Auction News: Risk, Reward and Rosebank

Auction News: Risk, Reward and Rosebank

Whisky Auctioneer's head of auction content, Joe Wilson, muses on how time has vindicated some of the whisky world's underdogs.

Auction News | 02 Dec 2022 | By Joe Wilson

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Vindication is a theme that may usually be courted in less evocative terms in the whisky world, yet is an ever-presence that is likely to be experienced to one degree or another on a near-daily basis. Whisky is a long game and necessarily requires a steely resolve. Whether it is the pioneering Scotch whisky distillers of over half a millennium ago, the men and women who campaigned against Prohibition in 1920s America, or the warehouses of today experimenting with the next new and unusual cask type, all have seen risk become reward.

At its simplest, this can merely be a waiting game, but the sweetest victories are often for those who were unwilling to admit defeat even as it stared them in the face. Take the famous mantra of Julian ‘Pappy’ Van Winkle for example: “We make fine bourbon, at profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon.” They say pride comes before a fall, and this approach eventually saw his son lose their distillery in 1972. But they were right to be proud of their whiskey and ultimately the Van Winkle brand, built upon that principle, has set the family up for life and cemented Pappy’s place in the pantheon of American whiskey greats.

Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr.

Stories like this are repeated all through the industry and another is present in our November 2022 auction in the shape of an exceedingly rare bottle of 1967 vintage Rosebank. At the time this was distilled, Rosebank was a jewel in the Distillers Company crown and one of the few distilleries under its umbrella to be marketed as a single malt. By the time this was bottled in 1989 however, the rug had been pulled out from under it by United Distillers. Overlooked for its Classic Malts range the previous year in favour of Glenkinchie and its tourism-friendly location, this was the end for Rosebank and it was shut down in 1993 to save on the cost of its refurbishment.

One company that did see a future in the distillery, however, was Europvin, a wine exporter and negociant who selected this whisky as part of its first foray into independently bottled Scotch. Sadly, sluggish sales meant it was also the last. Yet the whiskies they chose, which also included legendary Bowmore and Springbank vintages, have proven that they had a bright future. The bottles certainly did. The Rosebank and the others, selected from the same Cadenhead stocks as famous bottlings for names like Samaroli and Corti Brothers, have joined them as some of the most sought-after rarities on the market.

A new still arriving at Rosebank during its recent reconstruction.

Vindication of this kind may have proven a small reward for Europvin, were it not still a hugely successful wine company today, and it is a testament to them that we still discuss their business in whisky circles on the strength of just six bottles. Thankfully, the Rosebank thread of this story has a happy ending too. Due to resume distilling next year, its painstaking revival may be vindication at its sweetest for those who called its mothballing a tragedy. After nearly three decades of silence inside, there has been plenty of noise around it and now is as good a time as any to see what it was all about.

The new stills in situ at the rebuilt Rosebank Distillery.

About Whisky Auctioneer

Whisky Auctioneer is one of the global market leaders and trusted authorities on the buying and selling of whisky and spirits at auction. Founded in 2013 and located in Perth, Whisky Auctioneer utilises its expertise and knowledge combined with its auction platform, to increase interest and passion in the whisky and spirits community.

Whisky Auctioneer endeavours to make the market more accessible for buyers and sellers of any background and geography. Its monthly global auctions feature some of the most comprehensive selections of old, rare and collectible whiskies and spirits available online.

Whisky Auctioneer became the first online auction house to sell a million-pound bottle and outperformed the nearest traditional auction house by 200 per cent in value from spirits sales in 2020, showcasing the move that whisky collectors, investors and drinkers have already made online and firmly establishing their leading position within the modern secondary whisky market.

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