September Whisky Auction Highlights 2023
As is customary, we’ll start with some highlights from the many ancient and modern Macallan bottles coming up for grabs in this month’s sale. Notable Macallan bottlings from recent years include Macallan No.6 Lalique crystal decanter, the very rare Macallan Aera Royal Black, which was an exclusive bottling for Taiwan in 2018, and various special editions and travel retail bottlings including the 2019 edition of Macallan Easter Elchies Black.
Classic era Macallans coming under the hammer this month include Macallan 18-year-old bottlings from the 1966, 1968, 1978 and 1984 vintages alongside several iconic early official and licensed bottlings of 1950s Macallan. These include a lovely Macallan 1959 bottled in the 1970s at 80 imperial proof (46%) by Campbell, Hope & King for the Italian importer Rinaldi, and the Gordon & MacPhail version of Macallan 1950 Handwritten, one of several editions of this vintage bottled by/for various distributors around 1980-81.
Staying with the golden oldies, there’s also the small matter of the first ever release of Macallan 25-year-old Anniversary Malt (distilled in 1957 and bottled in 1983), plus the rare multi-vintage Macallan 1958/59 25-year-old Anniversary Malt bottled in 1985 and the very rare original presentation Macallan 1975 25-year-old bottled in 2000, which was the last vintage Macallan 25-year-old Anniversary Malt in the original series before the launch of the non-vintage Macallan 25-year-old Sherry Casks.
As ever, there are many more Macallans in the sale than can be sensibly listed in this blog, so best to check out the full selection here.
We have some truly exceptional Islay whiskies from the magic isle this month. We’ll begin with Ardbeg, from whom we have several recent special editions including Blaaack, Scorch, Fermutation, Hypernova and Arrrrrrrdbeg.
For the Ardbeg classicists we also have a good selection of early-Noughties official and indie-bottled Ardbegs including various ‘Path to Peaty Maturity’ editions (Still Young, Very Young, Almost There etc) plus several bottlings from 2006-2008 including Ardbeg Uigeadail, Ardbeg Lord of the Isles and the much-missed Ardbeg 1990 Airigh Nam Beist. Fans of indie Ardbeg, meanwhile, will be chasing the glorious old Ardbeg 1973-2003 30-year-old bottled by Douglas Laing for their Platinum Selection, and the famous old classic Gordon & MacPhail’s Ardbeg 1974-1994 Connoisseurs Choice.
Staying on the south coast, there’s some very nice Laphroaigs, with various old Islay Festival Cairdeas bottlings including the Laphroaig 1989 17-year-old, plus one of the last of the old red stripe Laphroaig 10-year-old Cask Strength editions from 2006 and several old Laphroaig 10-year-olds from the 1980s and 1990s including a fantastic 1980s ‘Unblended’ Laphroaig litre bottle released at 43% for travel retail.
Strolling along to Port Ellen and there’s a bottle of the superlative Port Ellen 1978 Second Release and a variety of indie bottlings from Douglas Laing and Hunter Laing. Most interestingly, we also have the rare Gordon & MacPhail Port Ellen 1971 Connoisseurs Choice edition from around 1990 - a fine example of Port Ellen from when the distillery still had its own malting floor.
Moving to the centre of the island, we have a couple of Bowmore glass pack gift sets from back in the day: Bowmore 12-year-old Glass pack from around 2000 and an excellent Bowmore De Luxe gift set from the 1970s, complete with a pair of branded glasses printed with the old Bowmore logo. There’s also an old 1980s dumpy litre bottle of Bowmore 12-year-old and various recent prestige editions from the distillery in this month’s sale, including 2019’s Bowmore 21-year-old Pedro Ximenez Finish.
Moving north, there’s some famous old Caol Ila coming up for grabs - Gordon & MacPhail’s magnificent sherried Caol Ila 1966 Centenary Reserve, bottled in 1995 to celebrate G&M’s first century in business. There’s also a bottle of Signatory Vintage’s superb Caol Ila 1974 20-year-old, a single cask bottled at full strength in 1995.
Miscellaneous notable Islay drams this month include several 1990s Lagavulin 16-year-old White Horse editions, a handful of That Boutique-y Whisky Co.’s Bunnahabhain 33-year-old Batch 3 from 2016, some promising Bruichladdich & Port Charlotte single casks and a handful of Octomore including the rarely-seen Octomore 6.1 and Octomore 8.2.
This month’s sale has plenty of superb stuff for the Jerezophiles out there. Beginning with the usual suspects, there’s a fabulous old rectangular bottle Glenfarclas 15-year-old, bottled at the standard 80 imperial proof (46%). This was bottled in the late 1970s, so the whisky would have been distilled around the early to mid 1960s and will no doubt be incredible.
As you’d expect, there’s also some lovely Glendronach this month, including the 2017 Kingsman Edition Glendronach 1991 25-year-old and various single cask bottlings including a 27-year-old Glendronach 1990 bottled in 2017.
We have some fantastic old Gordon & MacPhail drams in this month’s whisky sale, including all eight bottlings from the distillery’s Centenary Reserve collection bottled in 1995. As well as the legendary Caol Ila 1966 mentioned earlier, sherried bottles in this famous one-off series include a 1948 Glenburgie, a 1973 Balblair and a 1970 Highland Park.
