September Auction now live!

September Auction Highlights

Our September/October Auction is now live. It’s a smaller scale auction again but with a wealth of terrific bottles.

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Once again Bowmore is an obvious stand out. This month sees the return of the complete 1964 Trilogy series along with the second edition Black Bowmore and the 1966 vintage label bottled in the 1980s. These are joined by some wonderful and very scarce independent examples from Sestante such as the 1971 18 and 14 year olds and the wonderful 1965 20 year old.

Other top end highlights include the Macallan 40 year old for duty free, this was bottled back in 2005 with an outturn of just 450 bottles, it remains the only official 40 year old Macallan have ever released. The Laphroaig 40 year old makes a welcome come back along with the 1980 27 year old Friends Of Laphroaig exclusive of which just 94 bottles were released back in 2007.

View all Laphroaig 14 Year Old

Speaking of Laphroaig one of the true highlights of this auction has to be the 10 bottles of 14 year old Laphroaig imported to America in 1953. These are all from the original wooden case which was discovered by the vendor in his grandfather’s attic. The case itself is also up for sale in this auction. The levels on these bottles are sadly quite low but they were bottled at 45.7% and the liquids all remain perfectly clear so they should still be quite something to drink. After all, how often will you get a chance to taste 1930s Laphroaig?

 Charles MacKinlay VSO
Charles MacKinlay V.S.O

Our favourite bottle in this sale has to be the Charles MacKinlay VSO Bottled 1917. A stunning bottle, both in its historic value and terrific preservation. I’ll not go into all the detail here, have a read of the lot description to get the full story on this one but it’s one of the most beautiful old bottles we’ve seen for a long while.

There are quite a few interesting Japanese bottlings in this sale as well. The obvious standout being the Karuizawa 1981 cask 4333 of which only 94 bottles were released. There are also interesting Hanyus, Chichibus, official Karuizawas by original owners Mercian, official Yamazaki single casks and other older, more obscure bottlings from Suntory. Have a dig and see for yourselves. We’ve got the very first release in the Johnnie Walker Director’s Blend series from 2008 and the 2013 edition which is being sold for charity with zero buyers commission attached so bid generously on that one as all the money will go to benefit the Royal Marsden Cancer charity.

Irish whiskey fans will be pleased to see we’ve got another of those beautiful 1940s John Locke bottlings in again along with one of the very early Midleton releases bottled in 1984. For grain fans there’s a North British 1964 bottled by Signatory in 1996 for the Forth Road Bridge council, only 64 bottles were produced which makes this a real gem for collectors, we’ve certainly never seen one before. We’ve got two different official Ladyburn single casks – one of which is a very rare one bottled for America. There is the fifth release of the Balvenie 40 year old, a Glenfiddich 40 year old, a very rare 1975 30 year old official Aberlour single cask and two beautiful old half bottles of Talisker bottled at 100 proof around 1980 by Gordon & MacPhail.

But this is just scratching the surface, there’s no room to mention all the Port Ellens, Ardbegs, Macallans and other wonderful bottlings that are up for grabs in this auction. In short, you’ll just have to dig in and have a look for yourself.

As always please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’ve got any questions about any of the bottles in this auction. Otherwise, good luck and happy bidding.

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The Whisky Online Auctions team

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Up for Auction: A Treasure Trove of Pre-War Laphroaig

Every now and then something pretty amazing turns up at Whisky Online Auctions that we feel warrants a bit of special attention.

Our next auction – beginning Wednesday 30th at 8pm – will feature 10 beautifully preserved bottles of Laphroaig 14-year-old bottled for and shipped to America in the early 1950s.

These bottles are part of a full sealed case discovered in America by the vendor while clearing out the crawl space in his Grandfather’s attic. They were imported – in 1953 as suggested by the outer markings on the case – by the Carlton Company New York and bottled at 91.4 US proof, or 45.7%. Sadly most of the bottles show a degree of evaporation as is to be expected after such a long time in bottle. However the liquids all remain clear and, given the higher bottling strengths, these should still be drinkable. All bottles will be presented for sale, along with their original wooden packing case, in our forthcoming auction.

Laphroaig 14 Year Olds 2000

It’s not everyday that you get a chance to taste Laphroaig distilled in the 1930s – this could well be the chance of a lifetime to own and taste a real artefact of Scottish whisky history. Register to Bid

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If you have any further questions about these, or any of the bottles in our auction please don’t hesitate to contact us. Otherwise, good luck and happy bidding.

The Whisky Online Auctions team

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August Auction Results

Auction Overview and Bottle Performances

I’ve often emphasised the importance of filling levels in older bottlings in relation to their price. While this is somewhat self evident it is also something that can have a surprising impact on certain bottles. Last month we sold a first edition Black Bowmore with a level around the base of the neck for £5100. Last night the same bottling with a level in the neck around 1.2cm higher sold for a record £7300. That is quite a difference in price between two bottles where the only real physical difference is the fill level.

