Welcome to our February Auction Highlights! As ever there’s plenty to get through, with some lovely bottles from the likes of Glen Grant, Talisker, Strathisla and more, so let’s crack on.
First up, we’re delighted to have some more casks for sale in this auction, and these are very exciting: no fewer than TEN casks from Bonnington, the new Edinburgh distillery from Halewood, the people behind the revival of the Crabbie brand.
The Bonnington casks were filled with peated and unpeated new make spirit distilled in 2020 (we can’t call it whisky yet, of course). All of these casks are currently held in bond and the breakdown is as follows:
Bonnington Cask 0008 is an Oloroso sherry hogshead holding approximately 235 litres of unpeated single malt spirit filled on 24th March 2020. This cask and the following two are among the very first casks to be produced by the distillery, which began operations earlier the same month.
Bonnington Cask 0010 is an ex-bourbon barrel holding approximately 189 bulk litres of unpeated single malt spirit filled on 24th March 2020.
Bonnington Cask 0019 is an ex-bourbon barrel holding approximately 190 bulk litres of unpeated single malt spirit filled on 24th March 2020.
Bonnington Cask 0134 is an Oloroso sherry hogshead holding approximately 246 bulk litres of unpeated single malt spirit filled on 8th May 2020.
Bonnington Cask 0174 is a Muscat hogshead which is currently home to approximately 296 bulk litres of unpeated single malt spirit filled on 21st May 2020.
Bonnington Cask 0631 is a premium red wine hogshead holding approximately 220 bulk litres of peated single malt spirit this time, filled on 31st July 2020.
Bonnington Cask 0632 is also a premium red wine hogshead holding approximately 222 bulk litres of peated single malt spirit filled on 31st July 2020.
Bonnington Cask 0677 is a bourbon barrel holding approximately 194 bulk litres of peated single malt spirit filled on 7th August 2020.
Bonnington Cask 0824 is a bourbon barrel holding approximately 198 bulk litres of peated single malt spirit filled on 3rd September 2020.
Bonnington Cask 1527 is a Chateau Margaux hogshead holding approximately 219 bulk litres of unpeated single malt spirit filled on Christmas Eve 2020.
These casks represent real liquid history from the very beginnings of Edinburgh’s new Bonnington distillery and we’re very pleased to be able to help them find new homes. Good luck to all our bidders.
From new spirit to old whisky, let’s go to an all-time favourite: Bowmore Bicentenary. There’s not much that hasn’t been said about this bottle but for anyone who’s not sure why it’s so revered there’s only a few things you need to know.
Bowmore celebrated their Bicentenary in 1979 and released a handful of celebratory bottlings, the most common of which is this famous dumpy black decanter bottle based on an 18th century hand blown whisky bottle from the collection of the Morrison family, who owned Bowmore at the time.
There are several slightly varying versions of this Bowmore Bicentenary for different markets, some in black cardboard boxes and others, like this one, in a chunky wooden case, but for the majority the juice inside is the same – a vatting of (mostly sherry) casks of Bowmore from ten different vintages between 1950 and 1966. Both bottle and box are in good condition considering they’re now over 40 years old.
There were originally over 20,000 of these decanters, which is mind-blowing when you consider the quality of what’s inside: a quite extraordinary burst of concentrated overripe tropical fruit with a thread of fine peat that goes down outrageously easily. The nose of this whisky, in particular, is truly otherworldly and the palate isn’t far behind even at 43%. On which note, this particular bottle is labelled as 75 proof, from which we can assume it was originally sold in the UK market as pretty much all the other versions are labelled as 43%. If there’s ever been a more delicious easy-drinking whisky we haven’t found it.
You can check out all the Bowmores in this month’s auction here.
