Welcome to our May 2021 Online Whisky Auction! Wayne & Harrison have been scouring the country once again to collect some absolutely tremendous bottles of classic and rare whisky for this auction. We’ve got some fabulous drams from Glen Grant, Macallan, Ben Nevis and Glendronach (to name just a few), so let’s crack on without further ado.

There’s quite a few rare Macallans in this auction, including some bottles we’ve not seen for a while.  Macallan 1980-2001 Exceptional Cask 4063 is a 21-year-old Oloroso sherry butt selected by the legendary Macallan Whisky Maker Bob Dalgarno for bottling in 2001. Cask 4063 came out at 59.2%, an unfiltered cask strength dram promising to be Smoother & Stronger than the standard aged Macallan. 

This bottling was the second in a series of just six Macallan Exceptional Casks that were bottled between 1999-2004, and whose reputation and prices have continued to grow at quite amazing rates ever since.

The fifth release in this original ESC series was this Macallan 1989-2003 Exceptional Cask 552, and was another Oloroso sherry butt, a younger cask but without any compromise in quality over previous older releases.  Remarkably, this bottle could be had at auction for as little as £260 back in 2014 – you might need to add a zero to that to win it nowadays.

There’s plenty of other great Macallan in this month’s auction, of course. For those who prefer the classics from the distillery’s golden era, we’ve got several stunning 1970s and 1980s bottlings including this marvellous Macallan 1962 80 Proof – looking at the label it’s clear this was bottled in the late 1970s (though no later than 1979), so this is likely 15 or 16-year-old Macallan bottled at 46%. 

Macallan fans who like their age statements to be concrete rather than speculative, meanwhile, will gravitate towards this rare 1970s Hall & Bramley bottling of Macallan 10-year-old, the very special Macallan 1966 18-year-old bottled in 1985 – remarkably, we’ve got two bottles of this – or the stunning Macallan Gran Reserva 1979 18-year-old and Macallan 1948 51-year-old Select Reserve.

Let’s go back to the 1970s and 1980s, as there are several outstanding Gordon & MacPhail bottles in this month’s auction from those halcyon days. We’ve got a quartet of magnificent young and youngish whiskies that would have sold for buttons back then, but which hit the highs at auction now that their true value is appreciated by our worldwide following of single malt connoisseurs.

First up is this mouth-watering Smith’s Glenlivet 15-year-old 100-proof, a rich deep chestnut colour that suggests sherry maturation, and again from the label it seems very likely that this was bottled towards the end of the decade, meaning that the whisky inside was almost certainly distilled in the early to mid 1960s. At a hefty 57.1% this will be a monumental dram.

Next we have the G&M Talisker 1969 80-Proof  – there’s no age statement on this one but we’d guess late 1970s again, so this is probably around 8-10 years old and will be a powerful blast of young old-school Tally, the likes of which perfectly encapsulate the beautiful lost Highland style that it seems sadly is now impossible to replicate. Another G&M Tally with the same gorgeous mid-gold colour is this Talisker 100-Proof that has neither age statement nor vintage label – the latter has either fallen off or never existed, but we know it’s high strength G&M Talisker bottled in the 1970s so there’s no doubt about the quality, only the details.

Finally among these youngish G&M treasures, there’s this slightly later Glen Grant 15-year-old, bottled at 40% probably in the early to mid 1980s – a gentler dram, no doubt, than the preceding examples, but this will be stunning nonetheless, with Glen Grant’s famously clean spirit and G&M’s sumptuous sherry casks making this the perfect elegant after-dinner dram.

Staying with G&M, there’s some amazing older drams from slightly later eras, like 2003’s enticing Longmorn 1963 or, for the sherryheads, the deep chestnut-coloured Macallan Speymalt 1973 from 2006 or, best of all, the near-perfect Cask series Talisker 1955, an incredible small batch sherried Tally bottled in 1993 (and one of Harrison’s all-time favourite whiskies). 

