Game, set whisky

BUY­ING RARE WHISKY IN AN ON­LINE AUC­TION IS A DAN­GER­OUS GAME, ES­PE­CIALLY WHEN YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE BIDDING

SCOTS Heritage Magazine - - Whisky - Words Jim An­der­son

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.

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