Into the Sea of Whisky Notes….

I loved Michael Jackson’s Whisky notes…, he rarely went into the “horse saddle from the 60’s used by a second cousin to the king of Lame”… he mostly said what it tasted and smelled like, if it was good or not, if it lingered in your mouth or not, if it was strong or weak, things people need to know when approaching a purchase.

I tell you the truth, I would just love love love to be able to discern the nuances like some of my friends do, and I do “feel” them, i smell them and taste them but i cannot transfer them to an actual thing or fruit or else, I guess it’s just a talent, like composing or drawing, some people smell a dram and they can compare it to something else, kudos to them.

Whisky notes are useful mainly because people can save money by buying drams that they think are going to be keen to their taste after reading notes. Notes can be found in the back label of the actual bottle but that, for my experience, seldom translates to reality except for few like Samaroli early bottles, Velier Rum and few others.

My whisky notes are naturally slimmer, its peated or not, it’s strong, it’s sherried, fruity bla bla, that’s where i stop but that doesn’t mean that’s bad. When reading whisky notes be very careful, more than the notes itself, to WHO is writing them. Nowadays whisky scoring is a real biz, when a blogger has some success he gets approached by bottlers and mainly Distillery owners, they get offered free bottles, dinners, trips and get the royal treatment, you can see this when you read that a 5 yo Glen Grant has scored over 90 points, that can only mean that the scorer was weak, he fell for the bargain, for the scam, sometimes he just get’s swayed by the treatment, he starts to “Like” the guy and when scoring he simply “adds” a point or two because of this friendship, so not necessarily “dirty”, just not completely un-biased.

MOMENTS IN HISTORY: Scoring the 99 Points Queen’s Port Ellen 

I know very few that never fell for this, Serge Valentin for one, I have seen it myself, has storms of interested parties trying to corral him to their side, but i have seen him trash bottling just they day after spending a magnificent dinner with the guy who submitted his dram to him for scoring. Same for Ruben from

But whisky notes are mainly PERSONAL, somebody can smell chocolate and you can instead smell licorice, and you will be disappointed in the end. So if you have to use notes and scores for your purchases choose somebody you trust, try a dram and compare your notes to his, when you have found somebody that translates to your taste in the same way your palate does then stick to that one.

Collecting Whisky & Co.

So because this is an informative Blog and it is dedicated to those who, like myself, have passion for the product, it is imperative to give some advice to the collector. I have started collecting empty bottles around 1979 and stopped in 1986 when i moved to the USA to be a Musician. When my family asked me to come back as they needed my help, in 2001 right after September 11, I thought it was the perfect time to embrace my Country again.

Soon after i went into the dusty moldy cellar where i had placed my long forgotten bottles and started looking them up on the Internet. At that time there was close to nothing regarding value of bottles or online shops, but with a bit of work I found out that what i spent for had at least tripled in value and there I got hit by the bug again. Yes, PROFIT!! I LOVE IT!! I know this is so not Politically Correct but trust me, only a hypocrite-full of himself-righteous liar can honestly say that he really DOES NOT care if the bottle he bought is now worth 10 times more, he only does it for the drink. Bullshit. We all feel smart, we all feel more secure knowing that the 100 euro we spent could (at least potentially) be turned into 500 only a year later, and yes I do not do it FOR PROFIT, I don’t buy today to sell tomorrow, but it’s really nice to know, anything happens I will not leave my kids a bunch of stamps or Swatch watches they know not what to do with, I will leave them something that, if they don’t have my passion, they can sell and buy their education and maybe a roof on their head with! And come on! The face on your accountant’s face or your banker when you tell him that “yes, I invested on something that brings me 20% a year and if I want to I can just drink it”, it’s priceless! I have seen many bankers or stock people come and ask me to invest in Whisky for them. I always tell them I cannot do it, but it’s a nice feeling when these “professionals” come and ask ME!


Many times when i sell a bottle to somebody they feel compelled to say “Really Diego ! Its not for resale, I will drink it”! Like if making a profit was a crime, something to be frowned upon, and I tell them, you bought it, you do what you want with it, throw it against the wall, drink it, sell it, it’s YOURS. I Will be the first one to say that the state of Whisky prices nowadays is just too much, ridiculous, but then I go and buy an electric bicycle and it cost 2000 euro, I go to buy a curtain for my veranda and it cost me 4000 euro! SO why not 3000 for a 1960 40 years old Laphroaig? That took a lot of time and care to make, and the pleasure it will bring is enormous and can be shared with others. Maybe it was under-valued before!

