Welcome to our October 2022 whisky auction highlights! There’s plenty to get through, with top class drams from Macallan, Port Ellen, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Springbank and Glenmorangie among many others, so we’d best crack on.

This Month’s Macallan

As ever, there’s some great Macallans from various eras up for grabs in this month’s whisky auction. Recent prestige and limited edition bottlings from the Speyside behemoth include Macallan Coronation 60th Anniversary, the marvellous Macallan 2005 Exceptional Cask 7802 bottled in 2017, the 2021 Macallan 30-year-old Double Cask and the Decade IV version of the recently-launched Macallan James Bond 60th Anniversary, a set of six commemorative Macallans each decorated with artwork from the films of different decades.

Classic era Macallans in this month’s sale include Macallan 1962 80-Proof bottled in the late 1970s, Macallan 1963 Special Selection, which appeared shortly afterwards and the classic Macallan 1958 25-year-old Anniversary Malt bottled in 1984. We’ve also got the superb Macallan 1989 Exceptional Cask 552 bottled in 2003, Macallan 1968 18-year-old and the last of the fabulous original run of Gran Reserva, Macallan Gran Reserva 1982 bottled in 2002.

Best of all for Macallan fans, though, is the return of the wonderful and unusually smoky Macallan 1946 52-year-old, distilled when post-war fuel shortages moved many Speyside distilleries to go back to drying their barley with peat. This is one of the distillery’s all-time greats and a strong candidate for the best 40% whisky ever bottled.

As ever, this is just a taster – there’s nearly 90 Macallans in this month’s sale (including some excellent miniatures) – you can see all this month’s Macallans here

Islay Magic

Some real treasures from the magic isle this month, with official and indie bottles galore. Legendary official bottlings include the likes of the Port Ellen 21-year-old Maltings Anniversary – long known as not just one of the best official bottlings, but one of the greatest Port Ellens ever released. This bottle was released for staff and VIPS only in 1998 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the maltings plant at Port Ellen, which opened in 1973 – perhaps there’ll be another Port Ellen Maltings bottling next year for the 50th Anniversary…?

Other Port Ellens in this month’s sale include the excellent Port Ellen 1978 25-year-old 4th Release and the fabulous Port Ellen 1978 22-year-old, which was the second and final Rare Malts bottling of Port Ellen – these would make an incredible head-to-head tasting – plus a rare sherried Port Ellen 1982 29-year-old bottled for Douglas Laing’s Old & Rare Platinum series in 2012.

All the Islay distilleries are very well represented this month, with classic official bottlings from the top half of the island including Bunnahabhain 1968 34-year-old and Bunnahabhain 1963 40-year-old, Rare Malts Caol Ila 1975 21-year-old, the superb Bowmore 1971 34-year-old, and a pair of historic bottlings: Kilchoman Inaugural Release from 2009 and Bruichladdich’s paradigm-shifting Bruichladdich Octomore 1.1 First Edition which really moved the phenolic goalposts back in 2008.

Fans of the Kildalton distilleries have got plenty of choice as well – let’s start with Ardbeg, whose highlights include the rare and very tasty Ardbeg Oogling Committee Release from 2006 alongside the rather more serious Ardbeg 1972-2003 and Ardbeg 1974-2005, both single bourbon casks that were bottled for the Italian and UK markets respectively. 

Whisky fans of a Lagavulin persuasion, meanwhile, will be chasing the Lagavulin 1993-2007 Cask 4893, a distillery-only single cask chosen by legendary warehouseman Iain ‘Pinkie’ McArthur and the fantastic sherried Lagavulin 1995 Islay Jazz 2013, a small batch of sherry butts bottled for the Islay Jazz Festival at 51.9%.

Finally, for Laphroaig fans we’ve got 2008’s Laphroaig 25-year-old, the splendid Laphroaig 1989 17-year-old bottled for the Islay Festival (Feis Ile) in 2007, and the small matter of another 1940s Laphroaig! 

You might remember that earlier this year we discovered a phenomenal stash of Laphroaig from the 1940s and 1950s in a private cellar – well, the previous owner of those bottles went digging around in a long-disused drinks cabinet recently and found two more bottles! One was open and couldn’t be sold, but the other one is here now and it’s a beauty, bottled at 80-proof (45.7%). This Laphroaig Old Liqueur Scotch Whisky’s label has D Johnston & Co rather than D Johnston & Co Ltd, so it must have been bottled before December 1950.

Sherried Treasure

There’s some superb old official United Distillers / Diageo bottlings in this month’s sale, as already evidenced by the Port Ellen Maltings bottle mentioned earlier, and many of them are well-known sherry cask bottlings. 

Legends like Talisker 1981 20-year-old and the Blair Athol 18-year-old Bicentenary edition are joined by less well-known minor classics such as the deep chestnut-coloured Aultmore 1981 16-year-old Anniversary – bottled at a mighty 63% in 1997, the year before the distillery was sold to Bacardi – and the more recent Benrinnes 1985 23-year-old, one of the stars of the 2009 Special Releases.

Other great sherried distillery bottlings in this month’s whisky auction include Tullibardine 1966 40-year-old aka the World Cup Vintage bottling, Glendronach 24-year-old Grandeur Batch 5, the small batch Hazelburn 2006 15-year-old bottled in 2022 from fresh Oloroso sherry casks, and the very rare Glenfarclas 1980 21-year-old – a single dark Oloroso sherry cask bottled in 2002 at its cask strength of 53%. 

One of our favourite of this month’s sherried bottlings, meanwhile, is this magnificent Glenfarclas-Glenlivet 15-year-old bottled by the distillers in the early 1970s for J & A Ferguson Ltd, a famous Glasgow wine merchant and delicatessen on Union Street near Central Station once known as the Fortnum & Mason’s of Scotland. 

