Legends of Whisky: Angus Macraild

If you have travelled at all the Whisky Trail you have encountered some place or another Mr. Angus McWhisky. A true expert on vintage bottles and probably the bestestest rare bottles “opener” on the planet. He is a freelance writer and trust me if you need any text concerning Whisky he is your man, a walking encyclopedia and superb writer. I first saw him many years ago at Serge’s 50th birthday party, he was playing a guitar and played better than me so I immediately disliked him. He also runs a dissacrative very NON PC blog which you have to read….whiskysponge.com

well, here we go, we asked him the ususal 5:

This is just wrong…

1: When I was very young  probably about 5 years old – we were living in England. I missed Scotland and as a result was really interested in everything Scottish – food, music, books and such like. My Dad would occasionally have a bottle of whisky around the house. Peaty whiskies were his preference and Laphroaig was his favourite. I remember being allowed a small sip of Laphroaig from his glass and just being totally blown away by the flavour. From then on I was fascinated by whisky, I would read about it and later – when I was old enough – started to buy bottles myself and seek work in the industry. The rest, as they say, is history.

2: The desert island question is always a tough one (why can’t we just make it Islay instead?) ((Islay is not desert yet Angus. ds)) I’d want something legendary that I’ve always yearned to try and I know would be a totally stellar dram  let’s say Laphroaig 1967 Samaroli. But then again I’d need something easy and purely pleasurable for everyday drinking; how about a litre of 80 proof old Springbank 8 year old from around 1970, that should do the trick. Thirdly, something historic and totally unknown like a bottle of genuine Stromness or Glenfyne single malt. Then again, ask me again tomorrow and my answers might all be different… (OK, i will ask you tomorrow then. ds)

3: My great passion in life – possibly even greater than whisky – is writing; I love to write and I’m very fortunate that it is now my work. Beyond that I love good food, I love to cook, I love to go walking in Scotland, I love wild swimming and I love my guitars and to play them. I love films as well, my degree was in film studies so I love going to the cinema and discovering new films. Most of all I love the people in my life: my friends, my family, my girlfriend. They’re the things that really make the world worth living in and whisky worth drinking.

4: Don’t ‘decide’ to collect. Only get into whisky if you really love it. Taste the stuff, go to a good bar and ask for interesting selections and information on why they taste the way they do. Inform yourself, learn your tastes, hone your passion. If you love whisky you will understand it far more quickly and easily. Don’t just collect bottles for the sake of it. Buy whiskies you love, love and respect the liquid first and foremost and your collection or selection of bottles will grow organically, naturally and in a way that gives you most enjoyment and pleasure. Make your love of whisky social rather than introspective.

5: I would make the industry less focused on the principles of yield, efficiency and pure profit. I would refocus production efforts away from just being about wood and concentrate on making great, characterful distillates again. I would change the mindset around production and profit to see that it is better to make slightly less of a product and make it to a far higher standard of quality than constantly sacrificing quality in the name of quantity. But, of course this won’t happen because in capitalism the accountants rule with very sharp pencils and whisky is very pure capitalism these days. I’d be happy to see some new distillery projects embrace these kinds of ‘grand cru’ principles though. And I’d be happy to pay for their whiskies! (Dornoch anyone? Shhhh…..ds)

Legends of Whisky: Jens Drewitz

Today another Legendary bottler from German Sansibar has kindly replied to our survey. Jens Drewitz. Famous for his care in product selection and placement as well as image and packaging.

jens copia

1.YOUR LOVE FOR THE SPIRIT, HOW DID IT ALL START? Tell us about the first days….

It starts about 18 years ago, i went to a whisky tasting in our city. My wife has bought the tickets as a present to christmas – so at least she was the one bringing me to the whisky world 🙂

2. YOU’RE GOING TO A DESERT ISLAND, YOU CAN TAKE 3 BOTTLES WITH YOU… Which ones will you take and what else (not bottles) would you take?

Springbank Local Barley 1966-2000, cask 510; Karuizawa 1963; Lagavulin 12y white Label white Horse, 43% first rotation. Then a pillow, water and my best friend

3.  Besides Whisky, what is your passion in life? (sports, cars, watches, music etc.) nice people, good food, i love my business


…taste everything, empty not everything, buy only the good stuff and have passion, so you will get the right bottles for drinking and after some time they will become collecting items as well. Don´t go for the bling bling shit !!

5. WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE, if anything, in today’s whisky-world –

let the people with passion into whisky take more control, choose the good casks and sell them for a normal price in order to make people happy about whisky, then you will create a stabile consumer world, not a fake blended business 🙂

Legends of Whisky: Max Righi

Well as promised we will start once in a while to place here some advice from our famous Whisky friends who will try through their own experience to impart some knowledge that can hopefully be used by some.

This week my Whisky Brother Max Righi, owner and president of Whisky Antique shop and Silver Seal legendary bottling label.

MAX RIGHI – SIlver Seal and Whisky Antique

1.YOUR LOVE FOR THE SPIRIT, HOW DID IT ALL START? Tell us about the first days….  it was during a two week study time in Scotland which i had won for a Master and in the evening I used to go to whisky bars and during the day I visited Distilleries after lessons and i still remember a phrase which I had been told by a bartender when I said to him that I loved to drink Glenfiddich Glenmorangie and Glen Grant, he told me to “sit down, you obviously don’t know fuck-all about whisky.”

