Welcome to our August Auction Highlights! As ever, we’ve got some amazing whisky in our online auction this month, with treats from Johnnie Walker, Macallan, Port Ellen, Brora and many more. Whether you’re a whisky drinker, a collector, a bargain hunter or all of the above, there’s something for everyone in this month’s sale.
It’s traditional to start with Macallan, so let’s do that. Recent Macallans in this month’s whisky auction include the snappily-titled Macallan Rare Cask Black Masters of Photography Steven Klein and Macallan X Sir Peter Blake – An Estate, A Community, A Distillery alongside Macallan Easter Elchies Black and the Macallan 25-year-Old 2018 Release.
For fans of old-school Macallan as ever we’ve got plenty of classic Macallans from the golden age too, with highlights including a litre of the sumptuous 1980s Macallan 12-Year-Old, Macallan 1965-1983 17-Year-Old, Macallan 1965-1984 17-Year-Old, Macallan 1972 25-Year-Old Anniversary Malt and best of all the magnificent Macallan 1946 52-Year-Old, perhaps the most perfect of the rare official smoky Macallans and a dram so legendary that it brings a tear to the eye to think that one day it won’t even be available at auction anymore.
Staying with bottles of classic old school Speyside, we’ve got this very rare Glenlivet 1961, bottled in the 1980s – presumably to demonstrate both that Macallan wasn’t the only luxury player in town, and that the milder, gentler side of Speyside could produce single malt whisky of outstanding quality and complexity as well.
This Specially Selected Glenlivet 1961 is a true limited edition, from back in the days when ‘Only a few bottles were produced’ really meant something, and looking back in our archives we find that this is the first of these Glenlivet 1961s that we’ve ever had. A very special bottle indeed.
For fans of long-aged Speysides, we’ve also got the majestic Glen Grant 50-Year-Old from Gordon & MacPhail – bottled around 2013, so presumably a multi-vintage small batch of casks from the early 1960s. These Glen Grants were filled by the distillery as new make spirit into Gordon & MacPhail’s rich sherry casks and returned to the company’s Elgin warehouses to slumber, and they can hold their own alongside the legendary Macallans from that era – at a fraction of the price.
Modern classic Speysides this month include the Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 8, one of the greatest of Balvenie’s Master Distiller Emeritus David Stewart’s wonderful original ‘Tun’ series that appeared in a blizzard of nine releases between 2011-2013.
Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 8 was the penultimate of the Tun 1401 series, released in 2013. This batch was one of the most heavily-sherried of the Tun 1401 releases, with 2700 bottles yielded from a vatting of 12 casks including three sherry butts and nine American oak casks.
The majority of the casks for Tun 1401 Batch 8 were from the 1970s, plus one each from 1981, 1982 and 1991, and on the palate the sherry is superbly old-school in style but surrounded by pitch-perfect bourbon notes of honey, vanilla and cinnamon. One of the darkest and densest of the Tun 1401 releases and a testament to David Stewart’s extraordinary skill at melding contrasting casks to create the perfect balance.
Diageo Archive Treasures
There’s a wealth of terrific old UDV/Diageo bottlings from yesteryear in this month’s whisky auction. Interesting collectables this month include some very rare early Flora & Fauna bottlings from distilleries no longer owned by the company such as Aberfeldy 15-Year-Old and Craigellachie 14-Year-Old – both these distilleries were sold to Bacardi after the 1998 deal that created Diageo.
From around the same time period, there’s also some great examples of the less well known stars of UDV’s Rare Malt series, including Auchroisk 1974 28-Year-Old, Benrinnes 1974 21-Year-Old and – spotting a theme here – Royal Lochnagar 1974 30-Year-Old, alongside two genuine blue chip classic Rare Malts, Rosebank 1979 20-Year-Old and Glenury Royal 1970 29-Year-Old.
This month’s whisky auction Special Release highlights are plentiful too, with 2002’s wonderful Oban 1969 32-Year-Old, Port Ellen 1978 24-Year-Old Second Release and Brora 30-Year-Old First Release, and 2003’s Glen Ord 28-Year-Old, Port Ellen 1979 24-Year-Old Third Release and another bottle of the all-time classic Talisker 1982 20-Year-Old that I mentioned last month.
My favourite Diageo Special Release bottling in our August whisky auction, though, has to be the Brora 30-Year-Old Third Release bottled in 2004. This bottling is justly famous and we can say without hyperbole that it’s one of the greatest Broras ever released – a truly stunning mix of leathery, waxy, oily, fruity, creamy flavours wrapped in astoundingly powerful sooty, ashy phenols with an everlasting finish of seemingly bottomless depth.
The early Special Release Brora bottlings were all fabulous, but for many connoisseurs the Third Release is first among equals in terms of quality and stands alongside the famous 1972 Rare Malts in terms of mind-boggling depth and complexity.
Blue Chip Blends
Time for a change of pace, and we’ve got some tremendous old blends in this month’s whisky auction. The earliest incarnation of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Johnnie Walker Oldest Aged 15-60 Years is an obvious highlight, dating from between 1987 and 1992 when it became Johnnie Walker Blue Label. The 15-60 years age statement was dropped for later batches of Johnnie Walker Oldest, so this is one of the earliest bottlings.
From the same stable we also have the famous Johnnie Walker Excelsior, a very limited edition released in Asian Duty Free in 1997 using whiskies from the 1947 vintage, making it one of the oldest and rarest limited edition Johnnie Walkers around. Johnnie Walker Excelsior was also one of JW’s earliest finished whiskies, with the blend being re-racked into port casks for a second maturation before bottling.
Going back further we have a wonderful old bottle of 1970s Islay Mist 8-Year-Old, with a very high proportion of golden age Laphroaig in the mix, a beautiful 1961 bottling of White Horse, and perhaps most interestingly for the adventurous blend fans, this 1970s Sandy MacNab’s Old Blended Scotch Whisky, with a recipe based around malt whisky from the cult Lochside distillery.
Bargains, Favourites and Curios
As ever, there’s some superb old bottlings lurking in the depths of our whisky auction. Returning favourites include the early 1990s pre-warrant Laphroaig 10-Year-Old, the first release Octomore 10-Year-Old and the stupendous Signatory Port Ellen 1978 23-Year-Old, while other indie picks to look out for include SMWS gems like the Clynelish 1972 31-Year-Old and the first fill sherry butt Macallan 1990 18-Year-Old.
There’s some fascinating cult and curio bottlings this month too, with Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice bottling of the unicorn Kinclaith 1967-1991, a very rare Millburn 1976 25-Year-Old bottled by Douglas Laing for The Whisky Shop and a pair of great early 1990s bottlings of Ledaig: Douglas Murdoch Ledaig 20-Year-Old and the very rare MacNab 15-Year-Old – a private bottling of Ledaig 1972 released in 1988.
Perhaps the rarest bottle in the whole auction this month, though, is this Holy Grail Jack Daniel’s: the almost impossible-to-find UDV-UK Jack Daniel’s Scenes of Lynchburg 2 Special Edition. This special bottling was done only for UK management of United Distillers and Vintners in 1999 when Jack Daniel’s hit the 400,000 case sales mark and features a special back label congratulating staff on their achievement.
That’s it for this month – Good Luck and Happy Dramming!
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