Whisky & Whiskey | Rare Scotch, Bourbon & Rye featuring the Hard Water Collection
Online Auction: 29 May–13 June 2024 • 12:00 PM EDT • New York

Whisky & Whiskey | Rare Scotch, Bourbon & Rye featuring the Hard Water Collection 29 May–13 June 2024 • 12:00 PM EDT • New York

S otheby's June auction in New York is led by an exceptional array of American Whiskies from the now-closed Hard Water Bar in San Francisco. This collection has outstanding bottles from Michter’s, Willett and of course Pappy Van Winkle. Also featured are some of the most coveted American Whiskeys on the market, not least the A.H. Hirsch Reserve 18 Year Old, Red Hook Barrel #1 and original cases of Overholt from over 100 years ago, Presidents Choice and Pappy Van Winkle. The American whiskey is joined by the coveted Macallan 50 Year old in Lalique and various vintages from The Macallan Fine & Rare Collection.

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Sale Highlights

The Hard Water Collection

Hard Water bar was a beloved gathering place for whiskey lovers in San Francisco's Embarcadero on Pier 3. The sister bar was just the next pier over, both ultimately succumbed to long-term complications caused by the pandemic of 2020. Sotheby's has gained access to Hard Water's immaculate collection and the highlights include some of the rarest American whiskey ever made. These include a Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon aged 28 years, Double Eagle Very Rare 20 Year Old, and Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year Old.

American Whiskey Highlights

Aside from the The Hard Water Collection, the sale includes numerous whiskeys produced before and during national Prohibition and a plethora of coveted bourbons and ryes from the best-known distilleries in America. Among the highlights is an extremely rare bottle of A.H. Hirsch Reserve 18 Year Old, D.H Cromwell 15 Year Old and a bottle of the highly sought after LeNell's Red Hook Rye.

Original Cases of Whiskey

The sale includes full original wooden cases of whiskeys produced before and during national Prohibition, which began in 1920, and features coveted bourbons and ryes from the most prominent distilleries of the era. Not only was this whiskey distilled over 100 years ago, but the distilleries incorporated a much wider array of grain fermentation methods, with the grain itself wholly different from the grain grown today, and the stills used being of an entirely different era of egineering. As a result of all of these factors, pre-prohibition whiskey can never truly be recreated.

Along with the Overholt is another case of the highly sought after Pappy Van Winkle's 20 Year Old Family Reserve RNM Restaurant Single Barrel from 2007 and The President's Choice Private Barrel Select 8 Year Old from the late 1960's or early 1970's.

Michter's Highlights

The Michter’s legacy begins in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, at a distillery founded by Swiss settler John Shenk in 1753. In the 271 years since, it changed names several times: in the 1800s it was known as Bomberger’s, and in the 1950s it became Michter’s when Lou Forman combined the names of his two sons, Michael and Peter.

The Pennsylvania distillery went bankrupt in 1989, leading to its closure, but in the 1990s Chatham Imports, a wine and spirit supplier owned by three Magliocco brothers (John, Nino and Joseph), spent an impressive $245 to become owner of the Michter’s brand.

Their first move was to relocate the company to Louisville, Kentucky, where they began sourcing whiskey from undisclosed distilleries, releasing their first whiskeys in 2000. Michter's continued sourcing their whiskey until 2015 when they became fully self-sufficient three years after opening their own distillery in the Shively neighborhood of Louisville.

Since moving to Louisville, Michter's has created some of the most sought-after American Whiskey ever made. This included their exceptionally rare Michter's Celebration, which has only been released on four occasions totalling only a few hundred bottles each. They are American blends containing whiskey upwards of 30 years in age, nearly unheard of for American whiskey. This sale includes all four iterations of Michter's Celebration, the first time globally all four Celebration releases have appeared alongside one another at auction.

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Willett Highlights

The Willett family traces its roots to the 1690s, when Edward Willett immigrated to Maryland from England and started making whiskey and other spirits. The family eventually moved to Kentucky, where a few years after the end of Prohibition, Thompson Willett founded the Willett Distilling Co. outside Bardstown.

The industry hit on hard times in the 1970s, Willett included. The company ceased distilling in 1981, and was so desperate for cash that it tried to convert to making ethanol. For a moment, it looked as though Willett would go the way of so many other distilleries caught in the whiskey industry’s "glut era", leaving behind nothing but rotting old warehouses and rusted stills. Things changed however when Even Kulsveen, a Norwegian immigrant who had married into the family, bought the distillery in 1984.

Kulsveen saw the bourbon boom coming earlier than most. He immediately understood that there was an immense amount of great, older whiskey aging at the big distilleries that was too old for them to bottle and too expensive for them to sell. He also saw that there was burgeoning overseas demand for expensive American whiskey, as well as a small but growing market at home, and so he started buying all the barrels he could, storing them in the Willett warehouses, and then bottling them for sale in places like Japan.

In 2005 Kulsveen and his son, Drew, introduced Willett Family Estate, a single-barrel bottling program; customers interested in buying their own barrel could pick from the extensive collection of aging whiskey, which the distillery would then bottle. Again, Willett was ahead of the game—it would be nearly a decade before other distilleries began offering barrel picks.

Even today, the Kulsveens keep much of the pertinent data about their releases confidential – including the mash bill and the source – which only adds to the mystery and allure around the bottles. What is guaranteed, though, is quality, and the knowledge that Willett bottles are a near-priceless piece of bourbon history.

The Hard Water Collection includes over 40 bottles from the Family Estate Range, both bourbon and rye, ranging from 9 years in age all the way up to 28.

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Van Winkle Highlights

The name Van Winkle is synonymous with great American whiskey, but not all Van Winkle bottles are the same. The company’s history divides in two: There is the whiskey produced after Julian Van Winkle III began distilling and bottling at Buffalo Trace, in 2003, with its uniform age statements and bottle designs. Then there is the wide range of ages, designs and even sources he used before that.

While the whiskey made for him at Buffalo Trace is outstanding, the earlier bottles he released are true unicorns and among the most sought-after in the world.

Scotch Whisky Highlights

Whilst the auction features mainly American whiskeys, the sale begins with some of the most sought-after and collectible Scotch Whiskies.

Leading the sale, The Macallan 50 Year Old in Lalique and The Macallan The Red Collection 78 Year Old sit splendidly alongside notable lots from Springbank Distillery, including the Springbank Millennium Collection 50 Year Old and Springbank Vintage 1952, one of just 24 bottles ever produced.

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