st auction.
Enjoy – and don’t lose your bottle!
Kind regards from Glasgow, the SWA Team
The ebay Laphroaig 30 Fraud and K***********a
An adventure in whisky by an anonymous whisky buyer
In 2004 year during two separate transactions (in March and July) I purchased three bottles of Laphroaig 30 year old from a seller on ebay named K***********a (Mt. K***********a is a fairly large mountain in B******)* for £160 & £120 and duly sent off the payments to him in the Edinburgh area. I directed that the first two bottles be shipped to my friend in Swindon as I live in North America and would not be in the UK until August. For the second transaction in July I asked that the bottle be shipped directly to my hotel in Edinburgh as I would be there in early August. As you may be aware it is illegal to mail alcohol to North America and I did not want to risk having the bottles confiscated and destroyed. All very complicated, but worth it for such fine malt and at such a reasonable price. Yes, I should have known that perhaps the price was a little too good for what I was receiving however there have been some genuine malts sold on ebay lately at very good prices, so this sale fit the trend. When the first two arrived in Swindon I asked my friend if they were in wooden display boxes and she replied no, however I knew that early Laphroaig 30 came without boxes, so all seemed to be on the level. However for the my second transaction K***********a had included a picture of a current Laphroaig 30 including the box but all three bottles were identical without boxes and white instead of green capsules.
During the subsequent months I watched with growing suspicion as the K***********a sold more and more Laphroaig 30’s, Royal Warrant’s and Laphroaig Highgrove’s. He seemed to have a never ending supply so I emailed him and asked if he worked for “Allied” (Allied-Domecq, who own Laphroaig). I know that distillery workers sometimes receive gifts from the employer to mark special occasions and they have been known to sell them to collectors. However he just seemed to have too many bottles. IfK***********a had simply changed his ebay name every two or three sales he might have gotten way scot free, no pun intended. He duly replied to my email and asked who “Allied” was and I replied that “Allied” was the owner of Laphroaig. He then replied “Ah yes, Allied” and that he worked for Chivas as a blender and he was receiving the bottles in trade from his buddies who were blenders at other firms. Now if I know that Allied-Domecq own Laphroaig then I’m almost 100% sure that a blender at Chivas based in Scotland working in the whisky industry should know full well who owns what in the industry.
By now I was really suspicious but there was nothing I could do until I went to Edinburgh in August and collected the bottles. Subsequently I arrived in Edinburgh and the bottles of Laphroaig were waiting for me in my hotel room, my friend in Swindon having timed the shipping perfectly to coincide with my arrival. As I eagerly unpacked the bottles I noticed that the bottle from the second purchase was in a Laphroaig 10 tube with the label stripped off. By this time all alarm bells were ringing at full pitch however a visual inspection of the bottles yielded no clues, the bottles looked 100% genuine. There was only one thing I could do at that point and that was to open a bottle and try some Laphroaig “30”. Now I’ve been fortunate to sample Laphroaig 30 on several occasions and this Laphroaig 30 was simply not right, it actually tasted like the 10 year old, it was not as refined and it did not have the sweet notes that I remembered. Undaunted I forged ahead and drank the rest of the bottle during my visit to Edinburgh, after all it was Laphroaig but not the 30. However with every dram I knew I was not drinking Laphroaig 30 and I’d been defrauded somehow. However I was simply too busy in Edinburgh to do anything about it , that would have to wait.
On my return to North America I further examined the remaining bottles for any flaws that would give me a clue to the fraud and I came up with the idea of emailing the stenciled lot number, LU19855, to Laphroaig via their website and Allied Distillers Limited subsequently confirmed that the lot had been bottled February 2, 2004 for the German market and that it was a bottle of ….10 year old.
Consequently I was in contact with Pete Harvey, Anti Counterfeit Manager for Allied Domecq who instructed me to contact Philip Scatchard, Director of the International Federation of Spirit Producers, the IFSP is an industry body and deals with matters of this nature. I made it clear from the start that I was not looking for compensation from Allied-Domecq and that I simply wanted this person stopped. Philip Scatchard advised me of the following;
“At this stage of the enquiry it is a “Civil Issue” and to elevate it we need you to report the case to Edinburgh Trading Standards/Consumer Services as they are the local enforcement authority to where you received the offending bottle. Would it be possible, on your return to Edinburgh, to take the bottle to the following address and raise an official complaint. This will effectively raise it to “Criminal Status”. It will also help with the chain of evidence and is better than returning the bottle to Allied Domecq.”
This was excellent as I was returning to Scotland in mid September (I know, lucky bast*rd, two trips to Scotland in two months). Pete Harvey drove up from Bristol to meet with me in Edinburgh at the SAS Radisson Hotel to examine the offending bottle. He duly pronounced both the bottle and the labels to genuine however mis-matched as a 30 label should not be on a 10 bottle. We both speculated on how the counterfeiters had acquired the genuine labels which was of great concern to Allied-Domecq. We then drove down to Edinburgh City Council Trading Standards/Consumer Services where we met with two investigators and I swore out an official complaint and turned over the remaining bottle as evidence. In conversation Pete told me a number of interesting things; that Allied-Domecq were bidding on K***********a’s current auction and that K***********a was going to be visited by several branches of enforcement in due course. It was also noted that K***********a had sold more than maximum allowable of 6 bottles in a year without a license. His life was about to become complicated.
I returned to North America the next day and kept an eye on K***********a ebay sales and one day suddenly they all stopped! I took this as good news and that he’d had a visit from the authorities. Pete Harvey later telephoned me to let me know events were progressing nicely but he could not divulge details at the moment but would let me know all the details as soon as he could.
By researching K***********a’s ebay feed back left by him (he seemed to be quite diligent in leaving feedback) for his victims I found 23 transactions involving 27 bottles of various high value Laphroaig’s for a total of £2840 however there were a further 18 transactions that have been closed off and I could not access the details. The potential profit for all 41 can only be speculated on.
They say there is risk in life and there are certainly risks associated with buying over the internet however I have subsequently bought several bottles from different sellers that were all genuine and I will not let one bad seller ruin ebay for me. I also informed ebay as to what the seller had been doing in my case but they could care less, ebay simply wants its commission and could care less than buyers are being defrauded.
Sent to ebay 26/10/2004;
The seller has sold approx 27 bottles of Laphroaig Single Malt Whisky labeled as 30 year old. On inspection these bottles have proved to be 10 year old bootless with 30 year old labels. This has been confirmed with the distillery by the lot numbers laser etched on the bottles. The value the seller has received for these fake bottles is approx. US$5000 and possibly more. I have sworn out a complaint with Edinburgh Trading Standards/Consumer Services against the seller who lives in the Edinburgh area. This complaint effectively raises the issue to criminal status.
Why this seller is still allowed to sell on ebay eludes me as he has defrauded so many buyers, violated Laphroaig’s trademark and spoilt eBay’s name.
I have complained to ebay in the past about this seller (K***********a) without a word. Further more because the fraud was discovered after 90 days I am not covered by ebays buyer protection.
*The ebay name has been edited due to the fact that the current user of the same name on ebay has only been a member of ebay since 2007 and is unrelated to the events described in this article. Subsequently ebay stopped the selling of alcohol in many jurisdictions. This article was originally published closer to the dates listed above and appears here merely for educational purposes.