So I will go against the tide and say, do collect, put them away, don’t drink them all, you never know, you might need some money, you will love looking at them every day, like I do, for me it’s therapy, I feel down one day and go and look at my cabinets and remember where I got this one and the guy who I bought this one from was so and so… it’s not a crime to collect Whisky and it’s not a crime to profit from it, as long as you have passion for the stuff, go for it. If you do it JUST for profit, if you couldn’t care less if it was Whisky or car parts, then stay away from me, I want to at least have a dram and a conversation with you!


This week my son, 6 years old, asked to start his collection, he of course likes miniatures, he knows the names of the Distilleries and stuff like that, and his eyes shine when he gets a new one. That’s what it’s all about. Shine.

Whisky Legends Survey: David Turner Bowmore Distillery Manager

What can I say… what an honor to have as a guest the Distillery Manager of one of the top Scotch Whisky Distilleries in the world? David is not your usual kind of DM, David, when you meet him, exudes passion for Whisky, numbers matter to him much less than the actual product, he is one of us, one of the Whisky Lovers, he is not a numbers guy for sure.

If you go to Islay you simply cannot miss visiting this fantastic Distillery and if you’re lucky and David is around he might even stop and chat about drams and bottles like you would with a collector friend. When I first met him he actually came to me and said “Diego, it’s so nice to finally meet you! I heard a lot about you and your operation” then I politely asked him “and you are….?”  At this point his secretary answered for him and I almost fell on the floor as I wanted to hide at that moment…. and even though he is famous for his professional approach to details, staff management and product… humble is not even close, that’s David. Anyway enough wowing it up! Here he is!

David Turner


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

I was born in 1973 and brought up and still live in Port Ellen, Islay,  Distilleries have always been a big part of Islay life, my Grandfather worked in Bowmore through the 50’s till the late 70’s, he was at the Bowmore Bicentenary Dinner in 1979 and his wish was that the Bowmore Bicentenary bottle he was gifted was opened at his Funeral, I was 8 year old and remember it getting opened and appreciate, that is my first memory of a Whisky getting opened.

I started work in Bowmore Distillery on the 4th  June 1990 when I was 16 years old, I have worked my way up through the Process to Head Distillery in 2006 and Manager in 2012.

  1. 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?

Bowmore 1955, 40 year old 42%

Bowmore Bouquet 1966 Samaroli

Port Ellen 12 year old 1980 Queens visit (because I’m a Port Ellen boy at heart!!)


Travel, Food, playing Golf and Cars.


Collecting is becoming very expensive and the old bottling’s are very hard to find, snap them up when you can, I’m glad I started collecting over 20 year ago. If you have the chance to drink whiskies from the 50’s and 60’s it’s a must, these old Drams are amazing.

Concentrate on one Region or Distillery.

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

Replicate the 50’s and early 60’s whisky, watch this space……..


Legends of Whisky: Emmanuel Dron

Emmanuel is a pioneer in the success Whisky has had in the last few years in Asia, he runs the fantastic Whisky Bar in Singapore “The Auld Alliance” and is a true expert on vintage whisky, many famous Asian collectors get advice from Emmanuel when it comes to drinking good stuff or building up their collections. Here is Ema….

Emmanuel Dron – (Courtesy


It started around 1994-5. I got for my birthday a bottle of Glenfiddich. I was not a whisky drinker at all. I liked it and I bought the Michael Jackson’s book to learn about whisky. Then I discovered a Jazz bar in my city Lille in the North of France which at that time had over 100 single malts. With my best friend, we went there for the next three months and tried them all. I took many tasting notes. Soon I was in London visiting Milroy’s shop where I tried my first Port Ellen. I was doing a civil service at that time to help blind people at University. It was my first contact with computer. Learning how to use WORD, I started a ten pages newsletter called “The Angel’s Share” end of 1996. I sent it to La Maison du Whisky in Paris which sold it to their shop at rue d’Anjou. Thierry Benitah contacted me few months later and asked me to join the company. I left it thirteen years alter in 2010 and created my own in Singapore, The Auld Alliance.

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

Laphroaig 1970 Samaroli
Ardbeg 1965 Cadenhead Tall Bottle White Label for Mizuhashi Japan
Glen Moray 1959 30 Years Old Duthies
My acoustic guitar Gibson Hummingbird
An IPod full of music with Solar batteries.
A Sea Dive Mask
3.  Besides Whisky, what is your passion in life?

