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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Tipple his whisky fancy

John Foo's collection of about 50 whiskies is worth about $100,000
The Straits Times - March 3, 2012
By: Liew Wei Lin
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Tipple his whisky fancy Apart from whisky from Laphroaig, a distinguished distillery in Islay, Scotland, Mr John Foo's collection includes a bottle of old blended whisky -- ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG

In 2007, business analyst John Foo went to Glasgow, Scotland, to watch a football match between Spanish teams Sevilla and Espanol.

The football fan returned with an unusual souvenir: a fiery passion for whisky. 'After I had a sip, my gums tingled, my throat burnt and my belly felt like it was on fire,' recalls Mr Foo, 36.

'I had not drunk water but the water of life,' he adds, a tad dramatically, his enthusiasm unmistakeable.

That first encounter with malt whisky has spurred him on to amass in four years a collection of his favourite tipple worth about $100,000 today.

About 50 bottles are displayed in a wood-and-glass cabinet artfully lit with spotlights - the first thing you notice when you enter the three-room apartment near Aljunied which he shares with his preschool-teacher wife Jessica Kou, 26. The couple have no children.

The three most expensive bottles - a Bowmore Bouquet 1966; a Laphroaig 1970; and a Laphroaig 1967 from Silvano Samaroli, an Italian whisky bottler - are worth €3,500 (S$5,814) each.

These rare finds were sold in the 1980s. Only 720 bottles each of the Bowmore Bouquet and the Samaroli-bottled Laphroaig, and 60 bottles of the Laphroaig 1970 were produced in the world.

Mr Foo bought them online in 2009, for a price he declines to reveal, from a collector in Italy.

'It is amazing that a drink so complex and diverse could be made from simple raw materials. The whisky is left to mature in oak casks where 'conversations' take place between the spirit and the wood over the years. It is a fascinating alchemy,' explains Mr Foo on what attracted him to whisky.

Apart from the unique flavour that each dram of whisky offers, his fascination also lies in the historical significance of each bottle. His collection centres on single-malt whiskies from Islay, Scotland, and old blended whiskies that were imported to Singapore in the 1950s.

Single-malt whisky is made at one distillery using one particular malted grain, such as barley or rye. Blended whisky is made by blending different types of whiskies, such as mixing one or more single- malt whiskies with other grain whiskies or spirits.

He says the old, imported specimens are his favourite acquisitions, as they are revealing of the times in which they were produced.

One bottle of James Bucaanan's Black and White has a label that refers to Thailand by its old name of Siam. Another, by White Horse Cellar, states 'by appointment to his Majesty the King' - that is, King George VI of Britain, who reigned from 1936 to 1952, making that bottle of whisky at least 60 years old.

'I will never open these bottles due to their historical significance,' he says.

Then, there is the bottle that bears personal significance: a 10-year-old Laphroaig whisky with a personalised label - 'specially bottled to commemorate the honeymoon of John Foo and Jessica Kou'.

It was carried back from his honeymoon to Islay in May last year. 'It was gifted to us and signed by the distillery manager. I cannot put a value to this bottle. Fond memories are priceless.'

Memories may be priceless but whisky, on the other hand, has high investment potential. 'Whisky can be kept for more than 100 years. Antiques can never be consumed but whisky can. Meaning that as more bottles get drunk, fewer are left, increasing the value of each bottle,' says Mr Foo.

His collection, which has not been appraised, has appreciated about 30 per cent since he first bought it, he says.

Apart from whisky, he also finds himself owning accessories such as the tulip-shaped glasses which hold the aroma and whisky jugs from distilleries.

'My wife is supportive of my collection. The whisky may be too strong for her, but she does the nosing of whisky with me,' says Mr Foo, who usually drinks his whisky with his friends.

He is meticulous with his whisky collection, purchasing only from reputable collectors and companies.

Care is evident in how he uses parafilm, used in laboratories, to seal his opened, half-drunk bottles to prevent leakage and evaporation.

'Now that I am trying to start a family, I am cutting back on the whisky buying. I buy one every two months now.'

He has a special bottle reserved for a joyous occasion - the €3,500 Bowmore Bouquet 1966 - for the day his firstborn graduates from university.

'That is, when your parenting days are over and you can finally relax and drink some whisky.'

 

 

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