the premises for a restaurant, fitting the kitchen, putting a chef and waiting staff on the payroll, then not opening the doors for a decade.” People in the whisky business know this, but tend to forget it. I am not sure it even occurs to drinkers who make comparisons between the price of malts and, say, ‘super-premium’ vodkas. I find myself explaining through clenched teeth that Chekhovka or Dissolut, or whatever is hot (or cold?) this week, was made only yesterday, and could equally well have been produced in Peterborough or Peoria.“Yes,” say the knowing types, “but is older better?” Among the more salty, peppery, peaty, island malts,a strong case can be made for youthful robustness. Nonetheless, even some of those age wonderfully. Judging blindfold in the International Spirits’ Challenge earlier this year, I loved a whisky with a smoky fragrance of roses, an astonishingly fresh palate and in the finish what a fellow panellist dubbed “animal warmth”. It turned out to be a Laphroaig 30-year-old, bottled in 1997, from 123 sherry butts branded with the legend SS Great Auk. This is believed to be the ship in which they came from Jerez more than three decades ago. This parcel of casks was being matured at the distillery for veteran US merchant John Gross, a great promoter of malts. After his demise, Laphroaig bought back the stock.As I tasted this wonderful whisky, I felt I had experienced its wonderful flavours before. It came back to me the other day. I was conducting a whisky tasting in Cologne and one of the guests was Prince Luitpold of Bavaria, whose neo-Gothic castle contains a brewery. “Remember that Laproaig 30-year-old you tasted from the cask in my brewery cellars?” he ventured. “It’s a little older, and even better now. When are you coming down for another taste?”Maybe the Bavarians will make me a knight ... for services as taster to the Royal House.