Bottle Level Guideline

This demonstrates a couple of things quite neatly. Firstly – and most importantly – the Black Bowmore series is sought after primarily for the quality of the liquid inside the bottle. Legendary is a term much overused in whisky these days but in the case of this series it really is justified. A bottle of first edition Black Bowmore with a fill level still in the neck is a real rarity these days and – as a guarantee of the preservation of the liquid inside – it is a powerful and desirable aspect for anyone seeking to buy one. The other notable thing it highlights is the crap corks that were used for these bottlings. That a bottle with a ‘normal’ fill level should command such a notable price speaks volumes about the low quality of the closures on this series and how – sadly – the days of this whisky may well be numbered more certainly than most. This is indeed lamentable but also adds a certain fragility to their legend and lends a little more beauty and poignancy to any chance you may have to taste one. If you ever do get such a chance, I’d say it is worth making the effort for, they really are quite remarkable and historic drams.

Bowmore 1st Edition Graph

Overall this was a strong sale with some other notable prices. The Glenfarclas 1955 50 year old bottled to commemorate the centenary of John Grant’s birth has usually traded pretty much exactly on the £4000 mark for the past couple of years. Last night it jumped up to £5100; a new record and a sign of just how highly regarded this release is. Another slight surprise was the 1948 66 year old Glen Grant for Wealth Solutions, the three bottlings for this Polish company are all popular and quite mighty bottlings but I was surprised to see this one go so high. At risk of undermining everything I said in my first paragraph, I felt the low fill level in this decanter (something I wish G&M would take more care to avoid) would affect the price; it didn’t.

August-Latest-Hammer-Price

Other impressive results were the Laphroaig Cairdeas 30 year old, a bottle that was long in the distillery shop for around £460, which finished up at £800. The Bunnahabhain Auld Alliance – pretty much everyone’s favourite Bunny – got to a new high of £825 and the Brora 1975 Rare Malts 54.9% went up to £725. All going to show the resilient desirability of great malt whisky shouldn’t be underestimated.

August Latest Hammer Price 2

Old Irish Whiskey continues to perform well with the two 1940s John Locke bottles fetching  £825 and £775 respectively. Although it does still seem like something of a bargain when you consider what sort of price a bottle of whisky from the same era from a closed Scottish distillery might fetch?

Broadly speaking the values in this sale were healthy and fairly consistent with trends across the secondary market. There were a few disappointing results and the general trend of many of the larger modern releases continues to be stagnant or downward for the time being. This is little wonder though when you consider how many people are actually opening these bottles, for the moment they seem to be all supply and fluctuating demand. There must have been some frustration from all those who sought to make a quick buck on the recent Laphroaig 21 year olds as they didn’t even meet their initial retail prices. Interesting considering how high the initial demand was, but then again, a half bottle is a half bottle. It just goes to show the winning recipe of great liquid and genuine rarity is a tough one to beat.

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Good Spirits Whisky Tasting – Hosted By WOA

Last Saturday I hosted a whisky tasting at the Good Spirits company in Glasgow. The premise of such events is to promote Whisky Online Auctions, educate people about old bottles that you can generally only find at auctions and for Good Spirits to get a bit of kudos for hosting the kind of tastings you can’t really go to anywhere else in Glasgow. The reality is that it was simply a good excuse to crack open a clutch of rather tasty old bottles. I wasn’t sure what to expect with quite a few of these once I’d put the line-up together but in the end I was pleasantly surprised. Here are some rambling and overlong tasting notes for your distraction and mildly informative amusement.

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Haig Dimple. Spring Cap. 1950s. 70 proof. 

1

Colour: Slightly orangey gold

Nose: Immediately pungent with notes of tyre inner tube, slightly stale camphor, tool boxes, old sheds and old copper coins. Typical old spring cap taint and OBE that is to be found in many of these old spring cap sealed blends from the 40s and 50s. Given a little time though there are some pleasant notes of hessian, hay, nice medicinal touches and a pretty old style phenolic character bubbling away underneath. One of those whiskies where you can feel there’s a delicious old dram in there, it’s just a bit buried by capsule taint and old bottle effect.

Palate: Less taint apparent in the palate; immediately there is a lot of peat, iron wool and various metallic notes but also resin, camphor and something pleasantly mineral. An old barn yard with a broken down Fergie tractor and tins of mysterious oils lying about the place. Very old style in its character and composition but also obviously quite a bit of OBE.

Finish: Very drying and spicy with some wood smoke, white pepper and more oil and mineral qualities. Medium length.

