W ith whisky creation – just as with classic car design – it’s all about bringing deportment to a refined body. Both in the bottle and under the bonnet, sensory and aesthetic impressions need to be aligned, notes Jonny Fowle, Head of Whisky & Spirits for Sotheby’s North America and Europe.
This philosophy is borne out in a unique lot being offered at Sotheby’s this May. The low-curved subtlety of an Aston Martin’s silhouette is one the most iconic profiles in the automotive world, elegant lines which are echoed in the Bowmore Arc-52 ‘Mokume Edition’, a unique blend of Bowmore whiskies, the youngest of which is 52-years-old, encased in a decanter designed by the Aston Martin team.
'It’s for the person who has the inclination to build the best whisky collection in the world'
But the ‘Mokume Edition’ has a further design distinction: its cap is made from layered carbon, mirroring the 17th century Japanese metalworking technique of ‘Mokume-gane’, which produces a distinct, layered pattern, much like that found in the grain of wood, or on a rock face. The result, Fowle observes, is as much a masterpiece of sculpture as it is an exclusive whisky. “It’s for the person who has the inclination to build the best whisky collection in the world.”
Today, contemporary whisky collectors seek out the unique item, explains Fowle. “Sotheby’s specialises in one-of-ones. We run a whole auction called 'The Distillers One-of-One', where we get distilleries to produce unique bottles exclusively to auction for charity,” he says. “This year, we’ve done a one-of-one Macallan in New York, we’ve got this Bowmore in London, and we have others coming up in Hong Kong.”
Bowmore Arc-52: The Mokume Edition
Part of the proceeds from the sale of the Bowmore Arc-52 Mokume Edition will go to a longstanding fund, benefitting the people of Islay and the island’s ongoing whisky trade. Islay is steeped in the history of the spirit: its whisky tradition is thought to have begun in the 14th century when monks and crofters refined the spirit using the island’s abundant resources of peat and soft, loch-fed water. Today, it is the most productive of Scotland’s whisky islands, hosting some ten distilleries, of which Bowmore is the oldest. The company has always had a community outlook, says Fowle. “There’s a leisure centre next to the distillery and all of the excess heat that they use in the distillation process gets plumbed out to heat the swimming pool.”
Unlike printmaking or sculpture, where an edition of one is taken from a prototype, a one-of-one whisky is its own prototype. “It’s more about the liquid itself being unique,” Fowle says. “If you’re a whisky maker, you go into your vaults and you draw from a cask, maybe one bottle, and the rest of the cask continues to mature, so it changes. So, the liquid you have is a time capsule.”
According to its rhapsodic tasting notes, that unique “deep burnished gold” liquid, drawn from the older casks rather than the regular edition of Bowmore Arc-52, delivers “honey sweet, fruity, and citric characters from flavours of green apple, apricot and tangerine seamlessly merged with the nutty notes of macadamia and walnuts.”
The process of creating a unique whisky such as this begins with an “idea of the product you want to create, be it the age or the style, and then you go about building that by looking what casks you have available,” says Fowle. It is not dissimilar to those first sketches for a new model of an Aston Martin.
'The product itself is fantastic. Ultimately, it’s Aston Martin’s engineering and manufacturing filled with Bowmore’s blend'
The automotive industry, and the whisky industry, have long been intertwined, notes Fowle. “It’s quite common. Johnnie Walker was famously the biggest sponsor of Formula 1,” he says, adding that “the partnership here leans on how you take two legacy British brands and produce something that is visually spectacular. The product itself is fantastic. Ultimately, it’s Aston Martin’s engineering and manufacturing filled with Bowmore’s whisky.”
Indeed, there is an artistic affiliation powering the Bowmore Arc-52 ‘Mokume Edition'. “You can think about it in the way you put a car together,” says Fowle. “The liquid is the engine of this whole package. You want to be able to determine how it drives. The cap and the decanter are the livery.”