We’ll keep the phenolic focus with our next bottle: this outstanding Talisker 1964 80 proof by Gordon & MacPhail. There’s so much to love about this Talisker – the classic bottle shape, the no-nonsense functionality of the red cap, the great fill level, the gloriously old style black label with its chunky font and stylised eagle – and that’s just the bottle…
You only have to look at the colour of this whisky to know it’s going to be ridiculously good. There’s no bottling date on this Talisker and it’s so rare it doesn’t even have a Whiskybase entry, but it’s definitely from the 1970s – probably mid to late 1970s – so the whisky is an absolute maximum of 16 years old but most likely 12-15 or thereabouts.
Getting down to brass tacks, what all that means is that this is one of G&M’s magnificent sherried Taliskers – an orgy of sweet sherried dried fruit and dark chocolate married with brutalist Talisker pepper, hot chilli spice and dry, ashy phenols. At 80 proof (46%) this is going to be an all-time great Talisker for sure. The label’s seen a bit of wear and tear at the bottom edge but once the cap’s off you won’t be complaining. There’s more fab Talisker here.
Let’s stay with sherry but move over to Speyside for our next focus bottle: this splendid Strathisla 12 Year Old. This is a real rarity – an official Strathisla 12 year old bottled most likely in the mid to late 1980s by owners Chivas Brothers as a corporate edition for the NatWest Bank.
Why did this happen? Who knows, it was the 1980s and stuff just happened. If you wanted a special edition whisky you just went to a distillery and asked them and they’d bite your hand off, eyes brimming with grateful tears. Just speculating, NatWest Bank’s 20th anniversary would have been in 1988, perhaps it had something to do with that. The point is the rarity of this bottle, and the sumptuous sherry-esque rich chestnut brown colour of the whisky. These bottles are popular for a reason – who wouldn’t want some delicious 1970s-distilled sherried Strathisla in their glass right now? You can check out the rest of this month’s Strathisla here.
Let’s stay on Speyside for our next pick, the venerable Glen Grant 1951 from our friends at Gordon & MacPhail. It’s another sherried treasure, as you might expect. As there’s no neck label on the bottle we have to do a bit of detective work.
G&M did a few bottlings of this vintage, but as far as we know only the first two, bottled in 2001 and 2004, had a screwcap. However, the 2004 bottling had a neck label with the bottling date, so it seems likely that this is the 2001 edition which did not. That means that this Glen Grant 1951 was a marriage of three sherry butts bottled at 50 years old and released utterly without fanfare in 2001, no doubt at a price that would make your wallet weep for what might have been. We expect fierce bidding for this fabulous bottle, and you can see the rest of this month’s Glen Grant here.
Another Speyside highlight is the early 1970s Cardhu 12-Year-Old, a rare bottling that’s very hard to find now. There were several batches of these old cream label bottlings and all of them are highly revered nowadays – they’re generally quite ‘old Highland’ style: oily, with lots of waxy, grassy flavours and a phenolic edge, but this one looks like it’s seen a fair bit of sherry which makes things even more interesting.
Let’s go back to Islay and check out this bottle of the magnificent Laphroaig 1976. Details are a bit hazy on this bottling, with some sources claiming it was bottled for travel retail in 1996 – hence the 75cl bottle and the 43% strength – but we do know that 5400 bottles were originally produced, supposedly from casks that had been bought back by the distillery from private ownership. What’s not in doubt is the quality – even at 43% this is a dram of great power, bursting with tropical fruit as the phenols take a back seat. there’s plenty of exceptional Laphroaig this month, check them here.
We’ll finish in style with this fabulous 1970s Clynelish 12-Year-Old. These white label & screwcap editions are stunning – hardly a surprise when it’s 1960s-distilled Old Clynelish aka Brora inside the bottle. This is in excellent condition for its age and the whisky, having seen a bit more sherry, is less austere than some of the other, paler, classic Clynelish bottlings with the same beautiful old school label, but retains plenty of punch even at 70 proof (40%). You can see all of this month’s Clynelish here.
That’s it for this month, as ever this is just a small selection of the great bottles available this month – check out the full auction here.
Good Luck and Happy Bidding!
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