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Interview with the ‘Laphroaig Collector’ – Marcel Van Gils

23 September 2010 2,942 views Written by: Gal Granov

Capture

In my Internet ramblings I’ve encountered Marcel’s site (http://www.laphroaigcollector.com/)  by mistake. I was looking for some Laphroaig information (can’t even remember what it was now), and clicked on the link and Wow!  I was very impressed with his collection. Just plain amazing.

Marcel has an amazing collection (over 360 different Laphroaig bottles) and a really interesting story, and is an enormous source for knowledge about any official Laph. bottling. He kindly agreed to be interviewed, and share his passion with us.

In his journey he even acquired the Prince Charles empty cask, which he later send back to the distillery to be placed in the distillery museum. The entire story which is very interesting, is described in his excellent site, here. Well worth a read.

I thought it would interest you as well as me to get to know this very unique person a little better, and here are a few questions that did interest me after browsing the site. Here we go:

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I was born in 1953, am married to Leonoor, no children, with one dog called Pien and run a dental office near Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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My wife and I travel a lot, and ended up in Scotland in 1994. We were captured at once by it and have gone there many times since.

The people, their traditions, the landscape and the whisky is what attracts us most. Most of all maybe, how quiet it is and how the Scots are aware of their history. History is a hobby of mine.

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What Got you into whisky? When, and which was your first single malt you liked?

Our visits to Scotland obviously led to drinking whisky. I remember one occasion in a bar and ordered a beer and the bartender answered: “you are NOT going to drink that English muck!” That was the first single malt I ever drank, a bunnahabhain, in 1994. Before I never drank whisky, having had blends only. I remember severe whisky hang-over’s from my days as a student.

OmslagLap10112 Cover of a book co-authored by Marcel & Hans Offringa

What made you start collecting, and why did you Choose Laphroaig?

I visited Laphroaig in 1995 for the first time, Iain Henderson was still in charge. I went there to buy a 30 year old Ardbeg (!), (Ardbeg was closed and Laphroaig sold their whisky and merchandise from the distillery shop, Ardbeg and Laphroaig being together through Hiram Walker.)

Some of my whisky friends were collecting, but no one collected Laphroaig. Some of them hold the largest collections Springbank, Ardbeg and Longmorn in the world. Seems to be a Dutch habit, collecting. Fortunately they drink it as well…

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What other distilleries do you like, other than Laphroaig?

Many, I don’t have a particular favourite. Generally speaking I prefer older bottling. I really don’t like modern whiskies. Too sweet, too peaty.Peat has become the ultimate (ppm) goal, where in older days it was just a means to make whisky.

Longmorn, Benriach, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Glenury, older Dimples and Haigs are great. Especially the ones from the late 1960s and 70s.

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Tell me a bit about your collection:

I hold about 360 different Laphroaigs, evenly divided into OB’s and independents. I do not collect independent Laphroaigs distilled after 1990. There are just too many and not very interesting.
My favourites are probably some old Cadenhead brown dumpies. Beautiful bottles and presentation.
Not the hardest to get hold of though. There isn’t one bottle that was hardest to get. Usually I get them offered because of the website and the book. Getting them to the Netherlands sometimes is the hard part. Especially bottles from the US. Both US and Dutch customs can be tricky.
The rules are silly. It’s increasingly difficult finding bottles that I don’t already have. There must be a few around, of which I have seen pictures in the past. Not many. You sometimes see amazing bottles from the 19th century or early 20th century. Most of them are fake. Whisky wasn’t often bottled as a single malt in those days. This only started in the 1960s slowly. I often show dodgy bottles to Robert Hicks, he is one cask (..) of experience.

If you had to choose 2 Laphroiags to take to a desert island, which would they be?

The 1974 Laphroaig from Maison de Whisky and this one:  (taken from Serge’s WhiskyFun)

Laphroaig 19 yo 1966/1985 (50.2%, G&M for Intertrade, 360 bottles) clip_image001

Colour: gold. Nose: oh, this is very unusual! A start that happens more on roasted almonds and suntan oil, argan oil, fusel oil… Then walnut skins, wet hay, tomato leaves… Unusual indeed, but totally beautiful. Is this the end? Of course not, because it’s the herbal notes than take the lead now, lemon balm, fresh mint, dill… It all
comes in waves, with the coastal elements now, oysters, kelp, big notes of whelks and queen scallops, then camphor, pine resin and eucalyptus (make that cough syrup), then all sorts of wet ‘things’ (from papers to dogs)… It’s really endless, this one needs a lot of time (or it would be like a Hitchcock movie that you would stop watching five minutes before the end.) Back on fresh mint now. Wait, fisherman’s nets. Almond milk. Plain peated barley. Old books. My!