Music, Wine, Japan, Bar hopping


Collect what you like. Try many many whiskies and focus on what you like. Most likely, don’t believe anything you will read on the leaflet given with your bottle. There is no Viking God who produced that whisky and that Rare Cask whisky it is in fact not rare.

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

I would change the craziness of nowadays prices. Five years ago, it was possible to open many great bottles at still fair prices. Today, it is almost impossible. Prices are crazy. Only few of us can afford those old legendary bottles.

Legends of Whisky: Marcel van Gils

Marcel is AKA The Laphroaig Collector A true Laph lover and expert he has written in 2007 the book “The Legend of Laphroaig” a great informative book with great photos taken by Marcel himself. When you travel with him he’s either holding a glass or a photo camera, a big one.

A dear friend and possibly one of the most honest men I know. Here is Marcel…

Marcel van Gils

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

It started in 1994 when my wife and I visited Scotland for the first time. So far I only remembered whisky (blended!) from giant hang-overs as a dental student.

A bartender somewhere north of Ullapool suggested a single malt, Bunnahabhain 12 y.o., instead of ‘that English muck’ (beer).

Next I bought the same standard Bunna in a shop and the rest is history.


Glen Garioch Samaroli 1971 59.6%, Bowmore 1955, 40 y.o and, because I don’t want to look too snobbish, a standard 10 y.o. Laphroaig, Unblended from the 1980s.

Excellent stuff.

Would also bring an E-reader with 1000 books on it, a snorkel and flippers.


History, photography, waterskiing, snow skiing, golf, writing, dogs, Scotland.


New collectors are facing a rough time, whisky has become too expensive for collecting, unless you are filthy rich. It’s getting beyond a normal person’s reach.

In all honesty, (and yes, I collected too), just drink the bloody stuff. It has too much become a commodity, surely today’s low interest rates have something to do with that.

For affordable drinking I suggest 1990s Bowmores, Glendronachs and Glenfarclasses. They kept their standards pretty high.

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

Please, please, can we cut the PR and marketing crap and return to making decent whisky again?

It’s sad to see how accountants sharpened their red pencils and quality plummeted. All for the shareholders sake.

Retail prices going up, quality going down, that’s shooting your own foot.

I am really happy to see new start-ups pop up, let’s hope they won’t be just mini-Diageos.

Also would like to see whisky journalists and writers write more critically and independently about whisky.

Unfortunately some of them have too intimate connections with the industry to write with an independent mind. Some bloggers are doing fine in that respect.

Legends of Whisky: Phil Thompson

Phil owns together with his brother Simon and their parents the beautiful Dornoch Castle Hotel, sporting one of the best Whisky Bars in the world. The brothers are true expert in the field of vintage whisky and have opened lately a new Distillery called “Dornoch” which will focus on trying to “reproduce” old style scotch, they will use high quality machinery and ingredients and also will focus more on long fermentations and slow distillation rather than trying to make a fast buck cutting corners. And if anyone can do this in my opinion it is the Thompson bros, they are indeed maniacs when it comes to details about making Scotch and very very well read and informed, Simon has read and re-read basically every single book which was ever written on the subject and Phil is a great and honest man who will give it his best shot on trying to make whisky as good as it once was. Well, over to him with the questions:

Phil and Simon Thompson
15 years old in the original Dornoch Castle Bar. We had a small selection of bottles, including a Macallan 1975 25yr Anniversary Malt. When I tasted it, I knew there was something different and unique compared to the other bottles on the bar – I could not describe it or really understand it, but I knew I loved it
Brutal question Diego! I am always looking for that true dessert Island dram, and I hope I always will be.
Port Ellen Queens Cask – This was a mind blowing, unique, beautiful whisky, but the memories of drinking it with amazing friends on Islay will always remain with me..
Bowmore 30yr One of 3 drawn from a cask and bottled for the 30th Anniversary of the SLTN in 1994 – I cannot wait  to see your face when you taste this one!;-)
Glen Mhor 1937-59 – Soon to be open at Dornoch Castle
Music was always my first passion. I should play more, I miss slapping out some funk!
 Don’t take it too seriously. In the words of Mr Valentin, ‘It is only booze’
5. WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE, if anything, in today’s whisky-world

So so much….perhaps a question saved for when I see you and we have a dram of fantastically fruity old distillate!