though i'd be hard pushed to relate a specific example, the world of fairy tales is filled with magic containers that seem never to empty. want a porage pot that is always simmering full of thick tasty gruel? how about a magic purse (sporran round these here parts) that never empties of golden coins, even currency that is happily accepted in any local supermarket or bicycle shop? no doubt, if there was a way of inventing just such devices, it would have happened by now, though judging by the bbc's decision to offer jeremy clarkson another three years on his contract and the purchasing of his share of his very own top gear production company, it's possible someone has come perilously close.
perilously close is also a tentatively applicable appellation appplied to malt whisky distilleries. though i would suffer months of sleepless nights were i the moving force and financial benefactor behind kilchoman distillery, once the requisite ten years has passed, there's every indication that cashflow ought to be a consideration of a more relaxed nature. though ardbeg, bruichladdich and kilchoman have given competitive rise to the younger than ten year-old expression in order to stave off financial drought, only the latter has yet to reach its first decade.
bowmore distillery on the other hand, has good claim to be islay's oldest distillery, having a heritage that goes back as far as 1779. it was also, until recently, the last of the island's distilleries still at least partially owned by the family concern that once owned it outright. the morrison family transferred total ownership of the company, which also owns auchentoshan near glasgow, to suntory of japan, who, commendably seem to have left at least bowmore pretty much to its own devices. apart from the flag of the rising sun on one of the distillery's flagpoles outside the visitor centre, you'd never know.
however, to return briefly to the story of the money machine, bowmore, similarly to all the other distilleries in scotland, has not altered its method of making whisky across the two centuries of its existence. i will not bore you with the gory details, but everything involves barley, peat, water (copious amounts) yeast, stills, washbacks, mash tuns and wooden casks. and allowing for the variation in financial variance over those centuries, it costs no more to make the amber nectar today than it did in 1779.
knowledge of the above seems not to discourage the archetypal whisky aficionado from spending over the odds on so-called limited editions or expressions, as i believe is the current description a la mode. if we allow for the fact that storing whisky in its wooden casks for a number of years longer than others is bound to be a touch more pricey, we must also take the word of the master blender, that the expensive option just released is as a result of market forces and due to a more limited availability.
this factor is responsible for a wide variety of special editions offered by many a single malt whisky distillery and inordinately large sums paid for rare examples appearing at auction. however, as of last week, bowmore distillery seem set to raise the stakes to previously unheard of levels. just before i continue, let me reiterate the fact that all whisky, excluding storage costs and inflation, costs the same amount to make. therefore bowmore's discovery of a 1957 cask of single malt that offered up only enough liquid to fill twelve bottles might, on the face of it, seem not entirely unusual. this whisky has been lying in bowmore's no.1 vault down by the shores of loch indaal in an oak cask for 54 years (it was bottled in 2011 and whisky ages no more once bottled) and has now found itself in twelve individually made platinum flecked bottles with hand-crafted platinum caps.
two of these bottles will be auctioned at bonham's in edinburgh and new york next month with a reserve price of £100,000 ($155,000), the proceeds going to five scottish charities. two bottles will be archived by bowmore, and the remaining eight will live in the shop at bowmore distillery with a retail price equivalent to the reserve set by bonhams. very much the same as reaching the summit of alpe d'huez, this results in a sharp intake of breath.
far cheaper, but with the same badge of honour as those frighteningly expensive bottles, is the latest in racewear from edinburgh's endura cycling apparel.
long have we been able to dress the part when visiting ardbeg's old kiln cafe, while the recently acquired (by remy cointreau) bruichladdich distillery made a disturbing mess of their own cycle jersey offering a few years back. in my own humble opinion, the bowmore jersey raises the style factor considerably, impressing even the staff at the distillery with its attention to branding detail. fashioned in scotland from coolmax fabric, the only feature missing is a zipped rear pocket to augment the standard offering of three. a short sleeve jersey at this time of year on islay is never going to work alone, but my review example fared well to the accompaniment of a pair of endura baabaa merino armwarmers. possibly of more use in the summer months, the zip is of the threequarter variety; at present, the coolmax proved slightly warmer than expected (especially in bowmore's still room).
i have been frequently asked by visiting cyclists if distilleries other than ardbeg have cycle jerseys available for purchase, yet up till now the answer has been an unfortunate 'no'. endura have now doubled the number with a collectors' item of their own (that costs a lot less than £100,000). it seems also more than fitting that i now have the honour of wearing a jersey emblazoned with the name of the distillery whose bonded warehouses fill the view from the rear windows of washingmachinepost cottage and whose distillery is not only a few hundred metres down the road, but features the name of the village in which i have lived for 25 years without once having ever tasted the product.
endura's bowmore distillery cycle jersey will retail at £39.99 and ought to be available from endura dealers and bowmore distillery visitor centre towards the end of november this year. just in time for christmas. julie at bowmore thinks it the ideal accompaniment to a bottle of 1957 single malt.
saturday 29th september 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................