Staying with the indies, there’s also the extremely rare sherried Rosebank 1975 27-year-old bottled by Douglas Laing in 2002, while sherried Islay fans will be thirsting after the Lagavulin 1987 Distillers Edition bottled in 2003 and sherried Irish whiskey fans will be chasing the Redbreast Christmas Cake Cask Strength edition from 2022.
Away from the more esoteric (and expensive) classics, there’s lots of great-looking modern-day heavily-sherried drams that won’t break the bank. A small selection of official bottlings for the budget connoisseur might include Aberlour's Oloroso-matured 13-year-old Distillery Exclusive, the delightfully easy-drinking Glenrothes 1989-2001, the teak-coloured Glentauchers 2007 13-year-old Distillery Reserve and some of the splendid Glenlivet single casks in this months auction, with sherry casks including Glenlivet 14-year-old Cask 58021 and Glenlivet 15-year-old Cask 56071, both bottled in 2018.
There’s also some very promising wallet-friendly sherried indie bottlings this month, with eye-catching drams including North Star’s sherry-finished Blair Athol 2006 16-year-old, Adelphi’s Linkwood 2007 13-year-old matured full term in a first fill PX sherry cask, and Carn Mor’s Glen Elgin 2007 13-year-old (also from a PX sherry butt).
We’ve also got some amazing drams from the distant past portfolio of Diageo and its forerunners United Distillers and DCL. Highlights include a beautiful old spring-capped 1940s White Horse blend and a magnificent old John Walker & Sons bottle of Cardow ‘100% Pot Still’ - note the spelling, which dates this exceptionally rare bottle to pre-mid-1960s. This treasure was likely one of the last official bottlings of Cardow before the more familiar cream label 12-year-olds that appeared as Cardhu from the mid-1960s onwards.
Other gems from Diageo’s historical archive include an old bottle of 1990s Royal Lochnagar Select Reserve - once so highly prized that it was the most expensive single malt in the whole United Distillers portfolio - and some early 1990s bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, from back in the days when it was the greatest blended whisky in the world.
Miscellaneous Diageo archive goodies include several rare official Cameron Brig bottlings from Diageo’s grain distillery Cameronbridge, an early Talisker 18-year-old bottled for the US market in 2004 and several top class Rare Malts bottlings including Brora 1977 and 1982, assorted gems from Millburn, Glen Ord and Royal Lochnagar and a handful of the highly sought-after Rare Malts 20cl editions from Glenlochy, Caol Ila and others.
Favourites & Curios
There’s some truly outrageous Springbank in this month’s sale - far too many to list here but serious highlights include the beautiful 1990s black label Springbank 15-year-old, the extremely rare Springbank 1966 black label and Springbank 1965 26-year-old white label from 1992, and the Hedley Wright dumpy bottle version of Springbank 21-year-old.
We also have one of the famous Tesco bottlings of Springbank 1975 and several single cask Springbank private bottlings from vintages including 1989, 1992, 1993 and 1995, but perhaps the rarest Springbank in this month’s sale is the Springbank 1965 31-year-old bottled in 1996 by none other than Murray McDavid. Springbank’s Gordon Wright was one of the founding members of Murray McD, so the company had access to some outstanding casks throughout the 1990s and would go on to release a pair of famous 1965 Springbank 33-year-olds a couple of years later.
Moving on, and there’s some absolutely spectacular bottles this month from one of our favourite underrated distilleries: Glen Grant. Pride of place goes to a pair of extraordinary old school bottlings that we have conservatively graded as 1960s, though they could easily be earlier: a Glen Grant 15-year-old 100-Proof bottled by Gordon & MacPhail and a very rare Glen Grant 5-year-old 100-Proof bottled under licence by Perth merchant Peter Thomson. At the other end of the maturation scale, meanwhile, we have some relatively recent long-aged Glen Grants including a pair of 43-year-old single casks from the 1965 vintage bottled by Carn Mor in 2008.
There’s plenty of tempting goodies for blended whisky fans this month, with the Blue Label and White Horse mentioned above joined in this months sale by the rare Dewar’s White Label 150th Anniversary special edition decanter released in 1996, the little-seen travel retail Johnnie Walker Swing Superior, several Chivas Regal, Royal Salute and Ballantine’s special editions, 1950s Haig, 1980s Islay Mist and many more.
Grain whisky fans, meanwhile, have an embarrassment of riches to choose from, with 1960s Strathclyde, 1970s Invergordon and Cambus and a clutch of ancient single grains from That Boutique-y Whisky Co, including a 53-year-old Girvan and a 1964 Carsebridge 52-year-old, both bottled in 2017.
Irish whiskey fans will be checking out our Bushmills selection this month, which includes some great old 1980s Bushmills 10-year-old and Black Bush bottlings, plus one of the vintage Bushmills 1975 casks bottled for the millennium in 2000 and the recent Bushmills cask strength 24-year-old released in 2023 to commemorate the opening of the Causeway distillery.
That’s it for this month - check out the full auction here, Good Luck and Happy Bidding!