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Irish Whisky Rising

Midleton on the march
Irish whiskey has yet to be represented in the WMI’s top 25 rankings, but older bottlings of Midleton are making inroads and it is slowly climbing up the chart. The Midleton Very Rare series are the most regular bottlings to appear, which run forward continuously from 1984 to the present day, signed by master distiller Barry Crockett until 2013 and Brian Nation thereafter. Midleton Very Rare 1987 made £1,100 at Whisky Online Auctions in March, topping their sale of £925 for a bottle of Midleton Very Rare 1986 in January. Just Whisky sold a bottle of Midleton Master Distiller’s Private Collection 30 Years Old 1973 for £2,100 in March.  Scotch Whisky Auction’s 71st auction presented Midleton 26 Years Old 175th Anniversary of the Old Midleton Distillery for £1,050 and a bottle of Midleton 25 Years Old distilled in 1973 at the old distillery fetched £960. Keep an eye out for bottlings of Midleton Master Distillers’ Selection The Housewarming bottled to mark the changeover from Crockett to Nation in 2013, containing whiskies from 1981 and 1984 and can sell for £300–400, a similar endeavour to the cask strength Midleton 30th Anniversary Pearl Edition that sells for upwards of £5,000.  As more people choose to drink Irish whiskey, more enthusiasts will want to go back and try glories from the past. 



Auction Watch



With prices for many top bottles of Karuizawa and The Macallan a little static, what distilleries are growing in value? Rosebank’s recent performance has been impressive, especially for official bottlings. Unboxed bottlings of Rosebank 12 Years Old Flora and Fauna trade for £200–£250 these days. Take the Rosebank Rare Malts Selection where a bottle of Rosebank 1981 20 Years Old 62.3% sold for £785 at Whisky Auctioneer, a price matched for a bottle of Rosebank 1979 20 Years Old 60.3%. The Rosebank 1981 25 Years Old 2007 release from the Diageo Special Releases took £860, and the later releases of Rosebank 1990 21 Years Old made £500 at Scotch Whisky Auctions. I would have expected better returns on the Rosebank 1981 Flora and Fauna Cask Strength 1997 bottling with prices running between £300 and £500 a piece. Whether you purchase an official release or choose from the independently bottled Rosebanks, this closed Lowland distillery continues to have a significant allure for collectors. 

Choice bottlings of old Clynelish have been appearing at auction, and auctioneers have been a little more confident in describing the contents as from the original 1819 distillery, that was renamed Brora. A Gordon & MacPhail two-tone maroon and yellow labelled bottle of Clynelish 12 Years Old 57% illustrated with the old distillery buildings and chimney sold for a reserve bid of £1,000 at Scotch Whisky Auctions in March. As there are a number of similar looking bottlings and the new distillery was opened in 1967, be certain to enquire with the auction house as to when these date from before you bid. Just Whisky had a white-labelled Clynelish 12 Years Old 70 proof Ainslie & Heilbron bottling in its original red and white carton and sold it for £1,260. An unboxed bottling with a chipped neck label and foxing on its main label turned up on Scotch Whisky Auctions and looked set to match or surpass the Just Whisky sale. These bottles are likely to contain whisky distilled at Brora in the 1960s, making them highly desirable to collectors.  

The final distillery selection to consider is Oban, where the Oban 1969 32 Years Old Special Releases bottling has been trading at £800–900 a bottle. With a year or two, this could be regularly breaking the £1,000 mark so this might be an opportunity to acquire one for less while you can. While 6,000 bottles of Oban 1969 were produced, only 1,260 bottles were made of Oban 1984 20 Years Old release from 2004, and it is vanishingly scarce at auction. The hunt could be hard, but worth it in the end. 



Did You Know?



Berry Bros & Rudd began to release The Glenrothes Extraordinary Single Cask bottlings from 2012 onwards. They were packaged in handsome carry cases, and the liquid contained in newly designed, multi-faceted Glenrothes bottles. This year a couple of bottles have appeared at auction including The Glenrothes 1970 Cask #10573 at Bonhams, Edinburgh, with a bid of £2,500, and a bottle of Glenrothes 1968 Cask #13495 sold at McTear’s, Glasgow for £2,800. As the original retail price of these collectibles were all £3,000 and upwards, this suggests that bidders were not willing to spend much more than the asking price. However, with new editions, single casks and older vintages growing in value, the outlook is bright for collectors if you can pick the right bottles.

Forthcoming auctions