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Auction News: Important relics from difficult history

Whisky Auctioneer’s expert offers his thoughts on June 2022
By Joe Wilson
Karuizawa Ocean Whisky
Karuizawa Ocean Whisky
A single 12-year-old Port Ellen caused quite a stir last month at Whisky Auctioneer. Not only did the “Queen’s Visit” see an almost 50% increase in hammer price from its previous record-breaking sale, but - as the only distillery bottling of Port Ellen single malt produced in its operational years - it was a museum-worthy piece of history made even more poignant by the Islay distillery’s impending re-opening. Following on from the Brora revival of last year, the return of these two iconic malt distilleries is maybe the defining moment in the long and hugely successful rehabilitation that Scotch whisky has enjoyed since they both closed in 1983. Scotch is far from the only category basking in the warm waters ushered in by a new wave of enthusiasm for whisky in the 21st century though, with the American, Irish, and Japanese industries all experiencing renaissance periods of their own.

Our June auction contains important relics from the difficult history of all three, and the first of these is the legendary Twisted Spoke bourbon, bottled for the Chicago bar of the same name using barrels from Stitzel-Weller in 1999. The Kentucky distillery had closed seven years prior, however unusually the bottling facility is almost as important in this case. The much-romanticised Old Commonwealth was the birthplace of the seminal Pappy Van Winkle and A.H. Hirsch brands and was operated by Julian Van Winkle III from 1983 until its own closure in 2002.

Van Winkle Twisted Spoke


Speaking of seminal, we are also delighted to feature a rare 12-year-old Jameson from the 1960s, a decade of seismic change in the Irish distilling landscape. The year 1966 brought the formation of the Irish Distillers group, the amalgamation of Jameson, Power’s & Cork Distilleries and saw the former bottle its own brands for the first time, having previously only sold its whiskey by the barrel. This is one of those bottles and represents some of the earliest examples of Jameson as a blended whiskey. As such, it contains spirit from two of Dublin’s legendary lost distilleries, Jameson’s Bow Street and Power’s John’s Lane.

Jameson 12 years old


Finally, from the annals of Japanese distilling history we have two classics from the Ocean Whisky brand. The first is a 17-year-old containing 100% single malt from its iconic Karuizawa distillery, bottled in the 1990s during an industry nadir now unthinkable by today’s standards. We are also thrilled to offer an early example of Ocean White, a blend from a more hopeful period in the 1970s that will contain not only Karuizawa malt, but grain whiskies from potentially both Yamanashi and Kawasaki.

Karuizawa Ocean Whisky


While most of these distilleries are long gone, some of them do still have functional use within the industry. Bow Street and Stitzel-Weller are visitor experiences, for example. Unlikely to re-open, Brora and Port Ellen are however evidence that you can never say never. What is certain though, is that their contributions to the history of whisky are indelible, and Whisky Auctioneer offers one of the strongest and most accessible connections to these titans of the past.

This article is sponsored by Whisky Auctioneer and is created in partnership with the team at Whisky Magazine. This sponsorship does not influence Whisky Magazine's coverage of auctions and Whisky Auctioneer do not have input on editorial decisions.

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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.

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