Whisky Advocate

I can’t believe I did this

October 25th, 2008

So, I had all these review samples of whiskies accumulating on the hutch in my house. I put them in a box and carried them down to my basement where I keep them stored on shelves, organized by size, category, etc.

Some of the samples were full 750 ml bottles; others were 100 ml or 200 ml samples bottles. I keep the smaller sample bottles on shelves in a closet on the far end of the basement. On my way to that closet, I sat the box down on a dehumidifier to drop off a couple 750 ml bottles on a shelf. (The box was heavy and I didn’t want to bend over and sit it on the floor.)

Yes, you guessed it. As soon as I took one bottle out of the box, it upset the weight distribution and the box fell off the dehumidifier and went crashing to the floor. Of the 20 or so review bottles, one broke. Of course, it wasn’t my sample of 6 year old old bourbon or 10 year old scotch.

It was my review sample of White Bowmore. It was in a 200 ml bottle and was at least1/3 full. (It was a very generous sample.) Given that the whisky costs $6,000 a bottle, that was a good $600 worth of whisky. I forgot that my White Bowmore sample was even in with the rest of the whiskies. If I did, I would have taken it out and treated it a little more carefully.

I already reviewed the whisky, but I was planning on sharing what I had left with some of the restaurant and bar owners where I host whiskey tastings. So much for that.

How about you? Did you ever lose a special whisky due to an accident or blunder like this? Please do tell. Misery loves company.

21 Responses to “I can’t believe I did this”

  1. jazz lover says:

    John after hearing the news about the White Bowmore,
    I want to cry..

  2. John Hansell says:

    The worst part was having to clean up all the broken glass and whisky from the carpet and off the other sample bottles. I could smell the whisky in the room for a week.

  3. John Hansell says:

    Even the other sample bottles, which didn’t break but got splashed with the whisky, smelled for days.

  4. Harvey Fry says:

    i figure it goes with th’territory= the more fragile/perishable stuff you have, the more likely accidents…….no matter how careful. not so long ago i had a closet shelf collapse breaking 5 different (irreplaceable) Old Potreros & several cask strength single malts. Fortunately, i have at least one other copy of each……..but the money’s still up in fumes & the rug did smell good for the better part of a month. just think of it as a sort of tax we have to pay for our multiple choice lifestyles. besides the closets & tops of chests, etc., i have bottles on at least 12 (more or less wall to wall) shelves in all 4 rooms my wife allows me dominion over. so, the loss of 10 or so bottles out of several thousand (& that over many years) doesn’t seem so bad.

  5. Sol says:

    John asked for stories of stupid moves, so here is mine. Four years ago, I was supervising a repair project on two large apartment buildings. I was leaving my job, and the director of maintenance gave me a bottle of Dalwhinnie as a farewell gift. With my briefcase in hand, I tucked the box with the bottle under my arm and left the building. As soon as I got across the street, the box shifted, and the bottle slid out of the top of the box and shattered on the sidewalk. I wanted to cry.

  6. John Hansell says:

    Harvey, yes I was fortunate to have the White Bowmore to lose. The sad part is that I was going to share what I had left with others and now I can’t do that.

    Sol, nice farewell gift. They gotta put those Dalwhinnies in better boxes!

  7. lawschooldrunk says:

    Like someone above, I want to cry as well. When I read what happened, John, my hands automatically went to cover my mouth in shock.

    it sucks. sorry.

    nothing happened like that to me.

  8. John Hansell says:

    LSD, I went through all the phases of grieving.

  9. B.J. Reed says:


    We have all been there at one time or another – But, must admit breaking a sample of the White Bowmore is doing it up right 🙂

    Harvey has redundancy but I cannot afford that so I just pray alot 🙂


  10. John Hansell says:

    BJ, Yes, it was only my rarest whisky sample–by far! I learned my lesson.

    Harvey, if you run out of storage space, BJ and I would be happy to store some of your stuff at our houses. 😉

  11. Jon W. says:

    My sincerest condolences.

    I can’t top your story, but I did have a minor tragedy of my own this past summer. I was nearing the end of a great bottle of Brora 23 (Old Malt Cask) and I poured myself a pretty good sized glass, much bigger than I would normally pour of a whisky like that. I forget what the occasion was. But anyway, I put the glass on my coffee table and I don’t remember exactly how it happened but somehow I knocked it over. I easily lost over an ounce and a half. Unfortunately my coffee table is stained but not finished, so licking up the contents was not an option.

