March Whisky Auction Highlights 2023
Welcome back to the Whisky-Online blog, and it’s time for the highlights of our March 2023 Whisky sale! This month’s auction has some absolutely superb drams from the likes of Brora, Macallan, Springbank and Highland Park so we’d best crack on.
Monthly Macallan Watch
Once again, we’ve unearthed a remarkable array of Macallan old and new for your delectation. Modern-day Macallan in this month’s sale includes Macallan Royal Marriage (the Kate & William edition) and Macallan 60th Anniversary Queen’s Coronation, just for starters.
We also have the Intense Arabica and Smooth Arabica editions from the ongoing Macallan Harmony collection, the special edition Macallan X Sir Peter Blake and the Macallan Boutique edition released for Taiwan in 2016.
Going back to the classic era Macallans there’s plenty to choose from too, with highlights including Macallan Royal Marriage (the Charles & Di edition), plus the return of Campbell, Hope & King’s Macallan Pure Malt 80-Proof.
There's also a remarkable group of 1940s official Macallans including the legendary Macallan 1946 52-year-old, the equally legendary Macallan 1948 51-year-old and two bottles of the stunning Macallan 1949 50-year-old Millennium, arguably the greatest official Macallan ever bottled.
This month's sale also features a slew of miscellaneous gems like Macallan 1981 Gran Reserva, Macallan 1968 25-year-old Anniversary Malt and not one but two of the famous ‘Sleeping Cask’ Macallan stands, one of the most sought-after pieces of Macallan memorabilia ever made.
Indie Macallans in this month’s whisky auction include Douglas Laing’s Macallan 1977 28-year-old Old & Rare Platinum, various Crabbie / Prometheus mystery Macallans and a Macallan 1987 bottled by Cadenhead’s.
The latter is part of an enormous collection of over 150 Cadenhead’s bottlings in this month’s sale, which also includes an amazing full set of all twelve Cadenhead's 175th Anniversary bottlings - including a Macallan-Glenlivet 1990 and top class aged drams from Cooley, Rosebank, Littlemill, Banff, Caol Ila and many more.
There's also dozens of amazing whiskies bottled for the Cadenhead's Authentic and Original Collections, with excellent drams by Highland Park, Ledaig, Glen Keith, Bruichladdich and Ben Nevis among others.
This is the best selection of recent Cadenhead's bottlings we've had for a long time - rest assured, we’ll be seeing plenty more Cadenhead bottlings in this round-up.
As ever, there’s plenty of top class whiskies from the magic isle in this month’s auction. Ardbeg fans will be chasing a great selection of recent special editions including Auriverdes, Scorch, Arrrrrrrdbeg and Galileo, plus several turn of the millennium-era official bottlings including early editions of the 17-year-old, Ardbeg 1978 bottled in 1997 and Path to Peaty Maturity bottlings of Ardbeg Very Young, Still Young and Almost There.
Indie Ardbegs this month include a single cask Ardbeg 2000 20-year-old from Small Batch Bottlers and, from this month’s epic Cadenhead’s collection, several bottles from the distillery’s 1993 and 1994 vintages.
Bowmore fans, meanwhile, can choose between the screenprint or paper label versions of the much-loved old Bowmore 17-year-old, alongside a turn of the century Bowmore 21-year-old, the return of the wonderful 1960s Sherriff’s Bowmore and the more recent Bowmore Timeless 27-year-old and Bowmore 20-year-old David Simson editions, plus various splendid Cadenhead’s bottlings including a rare Bowmore 1979-1990 dumpy black label.
There’s some great Cadenhead’s Caol Ila too, with several early 1980s vintages up for grabs, alongside Signatory Vintage’s Caol Ila 1976 22-year-old and two highly desirable Syndicate bottlings of Caol Ila 1990, released as a 14-year-old and a 26-year-old.
We have some tremendous Syndicate bottlings for the Lagavulin fans as well, with Lagavulin 1979 35-year-old, 38-year-old and 40-year-old and Lagavulin 1990 20-year-old and 25-year-old. These beauties are joined in this month’s whisky auction by the return of the classic old White Horse Lagavulin 16-year-old, the glorious Lagavulin 1977 25-year-old from the 2002 Special Releases and a slew of more recent distillery exclusives and Offerman Lagavulins to choose from.
