Whisky Magazine Issue 4
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Jim Murray, spurred by a reader's letter, considers alleged conflicts of interest
Many years have passed since I first discovered that embracing the whisky cause could be (believe it or not) a painful (both physically and emotionally) and thankless duty. People find it very hard to understand that there can be a sense of fulfilment more important than money in leading converts to a dram.
I discovered this in the early 1980s. Each year I would make pilgrimage to Islay off the west coast of Scotland. And while there I would do a deal with the manager at the Co-op at Port Ellen for me to bring back a case, or two if they had it, of pungent and quite incomparable Ardbeg.
This was the only shop in Britain I had ever found it for sale. And as I preferred Ardbeg to any other whisky I had ever tasted (and still do), I was determined to divide my catch with friends and colleagues at the newspaper where I worked at that time. After all, what's the enjoyment of having a secret if you can't share it with someone?
Unfortunately, one colleague could not believe I wasn't profiteering. This resulted in a right hook that sent me crashing from my chair and rendered me speechless for a full five minutes. My crime? I used to sell those bottles for £10 each; exactly the same as I paid for them. Nowadays identical bottles fetch £100-£125 apiece at Christie's whisky auctions, such is the price of martyrdom.
I recalled this when I received a letter from Ms Valincia Wagner, passed on to me by Whisky Magazine. ‘On page 8,' she said,' I noticed in Mr Murray's piece, “Se...