My apologies for my absence. The ravages of living in Reality have taken their toll but all is well and life is returning to normal. The doors to the Writers World remain closed to me for now, but that is OK, I understand why and I know I have the key to open them again.
In the meantime – by public demand and dedicated to my fellow writer, friend and whiskey aficionado Elaine, http://bit.ly/MmxeAo I give you a true tale.
It was spring 1996, I was living in England and importing flowers from Colombia for a wholesale business I ran with a business partner. My husband and I had bought our first house, our son would be sixteen in July and the business was doing well.
When I saw the advertising flier in the Sunday rag that proclaimed – INVEST IN FINE WHISKYS – 5 YEARS UNPARALLELLED RETURNS – I was immediately intrigued and filled in my details on the freepost response form. Further information followed in the post accompanied by a series of telephone calls.
Five years would take my son to his 21st birthday – what an interesting present. A hogshead (approximately 55 gallons or 400 bottles) of the finest young malt whisky which could either be sold as a commercial barrel, bottled for private use or left to mature to even greater profits as a 10, 12 or 15 year-old malt. The company promoting this offer would handle everything, storage in bonded warehouses, the commercial sale or bottling and an anticipated 18% equity growth per year across the 5 years.
My flower business was doing remarkably well, on target for a million pound turnover for the financial year which was amazing for a small two-man operation in its second year of trading. The initial outlay for the whisky of £1,000 via credit card seemed worth the risk. I wasn’t entirely naïve and I knew this could be completely worthless, however, the “what if it isn’t” coupled with visions of the best ever 21st birthday present was too tempting to be ignored.
I paid and after a month or so I received a “certificate” of ownership which informed me I owned one hogshead of Tobermorey single malt whisky which was stored in a bonded warehouse in the Isle of Mull. I smiled to myself and prepared to dine out on the tale of my interesting investment for the next five years. Then I received the letter from the fraud squad asking me to surrender all documents relating to my purchase to assist in the impending legal proceedings!
I can still hear the cries of “told you so”!! I sent off the papers and wrote the experience off.
Much to my surprise and amusement I received my ownership certificate back with a stamp of authenticity. Apparently I was one of a few who received the real deal. Others had parted with their money in exchange for a scanned or photocopied version of a genuine certificate. My investment was safe! Or was it?
A letter from the bonded warehouse explained my options:
- maintain the annual storage and insurance payment with no possibility of commercial sale upon maturity (such sales start at a minimum of 10 barrels)
- maintain the annual storage and insurance payment and have the mature whiskey privately bottled after payment of considerable tax, duty and exorbitant bottling fees
- sign over the hogshead’s ownership papers to the distillery company for a one-off payment of £100
I imagine a lot of people faced with the above options felt completely deflated and cut their losses and took the £100 but I was indignant and felt the distillery were taking blatant advantage of “victims” such as I. So I dug my heels in and paid the £15.00 storage and insurance. This continued every year, with the invoices going up to a final figure of £36.00pa by 2006.
I had no real idea of how the story would end I was just determined not to let my hogshead go for a paltry sum. In the meantime I continued to tell my tale and so it was that a work colleague repeated my tale to his colleague who in turn told another colleague who was retired from the whisky business and living in Scotland.
My first contact with this white knight was in 2004 and he was extremely distressed to hear of my experience and set out to help me. Firstly though he explained that ownership of the hogshead did not guarantee a good quality whisky! A lot depended on the actual barrel quality. He advised that I should send a letter of authorisation for him to arrange a “cask test” to establish if my treasured investment was good enough to even consider bottling.
In 2007 my whisky was deemed mature enough to bottle and my white knight proceeded to organise a cut price bottling and labelling deal. The biggest cost would be the exorbitant UK duty and taxes which needed to be paid before the warehouse would release the whisky. We then established that export to Spain incurred much lower taxes.
The final product is in secure storage here in Spain and there are currently about 190 bottles of 11year-old single malt Tobermorey whisky, privately bottled at cask strength (59.6%) in 2007. Similar products can be found on e-bay or sites such as the whisky exchange for upwards of £29.99 per bottle! I sell for €20 per bottle or exchange for odd jobs!
The biggest downside to this tale is my aversion to whisky!