    Major lesson learned (other than don’t be a klutz with expensive whisky) is that there are really two reasons for pouring small drams of special whiskies. First, you want to make the bottle last as long as possible. Second, spilling a large dram is a lot worse than spilling a small dram.

  12. John Hansell says:

    Jon W: Brora? Yum! Time to finish that coffee table and call it a whisky table. But seriously, thanks for the sage advice. Small drams, but more frequently!

  13. Sam says:

    Nowhere near that horrible, I was keeping a gift of Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve in the closet to celebrate the sale of my house that took over 14 months.
    When the sale finally closed, I invited over my cousin and a few friends-those I knew could appreciate it–to enjoy some of that scotch.
    I went to open the bottle, slowly turned the cork, and zap.
    The cork broke.
    My first thought was, “No. It’s not fair. I waited over 14 months for this!”
    We ended up opening something else that night.
    The next day, I stopped by the place my wife bought that bottle, and they decanted/filtered it for me, and replaced the cork.
    I guess I got away pretty lucky, and it was great stuff.
    I have a tiny bit of it left.

  14. John Hansell says:

    Sam, the Royal Lochnagar Select Reserve is a very nice whisky. I still have a bottle that I’m saving for a special occassion. I am glad you were able to salvage it. I keep a couple corks in reserve, just in case I need one for occassions just like you experienced.


  15. Sam says:

    Hi John.
    Yes, it’s a very nice whisky, but be careful with that cork. The shop we got it at said they have a problem with those corks.
    I’ve since been lucky enough to get a bottle of Highland Park 25 as a housewarming gift.
    For the same price as the Royal Lochnagar, I think the HP 25 has a lot more levels of flavor, even though the RL is probably the smoothest scotch I’ve ever had.

  16. John,

    I have a tale about the whisky I nearly lost! The first time I travelled to Scotland in the name of whisky I had been given a tiny 15cl bottle of Ardbeg 1965 by Jackie Thompson at the distillery. This was in September of 2006, shortly after the Brits broke up the liquid-bomb plot against transatlantic flights. My visit to Ardbeg was on about day 7 of a three week odessey visiting distilleries. Jackie suggested I save the whisky for a special occasion, and dutifully I tucked it into my hand luggage, and forgot completely about it. That is until I was clearing security at Glasgow Airport for my return to Canada. The security line had been nearly a mile long, and it took almost two hours to clear it. The security was not just x-raying all the hand luggage but was thoroughly checking every bag by hand. They claimed they were doing so because of a specific security threat, but I suspect the x-ray machines weren’t working. Long story short, all liquids were banned in carryon luggage, and it was just as the security guard was checking my bag that it occurred to me where my 15cl botle of Ardbeg 1965. Inwardly I started to panic, what if they found it, would I at least be able to drink it! To my complete surprise I cleared customs, with my tiny bottle of Ardbeg 1965 in bag. The whisky gods looked favorably upon me that day and protected my precious little bottle. As soon as I found a comfortable place to sit in the terminal, I opened up and enjoyed that amazing little whisky.

    Andrew Ferguson
    Calgary, Canada

  17. John Hansell says:

    Andrew, that’s a great story. And a happy ending too! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  18. Todd says:

    Several years ago my wife and I found a special bottle of wine in an out of the way part of Italy. We bought the last bottle and carefully shepperded it home to give my folks as a house warming/Xmas gift. Their previous home was utterly destroyed in a fire. Mom was delighted and set on the kitchen counter. I mentally registered that it was in a dangerous place but was distracted before I moved it, and moments later, Mom shifted some stuff on the other end of the counter triggering a Rube Goldberg series of things toppling over that caused the special bottle to fall and smash on the stone floor below. We took a deep breath – then reminded ourselves that as good as it was, it was just stuff, and that we were still surrounded by good fortune to be together. After momentary regret, we forgot about it and had a wonderful holiday. Someday we’ll return to Italy and find the wine again. No big deal. More good bottles will always be found.

  19. John Hansell says:

    Todd, that’s a good way to look at it. Sage advice.

  20. Alex says:

    I have two sons, 3 & 5 year olds, so spillage and breakage are common in my household but not typically with the single malt until recently.

    Their basement playroom also houses my small bar which typically has two shelves of open single malt. Let’s just say that Nerf balls are not as safe for inside use as you might think – one good pitch from my youngest connected with the top shelf causing a cascade of bottles into the sink. Luckily, most miraculously survived with the exception of a Talisker DE (near the bottom) and a glass of Tomintoul 27 my local spirits merchant had saved for me from a distributor sampling…we don’t play ball in that part of the room nowadays.

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