1939, 43%, 86 proof, auction, chamberlain, hitler, junk mail, lou gehrig, lutheran, nazi, new york yankees, review, robitussin, scotch, thoma, valuation, value, Whiskey, whisky, white horse cellar
Some folks do things well, and some folks don’t. Some folks pay attention to detail while others do just enough to get the job done. A familiar case in point…
We received a piece of bulk mail recently. It was printed in that stupid cursive font meant to appear as though it had been addressed by hand, and even worse, it was appointed for someone with our same last name and yet wholly unbeknownst to us. Neither I nor my wife, nor any entitled heir in our home hails to the name of “Denerefer.” Of course, simple reasoning makes it easy to deduce that this useless piece was intended for my wife, Jennifer, and its visible presentation is proof that no one really cared all that much about the actual mailing because the goal was simply to get it into our hands.
I have the distinct feeling that this was the modus by which the folks at the White Horse Cellar were laboring, nay, scheming, and I know for a fact that, as a distillery, they would not have been alone in such devilry.
Now, I say this because, while I would never claim to be an expert in Scotch whisky history, I certainly know considerably more than even some of the folks I’ve chatted with personally in the various distilleries and popular whisky vendors. Some of you reading this post already know this to be true because I have successfully valued whiskies for you that, in the end, rendered some pretty significant returns at the auction house. I think the highest return I’ve seen for a whisky that I investigated and valued was $4,600. (Remember that one, Dan in Georgia?) And by the way, I am yet to make a dollar by my efforts. Not that I require it, but the current level of generosity will probably decrease very soon because I have other things to do and “the worker is worth his wages.”
But anyway, history would suggest that these types of blended whiskies were mass-produced during the 30s and were intended to meet the ever-accelerating demand created by the prohibition which finally came to an end in December of 1933. I can almost hear the whisky makers saying, “Who cares what’s in the bottle, my good man?! By Jove! Just get it in a box and out before Christmas!”
This particular edition from 1939, well, unfortunately it fits the above expectation.
Admittedly, it is neat to think that liquid antiquity is about to be poured into a rock glass, but right when you begin to be lifted so existentially in heart and mind, the nose rises up and pulls you back to fleshly harbor with a slightly sweet but relatively harsh and medicinal odor. The palate confirms that the contents were concocted and bottled by a man who, at some point in the process, said so nonchalantly, “Yeah, this stuff tastes like that crap they’re smearing on the boat hulls over at the shipyard in preparation for the war. Aye, who cares? It’ll help a poor sick man with his cough.” And he’s right. About the only contemporary comparison I can think of is a bottle of Robitussin. The whisky is syrupy and bitter, and the only reasonable explanation for the faintly present apricot sweetness is that the same man overseeing the process accidentally spilled a bottle of artificial flavoring (that was later found to be cancer causing) into the still.
But with all of this being so true (oh, so true), the finish is the whisky’s summary. And here’s what I mean.
In the end, you are reminded that it is 1939 and you just bought a bottle of cheap whisky to drown the sorrow of hearing that Lou Gehrig is retiring from the New York Yankees… Oh yeah, and Hitler and his Nazi jackboots (whom Chamberlain promised had no warlike ambitions) just invaded Poland and killed a few thousand people in the advance. So sit in the alley and cry, my friend. This whisky offers an extremely long finish, and its terribleness will overrun and outlast the previous despondencies.