Luc Timmermans is a renowned whisky enthusiast, Glenfarclas collector and former owner of Thosop (an independent bottler started by Luc Timmermans and then continued by Dominiek Bouckaert). His spouse and fellow whisky lover, Lim Eiling, also became the first independent bottler of Scotch whisky in Malaysia, and Luc has continued his involvement in cask selection by collaborating on independent bottlings under the Eiling Lim label.
A highly respected individual in the world of whisky, Luc is probably most well-known for his love of Glenfarclas, of which he has built a large collection and a close relationship with the Grant family - owner operators of the Speyside distillery. As Whisky Auctioneer brings a collection of Luc's whisky to auction, we spoke with him about his passion for whisky and collecting, new distilleries on his radar, his most memorable whisky experiences, and much more.
You’re from a country world-famous for their beer, so how did Scotch end up so important to you?
My first true encounter with Single Malt Whisky was back in 1998 when I was on holiday in the south of England in a place called New Milton. While staying in this lovely hotel Chewton Glen I drank my first Single Malt Scotch Whisky, a Dalwhinnie 15 years. The bartender at that time poured me, without knowing, a life changing dram. On my return in London City Airport, I bought my first bottle, the same Dalwhinnie 15 years, which I discovered to be the centenary bottling. The rest is history.
How did you start building your own collection? What inspired you to collect whisky?
I have been collecting ever since I was a kid, from coins to stamps, but my true inspiration for collecting whisky came after I received the notorious book of the late Michael Jackson. I was so fascinated by the different distilleries and bottlings that I decided to start my own collection, not knowing yet what or which whisky would become the core of my collecting.
Glenfarclas has been the primary focus of your Scotch whisky collection. What particularly captured your attention and started your long-lasting love for Glenfarclas?
During a visit at one of my friends, a Longrow collector, at the early stage of my whisky appreciating we talked a lot about collecting whisky and I was very much intrigued by Glenfarclas after having tried their 25 year old, and the fact that it is still a family owned distillery, made me decide to start collecting Glenfarclas. My friend warned me about the vastness of different bottles out there, so I decided to limit my collection to primarily vintages (with the year of distillation on the bottle).
Luc Timmermans with some of his remarkable Glenfarclas Collection.
There are always great people and stories behind whisky. How do you think your relationship with the Grant family has impacted your journey with their whisky?
My privileged relationship with the Grant family and specifically with George Grant has always intensified my love for their whiskies. The numerous warehouse tastings, the selection of many of my 1968 casks, the attending of private family events, birthday parties and distillery festive occasions will remain the most cherished events in my whisky career. I only look back at these moments with a very warm feeling in my heart. Like George used to say at numerous occasions : “Luc, you are part of this family”
What are some of the most prized bottles in your collection?
I guess this is like asking, which is your favourite child. Every single bottle that I acquired comes with a story, a place, a person, an occasion. But I guess my first selected cask of 1968 Glenfarclas, cask 688 and the story related to it, will remain my most precious bottle in my collection. It might not be the best, nor the most prized, but most precious for sure. But every single one is precious.
You enjoy drinking the whisky you collect, could you describe your ideal whisky drinking situation and dram?
Enjoying and appreciating whisky is for me a very social thing, you enjoy the best drams with your partner, your friends, your family. In any location of the world. We just came back from Japan and enjoyed many stunning whiskies, that became stunning because we enjoyed them with our best friends at great locations often accompanied by a great cigar.
Even in the digital age, whisky literature is very important for knowledge building. What book would you choose as your whisky bible?
I have read and bought many whisky books but Philip Hills first edition of “Appreciating Whisky” is still my whisky bible. But in the end it really comes down to your own experiences, try as many whiskies as you can, visit Scotland as many times as you can. I have been fortunate to have tried more then 6000 whiskies and have visited Scotland and its distilleries numerous times. That is like writing your own “Book of life”.
Since the mid 2000s there has been a spate of new independent whisky distilleries emerge across Scotland. What new distilleries are you most excited about?
From the new distilleries I’m currently the most impressed by Daftmill. I have been following and trying their whiskies from the first release and not driven by greed, this distillery really shows class in their product and their approach. No fancy packaging and unlike other distilleries that releases a three-year-old whisky just to make profits. They have my sympathy and following.
Daftmill distillery in Fife. Daftmill is a farm distillery, owned and run by the Cuthbert family, who grow all of the barley used in their whisky on-site.
Whisky has grown massively in popularity on the continent in recent decades. How have you experienced this in Belgium?
I guess the world wide whisky boom has sadly made into a commodity, just like shares. Created out of financial greed rather then passion and taste, often presented in fancy packaging and often exaggerated huge boxes which does not add value to the taste or quality of the whisky. This has removed the innocence of the mere collector, the mere enthusiast that is reluctant to open stunning bottles, but merely looks at his prized objects from behind a glass cabinet.
I’m happy that I can say that I opened and drank, and shared, numerous crazy bottles, with friends, amongst which 4 bottles of Samaroli Bowmore Bouquet 1966. Not likely any enthusiast, anywhere in the world will ever do again in these days of massive popularity, which is not driven by taste but popularity by greed.
You have previously been involved in many private bottlings of Glenfarclas, and even your own independent bottling company. What was that experience like for you?
I have enjoyed every single moment of selecting either Glenfarclas casks or casks for my “Thosop Handwritten label series”. It is unbelievable which variety of flavours, aromas and tastes you encounter while selecting casks. I always say if you want a whisky to smell like bananas or strawberries you can find it, only have to find the right cask amongst the most likely 100 million casks maturing currently in Scotland.
In my case my “independent” operation was very small and thus reflected solely my own taste. I hope I have been able to select some fine whiskies that are still being appreciated all over the world.
Was there anything about it that surprised you or was unexpected?
I guess the biggest surprise and most unexpected event was that I had to quit bottling, not driven by my choice, but the casks of Glenfarclas and other distilleries had become simply too expensive. Not that I couldn’t afford them, but my followers, the real whisky lover, the drinker, wouldn’t buy them anymore.
Finally, what’s been your best whisky moment?
This must be the most difficult question of all. My best whisky moments, let me think.
Could that be the Brora 1972 Rare Malts in Serge’s pool in 2004 ? Or the opening of my first Bowmore Bouquet Samaroli together with a former friend. Or the Black Bowmore first edition in the Auld Alliance whisky bar then located in Chimes. Or the Aberlour 8yo 50% small cork, opened at Michiel’s Wigman house when I met him first. Or the numerous tastings with Carsten in the old Mara Cellar. Or the opening of my 1968 Private Selection cask 689 during my first tasting in Singapore on September 25th 2012. Or the lobster night in the Lagavulin church with Norma Munro. Or my 40th Birthday tasting with George, when he gifted me 40 bottles of 40 different casks of 1968 Glenfarclas. Or the numerous tastings in my whiskycellar in Mortsel.
No, no it has to be be the sharing of my Glenfarclas 1968 cask 699 with all guests at our wedding, that remains the best moment so far.
A striking range of Glenfarclas expressions from Luc's collection, spanning distillery exclusives, private bottlings and spectacular age statements are available to explore in our January 2023 Auction.