(any bottles, not just the ones you own) Which ones will you take and what else (not bottles) would you take? BOWMORE BICENTENARY SQUARE  BOTTLE- LAPHROAIG 1970 SAMAROLI – MACALLAN 1966 AND A SWEET LIQUOR FOR THE LADY THAT WILL COME WITH ME

3.  Besides Whisky, what is your passion in life? (sports, cars, watches, music etc.)

4. GIVE SOME ADVICE TO THE NEW COLLECTOR and DRINKER: do  not collect only for profit, but also to remember a good whisky that you drank

5. WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE, if anything, in today’s whisky-world

many thing the first is prices ( i would like for single cask to be more reasonably priced, and also i would like to erase the arrogance in certain people who think to be more important than others.
… mmmm and maybe when we try a good whisky and, why not, a very good old blended let’s not play the “who’s got it the biggest” game and enjoy anything that’s good, not just top bottles.

Whisky Legends Survey

I am going to start a Whisky Legends Survey. Basically I will ask 5 questions to some of my friends and generally people who have somehow positively influenced the Whisky scene. Just to show the questions and format I will start giving the survey to myself, just because I probably have influenced at least my own Whisky world.

So stay tuned and pray for some people to respond to my survey.


1. YOUR LOVE FOR THE SPIRIT, HOW DID IT ALL START? Tell us about the first days….

Well this is easy, I was 16 and had a dram at the local bar, probably some blend, and immediately decided to collect the stuff, I started going around bars and asking them to keep the empty bottles for me. Soon I had lined up over 20 empty bottles in my mother’s kitchen. The holy woman one day decided that it was too much work having to dust them every week and promptly showed them the way to the garbage. But the bug was in and the rest is history.

Which ones will you take and what else (not bottles) would you take?

I would take Laphroaig 1967 Samaroli, Macallan 1966 and Highland Park 40yo ceramic (if i can find a full one). What else would I take… a box of Loacker’s Napolitanen’s, some porn and a shotgun because, I take it there are no restaurants in this island?


Music, I used to be a composer so… yeah. I paint, I like good thriller books, beautiful women (my wife on top.((well, figuratively)) (((and not figuratively actually))), dogs and Pokemon (no, not the new famous one that get’s you out, the old nerdy one that keeps you inside). And Juventus. A lot.


Buy what you like and like what is good. Read the good blogs and follow the auctions to get an idea of trends if you’re into buying to collect and invest. It is way too easy nowadays to stigmatize people who buy whisky to make some money reselling it, when the truth is it might very well be the only way some people can afford to open bottles lately, they buy three, sell two and drink one, nothing wrong with that!

5. WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE, if anything, in today’s whisky-world

Prices. Quality. So many things but I fear I will change nothing in reality.


Yeah, the Rolls Royce of Scotch Whisky according to the great Mr. Jackson. And I do agree, mainly because I grew up with it. Macallan was so popular here in Italy in the 80’s, it had a national TV commercial going for years, you could find the 7yo in ANY bar, you could find the 10 and 12yo in MOST bars and the 18yo and 25yo in most restaurants.

I remember once, we used to buy 25yo “coffins” as we called them, by the dozens to give to clients for Christmas as a present (sigh) and they were very cheap, one time end of the summer I think 1991 one of the regional importers was so fed up with the riviera’s discotheques not settling the payments, basically in september the disco owners would just close up and leave without paying the distributor for the booze, and so he called my father and me into his warehouse and asked us if we would be so kind to buy off all the remaining stock of Macallan for 150.000.000 Lire. That is 75.000 euro approximately.

The amount of Macallan offered can only be described by what can be contained in an area about 30 meters long, 3 meters high, pallet on pallet on both sides of the hallway. I suspect there were about 15.000 bottles of Macallan of all vintages. At a cost of about 10000 lira (little more than 5 euro) per bottle we said…. no thanks. (Don’t do it, whatever you’re thinking of right now i have already done it to myself…). Having a collection back then meant having a cabinet with all available vintages lined up, and what would we have done with 15.000 bottles?? Well some ideas spring to mind now, but back then it was just crazy.

Danny diego petto
1990 Me with two BFFs and a Mac 12yo to go….

In any case, as I was saying I grew up with it, maybe that is why I still prefer it to other speysiders (although not to well made peat/sherry Islayers). The taste of the metal cap 1Ltr. 12yo, was like breaking a chestnut open, we would stick one in the car and go dancing, and by the end of the night it was gone, yeah not very PC right now but back then it made sense. In the discos it was “mac and coke” with ice all night, try it once, but careful it is refreshing and addicting!

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 09.40.30
“New” style Macallan

It was a sad day for me, and a lot of my countrymen, when we saw the “new style” Macallan bottle, the one that looks like it got stuck headfirst into a vice, the simple rough paper label was gone and so was the mahogany hue we loved so much, and sadly the taste, that too was gone.  I find the last 7yo (the Maxxium one) to be so soapy it belongs in a shower cabinet, not a whisky one.

