Old & Rare Whisky Show 2019 Report
From Black Bowmore to Macallan via Port Ellen and Clynelish… Whisky-Online Auctions had a great time at The Whisky Show: Old & Rare in Glasgow Central Hotel a couple of weekends ago. The show was the third of its kind, and Whisky-Online has been at all of them – but this year we had a bigger stand, so we brought more incredible old whiskies than ever before!
The stand was headed up by Whisky-Online’s Harrison, ably assisted by the two Tims: our own Tim Roberts and freelance whisky writer Tim Forbes. The show was busy, particularly on the Saturday, and the visitors were blown away by the amazing range of fantastic old drams on offer at the WOL stand.
As predicted, as soon as the doors opened on Saturday afternoon there was a trail of thirsty whisky connoisseurs beating a path to our stand. Looking at the dram list, it’s not hard to see why – a cornucopia of fabulous old single malts and blends (and even a wonderfully aromatic old rum!) to get any in-the-know whisky fan’s tastebuds trembling.
The star of the show was the Black Bowmore 1964 First Edition – the last bottle we had from the original Black Bowmore Trilogy went for £17,600 last year. In the circumstances, £200 for a 1cl pour seemed very fair, and the punters certainly thought so, with around half the bottle sold on the first day.
The Black Bowmore was the headline-grabber, but the team could tell the true connoisseurs who visited our stand – they were the ones getting excited by the Port Ellen 12yo James MacArthur bottling. This unassuming bottle has a simple label, perhaps unknown or unremarkable to most whisky drinkers… but behind the label is one of the most astonishing Port Ellens ever bottled! This monster weighs in at a whopping 62.7% but it’s very drinkable even at that enormous strength – if you can handle the power. This was one of our favourite drams of the show.
Another highlight on the stand was the Glenlivet 1949. This whisky was bottled for Middlesbrough wine merchants Winterschladen (probably late 1950s or early 1960s) and was a dram many modern Glenlivet drinkers wouldn’t recognise, being noticeably smoky. The other major difference with this whisky was the strength: 9 o.p. (overproof) equates to about 62% when this whisky was bottled, and we don’t think it had lost too much of that in the intervening decades. We sold one of these in December 2017 for £1450.
This was a real once-in-a-lifetime whisky, but with these sorts of old bottles we’re never sure if people will notice them on the stand as they’re so unfamiliar. However, the word soon spread about this whisky’s quality and everyone who tried it absolutely loved it.
More predictable was the success of our superb selection of Macallans – these were flying out as soon as the doors opened. The team had put together a sensational lineup, with every vintage from 1962 to 1983 represented – mostly 17 and 18 year-olds – plus a handful of favourites like the 1980s 10-year-old 100-proof and the crown jewel of this range, the Macallan 1950 Handwritten label, bottled in the 1980s. Lots of punters on the day queued up to get a dram from their birth vintages, and this was probably the most-photographed section of the stand as people posed with their birth year bottles.
For the discerning cognoscenti we also had a few fantastic cult drams from blue-chip distilleries: Sherriff’s Bowmore, a stunning cask strength sherried Clynelish 1972 from Cadenhead’s, a beautiful old 1960s bottle of Talisker and a brilliant Signatory bottling of Lochside 1966 40yo; meanwhile, Diageo fans were well catered for with a dozen or so of The Managers’ Drams series, including the famous Oban Bicentenary 16yo.
But the show, and particularly our stand, wasn’t just about famous, expensive drams – one of the most rewarding aspects of the Old & Rare show, and our monthly auctions, is giving real whisky fans access to the less celebrated but still very special old bottlings of yesteryear. You don’t have to have bottomless pockets to enjoy great whisky and the WOL stand was proof of this – we had dozens of whiskies priced at just £2 or £3 including old editions of Highland Park, Balvenie, Glen Grant, Bladnoch, Bruichladdich, a Caol Ila 1984 – even a deliciously gentle, grassy 10yo from the lost distillery Lochside was only £3.
Going up to £5 and there were two of our most popular pours: one of the earliest Ardbeg 17-year-olds (bottled 1998) and a 1980s Caol Ila 12yo OB – this latter was a revelation, bottled at 40% but packing a superb flavour punch.
It was impossible to pick a favourite out of this incredible array of fabulous drams, but Tim F had a special place in his heart for our bottle of Mackie’s Ancient Brand. Bottled in the 1950s by White Horse Distillers, this famously rare blend is believed to contain a high proportion of single malt from the legendary lost distillery Malt Mill – or at the very least, 1950s Lagavulin – and it doesn’t disappoint, with a massive reek of sooty phenols and wet peat.
Our heartfelt thanks go to the Old and Rare team for putting on another excellent Show. The show was a great experience and we’re sure that all the hard work that went into it was much appreciated by the lucky visitors.