Auction News: The Spirit of Christmas

Auction News: The Spirit of Christmas

In his final column of 2022, Joe Wilson, head curator and spirits specialist at Whisky Auctioneer, showcases some uniquely festive drams.

Auction News | 22 Dec 2022 | By Joe Wilson

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While this will be a difficult winter for many, the festive period should be one of positivity and a time to reflect upon things we are thankful for. I have people in my life with whom I am unable to spend Christmas as they have jobs that people depend on every single day. I am grateful to them for doing these jobs, and I am equally grateful that I have found work in an industry that by its very nature requires periods of both knees-up and feet-up relaxation. Those in the whisky world have not always been so fortunate, though, and our annual extended December auction provides a unique window into a past where Christmas was just another working day on the calendar.

The most famous of these and one of the most significant days in whisky history was 25 December 1887. This was the cold Christmas morning when spirit flowed from the stills at Glenfiddich for the first time. Sadly, nothing as old as that whisky is available today, however, spectacular bottles such as the 1991 release of Glenfiddich 50 Years Old can still carry us deep into the annals of the distillery. The whisky was distilled back in 1937 and 1939, and it is a vatting of just nine casks, selected to represent each of William Grant’s children who helped build the family business. As an auctioneer, this bottle is also doubly significant, once holding the accolade of ‘the world’s most expensive’ after selling for 99,999,999 Lira at a charity auction in Italy shortly after its release.

Glenfiddich 50 Years Old.

William Grant & Sons marked their second milestone Christmas day in 1963 when, in a fitting homage to their founding, the first spirit was produced at their new grain distillery in Girvan. In contrast, there was another Grant family up in Speyside that was instead doing little in the way of work that day. The Grants of Glenfarclas allowed their staff to swap the warmth of their distillery’s direct-fired stills for that of their own homes for the first time in 1960. Our December sale features two bottlings from Glenfarclas’s final Christmas day vintage, both bottled in 2002 at 42 Years Old.

One, known as ‘Christmas Day’ was limited to just 90 bottles, and the other was specially labelled as the Historic Reserve for the distiller’s German distributor. Anyone familiar with the smell of glühwein will know that nobody does Christmas quite like the Germans, and the same company subsequently ordered a swathe of special Christmas editions from Glenfarclas that can also be explored in our auction this month. Mercifully, these were all distilled on the 24th!

However, a true ‘Christmas whisky’ is not necessarily dependent upon the day it was distilled. It is not required to taste or smell like Christmas cake either, or even to have been gifted to you. It is simply whatever brings some joy to you on the day. From everyone at Whisky Auctioneer, we hope you find one this year that does. But do spare a thought for those who may instead be working: just like those who did so in the past, many are doing some very special things.

Whisky Auctioneer's December auction runs from Thursday 22nd December 2022.

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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