December Auction Highlights 2019
Welcome to our Christmas Auction Highlights blog! This month we’ve got some great drams from the two most revered lost distilleries Port Ellen and Brora and plenty more besides – including the greatest haul of ancient Irish moonshine we’ve ever comes across…
PORT ELLEN & BRORA
There’s so many classic bottlings from these two soon-to-be revived distilleries. Starting with PE, this month’s official versions include the two Rare Malts: Port Ellen 1978-1998 20 Years Old and Port Ellen 1978-2000 22 Years Old and a lot of the Special Releases including the underrated Port Ellen 1978-2004 4th Release and one of the greatest PEs from the last decade, Port Ellen 1978-2010 10th Release. There’s plenty of other Special Releases in there too, so if you’re looking for a particular edition go ahead and have a rummage.
Notable independent Port Ellens include the full strength Gordon & Macphail Cask series Port Ellen 1979-1998, Wilson & Morgan’s Port Ellen 1979-2003 23-Year-Old, Port Ellen 30-Year-Old for Douglas Laing’s 60th Anniversary and the unusual Port Ellen 1982-2009 by Murray McDavid which was finished in Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes casks
Moving on to Brora, there’s an embarrassment of OB riches with the Rare Malts Brora 1977-1998 and Brora 1977-2001 and a veritable host of the classic Special Release bottlings including Brora 30-Year-Olds from 2004, 2005, 2009 and 2010, the Brora 35-Year-Olds from 2012, 2013, and 2014 and finally the Brora 38 Year Old 2016!
The most interesting of the indie Broras this month, meanwhile, are Douglas Laing’s Platinum Brora 1977-2003 26-Year-Old, and two rare sherry-matured bottlings: Old Malt Cask Brora 1982-2003 20-Year-Old and Cheiftain’s Brora 1982-2002 20 Year Old.
STAGGERING HAUL OF IRISH MOONSHINE
The biggest highlight of this month’s auction is a truly once-in-a-lifetime find – over a hundred bottles of Irish moonshine dating from around the middle of the 19th century! This haul, found in Co. Tyrone in Northern Ireland is one of the most special collections we’ve ever auctioned and a hugely important milestone in Irish whiskey history. You can read all about the circumstances of the find – and check out our tasting notes from a random selection of the bottles – in our dedicated blog post here.
OLD & NEW MACALLAN
Classic Macallan favourites this month include a litre of the delectable 1980s Macallan 12 Year Old, plus Macallan Private Eye, the Charles & Di Macallan Royal Marriage and early Anniversary Malts Macallan 1962-1987 25 Year Old and Macallan 1968-94 25 Year Old.
The real Macallan action in this auction, though, is with the more recent bottlings. Macallan Genesis 2018, Macallan Folio Archival Series 4 and a first appearance here for the highly-coveted Macallan Easter Elchies Black 2019 Edition are all worth looking out for, but the most eye-catching Macallans this month are a quartet of Lalique decanters: Macallan 50 Year Old Lalique First Release, Macallan 55 Year Old Lalique Second Release, Macallan 60 Year Old Lalique Linley Edition and Macallan 65 Year Old Lalique, which closed out the series in 2016. The Linley is the rarest of these – It’s believed only 20 were made, and we believe this to be the first one to be auctioned.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
Other notables include all time classics Bowmore 1957 38-Year-Old, Glenfarclas 40 Year Old, the beautiful Highland Park 50-Year-Old bottled in 2010 and Gordon & MacPhail’s Private Collection Mortlach 1951-2014 – another cask that yielded just 61 bottles…
There’s also a classic chestnut-coloured Longmorn-Glenlivet 1956 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail and the DWS Banff 1971-2008, another real unicorn distillery. Perhaps the most obscure of the old bottlings, though is a malt made at Inverleven, part of the Dumbarton complex and one of the rarest of the lost Lowland distilleries. Almost the entirety of Inverleven’s production went into Ballantine’s blends, so this Cadenhead’s bottling of Dumbarton 1969-1996 27-Year-Old is a true rarity.
Blended highlights this month include a spring-capped 1950s Dimple in excellent condition, a fabulous Logan’s Extra Old King’s Special from the same decade and, best of all, this wonderful White Horse bottled in 1940 in remarkably good condition with the level very high in the neck. The Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Directors Blend 2010, meanwhile, is extremely rare and will attract fierce bidding.
Signatory really are the masters of digging out old gems and rarities, and there’s a bit of everything in this auction. Some of the best this month include Glenury Royal 1973-1997 24-Year-Old from Signatory’s classic and much sought-after Silent Stills series that came with a miniature and a bung made from the emptied cask, and Glenisla 1977-2006 28-Year-Old which was the very rare experimental peated malt made at Glen Keith. There’s also an unusual indie excursion for Balblair 1975-1997 21-Year-Old, Dallas Dhu 1970-2000 30-Year-Old – another one with a miniature included – and one of the oldest bottlings from cult lost distillery Lochside: Lochside 1966-2017 40-Year-Old.
FAVOURITES AND CURIOS
Islay fans will be delighted to see the return of The Syndicate’s Lagavulin 1979-2014 35-Year-Old, Lagavulin 1979-2017 38-Year-Old and Lagavulin 1979-2019 40-Year-Old, while for the grain fans Dead Whisky Society’s Caledonian 1976-2011 and Cambus 1983-2011 should fit the bill nicely.
Then there’s that rarest of beasts, an independent Highland Park: Highland Park 1990 The Dragon. This is a bourbon finished sherry cask bottled by Orkney retailers Robertsons of Kirkwall, who also did famous 1961 and 1973 editions under the same label. Other unusual indies include a Gordon & MacPhail Glenlivet 15 Year Old at 57% – a later iteration of the classic 100-proof most likely bottled in the 1990s or early 2000s.
For bargains, previous versions of OB bottlings are often a happy hunting ground for the cash-conscious connoisseur. Good examples this month include Glenfiddich 18-Year-Old Excellence, the early version of Glenfiddich’s 18yo, a 1990s bottling of Glengoyne 17-Year-Old in a rather unusual shaped bottle and another old favourite – the sloping shouldered early 1990s Highland Park 12-Year-Old. These bottlings come from an era when older whiskies sometimes went into the vattings, and of course many whisky fans believe the quality of whisky from these distilleries was much higher in the period when these spirits were distilled.
Finally, Aberlour fans bemoaning this year’s A’bunadh price hike will be keeping tabs on this rare very early version, the Aberlour A’bunadh Pre-Batch 5, but there’s also the Aberlour Royal Bank of Scotland Cask 101580, an NAS cask strength bottling of a single sherry cask released in 2003 – effectively a single cask A’bunadh in all but name.