Top class indie sherried whiskies this month include a 1980s Gordon & MacPhail licensed bottling of Glenlivet 15-year-old, Duncan Taylor’s Rare Auld Glen Grant 1970 35-year-old, Berry Brothers’ Glen Grant 1972 32-year-old, Cooper’s Choice Strathisla 1969 36-year-old and a pair of fantastic 1973 vintage casks bottled by First Cask in the mid-1990s: Longmorn 1973 21-year-old and the treacle-coloured Glendronach 1973 21-year-old. These casks were sourced from Signatory Vintage and bottled at 46%, if any further incentive was required.

Diageo Archive

We’ll start off with a bang, with the famous Rare Malts Clynelish 1972 22-year-old, bottled for the US market in 1995 at the remarkably precise cask strength of 58.64%. This is one of the best of the sensational 1972 vintage Clynelish bottlings released in the Rare Malts series in the mid-1990s, and as it was bottled for the USA it’s rarer to find on this side of the pond. All of these incredible 1972 Clynelish Rare Malts are among the best Clynelish ever bottled and are absolutely essential for lovers of the old school waxy Highland style, here augmented by fabulous sweet fruit, spices and minerally notes. 

There’s several superb ‘Maltings’ anniversary bottlings in this month’s auction. As we mentioned above, these special editions were originally released for staff of Diageo forerunner United Distillers or its Scottish Malt Distillers subsidiary, and were never for sale to the general public.  This made them much harder for normal whisky fans to acquire, and their scarcity and quality have made them irresistible for collectors.

This month’s auction includes several of these hard-to-find treasures, including the super-rare Glen Ord 1969 Maltings Anniversary and Glenesk 1969 Maltings Anniversary released within a few weeks of each other in 1993. Both these malts were bottled at a remarkable 60% cask strength for the 25th anniversary of the Glen Ord and Glenesk maltings, which had both opened in 1968, the year before these whiskies were distilled. Glenesk distillery, you’ll remember, was also known as Hillside and had been closed for a decade before this bottling appeared. 

The Royal Lochnagar 25-year-old Maltings Anniversary, meanwhile, was distilled from the first batch of barley produced at Roseisle maltings when it opened in 1981, and was bottled (again at 60%) in January 2008 as a somewhat belated 25th Anniversary edition. This bottle seems to be exceptionally rare – this is only the third time it’s appeared in our auction since 2015.

Other old Diageo/United Distillers official bottlings of note this month include Rare Malts Hillside 1970 25-year-old and various old Special Releases favourites like 2003’s Dalwhinnie 1973 29-year-old, 2005’s Glen Ord 30-year-old bottled at a heroic 58.7%, and the 2012 Brora 35-year-old which was the oldest ever official Brora at the time of release.

Special mention, however, must go to the outrageously good 2007 edition of Talisker 25-year-old in the fancy Sea Chest presentation, which was introduced in 2008 to pep up the slow sales of this magnificent whisky – it’s truly remarkable to think that £115 was considered by many fans to be too expensive for 25-year-old cask strength Talisker as recently as 15 years ago.

Favourites and Curios

Some absolute stunners this month. We’ll start with the legendary ‘Green’ Springbank 1973 18-year-old bottled by Cadenhead’s in 1991 after full term maturation in a rum butt. This remarkable green-tinted mahogany dram was one of a pair of sister casks from Cadenhead’s – this is the darker version at 57.9% and is a symphony of exotic fruit layered on top of Springbank’s rich, citrussy, minerally complexity. Anyone who’s had the privilege of tasting this remarkable Springbank knows why it’s a cult favourite to this day.

Check out all this month’s Springbank here, with other significant bottlings including the SMWS’s Springbank 1966-1995 SMWS 27.33 and the splendid official Springbank 12-year-old 175th Anniversary from 2003, plus some choice Longrow, Hazelburn and Kilkerran up for grabs as well.

There’s some fantastic indie bottlings in this month’s auction, with brief highlights including Gordon & MacPhail’s young Talisker 1969 bottled at 80 proof in the late 1970s, plus an early black label Connoisseurs Choice Cragganmore 1968 11-year-old (lovely colour on that one), Cadenhead’s wonderful dumpy Bowmore 1979 11-year-old, Murray McDavid’s Glen Grant 1969 33-year-old for the Mission series and Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask Banff 1966 31-year-old

Miniatures seem to be slipping out of favour these days but there’s some fantastic ones in this month’s sale, including gems such as Signatory’s Ben Wyvis 1968 31-year-old, Macallan 1951, Sherriff’s Bowmore and the fantastic Bowmore 1965 22-year-old for Prestonfield House.

There’s some interesting stuff for blended whisky fans this auction, with White Horse Bottled 1958, a lovely bottle of 1950s Black & White, 1940s Johnnie Walker Red Label and a very cool White Horse Extra Fine 12-year-old bottled in the 1980s for the Japanese market.

That leads us nicely into our non-Scotch round-up, and there’s some amazing bottles of Japanese whisky in this month’s sale, including Nikka 17-year-old Pure Malt, Hibiki 30-year-old and some fantastic Yamazakis including Yamazaki 18-year-old, Yamazaki 25-year-old and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s famous Yamazaki 1979 24-year-old SMWS 119.2 also known as ‘A night at the opera’.

Elsewhere in the sale, Irish fans will be chasing the Midleton Very Rare 1987, Midleton Very Rare 2001 and this rare cask strength Midleton 1995 Cask 1047 bottled around 2019 (we think) from a single bourbon barrel for travel retail store The Loop, while rum fans will be chasing the special edition Appleton 35-year-old bottled for Master Blender Joy Spence’s Ruby Anniversary.

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

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