LONDON, 13 May 2020 – The year 1762 is notable for a number of historic events, not least Britain entering the Seven Years' War against Spain and Naples, Catherine II becoming empress of Russia, and the first Saint Patrick's Day Parade in New York City. But at the Maison Gautier in France, a family business that had only seven years previously obtained a Royal Warrant to produce Cognac, with a founding charter signed by the King Louis XV, history was also in the making for what has been described in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest cognac vintage ever sold at auction.
Only three bottles of the exceedingly rare Gautier Cognac 1762 remain to this day, having been held in the same family for generations with their original labels attached. The last and largest of these remaining bottles, known as “Grand Frère”, or the “Big Brother”, will headline Sotheby’s online sale, DistilledIconic Samaroli, Dalmore 62 and The World’s Oldest Cognac, open for bidding from 14 to 28 May 2020. Estimated at £80,000-160,000, this bottle of one of the oldest surviving cognacs in the world has come to represent a piece of liquid history. With the little sister (“petite soeur”) housed in the Gautier Museum, and the little brother (“petit frère”) sold at auction in New York in 2014, the appearance of this bottle on the market is exceptional indeed. The winning bidding will also enjoy a bespoke experience at Maison Gautier, courtesy of the distillery.
The Provenance of the “Big Brother” Gautier Cognac 1762
As the oldest vintage Cognac ever to be sold at auction, this lot was originally part of a "trio" of 1762 vintage Gautier Cognacs preserved since the end of the 19th century. The owner recalls that as a child, his grandfather prevented him from playing in the cellar which contained his oldest bottles of Cognac. It was only many years later he learned the history of the treasure that had been carefully preserved by his family. During the 19th century, his great grandparents fostered an orphan by the name of Alphonse who, in the years between 1870 and 1880, left his adopted family to work in the Cognac region. Returning home after ten years, Alphonse may have left due to the phylloxera crisis which had decimated the vines and consequently wiped out all the economic activity linked to the production of wine and brandies at the time. When Alphonse arrived home to his adoptive parents, he carried with him a cart loaded with bottles of Cognac, presumably acquired in lieu of wages. The bottles were unloaded, most of which were soiled, but amongst them were three Maison Gautier Cognacs, with their labels in pristine condition: the little sister, the little brother and the big brother – as they are known now. In 1914, Alphonse was sent to war and unfortunately never returned.
“The Gautier 1762 is renowned and revered across the world as a Cognac that transcends the world of spirits collecting. This bottle represents not only an example of pre-phylloxera viticulture, but also of early cask maturation from the dawn of Gautier’s production and even precedes the French Revolution. This bottle contains a distillation not only of superb brandy, but also of Cognac’s history.”
Comprising 216 lots, Distilled is estimated to bring a combined total in the region of £1.1 million.
The sale features an important Italian collection of Samaroli of a magnitude that is truly rare. Silvano Samaroli’s bottles are widely regarded as the greatest whiskies ever produced and as a result they are now extremely scarce. The most valued bottles, such as the Bowmore Bouquet and Laphroaig 67, are rarely seen more than once a year at auction. Comprising 55 bottles, the collection boasts three bottles of Bowmore Bouquet 1966 (estimated at £40,000-55,000 per bottle). The ultimate trophy for whisky collectors, Bowmore Bouquet is considered by many aficionados to be the greatest whisky ever bottled: listed #1 on Whiskybase.com’s list of the Top 1000 Whiskies, it has also received a staggering 98-point score from Serge Valentin, a well-known name on the whisky scene. Other highlights include Laphroaig 1967 (est. £24,000-30,000) and Ardbeg 1976 (est. £5,000-7,000).
The Dalmore 62 Year Old
The Dalmore 62 Year Old is one of the oldest whiskies to have been released from the Dalmore Distillery, with only 12 bottles made available. The sale will present Bottles #2, “The Mackenzie” and Bottle #5, “The Cromarty”, estimated at £75,000-100,000 per bottle.
Cask of Dictador Rum 1980
In Sotheby’s first ever collaboration with a rum distillery, the sale is distinguished by an offering consigned directly from Dictador. A cask of the brand’s 1980 single vintage rum will be offered without reserve, with bidding starting at £50. The proceeds will be donated to the Dictador Art Masters Charity Fund, to develop an art gallery within the Colombian Jungle – an anchor point for conservation of the area. The liquid in this cask provides enough content for around 300 bottles and spent 20 years in an American Oak Cask, then a further 20 in a sherry cask. With an ABV of 62.7%, this is a “big spirit” with “notes of dark roasted cold-brew coffee with a dash of almond milk, chocolate raisins and toffee popcorn”.
Macallan Fine & Rare Miniature vertical, 1937 – 1974 (est. £85,000-120,000)
Macallan 50 Year Old 1928 (est. £70,000-100,000)
Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars 60 Year Old (est. £40,000-70,000)
Macallan Millennium Decanter (est. £20,000-30,000)
Macallan 1946 Select Reserve 52 Year Old (est. £10,000-14,000)
A cask of Springbank Organic from 1992 (est. £40,000-60,000)
Three bottles of Springbank 1964 (est. £5,000-7,500 per bottle), illustrated left
Five bottles of Springbank Adelphi 1965 (est. £1,600-2,200 per bottle)
Nine bottles of Springbank 30 (est. £1,000-1,500 per bottle)
Rémy Martin Louis XIII Rare Cask Cognac NV (est. £9,000-12,000)
Bowmore Black Second Release 1964 (est. £9,000-14,000)
Bruichladdich Samaroli 10 Year Old 1965 (est. £2,000-2,600)
Ord Samaroli Bouquet 22 Year Old 58.0 abv 1962 (est. £5,500-8,000)
White Horse 40.0 abv 1900 (est. £4,000-5,000), illustrated left
Springbank 30 Year Old NV (est. £1,000-1,500)
Highland Park 40 Year Old 1958 (est. £3,000-3,800)
Bowmore Bicentenary 1779 to 1979 Fecchio and Frassa (est. £2,200-2,800)
Lagavulin White Horse 12 Year Old 43.0 abv NV (est. £900-1,200)
Glendronach Cadenhead's Cask Strength 1970 (est. £600-800)
A total of 32 bottles from Gordon & MacPhail sold as separate lots with a combined estimate of £37,000-52,000
London Matthew.Floris@Sothebys.com +44 (0)20 7293 6000Matthew Floris
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