Comments: I really like these old blends from the 1950s and earlier where there was a considerably higher malt content than modern counterparts. After all these years in the glass the malt really shuts out the grain and gives you a great overall impression of the generic character of malt whisky in Scotland in the 1940s/50s. It’s just such a shame about the taint from the spring caps and the OBE, it really makes it kind of hard to score as you can feel there is a fantastic whisky just simmering away underneath. What’s also interesting is how for so long a lot of whisky aficionados raved about spring caps as the best type of capsule for preserving a bottle’s fill level. This may be true but after tasting quite a number of these bottles over the years I feel that corks are really the best for preserving the actual character of the whisky. Speaking of which…

 Score: 77/100

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old. – 

Stopper cork. Late 1930s (late King George V). No strength statement visible but probably 70/75 proof.

2

Colour: Light amber – an aged Sauternes.

Nose: Beautiful! This is quite a way from the Dimple. Bags of delicate phenols, resins, oils, wax, long aged yellow Chartreuse, light spices, some candied orange peel, camphor, little medicinal complexities, the list goes on… Just one of these perfectly preserved old, quite high malt content blends that shows little or no grain influence at all leaving you just an impression of a very old, pre-war style of malt whisky with a much bigger peat influence and much more pronounced balance between wood and distillery character. Goes on with notes of tea tree oil, aged cognac and dark rye bread.

Palate: There’s still bite and freshness about this even after nearly eighty years in the bottle. Lots of peat but it’s an older style, drier kind of peat, more on rootiness, herbal notes, camphor, minerals, wax and soot. A style that comes from more extensive use of floor maltings and deeper cut peat. Becomes more tarry as well with notes of gentian and Clacquesin (look it up!). Pure pleasure.

Finish: Good length, earthy, rooty and phenolic with all these little touches of wax, mead, hessian, tar and a lingering farmy quality.

Comments: An exemplary old blend from which the malt component really sings high and loud. Beautifully classy, old style and quite emotional considering this style of whisky is completely extinct in today’s industry. I think that when you can find these bottles with corks and decent fill levels then they can be a recipe for absolute drinking pleasure.

Score: 91/100

 

Glenordie 12 Year Old. 1980s. 75cl. 40%.

3

Colour: Gold

Nose: Straight away you get this beautiful and brilliant waxiness, lashings of minerals, stone fruits, slight coastal freshness, ripe pears, greengages and sandalwood. It’s a style which is very typically ‘old highlands’, quite close to nearby Clynelish from the same era and totally distillate driven; the wood in this one is very quiet. It’s not overly complex but the personality is big, direct and beautifully structured and poised. Becomes a little more buttery after a few minutes with notes of fresh herbs such as chives and parsley.

Palate: Good punch for 40% with more of a continuation of the nose than anything else. Lots of thick waxiness, slight phenolic notes, lemon skins, cereals, herbs, minerals, pebbles, little grassy notes, fresh brown bread, sunflower seeds, olive oil. Once again this is almost totally distillate driven, the wood has played a perfect supporting role but is in no way dominating, there’s just a wonderfully understated sweetness towards the back of the palate.

Finish: Not the longest but leaves a wonderful mix of waxes, breads, olive oil and mineral notes. Very refreshing and hugely drinkable.

Comments: A bottle of the old Ainslie & Heilbron Clynelish 12yo bottled around the same time as this one will set you back around £300-350 at auction; these bottles go for about £70-90 and are better whisky in my book. Although it is important to bear in mind that there were quite a few different batches under this label and not all are of the same quality. Old Glen Ord – distilled pre 1980 – is one of the real unsung treasures of whisky for me. I love this distillate driven style with huge personality in every part of the whisky, the fingerprints of the distillery are all over this one. It’s not a sexy style by any means and is probably an acquired taste for many, but it’s well worth seeking out as there are so few whiskies bottled these days that reflect this style.

Score: 90/100

(Would have been higher with a slightly longer finish)


Bruichladdich 1986 – 2001 15 Year Old.

Country Life. Oloroso Sherry Butt. Cask: 356. 800 bottles. 70cl. 46%.

4Colour: Polished Copper

Nose: Immediately rich with dark fruits such as prunes, cognac soaked raisins and dates with lovely rising note of orange peel and a over-arcing saltiness. Beautifully clean sherry that really feels like it has come from a proper european oak sherry cask that has held proper Oloroso. Goes on with an elegant nuttiness like fresh hazelnuts and peanut brittle then notes of fresh, wild strawberries and brown bread. After a while some signature Bruichladdich green fruits begin to arise giving the whole thing a wider, slightly more complex profile. Very enjoyable.

Palate: Thick and syrupy at first with a big, stodgy sweetness of sherry up front which moves into a much more drying, slightly tannic profile towards the back of the palate with big notes of dark chocolate, all kinds of nuts, prunes, cocoa powder and nice biting spiciness from the wood. There’s not as much evidence of distillery character on the palate as on the nose but there is still a lean saline streak running through it which gives the overall impression of atlantic freshness. Becomes a little earthier with time and more herbal perhaps with a rich espresso note. Still mucho tasty.

