BarLifeUK Interviews: Dan Bovey on ‘The Dusties’ Break Even Whisky Club

“Money doesn’t in any way dictate how good a whisky is, especially when they are older”

BarLifeUK first encountered Dan Bovey about ten years ago, when he was in the midst of a cocktail competition spree that saw him win pretty much every heat we judged. Since then, Dan has worked at many of the South West’s most prominent venues, and currently holds the post of group beverage manager for Hyde & CO’s 11 site estate. Dan is also founder of The Dusties whisky club, the subject of this interview:

BLUK: For the uninitiated, what is The Dusties?
DB: The Dusties is a Bristol-based break even whisky club. I’d say we are a little bit punk rock, it’s edgy in the way that we don’t make money off the tastings, the ticket money pays for the whisky we drink on the day. So it’s opening up bottles of spirit that would normally go to collectors, or be hidden away and not enjoyed.

BLUK: What was your main motivation for starting the club?
DB: I’d been drinking and loving whisky, especially peated Scotch whisky, for a really long time, and in 2018 I’d been collecting bottles to drink primarily, but also you’d buy one and put one away kind of thing, and realized I’d collected 7 year’s worth of Ardbeg festival releases, and I was like ‘I really want to drink them, but they’ve built up quite a value’. It was quite scary thinking ‘I want to drink these but they are worth a grand’, so I threw it up on Facebook, and said ‘I’ve got this whisky, who wants to join in and drink some of it, and we’ll just chip in equal parts?’. That got a good response, we had 30 people there… From then we just grew it, I started buying stuff in advance with the forethought of doing a tasting with it at some point, and in the second year we did 6 tastings, and each year we’ve grown it since then.

BLUK: Including the pandemic years?
DB: Yes, throughout lockdown we did lots of virtual tastings, which was good, it was nice to keep everyone connected. There’s about 600 people in The Dusties Facebook group, and it kept them together.

BLUK: Now that the lockdowns are behind us, will you keep a virtual element to the club, so people outside Bristol can be involved?
DB: It was very much Bristol-based at first, but with word of mouth it grew and we started to get people coming up from London or down from the Midlands, it shifted from being solely bartenders to getting more whisky heads in, and as it progressed it become more and more whisky heads… and when we went into lockdown, we started picking up people in Scotland, we had packs going out to the Hebrides and little islands. So when we came out of lockdown we decided to split the tickets and sell 20 for in-person, and 12 to 15 for online, to keep those guys involved. 

BLUK: Having tasted all of this incredible whisky so far, was the most expensive dram also the best-tasting dram?
DB: No (laughs)… Money doesn’t in any way dictate how good a whisky is, especially when they are older. It can dictate rarity and collect-ability for limited editions and stuff. Sometimes a whisky is expensive just because it is old and rare. 

BLUK: Can you put a name to the whisky you have enjoyed the most so far?
DB: Man, that’s hard. We had a 27YO Glendronach single Oloroso cask, that was amazing. And there was a 45YO Port Askaig which was phenomenal, certainly not an every day dram!

BLUK: Are there any particular drams you have your eye on for this year?
DB: We really want to go to the Islay festival this year. We went the last time they held it, in 2019, and stayed in a little glamming hut thing, and every day went to the distilleries’ open days, and bought the limited edition bottles they were selling. We did that across the whole island… We queued from from 1 am to 8am to get golden tickets, that sort of thing. That was hilarious because we were stood next to whisky collectors who were there specifically to put it in their collection or on auction, and we were like ‘we’re going to drink it’.

BLUK: How can our readers get involved with The Dusties?
DB: The Facebook group has the most up-to-date notifications, and we also have a website for buying tickets, just because selling alcohol on Facebook would get us shut down. I’ll put what tastings are coming up throughout the year on Facebook  as and when we know when they are… And I know a lot of the whisky community is beardy old men, but it should be for everyone, for young people, whoever the fuck wants to drink it. We’re inclusive.