Continuing the sherried theme, we can’t overlook the extraordinary Balblair 1966 38-year-old.  Balblair 1966 38-year-old was vatted from a handful of second fill Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at its natural strength of 44%, with 2400 bottles yielded from the batch.

This absolutely magnificent whisky appeared pretty much out of the blue in 2004, not long before the whole range was revamped, and remains one of the oldest official Balblairs ever bottled. This still ranks as one of the greatest ever official bottlings from this storied Highland distillery, with the refill casks contributing plenty of classic dried fruit sherry flavours without overpowering the spirit.

While we’re on the subject of fantastic sherried drams, there’s some wonderful Glendronach in this month’s sale, including the old favourite Glendronach 33-year-old bottled from first fill Oloroso sherry casks in 2004, but also some much rarer, older Glendronachs including the excellent Glendronach 1975 18-year-old bottled in 1993 – we haven’t had this whisky in our sale since 2016 (!) – and the little-seen independent Glendronach 1970 20-year-old by Dun Eideann. 

Dun Eideann is the Gaelic name for Edinburgh, and this range was one of the earliest bottled by Signatory Vintage – this superb Glendronach 1970 was bottled from a small batch of casks at 43% in July 1990. It’s a rare bottling, and looking in our archive we found that we’ve only ever had two bottles of this Glendronach before, with the last occasion being 2017. There are actually two different versions of this whisky, as the batch was split with 1800 bottles at 43% and the same number bottled at 56%.  We’ve yet to find one of the 56% versions, but don’t worry, we’ll keep looking… 

Finally in this burgeoning selection of sherried treasures, let’s look at an amazing Glen Grant from Ian Macleod. Glen Grant 1949-1999 was bottled at the turn of the millennium on 15th December 1999, just five days after its 50th birthday. A mere 80 bottles were yielded from a single Oloroso sherry cask at 46%, and that extra strength gives it the edge in quality over the also-excellent G&M bottlings from the same vintage, with a tastebud-boggling intensity of classic sherried Speyside flavours.

Let’s move on to a clutch of classic ‘ordinary’ official bottlings from top class distilleries. These are entry-level bottlings from yesteryear that have now shot up in value due to the amazing liquid inside, putting their contemporary equivalents well in the shade. 

The all-time greats in this class include the likes of the 1980s Lagavulin 12-year-old White Horse, Clynelish 12-year-old and the ‘Unblended’ Laphroaig 10-year-old, but there’s plenty of other bottlings that are available for much more affordable prices. The best examples of these bargains include gems such as the 1970s Cardhu 12-year-old, 1980s Highland Park 12-year-old, Rosebank 8-year-old and Talisker 8-year-old, with the Highland Park in particular showing a fascinating depth and complexity, and the Talisker displaying amazing elegance alongside its power – sad to say that these qualities of complexity and subtle elegance are rather lacking in today’s equivalent bottlings.

Let’s stay with official bottlings for a bit, as there’s a trio of superb Broras from Diageo’s Special Releases series in this month’s sale.  These include 2010’s Brora 30-year-old, which was the last – and one of the best – of the official 30-year-old releases, plus the longer-aged Brora 32-year-old from 2011 and the following year’s Brora 35-year-old

My favourite of this month’s Diageo Special Releases, though, is 2009’s Talisker 30-year-old. This bottling was an absolute masterpiece, and the 53.1% strength makes a massive difference, with this Talisker miles ahead of all the Talisker 30-year-olds from 2011 onwards that were sadly reduced down to 45.8%.

We’ll finish with another pair of very rare distillery bottlings, this time from Ben Nevis. Released shortly after the distillery was taken over by Nikka – as evidenced by the very familiar Yoichi-esque bottles – these single vintage bottlings of Ben Nevis 1966 and Ben Nevis 1972 appeared in 1991, both of them cask strength sherried drams of the very highest quality. Ben Nevis has quietly become very hot property in the last few years and we expect fierce bidding for both of these bottles, which represent some of the earliest examples of the very best that this magnificent distillery has to offer.

That’s it for this month – Good Luck and Happy Bidding!

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