Finish: Not too drying with good length and more lovely notes of nuts, cocoa, espresso and dark fruits, some maraschino cherries also.

Comments: A very satisfying dram, one I remember trying years ago not long after it had been released and liking it a lot. Trying it again I feel it’s better than I remember it. One of these great early bottlings of Bruichladdich by the new ownership team in 2001 that was later sort of overshadowed by the plethora of ‘stuff’ that got released. It’s worth remembering that this same batch of 1986 sherry casks went on to end up in Blacker Still so it’s interesting to try one of the batch at an earlier age. A very clean sherry cask that still holds pleasing glimmers of distillery character underneath and is overall highly quaffable.

Score: 87/100

Mortlach 10 Year Old.

Editor’s Nose. OB for Insider Magazine late 1990s. 70cl. 60.5%. A curious official bottling of Mortlach done for the 10th anniversary of Insider Magazine in the late 1990s.

5Colour: Oaked Chardonnay

Nose: A not unexpected zing of alcohol at first sniffing, but despite this there is a very ‘Rare Malts’ feel to this. It’s immediately very austere and distillate driven with notes of pears, fabric, muesli, olive oil and touches of camphor. It really has something of this ‘United Distillers’ philosophy about it. A lot of the 1990s/early 2000s Manager’s Drams and Rare Malts really had a similar kind of oomhpy, very pure kind of profile that was heavily towards refill wood and distillery character. Lets add some water and see what gives… With water the glass quickly seems to overflow with minerals, citrus notes, more grassiness, more olive oil and some garden fruits.

Palate: Neat this is much in keeping with the nose: hot and austere. Very grassy, lean, mineral and quite punchy with an elegant natural sweetness about it like a vanilla laced honey. Slighty herbal and floral with a little more breathing and some very pleasant notes of cereal, buttered toast, fresh bread and sesame seeds. But generally this needs water… With water: herbal liqueurs, butter, caraway, lemon oil, green tea, green peppercorns, more muesli and cornbread.

Finish: Long, grassy, lemony and playful with little flashes of green fruits, buttered toast, mirabelle eau de vie and eucalyptus.

Comments: A big dram that needs to be wrestled to the floor a bit. The sort of whisky where you can have a lot of fun if you’ve got time and some water. There are probably about three or four different whiskies in a glass of this if you go drop by drop with the agua.  There is pleasure to be had and the quality is high but it’s not an easy dram and it remained seemingly immovable in its austerity. A whisky for tories perhaps…?

Score: 83/100

Talisker 1989 – 1999 Friends Of The Classic Malts. 7000 bottles. 70cl. 59.3%.

6

Colour: Straw/Gold

Nose: It appears a pop-up kipper smokery has set up shop in this glass. Seriously kippers, whelks, seashore, fresh scallops, smoked mussels; basically a whole shellfish platter. Pretty typical Talisker with lots of pepper, huge coastal aspects and a wonderful undercurrent of rich, green fruitiness. Notes of seaweed, iodine, tcp, tar and various ointments. Hugely expressive even at cask strength. Very chiseled and sharp with a growing note of fresh lemon juice – you could do a great ceviche with this one – and thick tincture and mercurochrome notes. With water: it’s still lethally sharp with great poise and structure. The water does seem to merge the lemon juice notes with the medicine, pepper and peat though so that what you’re left with is perhaps even better balance and more immediate gluggability. Or a glass of Talisker 10 year old you might otherwise say.

Palate: A big lean slab of peat at first which quickly acquiesces to black pepper, lemon juice, smoke mackerel, tar liqueur (Clacquesin again – look it up), shore pebbles and more medical complexities. Pure, blade like, classic Talisker to be honest. With water: it’s fruitier with water, lemon juice becomes lemon oil and we get more little subtleties such as smoked tea, cereals, yet more tar, gentian eau de vie and a pleasing lick of white pepper. Once again we are left with a perfect glass of Talisker 10 year old.

Finish: Very long, focussing on minerals, citrus notes, pepper laced peat, tiny smoky notes, a kipper fanfare and more medicine. A toothbrush non-requirement whisky.

Comments: Basically a cask strength version of Talisker 10 year old, which is obviously nothing less than fab. Once again I do recall trying this one before quite a long time ago but I’m convinced it is better this time. Perhaps that is my perspective or time which has done that but I can’t help but feel the fact that this has now had over fifteen years in the bottle is a help. Cask strength peated whisky plus a good number of years in the glass seems to breed only complexity in my experience. Anyway, a very classic, delicious Talisker.

Score: 90/100

 

These types of old bottles are often found in our monthly auctions, so keep your eyes peeled and have a rummage.

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