BLUK: One last question… Have you made a cocktail with any of these ridiculously expensive whiskies?
DB: We definitely have, when there’s been little bits left over… In 2019 we did an Irish whiskey tasting, it was primarily whiskies from Middleton, so Redbreast, that kind of thing. We had 50-100ml left of some of these bottles, so we did a Middleton single sherry cask Clover Club, which was jokes, because Zack, who was one of the Pernod ambassadors at the time, his favorite drink was a Four Leaf Clover Club, so for lols we did it with this one. It was delicious…

You can get involved with The Dusties via the Facebook group and website.

Dan Bovey’s top drams so far: Octomore Event Horizon; Miyagikyo Sherry Cask; Thompson Bros Caol Ila 10yr

Full list of The Dusties tasting roster since 2018: Ardbeg, Galileo, Ardbeg, Ardbog, Ardbeg, Auriverdes, Ardbeg, Perpetuum, Ardbeg, Kelpie, Ardbeg, Dark Cove, Ardbeg, Grooves Committee Release, Caol Ila, 2007 Feis Ile, Caol Ila, 2011 Feis Ile, Caol Ila, 2012 Feis Ile, Caol Ila, 2013 Feis Ile, Caol Ila, 2016 Feis Ile, Caol Ila, 2017 Feis Ile, Caol Ila, 2018 Feis Ile, ***2019 – 60 bottles, 7 tastings Murray McDavid, Auchentoshan, 19yr, Murray McDavid, Clynelish, 21yr, Murray McDavid, Ledaig, 17yr, Murray McDavid, Invergordan, 30yr, Murray McDavid, Young & Old, 7yr Blended Whisky, Murray McDavid, Cask #900045, Caol Ila 7yr, French wine cask, Murray McDavid, Cask #900024, 7yr, Koval Bourbon cask, Murray McDavid, Bunnahabhain, 31yr, 1976, 48.1% Redbreast, 21, Redbreast, Single Sherry Cask LMDW, Midleton, Single Sherry Cask LMDW, Midleton, Dhair Gaelic, Finsells Wood, Tree 7, Method And Madness, Chestnut, Batch 1, Red Spot, Midleton, Warehouse Sample, 6 years bourbon, 24 years port finish, Bowmore 1995, 23yr. Feis Ile, Single Sherry cask, Caol Ila 22yr, Feis Ile, Lagavulin 19yr, Feis Ile, Octomore Event Horizon, Feis Ile, Bunnahabhain 2001, 18yr. Sauternes cask, Feis Ile, Kilchoman 11yr, Feis Ile, Laphroaig, Cask Strength Cairdeas Triple Wood, Feis Ile, Ardbeg, Drum, Feis Ile, Bowmore 15yr, Feis Ile, Bunnahabhain, Moine, French Oak, Feis Ile, Weller, Special Reserve, Weller, 12, Weller, 107 Antique, Van Winkle, 10, Van Winkle, 12, Pappy Van Winkle, 15, Pappy Van Winkle, 20, Pappy Van Winkle, 23, William Larue Weller, 2018, Yoichi, 10, Yoichi, Rum Finish, Miyagikyo, Rum Finish, Miyagikyo, Sherry Cask Edition, Yoichi, Decades 2000’s, Yoichi, Peaty and Salty, Yoichi, Sherried and Sweet, Miyagikyo, Sherried and Sweet, Miyagikyo, Fruity and Rich, Tsuru 17, Ceramic Decanter, Eagle Rare, 17yr, 2017, George T Stagg, 2018, Sazerac, 18yr, 2018, William Larue Weller, 2017, Thomas H Handy, 2018, Buffalo Trace, Single Barrel Pick, Bruichladdich 1998, 10yr, Manzanilla Cask, Bruichladdich 1989, 20yr, Rum Finish, Bruichladdich Valinch 13, Jim McEwan, 23yr, Fino Cask, Bruichladdich 1984, Golder Still, 