By Jonny McCormick

Ask the Expert

Send your questions to or by post to: Q&A, Whisky Magazine, 6 Woolgate Court, St Benedicts Street, Norwich, England, NR2 4AP
I wanted to ask about a very old bottle of Buchanan's Red Seal. The bottom of the label states 'Glentauchers-Glenlivet Distillery, Mulben, Speyside'. The bottle has been kept in the family and came from my great grandfather's pub, The Ship & Bell in Horndean, Hampshire where he was the proprietor. The pub was formally joined to the Gales Ale Brewery. Ideally, I'd like to try and date the bottle, but any historical information would be greatly appreciated.
C. Field

Recognising the age of this impressive bottle, I took your photos directly to the knowledgeable and helpful archivist at Diageo for information, as they are custodians of the Buchanan brand. They told me that they have identified this bottle as an original bottling of Buchanan's Red Seal, a blended Scotch whisky, which was launched around 1904 and available until 1920. The Diageo archive has a few examples of this bottle and some half-bottles within their collection. The blend evolved out of the very first Buchanan's whisky, The Buchanan Blend, and it was positioned as the standard blend within the Buchanan's range. Black & White was the more premium blend of that era. Your bottle is the brand on which the modern Buchanan's Red Seal (launched 2005) is based, however, the whiskies themselves are quite different, with the modern Buchanan's Red Seal being influenced by Buchanan's Royal Household and featuring older and rarer malts.

James Buchanan and W.P. Lowrie (Buchanan's bulk blender in the early days of his business before he set up his own production facilities) founded Glentauchers distillery in 1897. In 1903, this partnership was incorporated as the Glentauchers-Glenlivet Distillery Co. Ltd., and in 1906, both this company as well as W.P. Lowrie & Co. were taken over by James Buchanan & Co. Ltd.

Although there are no recent auction records to guide a valuation, some early 20th Century blends are now fetching £1,000-£1,500, sometimes more. Final values will depend on the brand name, the bottle condition, and ensuring you choose the right auction house to catalogue and promote your sale.

Would you have any idea of the value of this bottle of whisky? My mother was cleaning out a cupboard with lots of whiskies and I thought this might be worth something?
G. Wollard

This is a superb example of a one quart bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years Old in its original carton. The carton has a distinctive colour striding man set against a white square background, and these were often bottled for duty-free markets. Interestingly, the slanting label says 'Extra Special Old Scotch Whisky' in large letters, with the Johnnie Walker brand name relegated to a small neck label like an afterthought. These do appear at auction periodically and can fetch around £75.

Please can you give me a valuation for a 4.5 litre bottle of Bells whisky, bottled in Scotland, sealed, and in excellent condition?
Leanne by email

These can be bought from whisky shops for £125, but at auction, a vintage bottle from the 1980s or 1990s might net you £40-60.

I was recently organising my modest whisky collection and I come across a golden bottle of Suntory Pure Malt. This was part of the collection of the late Michael Jackson that I bought at the charity auction at Whisky Live London 2011. Unfortunately, I now realise that no paperwork was included with the bottle to that fact. Are you able to provide me with a letter stating the provenance of the bottle?
C. Koulizakis

This was a bottle of Suntory Pure Malt whisky in a gilded golden bottle. There were a handful of whisky bottles from the estate of Michael Jackson (probably sent by the distillery companies for review) sold by silent auction for charity at Whisky Live Glasgow and Whisky Live London. To make up for the fact, I have published your letter as it ties together your purchase of the bottle at the event. Another consolation is the fact that you bought Japanese whisky, which makes it much more valuable than your winning bid in the silent auction. Bonhams, Hong Kong sold one for a hammer price of HK$6,000 last summer. A smart buy!