Magnus opus: Magnus Fagerström on collecting whisky


Magnus Fagerström, the famous whisky collector
Magnus Fagerström is something of a celebrity in whisky circles, owning the world’s largest collection of BenRiach. Ahead of our tasting with the legendary collector himself, Will Wrightson talks to him about the whisky that got him hooked and why he never regrets opening a bottle

I had heard Magnus Fagerström’s name but had never met him. One day, after researching an independent bottling of Lagavulin 40-year-old we were offering, I stumbled across a post he had written detailing what sounded like a very special whisky tasting. The more I read, the more convinced I became that we had to fly Magnus over to co-host a tasting of our own. Berry Bros. & Rudd has an illustrious past when it comes to spirits – creators of Cutty Sark, past owners of The Glenrothes and one of the world’s oldest independent bottlers – so we have amassed quite a collection ourselves. Perhaps it was time to start opening up some of the bottles in it.

Magnus started collecting BenRiach in 2007, “I love the [BenRiach] whisky and it had only reopened again in 2004 so there wasn’t a lot of it about. Alistair Walker [the BenRiach Sales Director] had exciting plans for single casks and peated and unpeated expressions, so my collection would at least be interesting. Also remember this was 2007, whisky prices were still sensible; by the time I stopped collecting BenRiach in 2012, they were announcing 40 new single-cask expressions that year alone. It was going to bankrupt me!”

Magnus’s eyes were opened to the joys of whisky by a bottle of Lagavulin 16-year-old a friend gave him (this was in the 1990s). After that he began to get together with friends to open bottles and discuss them. Over the course of the next two decades he bought, and opened, thousands of bottles. He tells me that a few years ago, when he renovated his flat, he had to clear out some boxes full of labels from bottles he had opened.

“I laid all the labels out on the kitchen table and when my wife walked back in I said, ‘Do you know what all this would be worth, if these were still stuck to unopened bottles?’ She didn’t want to know,” he laughs. The figure he tells me is eye-watering so I can’t help asking if he has ever lamented opening a bottle.

“Ha, where do I start!” He laughs. “No, no I don’t regret opening anything. I’m not saying it hasn’t become harder knowing what some of what I own is worth, but – for me – holding tastings and allowing these bottles to be enjoyed by a group of enthusiasts is what it is all about. In a way I have been collecting whisky experiences, that is what I am interested in.”

Magnus Fagerström will be hosting the first of our Collector Series events. On 28th October, he will be opening six whiskies from his personal collection, matched by six from our family reserves and spirits archive. With almost all the whiskies distilled between the 1930s and ‘70s, it promises to be a very special tasting. Find out more about the event here.