S otheby’s September Whisky & Whiskey sale comprises a range of rare and collectible bottles from across the length and breadth of Scotland, America and Japan, including highlights from The Macallan, Pappy Van Winkle and The Yamazaki.
The sale is led by a number of bottles from The Macallan Fine & Rare Collection, one of the most iconic ranges of Scotch whisky ever bottles, with vintages available dating back to 1938. The lots are supported by other rare bottlings from Macallan, including full, original cases of The Macallan 18 Year Old Sherry Oak distilled in 1967 and 1968. From America, top lots come in the form of an Old Rip Van Winkle 23 Year Old Decanter, distilled in 1986, as well as a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle's 23 Year Old Family Reserve Gold Wax, bottled in 1999.
The Fine & Rare Collection
This series of vintage bottles, conceived in 2002, is home to the most valuable bottle in the world, The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926. While this vintage is not contained within the sale, it indicates how valuable The Fine and Rare series truly is. Every expression has been hand selected by the expert whisky-makers at The Macallan to build a range of bottlings that are unrivaled in the whisky industry by value, quality and rarity.
The Fine & Rare vintages stretch from the 1920s to the 1990s. The oldest bottle in the series was aged for 60 years in oak and released as one of only 14 bottles. This series is notable not just for the range of its vintages and age statements, but also for the limited numbers that were released of each expression.
The lots are supported by a wide variety of 18 Year Old releases including original twelve bottle cases distilled in 1967 and 1968 that were stored by one collector for many decades and remain in excellent condition.
Pappy Van Winkle
The Van Winkle line of whiskeys needs little introduction. Praised by celebrities and the subject of a bestselling book, it is by far the best recognized and most widely coveted whiskey in America.
The brand has its roots in a distillery called Stitzel-Weller, located just outside Louisville and overseen by a businessman named Julian Van Winkle, known affectionately as Pappy. Opened on Derby Day in 1935, it produced exclusively wheated bourbon.
Fast forward to the early 90s and the old Stitzel-Weller distillery, his primary source for whiskey, shut down in 1992. He looked around for a new one, and soon landed on Buffalo Trace, which had bought some of the old Stitzel-Weller brands and barrels, and was already making wheated bourbon. In 2002 Van Winkle shifted production, and all his whiskey barrels, to Buffalo Trace. Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength, and Van Winkle whiskeys remain some of the best in the world. But while all the whiskeys bottled under its name are spectacular, not all Van Winkles were created equal. For true connoisseurs, the last cut-off date for collecting is 2015 – the last time Stitzel-Weller whiskey went into a Van Winkle bottle. Any chance to buy a bottle from before that year should not be passed up.
The Michter’s name originated in the decades after World War II, when a Pennsylvania businessman named Lou Forman named a distillery after his sons, Michael and Peter. But the Pennsylvania whiskey industry was in a steady and terminal decline, and the distillery shut its doors in 1990. Six years later, Joseph Magliocco, the president of New York-based Chatham Imports, acquired Michter’s abandoned trademark and moved its base of operations to Kentucky. There, he and his team began buying up barrels of well-aged whiskey from the state’s distilleries. To those distilleries, older, richer whiskey was too out of character to blend with younger spirits to create the cheaper brands they were used to selling. Magliocco had a different vision, one in which well-aged American whiskey could be sold alongside premium single-malt whiskey. He hired Julian Van Winkle III to bottle his bourbon and rye at his facility in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and released them in 10-, 20-, and 25-year-old expressions. He bought whiskey from different distilleries, and through Van Winkle he reportedly acquired a sizeable number from the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, which went into some of the early bottlings of Michter’s.
Today, Michter’s is one of the few whiskeys to stand alongside Van Winkle at the top of the luxury market and its 20 and 25 Year Olds are considered some of the best in the business.
Whiskey distilled at Buffalo Trace Distillery features heavily throughout the September auction. From Colonel E.H. Taylor to George T. Stagg, O.F.C. to Blanton's, the collection spans the full range and spectrum of Buffalo Trace brands.
The September auction offers an opportunity for collectors and enthusiasts to acquire some of the rarest bottles on the market. The following lots are sold with no reserve, giving anyone the easiest access to building a collection of their own, whether new to the whisky market or already a seasoned collector.