Elsewhere, Laphroaig fans will be hunting the 1977 vintage official bottling released in 1995, plus the SMWS’s Laphroaig 1993-2006 SMWS 29.55 and a very promising cask strength Cadenhead’s Laphroaig 1998 20-year-old.
Fans of 1960s Bunnahabhain, meanwhile, can choose between the classic official Bunnahabhain 1963 bottled in 1997, the Highland Distillers’ Family Silver edition of Bunnahabhain 1968 bottled around the same time, and Douglas Laing’s incredible Bunnahabhain 1960 39-year-old, a deliciously dark sherried (and lightly peated!) Bunnahabhain released in 1999 at its natural strength of 43.4% - don’t sleep on this, it’s one of the best Bunna’s ever bottled.
Finally for Islay, there’s several great Port Ellen Special Releases in this month’s auction, accompanied by a great selection of Douglas Laing bottlings encompassing McGibbon’s Provenance, Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare Platinum, with the pick of the bunch probably the superb Port Ellen 1978 27-year-old, a dark dram from a single sherry butt bottled for Old & Rare Platinum Selection in 2006 at 54.8%.
There’s some wonderful old sherried drams in this month’s sale. A very small selection of the superb official bottlings in this month’s whisky auction includes an early, unnumbered batch of Aberlour A’Bunadh from the late 1990s, the extraordinarily dark Glen Garioch 1968 29-year-old single cask bottled in 1997, the delicious Tomatin 1982 28-year-old single refill sherry cask bottled in 2010, and the mouthwatering Highland Park 1980 21-year-old Cask 8421 - a single cask bottled on its 21st birthday to commemorate the distillery visit of distributor Maxxium’s top brass.
Indie sherried bottlings, meanwhile, include some lovely old Glen Grant including a 1990s Gordon & MacPhail 25-year-old and, from the Cadenhead’s collection, a cask strength Glen Grant 1984 31-year-old and a stunning dumpy black label sherried Highland Park 1957, bottled in the late 1970s at 53.5%.
There’s also the small matter of the magnificent MacPhail’s 1938 45-year-old, a top class mystery sherried dram that was one of the first of the legendary Book of Kells bottlings.
Finally, we’d be remiss not to point out some superb indie sherried Brora, with two examples of the 1982 vintage from Douglas Laing and Ian Macleod’s Chieftain’s series, the latter of which is fantastically dark and would no doubt make a fascinating head to head tasting with the unsurpassed Cadenhead’s White Label Clynelish 1972 Cask 5643, bottled for Oddbins in the 1990s at its remarkable cask strength of 61.5%.
Some great stuff from the archives of the world’s biggest drinks company this month. There’s plenty of top class Rare Malt Selections, including the egregiously potent Hillside 1970 at 61.15 and Hillside 1971 at 62%, Glenury Royal 1971, Caol Ila 1975, and the big hitters Clynelish 1972 23-year-old (the 57.0% and 57.1% versions), Brora 1975 20-year-old and Brora 1972 22-year-old (58.7%).
The latter is well-known as one of the greatest ever Broras, and the good news for Brora fans is that we’ve got several other all-time greats from the distillery in this sale, including the 2010 Special Releases Brora 30-year-old and the magnificent Brora 1978 40-year-old bottled for the distillery’s bicentenary in 2019.
This month’s indie Broras aren’t too shabby either - as well as the sherried pair mentioned above, there’s also the small matter of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Brora 1976 12-year-old SMWS 61.1, which appeared in 1989 and is believed to be not just the first ever SMWS Brora but the first known bottling of Brora as Brora anywhere - and the only known bottling of Brora’s heavily-peated spirit at such a young age. This is a very special bottle indeed and bidding is expected to be fierce.
Miscellaneous Diageo / United Distillers gems in this month's sale include the superb 2005 Special Release Convalmore 1977 28-year-old, which, along with the Rare Malts bottling must be our favourite ever official bottling from this underrated lost distillery, plus the very rare wooden box Flora and Fauna bottling of Bladnoch, released around the time the distillery was sold to Raymond Armstrong in the early 1990s, and Gordon & MacPhail bottlings of Glen Albyn 1966, Banff 1966 and Rosebank 1990.
There’s also some superb Rosebank from Cadenhead’s (of course) and Elixir Distillers, plus the fantastic official Rosebank 21-year-old from the 2011 Special Releases and, last but not least, an outstanding Coleburn 1967 34-year-old for Douglas Laing’s Old & Rare Platinum Selection.
