March 2022 Auction: Manager’s Drams 1988-2013

Categories: Auction, Auction Highlights

We are absolutely delighted to announce that we have a full run of United Distillers/Diageo Manager’s Drams in this month’s auction! The vendor was a long-term UD/Diageo employee and the set runs from 1988-2013, with all the familiar classic bottlings in place.

When the Manager’s Dram series began in the late 1980s, the concept was very simple, as all the best ideas are: each of United Distillers’ distillery managers would select their favourite cask from their distillery and all the managers would taste them together and decide which was the winner. The winning cask was then bottled, but was made available only to United Distillers staff, who were not allowed to sell them until they left the company.

The first winning dram was a 15-year-old Glen Elgin sherry cask bottled at its hefty natural strength of 60.2% in January 1988. The idea was so successful that another whisky was released later the same year – an even more potent 12-year-old Benrinnes bottled at 63% – and bottlings continued twice a year until 1991, after which the schedule was changed to one annual release. Perhaps the tasting sessions took too long to recover from…?

In the early years of the series, one thing is very clear: the managers definitely liked their whiskies strong. It wasn’t until 1995 that the first Manager’s Dram under 60% arrived, and that was a 19-year-old Oban at 59.8%. The other immediately noticeable characteristic of the early Manager’s Dram bottlings was the number of sherry casks selected, and with good reason – many of these sherried drams are bona fide classics, not just within the Manager’s Dram series, but in their distillery’s history as a whole. 

As an example, the 15-year-old Caol Ila bottled at 63% in 1990 is widely regarded as the greatest sherried Caol Ila ever released, and it’s a strong contender for the best ever official bottling from the distillery. Other famous sherry casks in the series came from distilleries including Glendullan, Aberfeldy, Blair Athol, Clynelish, Cragganmore and the legendary Oban sherry cask bottled in 1994 for the distillery’s Bicentenary. All of those whiskies were distilled in the 1970s when top class sherry casks were easier to come by, and it shows.

There’s more to the Manager’s Dram series than just the sherry casks, of course. Some superb ex-bourbon and refill casks made the cut as well, with early standouts including 1989’s Cardhu 15-year-old and the Glen Ord 16-year-old bottled in 1991 at a colossal 66.2%, which remains the strongest Manager’s Dram cask ever bottled.

Leaving distilleries and cask types aside, though, the overarching theme of the Manager’s Dram series has always been the outstanding quality of the whiskies, which is perhaps unsurprising given the legendary noses involved in the selection and the resources at their disposal. The most recent bottlings in this month’s auction include 2011’s Talisker and 2013’s Lagavulin which are both superb whiskies, but one of the greatest joys of the Manager’s Dram series is the discovery of top class whiskies from unsung distilleries like Glen Spey, Glenlossie or Inchgower – all selected ahead of their more prestigious rivals by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable distillers in the world.

 

 

All 30 bottles from this Manager’s Dram collection will be available to bid on from March 16th at 8pm GMT. If you are not already a registered member of our auction, please set up an account to bid.


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