23yr, Bruichladdich HB 90/27, Port Charlotte, Pc5 First Cut, Port Charlotte, Pc6, Octomore, 2002, Futures, 5yr, Octomore, OBA#2, Octomore, 10.4, 3yr, ***2020 – 78 bottles, 12 tastings Glenfarclas, 15yr, Glenfarclas, 21yr, Glenfarclas, 25yr, London Edition, Glenfarclas, 30yr, Glenfarclas, 175th Anniversary, Glenfarclas, 105, 22yr, Glenfarclas, 1980 Family Cask, 38yr, Glenfarclas, Marriage of Casks, Ardbeg, 19yr, Ardbeg, Supernova 2019, Ardbeg, Alligator, Committee Release, Ardbeg, Black, Kilchoman Club, 1st Edition, Kilchoman Club, 2nd Edition, Kilchoman Club, 3rd Edition, Kilchoman Club, 4th Edition, Kilchoman Club, 5th Edition, Kilchoman Club, 6th Edition, Kilchoman Club, 7th Edition, Kilchoman Club, 8th Edition, Kilchoman, Port Cask Matured 2018, Kilchoman, 100% Islay, 8th Edition, Flora Fauna, Bennrinnes 15yr, Flora Fauna, Mortlach 16yr, Flora Fauna, Mannochmore 12yr, Flora Fauna, Rosebank 12yr, Johnnie Walker, Old Harmony, Johnnie Walker, Swing Superior, Johnnie Walker, Black Label, Current, Johnnie Walker, Black Label, 1970’s, Collectivum XXVIII, Hampden, OWH Single Cask, 2012, Foursquare, Patrimonio, El Dorado, Port Mourant & Diamond, 2001, Neisson, Cask Strength, 2007, Savanna, 20yr, 1999, Caroni, Boutique-y Rum, Batch 1, Caroni, Navy, 100th Anniversary, Mount Gilboa, 2008, Murray McDavid Afficionado, Laphroaig, 20yr, 1990, 1 of 7, Murray McDavid Afficionado, Bunnahabhain, 3yr, 2007, 1 of 12, Murray McDavid Afficionado, Caol Ila, 14yr, 1992, 1 of 9, Murray McDavid Afficionado, Glengoyne, 14yr, 1999, 1 of 6, Murray McDavid Afficionado, Glenturret, 34yr, 1977, 1 of 6, Foursquare, Principia, Royal Navy Tiger Shark, Antigua Distillery, Catch of the Day, Chamarel, Blend 2010 – 2014, Forsyths, 2006, Lemon Hart, Overproof, 1980’s, Octomore, 10.3, Octomore, 10.4, Octomore, 11.1, Octomore, 11.3, Octomore, 10yr, 2020, Balvenie, 8yr, Pure Malt, Balvenie, Classic, Balvenie, 14yr, Peat Week, Balvenie, 15r, Single Cask, Balvenie, 21yr, Madeira Cask, Balvenie, 25yr, Double Wood, Balvenie, 25yr, Single Cask, Hanyu, 15yr, Final Vintage, Ichiro’s Malt, MWR, Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Ltd Edition, Chichibu, On The Way, 2019, Chichibu, IPA Cask Finish, Chichibu, Peated 10th Anniversary, Chichibu, London Edition, 2019, Chichibu, Black Rock, Single Cask, Chichibu, Coedonado Beer, Single Cask, Johnnie Walker, Red Label, 1950’s, Johnnie Walker, Black Label, 1960’s, Johnnie Walker, Red Label, 1970’s, Johnnie Walker, Pure Malt, Johnnie Walker, John Walker’s Oldest, Johnnie Walker, Blue Label, Casks Edition, Johnnie Walker, Blue Label, Ghost & Rare, Glenury Royal, ***2021 – 1 festival, 173 bottles, 25 tastings Whistlepig, 12yr, Oloroso Finish, Whistlepig, 12yr, Amburana Finish, Whistlepig, 10yr, Barrel Pick UK, Whistlepig, 10yr, Whistlepig, Boss Hog, V, Whistlepig, Boss Hog, VI, Whistlepig, Boss Hog, VII, Elijah