Favourites and Curios
There’s a slew of great Springbank this month, with old and new bottlings of Springbank 21-year-old, 25-year-old and 30-year-old - we particularly love the Archibald Mitchell 25-year-old from the late 1980s / early 1990s - and a pair of indie Springbanks from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society: Springbank 1979-1991 SMWS 27.12 and Springbank 1965-1993 SMWS 27.23.
We’ve got some lovely Highland Park in this month’s auction too, with the classic dumpy bottle Highland Park 25-year-old mentioned above joined by the legendary Highland Park 1977 Bicentenary and lots of Cadenhead’s bottlings including a hugely exciting dumpy Highland Park 1956 matured in sherry wood and bottled in 1978 at 80-Proof (45.7%).
There’s also plenty of top Ben Nevis in this month’s sale, with a string of Cadenhead’s casks and two very highly sought-after official single cask bottlings: the Ben Nevis 1976-1995, one of a raft of top class vintage casks released in the mid-1990s, and Ben Nevis 1984 25-year-old, released in 2010.
It’s a great month for grain whisky fans too, with fantastic Cadenhead bottlings of Caledonian, Invergordon, Cameronbridge and North British alongside a very special Douglas Laing Cambus from the Extra Old Particular series. There’s some treats for the blend fanciers too, with 1980s Johnnie Walker Blue Label predecessor Johnnie Walker Oldest and an absolutely magnificent old bottle of White Horse bottled in 1927 (!), one of the oldest White Horse bottles we’ve ever had and in amazing condition considering it’s almost a century old.
Away from Scotland, there’s some real treats too. Japanese whisky fans will be keeping tabs on the Cadenhead’s Chichibu 6-year-old and Yamazaki’s 2022 Tsukuriwake collection - Tsukuriwake means ‘artisanship through a diversity of making’ and includes four bottles of the current Yamazaki range including Puncheon, Peated, Spanish Oak and Mizunara editions in a beautifully constructed bespoke wooden display case.
American whiskey fans have plenty to get excited about this month as well, with an early bottling of Van Winkle 12-year-old Lot B from circa 2000 among various more recent gems from Van Winkle, Jack Daniel’s and a remarkable 28-year-old Heaven Hill from Cadenhead’s (who else!), while Irish whiskey fanciers will be chasing the Redbreast 21-year-olds from 2020 and 2022, and various Midleton Very Rare bottlings going as far back as 1997.
That’s not all for world whisky fans either - there’s also a big selection of whiskies from both Paul John and Mackmyra, while away from whisky altogether there’s a wonderful old bottle of 1947 Pommery champagne, Cadenhead’s bottlings of Caroni 18-year-old and Uitvlugt 1974 rums and a *very* rare salesman’s stock bottle of Hennessy’s prestige Richard Hennessy cuvée cognac, complete with the beautiful decanter.
Finally for this month, we’ve got another cask to auction - and it’s a beauty! This butt of Tobermory 1994 is currently 28 years old and held 402 bulk litres when it was regauged in November. It’s currently sitting in bond at Deanston and although it’s drinking very nicely now at 50.5% we reckon it could go another few years if necessary - here’s our tasting notes:
Tobermory 1994 28-year-old Cask 5025, 50.5%
Nose: Faint chocolate and wet wood, paprika, hazelnuts, a slight hint of blackcurrant liquorice sweets. Now the oak comes through; notes of wet earth, old autumn leaves and smoked vanilla custard. Grassy honeysuckle notes in the background. Water lifts bark, soil and woody notes to the fore.
Palate: Medium-full. Sweet and spicy, with flashes of pepper and chilli powder at full strength. Digestive biscuits, clove spices, some raisins, cinnamon and cocoa powder, with Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut and a backbone of firm old oak. Becomes more grassy and biscuity with water, but still retains its spiciness.
Finish: Very good length, warming, peppery with a swirl of grassy notes. Clove, cinnamon and other hot spices linger longest.
Comment: An old fashioned and quite savoury dram, almost like an aged mezcal at some points. An intriguing web of sweet cocoa notes and some nice grassy, malty elements with prominent spices. This a dram of admirable depth with plenty of pleasing side notes to unpack.
That’s it for this month - Good Luck and Happy Bidding!