News that the late great Tommy Cooper’s trademark fez is up for auction with an estimate of £3,000 reminds me of my favourite joke of his: “I’m on a whisky diet; I’ve lost three days already.”
And if the fez is as closely associated with Cooper as the large corona cigar is with Churchill, then nowhere in Scotland – the spiritual home of whisky in more ways than one – is the single malt more closely associated than the island of Islay.
Its various forms include Bowmore (named after the island’s capital), the oily, peaty Lagavulin and Ardbeg, sublime Caol Ila and perhaps the smoothest of all single malts, Bunnahabhain. Port Ellen, Laphroaig and Bruichladdich are other leading brands.
Between them they are thought to provide Islay with one of the highest value exports per capital of any community in the world. With around 3,000 inhabitants and a whisky export industry worth close to £300 million a year, that figure comes out at around £100,000 a head. That beats the leading country per capita export value (Liechtenstein) of around $100,000.
No surprise, then, that dedication to the ‘water of life’ is so strong and widespread, not just on the island itself but among wealthy collectors.
Now there is news that the most extensive and complete collection from Islay is going under the hammer as part of Fèis Ìle, the annual festival of music and malt, on May 24.
The consignment comes from Pat’s Whisky Collection, the largest private collection of whisky ever to come to auction. Those Pat has selected from his 9,000 “bottle library” includes the legendary single cask 1982 Port Ellen, of which only 220 bottles are thought to exist, and a limited issue Bowmore 25-year-old, produced in only 100 bottles.
It’s a collector’s dream.