Game, set whisky
BUYING RARE WHISKY IN AN ONLINE AUCTION IS A DANGEROUS GAME, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE BIDDING
It was the worst day of my life, and I blame Andy Murray.
Let me explain. If you live any length of time here you can’t help but to be swept up in the wave of what outsiders misperceive as Scottish defeatism. We are proud, we are scrappy and we’re not afraid to stand up to nations much bigger than ours.
That’s where the misperception comes in. We’ve suffered so many setbacks throughout the centuries that we celebrate them in an entirely Scottish way: not as losses of power and liberty – these things are fleeting – but as milestones in the history of a people who get up, dust ourselves off and get back in the fight. We may lose some battles,
WE MAY LOSE SOME WAR IS BATTLES, BUT THE NEVER FINISHED
but the war is never finished.
These days, military manoeuvres have been replaced by sporting events. The enthusiasm with which other countries spur their team to victory is replaced here by the dutiful tuning in to BBC Scotland, comfortably assured that we’ll score first and never again choke on the 18th green or double-fault away a match point.
It was with this assumption of defeat that I didn’t bother to watch Andy Murray against Novak Djokovic in the 2013 men’s singles finals at Wimbledon. Really, what was the point? He’d live to fight again, so I thought I’d buy some whisky instead.
An online auction was offering some bottles that would nicely fill some gaps in my collection. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have even considered buying whisky this way. In those days, hidden gems were easily unearthed by visiting distilleries and simply asking if there were anything lying around with an inch of dust on the bottle that I might take off their hands. Not any more. Unless you’re lucky enough to run into someone whose recently-deceased spouse used to work at Port Ellen, you’re eventually going to find yourself in an online auction. So, there I was on July 7, sitting in front of the computer next to a blank television screen. Without even thinking, I began bidding on many more whiskies than I could possibly afford. Delightful and rare bottles of Ardbeg, Mortlach, maybe even some Old Pulteney. I put healthy bids on 16 lots knowing in my Scottish heart that I’d be lucky to come away with two or three. Which is when Andy Murray ruined my life. You see, this particular auction was set up for live bidding to safeguard against entering a maximum bid weeks in advance and letting the computer sort things out. It can be a truly exciting moment when new bidders are no longer taken and just the remaining, redeyed whisky freaks can slug
EVERYONE ELSE IN SCOTLAND WOULD BE WATCHING ANDY MURRAY WIN, NOT BUYING WHISKY ENJOY WHISKY? TRY OUR FREE ONLINE MAGAZINE SEE IT ON ISSUU.COM
it out until someone cries uncle. That is, if there are any other bidders.
What I hadn’t considered on that summer Sunday afternoon, was that everyone else in Scotland would be watching Andy Murray win in straight sets, not buying whisky.
So, when the clock struck 6:00 to close the virtual bidding gate I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the screen. No matter how many times I refreshed the page, my worst fears began to set me into a panic. I hadn’t won the two or three lots I’d expected – I’d won all sixteen. In a peculiar way I had managed to turn victory into defeat. After accepting my lots I went through the tearful experience of draining my bank account to the last penny. Hitting the Enter button, I walked to the cabinet, selected a bottle of something nice and, putting the glass to my lips, sat back, closed my eyes and chuckled to myself about just how Scottish I’ve become.
Image: Andy Murray winning the 2013 Wimbledon final.
Image: Live bidding in online whisky auctions can be costly.