So keep your stash, if you can afford it, don’t fall for the easy money it now fetches, because it’s a taste long gone and no money can bring it back!

How to get a cork out from a bottle?

Well it has happened to us all, try to open an old bottle with a cork cap and… zak… it brakes off, now it’s time to go digging, if you’re good like Angus that’s no big deal, but if you’re bad like me there’s a high, high chance that the cork will end up inside the bottle and then it’s time to go fishing.

My father taught me a small trick, I am posting a video here for reference, basically you empty the bottle in a glass a bit, until the level is well below the shoulder, you will refill it later.

Take a clean plastic bag at least 35cm long, wash the outside of the bag well and even dip your finger in the whisky you poured in the glass earlier and pass it along the surface of the bag, then roll it up and push it inside the bottle making sure the bottom of the bag is below the cork, now inflate it making sure to stop before the whisky starts pouring out of the neck, and play a bit until you can sort of “cage” the cork. Then gently pull until you get it out. Easy right?

Hope it helps.

Distilled in the 70’s, with an age statement, for under 200 ??

Yes that’s right, as mentioned in an earlier post, it’s the last well kept secret in this word of Scotch Single Malts. For some reason, unless a bottle has a Vintage statement on it, it’s worth 5 times less.

Malts bottled in the 80’s

For example a Dalmore with a 1973 Vintage statement can sell for over 800 Euro, but the 12yo, also distilled in the early 70’s because bottled in early 80’s, you can still pick up for under 200. Same juice, different price. A Glen Garioch with a 1965 statement can sell for almost 1000, but a 10yo bottled in 1976 without the vintage printed on the label, sits unsold for 195 euro on an online shop. That’s just a couple of examples, let’s go into more details….


Imagine if the Lapphy 10yo above had a vintage stated on the label, let’s say this was bottled around 1989 (I could be wrong… Marcel?) so it would have a 1978 distillation date, the same bottle would sell for close to 1000 euro for sure.


Same for the Highland Park and the Springbank. And the Laddie. These and many other “Low cost” malts deserve a chance and my advice is to buy them up as you find them because they were produced in a time when making good Whisky was a serious deal, there was no rush to produce, fermentation time was long and care for the choice of casks was primary concern.


So look for them and let us know, post your tasting notes here if you can so we can build a sort of database for people who would like to taste good whisky for a fair price.

Italian liquor metal seals

So, before the beautiful excise “banderoles” there were the actually beautiful led seals, they were applied to each bottle produced, think of the waiste of led!

And here are the different seals with release dates. Keep in mind that, like for the paper flags, some importers and producers kept using the “older” version of a certain seal or flag until they ran out of them, sometimes a year or more after the new version came out.

The first led, or tin seal was released and used from 27/11/1933 until 31/05/1944. You will notice besides the coat of arms of the Savoia family there are two “fasci” from the “fascist” era, fascio in italian is a “bundle” or “sheaf” with an axe blade on top.

Sigillo Regno Fasci 

Then came the Sigillo Regno (Royal Seal” from 01/06/1944 until 30/12/1947 and it has two curtains instead of the “fasci”

Sigillo Regno

Then came, from 31/12/1947 until 29/04/1949 , the Sigillo Testa (Head Seal), signifying the new Italian Republic.

Sigillo Testa

And last came from 30/04/1949 until 15/06/1959 the Star Seal, or Sigillo Testa. This was the last one, after that came the in-famous paper flags for the joy of all collectors.

Sigillo Stella

So there you have it, I hope it helps. With thanks to my friend Valter for the precise dates.

Reading Italian tax flags and seals

I often get asked by my whisky friends to figure out when a certain bottle was bottled by reading the tax flag, here is a quick guideline for all of you who need this data.

Tax flags, are, well, tax flags. When an importer or producer wants to put on the market a bottle containing alcohol he has to pay an excise tax,in Italy to prove a certain bottle has absolved its excise duties they glue a paper flag over the seal. It’s not very pretty but we have learned to live with them. In order to tell when a bottle has been produced you can “read” the tax flags:

PINK flag WITH THREE STARS: Begin use 1952 Bottled before or in 1971.
PINK flag WITH TWO STARS and 3/4 litter statement: Bottled after 1971 and before 1976
PINK flag WITH TWO STARS and Litre 0,750 statement: Bottled after 1976 and before 1991
HALF PINK and HALF GREEN flag with 0,700 Litre statement: Bottled after 1991

To determine which is older just follow the alphabet: Serie A -001- sottoserie ….. To Serie Z and then Serie AA and so on. Often though we find discrepancies on this timing table, that is we can find a bottle with for example 3 stars which we know has been bottled for example in 1973. This is easily explained, nowadays it is the Custom’s Office which applies the flags, but many years ago bottlers and producers would just buy large quantities of these paper “stamps” and apply them on their own, this means that for example a certain producer in 1973 still had a quantity of 3 star banderoles and they were of course allowed to use them until exhaustion before having to buy the new kinds. So this system is not 100% spot on but it gives you at least a guideline.

Next time: Metal Seals.