Craig, Cask Strength, Elijah Craig, 18yr, Elijah Craig, 23yr, Old Fitzgerald, 9yr, Old Fitzgerald, 15yr, Parker’s Heritage Rye, 8yr Heavily Charred, Pikesville Rye, 6yr, Kavalan, Classic, Kavalan, Solist, Port, Kavalan, Solist, Ex-Bourbon, Kavalan, Solist, Manzanilla, Kavalan, Solist, Amontillado, Kavalan, Solist, Vinho Barrique, Kavalan, Solist, Sherry, Kavalan, Solist, Fino, Waterford, Sheestown 1.1, Waterford, Ballymorgan 1.1, Waterford,Bannow Island 1.1, Waterford, Ballykilcavan 1.1, Waterford, Ratheadon, Waterford, Pilgrimage, Waterford, Gaia, Bimber, Peated New Make, Bimber, Single Cask (Export Edition) – Ex-bourbon cask #15, Bimber, Single Cask (Export Edition) – Ex-sherry cask #41, Bimber, Single Cask (Export Edition) – Virgin cask #94, Bimber, Selfridges Exclusive – Gonzales Byass 2010 oloroso sherry finish, Bimber, Klub Release No.1 – Pedro Ximenez finish, Bimber, Distillery Exclusive – Ex-bourbon cask #173, Douglas Laing, Ardbeg 25yr, XOP Platinum, 1992, Douglas Laing, Laphroaig 18yr, Old Particular, 2002, Douglas Laing, Port Ellen 32yr, XOP, 1982, Douglas Laing, Bowmore 21yr, XOP, 1997, Douglas Laing, Caol Ila 15yr, Unpeated, Old Particular, 2005, Douglas Laing, Bunnahabhain 30yr, XOP 1989, Douglas Laing, Bruichladdich, 15yr, Old Particular, 2005, Thompson Bros, Islay 30yr, 1990, Thompson Bros, Caol Ila 10yr, 2010, Thompson Bros, Bunnahabhain 28yr, 1990, Thompson Bros, Port Charlotte 17yr, 2002, Thompson Bros, Jura 30yr, 1991, Thompson Bros, Dornoch Distillery Sample, 1.5yr, Carn Mor, Mactalla 15yr, Cask Strength, Carn Mor, Caol Ila 8yr, 2012 Oloroso Cask, Carn Mor, Williamson 10yr, 2010 Oloroso Cask, Carn Mor, Bunnahabhain 16yr, Celebration of the Cask, 2004, Carn Mor, Bowmore 23yr, Celebration of the Cask, Hogshead, Carn Mor, Bowmore 26yr, Chairman’s Legacy, Bourbon Barrel, Murray McDavid, Bowmore 1989, 26yr – Latour, Murray McDavid, Bowmore 2001, 15yr – Port, Murray McDavid, Caol Ila 2014, 6yr – Cognac, Murray McDavid, Cult of Islay 1988, 32yr – Oloroso, Murray McDavid, Loch Ile 1996, 19yr – Madeira, Murray McDavid, Peatside 2014, 6yr – PX, Murray McDavid, Peatside 2011, 7yr – PX, G&M, Bunnahabhain 10yr, Discovery, G&M, Caol Ila 12yr, 2002 Cask Strength, G&M, Caol Ila 15yr, 1990 Vintage Rum Finish, G&M, Bruichladdich, 21yr, 1994 Cask Strength, G&M, Jura, 28yr, 1992, Connoisseur’s Choice, G&M, Ardbeg, 28yr, 1975, Connoisseur’s Choice, Lp12, Lg11, Peat Full Proof, Bn8, Cl12, Bw8, Boutique-y Whisky, Octomore, 6yr, Batch 1, Boutique-y Whisky, Bunnhabhain, 10yr, Batch 22, Boutique-y Whisky, Islay #1, 10yr, Batch 3, Boutique-y Whisky, Islay #4, 11yr, Batch 1, Boutique-y Whisky, Bowmore, 19yr, Batch 12, Boutique-y Whisky, Islay #2, 25yr, Batch 1, Boutique-y Whisky, Bruichladdich, 28yr, Batch 19, Peat Pure Islay, Peat & Sherry, TWE Edition, Port Askaig 8yr, Port Askaig 12yr, Autumn Edition, Caol Ila 