Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Over 40 exceptional whiskies and experiences found new owners from all over the world on December 3rd, when the first in a series of auctions under the banner The Distillers One of One took place at Barnbougle Castle near Edinburgh, organised by The Distillers’ Charity, the philanthropic arm of The Worshipful Company of Distillers, in collaboration with Sotheby’s.
The auction was staged in the Banqueting Hall, during a lively lunch where the bidders regularly erupted into applause as records tumbled, new benchmarks were set, and funds were raised for the charitable causes. Collectors in the room, on the telephones and online competed for the 42 lots on offer, and by the time the sale drew to a close, the auction had reached a total of £3.1 million / $4.1 million, two and a half times the pre-sale low estimate. Participants from around the world were out in force with registrants from 24 countries.
Over £2 million will be divided between four charity partners of The Youth Action Fund, which has been created by The Distillers’ Charity to transform the life chances of 16 to 25-year-old people in Scotland, empowering them to create positive change in their lives and communities.
Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Wine, said: “Our global wine and spirits team were delighted to partner with The Worshipful Company of Distillers and their philanthropic arm, The Distillers’ Charity, to create a new series of charity auctions that showcase the best of the Scotch Whisky industry and provide important funds to benefit disadvantaged young people in Scotland. The phenomenal outcome of this auction follows the significant success of the recent Hospices de Beaune wine sale and we look forward to our first auction with the Napa Valley Vintners early in the year. We are committed to working together with these charitable organisations to unite collectors with special opportunities to acquire rare bottles, while benefiting the communities of each region.”
Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s Spirits Specialist, said: “Working with The Worshipful Company of Distillers to present the biggest charity auction project in the history of Scotch Whisky has been one of the most rewarding projects of my career. This was a truly unique collection of whiskies, for which we can thank the creativity and generosity of the distilleries who willingly came on board. Equally generous were the collectors who participated, driving the overall total beyond expectations. Record prices were achieved for Bowmore, Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Ladyburn, and Talisker.”
Leading the sale was the spectacular four bottle set of Glenfiddich from the 1950s (1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959) as shown above. An extended 30-minute bidding battle broke out as eight collectors competed against each other, driving the final sale price to £1,037,500 / $1,380,760 (est. £220,000-350,000). Provided by William Grant & Sons, this ultra-rare collector’s piece established a new auction record for Glenfiddich.
The second most valuable lot of the sale was the Talisker 1978 Cask of Distinction, which was competed for by several collectors in the room, online and on the telephones, selling to a private collector for a record price of £625,000 / $831,780 (est. £350,000-500,000). This 43 Year Old cask of still-maturing Talisker single malt Scotch whisky was offered with a cask-end that has been turned into an original work of art by acclaimed Scottish painter Callum Innes.
A new auction record was achieved when the Bowmore Onyx 51 Year Old 1970 – presented in a striking, hand-blown, 1.4l black glass vessel taking its inspiration from the terroir of its island home – surpassed its estimate, selling for £400,000 / $532,340 (est. £100,000-180,000).
A further auction record was achieved for ‘lost’ distillery, Ladyburn, when a bottle of 54-year-old whisky distilled in 1966, uniquely labelled with a highly sought-after, hand-signed photograph by David Bailey of John Lennon, made £81,250 / $108,132 (est. £15,000-30,000).
Other significant purchases on the day, from those looking to secure themselves a piece of liquid history, included The Glen Garioch Twin Casks in Cradle 1990 and 2021, which realised £112,500 / $149,720 (est. £100,000-150,000), and The Balvenie 56 Year Old 1964, which exceeded its estimate of £50,000-80,000 to sell for £175,000 / $232,900.
Several once-in-a-lifetime whisky experiences were included in the auction, including the Gordon & MacPhail One of One Selection Experience from the 1940s or 1950s – an unforgettable, immersive visit to Speyside with the opportunity for the lucky recipient to work alongside the team to create their very own whisky – which sold for £87,500 / $116,450