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Mouth: this one is incredible at the attack, I believe I never tasted something like this. It all starts on all sorts of roasted and/or smoked things. Various nuts, various oils, various fish species… And then there’s a true resinous blast that happens, like a maelstrom of eucalyptus, mint, mastic, salt, paprika, curry, fish tandoori, cough sweets, cardamom (and these seeds they give you after a good meal at an Indian restaurant – which they sometimes call Indian chewing-gum). All right, time for the anti-maltoporn brigade to intervene or this will soon become incontrollable. Finish: they probably invented both the words ‘endless’ and ‘concentrated’ for this whisky. The aftertaste is as salty as salt. Comments: well, I’m sure you’ve had enough, especially since this bottle is so easy to find, isn’t it. We’re very, very close to perfection here, definitely in the same league as, for instance, the immense but sadly famous Springbank 12yo 100°Proof for Samaroli. An uber-whisky in my book. SGP:578 – 98 points. (not sure I should say thank you, Marcel ;-) )

The best Laphroaig ever probably.

What advice would you give a novice collector about to start his collection?

Not to pay too much and be patient. A bottle usually shows up again. And beware of fakers. Fake bottles are a big threat for collectors. When in doubt ask around. There are plenty of people around willing to advise you. Whiskyfun.com and whiskyauction.com have an impressive data base which you can check. Distilleries will not be able to advise. Usually they don’t know much about older bottling.

clip_image0010815 HRH Prince Charles in 2007  visiting the distillery and given Marcel’s signed book

What would you say to ‘regular’ whisky drinkers who claims collectors are the main cause of single malt price increase?

It’s the distilleries who set the price for their products. Of course a rare bottle fetches a high price, it isn’t different from an old painting in that respect. I some way I agree with them, that distilleries (or their subsequent owners) ask silly prices, going ahead of what the bottle might fetch in the future. They want to have their share of the collector’s prices too. Whisky has become an asset, like stocks and bonds. Not a bad idea by the way, stocks having dropped so much… The regular stuff isn’t overpriced I think. Laphroaig does a good job with pricing their Feis Ile bottles.

Do you also drink bottles from your collections at times?

Yes. I have quite a few doubles.

Again, i would like to thank Marcel for this interview.

Slainte!

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  • http://www.hmemcpy.com/blog/ Igal Tabachnik

    His notes made me hungry, thirsty and somewhat horny at the same time!

    • Anonymous

      me 2.
      Isn’t this your definition of : heaven?

  • http://www.hmemcpy.com/blog/ Igal Tabachnik

    His notes made me hungry, thirsty and somewhat horny at the same time!

    • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

      me 2.
      Isn’t this your definition of : heaven?

  • http://twitter.com/ScotchHobbyist Scotch Hobbyist

    Great interview, Gal, and thanks for sharing, Marcel! I enjoy stopping by laphroaigcollector.com from time to time and browsing. I hadn’t noticed that 1966 19 year before. 98 pts from whiskyfun? Wow!

    I’ve purchased two bottles of Laphroaig 30 year OB, and it’s my favorite whisky to date. I’ve emptied the first bottle, save for a few oz kept in a sample bottle. The second one is being saved for a special occasion. It might have been tempting to “collect” the second bottle, but alas, the label is soiled by a nearby exploding wine bottle in the store. I guess I’ll just have to drink it. :-)

    Cheers,
    Jeff

  • http://twitter.com/ScotchHobbyist Scotch Hobbyist

    Great interview, Gal, and thanks for sharing, Marcel! I enjoy stopping by laphroaigcollector.com from time to time and browsing. I hadn’t noticed that 1966 19 year before. 98 pts from whiskyfun? Wow!

    I’ve purchased two bottles of Laphroaig 30 year OB, and it’s my favorite whisky to date. I’ve emptied the first bottle, save for a few oz kept in a sample bottle. The second one is being saved for a special occasion. It might have been tempting to “collect” the second bottle, but alas, the label is soiled by a nearby exploding wine bottle in the store. I guess I’ll just have to drink it. :-)

    Cheers,
    Jeff

  • Michael

    Very interesting. My interest in Laphroaig started with 30YO expression . I have been drinking (and a bit collecting) different whiskies for some (short) time but now it is only Laphroaig and Karuizawa. Finally purchased “the Legend of Laphroaig”
    Thank you,
    Michael

    • Anonymous

      Thank you. Starting with the 30 yo is a good start !
      Glad to have you as a reader.

      Gal

  • Michael

    Very interesting. My interest in Laphroaig started with 30YO expression . I have been drinking (and a bit collecting) different whiskies for some (short) time but now it is only Laphroaig and Karuizawa. Finally purchased “the Legend of Laphroaig”
    Thank you,
    Michael

    • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

      Thank you. Starting with the 30 yo is a good start !
      Glad to have you as a reader.

      Gal

  • Rustam

    Strange collector Laphroaig , everybody knows best Laphroaig from Samaroli : for example Laphroaig 1970 Samaroli or Laphroaig 1967 Samaroli :)