11yr, Single Malts of Scotland, Single Cask, Islay Violets, 33yr, Cadenheads, Bunnahabhain 7yr, Cadenheads, Islay 9yr, (Lagavulin), Cadenheads, Caol Ila 12yr, Cadenheads, Laphroaig 17yr,1998, Single Bourbon Hogshead, Cadenheads, Bunnahabhain 22yr, 1994, Single Bourbon Hogshead, Cadenheads, Ardbeg 26yr, 1995, Single Cask, Port Askaig, 100* Proof, Port Askaig, 14yr, Port Askaig, 2008 Germany Exclusive, Port Askaig, 12yr, Spring Edition, Port Askaig, 28yr, Port Askaig, 45yr, Glendronach 8yr, 1970’s, Glendronach 13yr, 2006, Single PX Cask, Glendronach 25yr, 1993, Single Port Pipe, Glendronach 26yr, 1993, Single PX Cask, Glendronach 27yr, 1992, Single Oloroso Cask, Glendronach, 12yr, 2003, Single Oloroso Cask, Whisky Sponge, Glen Moray, 1981, 38yr, Whisky Sponge, Triple Distilled Campbeltown, 1997, 21yr, Whisky Sponge, Clynelish, 2008, 11yr, Whisky Sponge, Benriach, 1999, 21yr, Edition No.21, Whisky Sponge, Caperdonich, 1995, 25yr, Edition No.23, Whisky Sponge, Ledaig, 2007, 13yr, Edition No.24, Whisky Sponge, Ben Nevis, 15yr, Whisky Sponge,Glen Ord, 13yr, Daftmill, 2008, winter batch, Daftmill, 2008, summer batch, Daftmill, 2009, summer batch, Daftmill, 2007, Abbey Whisky Single Cask, Daftmill, 2009, UK Single Cask, Daftmill, 2009, Berry Bros PX Single Cask, Daftmill, Distillery Sample Single Cask, Daftmill, New Make, Caroni, (Velier) Employees 5th Release, “Roop” Toolsie, 1996, Caroni, (Velier) Employees 5th Release, “Breeze” Manmohan, 1996, Caroni, (Velier) Employees 5th Release, “Dan” Maharaj, 1996, Hampden Estate, LROK ,11yr, Black Tot, Master Blender’s reserve, Springbank 10yr Local Barley, Springbank 17yr Madeira, Springbank 25yr, Hazelburn 10yr Marsala Hogsheads, Hazelburn 16yr Port Hogshead, Longrow 12yr Sauternes Hogshead, Longrow 13yr Red, Cab Sav, Kilkerran 16yr, Foursquare, Diadem, 12yr, Foursquare, Dominus, Foursquare, Empery, Foursquare, Nobillary, Foursquare, Sagacity, Foursquare, 2009, Foursquare, Destino (Velier), Foursquare, Shibboleth, Talisker, 8yr, Rum cask, Special Releases 2020, Talisker, 15yr, Special Releases 2019, Talisker, 25yr, Cask Strength, 2007, Talisker, 18yr, Talisker, 10yr, 1980s, Talisker, Friends of the Classic Malts, 1989, Talisker, Distiller’s Edition, 1993, Talisker, 30yr, 2021, Appleton, 151, 1980’s, Appleton, 21yr, 2004, Appleton, 15yr, Hampden Estate, LROK 2010, Hampden Estate, Trelawny Birds, Vireo, TWE Single Cask, Habitation Velier, Worthy Park, 2006, Appleton, Hearts, 1999, Appleton, Hearts, 1995, Appleton hearts, 1994, Laphroaig, 2017 Feis Ile, Laphroaig, 16yr, Laphroaig, 18yr, Laphroaig, 25yr, Laphroaig, 27yr, Laphroaig, 28yr, Laphroaig, 30yr, G&M, Caol Ila, 16yr, 1972, Brora, 30yr, 1974, Clynelish, 23yr, Rare Malts, 1974, Caol Ila, 21yr, Rare Malts, 1975, Brora, 24yr, Rare Malts, 1977, Clynelish, 17yr, Manager’s Dram, 1981, Caol Ila 16yr, Flora Fauna Cask Strength, 1981,