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Drams Under the Hammer - October 2021

What to watch in the auction world this month
By Beatrix Swanson
The cask which held the world's oldest single malt Scotch whisky for 80 years. Photo credit: Sotheby's.
The cask which held the world's oldest single malt Scotch whisky for 80 years. Photo credit: Sotheby's.

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Isabel Graham-Yooll, auction director at Whisky.Auction, selects three drams to look out for from the current auction, which is live until 12 October.


1. Ardbeg 30 Years Old, bottled in the 1990s

“A beautiful Ardbeg 30 Years Old, bottled in the early 1990s and therefore distilled in the early 1960s, not long after the Distillers Company and Hiram Walker gained minority shares in the distillery.

“This is one of those old style whiskies where the whole process would have been carried out on site. Ardbeg malted and kilned its own barley until the mid-1970s, when the supply came from Port Ellen to keep up with the increased demand for peated whisky, heralding the end of an era of self-sufficiency for the distillery.

“A very highly regarded malt, this expression scored 91 points on Whiskyfun and 90+ average from the Whiskybase community.”

2. Macallan 1951

“Released in 2001 as a precursor to the Fine & Rare series, this 1951 vintage was distilled at the dawn of a period of expansion for the distillery, when additional stills were introduced in the 1950s and a whole new still house built in the mid-1960s. The whisky was matured for around 50 years and bottled from just two sherry butts (at natural cask strength) as the distillery geared up for an even greater expansion project.

“This one is a particularly rare example as it has a creamy yellow label rather than the creamy white paper which was on the bottles that were available on general release.
Our research has shown that a handful of bottles of the 1951 with the creamy yellow label were made as gifts to VIPs.

“This bottle was originally given by The Macallan to a prominent family in Scotland, who later gave it as a retirement present to the seller's father.”

3. Vat 69, bottled in the 1970s

“Blended whiskies can represent great value for money and not least when they are old blends found on the secondary market. Often, these bottles have been languishing at the back of shelves for decades before they arrive at auction.

“While there is a strong market for rare early 20th-century bottles, there are plenty of bottles from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s that are perfectly affordable and equally rewarding. If you’re not yet convinced by how wonderfully different an old blend can be, then compare and contrast with a current release for an unforgettable experience.”


Dates for the diary



Ultra-rare whisky lots announced for charity auction

Talisker distillery

Earlier this summer, The Distillers’ Charity and Sotheby’s announced a six-year partnership to host three biennial auctions of unique Scotch whiskies and experiences, donated by companies across the Scottish whisky industry, from Aberargie to Tomatin. The first ‘The Distillers One of Oneauction, the proceeds of which will support disadvantaged young people in Scotland, will take place near Edinburgh on 3 December this year.

Two days ago, the lots for the auction were announced, ranging in estimate from £1,500 to £500,0000 and all offered without reserve. The highest-valued lot of the auction, with an estimate of £350,000–£500,000, is a Talisker Cask of Distinction 1978. The first ever Cask of Distinction to be offered at auction, it is paired with a cask-end that has been turned into an original work of art by Turner Prize nominee Callum Innes.

The full list of lots is available from Sotheby's upon request.


What have you missed? In other whisky auction news…



1. Whisky Auctioneer's auction news


Joe Wilson from Whisky Auctioneer mused on history and highlighted an important charity auction in his September Auction News for Whisky Magazine — read more here.


2. Sotheby’s sold the world’s oldest whisky

Gordon & MacPhail Generations 80 Years Old from The Glenlivet Distillery in its display case

Sotheby’s set an auction record yesterday as the world’s oldest single malt Scotch whisky ever bottled, Generations 80-Years-Old from Glenlivet Distillery (originally laid down in 1940 by Gordon & MacPhail), came under the hammer in Hong Kong, housed in a specially commissioned decanter and oak case created by architect and designer, Sir David Adjaye OBE.

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s spirits specialist, said: “From the moment news broke of the existence of a whisky matured in oak for eighty years, it generated a huge buzz of excitement. For those lucky enough to taste it, myself included, this is an exceptional whisky that not only lingers on the palate but also long after in the mind.”

The winning bid of HKD 1,500,000 (approximately £141,600), however, falls far short of another Sotheby’s record — that for the world’s most expensive bottle of wine or spirit ever sold at auction (£1,452,000 for The Macallan Fine and Rare 60 Years Old from 1926 on 24 October, 2019).


3. Auction houses showed different focuses while still circling around a particular Speyside distillery


Whisky Auctioneer’s August auction ending 6 September, with over 7,181 lots, was predictably dominated by The Macallan and Japanese whiskies. Meanwhile, the 93 lots of the Bonham’s Edinburgh auction on 21 September focused on Scottish malts, from the inevitable Macallan to Bowmore, Springbank and Ardbeg. The highest winning bids were The Macallan offerings in both cases.


4. The Glent Grant launched 60-year-old special edition whisky with record-breaking auction

The Glen Grant auction

On 1 October at Shanghai’s St Regis Hotel, The Glen Grant celebrated the launch of The Dennis Malcolm 60th Anniversary Edition in honour of its master distiller and his six-decade career. Bottle No. 88, the number of which symbolises fortune and good luck in Chinese culture, was sold at the accompanying auction for RMB 380,000 (approximately € 50,000). The highest-selling vintage official bottling ever for the 181-year-old The Glent Grant brand, it is also the highest price ever paid in the region for a bottle in the Campari Group portfolio. The success of the auction attests the continued popularity of high-value vintage whisky in China.

Following the auction launch event, The Glen Grant Dennis Malcolm 60th Anniversary Edition will be available from November 2021 across select markets in Asia.


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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