otheby’s New York’s first spirits sale of the Summer features a range of rare liquors from Scotland, Kentucky, France, Japan and China. Leading the sale is a bottle of Black Bowmore 50 Year old with exceptional provenance; consigned by Speed Art Museum in Kentucky and originally donated by Bowmore Distillery themselves. Alongside this is a truly stunning collection of The Macallan including the rare Millennium Decanter distilled in 1949 as well as a selection of Fine & Rare Bottles and a range of vintages across a number of The Macallan’s most coveted expressions. This auction offers an incredible opportunity for collectors of Scotch, Bourbon, Cognac, Japanese Whisky and Kweichow Moutai.
Bowmore Distillery has a special place in whisky collectors’ hearts and in Scotch Whisky History. It is the oldest distillery on Islay, the land of peated single malts, and it is the source of the eponymous Black Bowmore. Black Bowmore is the product of Bowmore’s 1964 vintage that was matured in Oloroso Sherry Casks in their “No1 Vaults”. The initial release was priced at around $100, but so well reviewed was the whisky that it soon sold out and Black Bowmore became a sensation. This year, Sotheby’s partnered with Bowmore Distillery to offer the Black Bowmore Archive Cabinet in Hong Kong, a celebration of these incredible whiskies with proceeds donated to charity.
We are delighted to present the Black Bowmore 50 Year Old “Last Cask”. This bottle has exceptional provenance having been donated by Beam Suntory, owners of Bowmore Distillery, to Speed Art Museum in Kentucky. This 50 Year Old is the oldest of the 1964 Black Bowmore editions and the last to be released from this inimitable tranche of Oloroso sherry casks. It is an honour for Sotheby’s to be able to offer another coveted Black Bowmore bottle from the Distillery archives.
The Macallan is without a doubt the world’s most collectible whisky. Since the mid 20th Century the distillery has been held in the highest regard by collectors throughout the world when its 18 year old vintages gained popularity throughout Europe and into The United States and now Asia.
The Macallan Distillery has operated in the heart of Speyside since receiving its license in 1824 and has undergone many changes throughout its lifetime. Its most notable new development is its new production facility with increased capacity. Going back to the 1940s, however is where we see the most significant changes.
During the post-war era, distillers in Scotland were running on limited capacity for a number of reasons. Young men eligible to work had been sent to war, grain and coal had been rationed and transport links from Glasgow and Edinburgh in the central belt to more rural areas of the country were limited. The Macallan is known for its unpeated spirit and sherry maturation, however if we look at its post-war distillate, these ‘40s vintages tell a different story. As coal wasn’t readily available, The Macallan had to use some locally cut peat to dry their green malt at the end of the malting process before milling. The Macallan 52 Year Old Select Reserve 1946 has a distinctly smoky flavour as a result. The same can be said of The Macallan Millennium Decanter, although this whisky stays true to the distillery’s sherried style.
While Scotch and Japanese whiskies have been stealing the auction headlines in recent years, 2021 has seen the rise of US Whiskey in the secondary market. This year Sotheby’s launched our first single owner American Whiskey sale, The Thoroughbred Collection, and are proud to be championing homegrown spirits here in our New York saleroom.
US Whiskey has had a turbulent past with prohibition and wartime restrictions grinding the industry to a halt. Now that the 21st Century is in full swing, America’s Whiskey scene is booming with more new distilleries being built than ever before, and distilleries that have stood the test of time commanding competition from dedicated collectors. We are delighted to offer so many important Kantucky Bourbons in this sale from Pappy Van Winkle, A. H. Hirsch, George T Stagg, Weller and many more.
A Whisky collector’s journey can start anywhere. Sotheby’s Senior Specialist Jonny Fowle has put together a video to talk through the fundamentals of building a collection. For the budding collector we have listed the lots offered without reserve in this sale, so that there is the opportunity to begin at any price point.