Auction 1 of 5
So, a few weeks ago Wayne, Harrison and Sarah traveled to Birmingham to pick up Alex Barclay’s miniature collection. With the help of Alex it took the four of them a solid 5 hours to carefully pick over 5,000 bottles off the shelves and pack them in to forty five, 45 litre tubs. Over the next several months we will be auctioning approximately 1000 bottles per sale. So for example in this sale you will find just under 500 different examples from James MacArthur, numerous Japanese and Taiwanese miniatures along with distillery bottlings from A-B.
To learn a little more about Alex’s collection head over to our blog Learn more »
History of James MacArthur miniatures
The company James MacArthur has been bottling scotch whisky since the 1980s and it wasn’t until the early 1990s did they start producing miniatures to accompany their full size counterparts. I assume the idea was to give enthusiasts the opportunity to try whiskies without forking out big money for a full sized bottle. Similar to the modern craze of samples.
As Alex didn’t want to risk not been able to get each release, he decided to contact MacArthurs direct. He was put in touch with a chap called Arthur Winning. Arthur agreed to provide a number of each of his minis to the Mini Bottle Club.
It is worth mentioning and interesting to know some MacArthur miniatures were produced for the Mini Bottle Club and commercially with the same label. But if this was ever the case, green bottles were used for the commercial bottlings and clear bottles for the MBC issues. You will therefore find a few minis with the same labels but different coloured bottles.
Some minis were produced in sets of up to 240 of each malt, while others were produced in numbers as low as 60.
Arthur also agreed to set aside one mini of each produced for Alex. Although he still had to buy them at normal commercial prices but at least he didn’t have to hunt for them.
Following some discussions, Arthur agreed to re-bottle full sized bottles as miniatures for the club, as several of these had never been bottled in miniature form.
This was an expensive operation and some of the malts were only available in small quantities so the number of minis produced varied from as few as 14 up to around 60.
Eventually his stocks were exhausted but there was still a demand for MacArthur minis from some club members. So Arthur started to re-bottle some other malts as minis. Most of them were produced from full sized bottles such as examples from the SMWS. The miniatures produced varied from 14 to 30 bottles.
These were often numbered and Alex was generally able to get bottle no.1 of each one produced.
This process eventually came to an end in the late 1990s but MacArthurs continued to produce some commercial minis often with the 500 Years of Scotch label. As far as Alex is aware they stopped producing minis in the early 2000s.
Malt Mill 1959
Without a doubt the rarest miniature of them all. There’s probably a lot of doubt in certain people regarding this miniature. However, the provenance of this miniature lies with Alex and his friend who sourced a sample bottle from an ex-distillery worker in the 1990s. With their ongoing relationship with the bottler MacArthurs, it was decided they were the guys to bottle the sample into 4 5cl miniatures which were issued to members of the UK mini bottle club.
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Just under 500 different James MacArthur bottlings
”I think that the story of Malt Mill is well known but some other rare minis produced include two Lomond minis (the only Lomond minis that I know of) from SMWS bottles, a few Ladyburn minis from re-bottled Wm Grant bottles, a Kininvie from a sample that was obtained from a distillery worker and a Port Ellen 12 year Old with the Tall Still label (only TWO of these minis exist as all others had the original MacArthurs label).”
”As far as I know there were only three MacArthur minis that I failed to get all with the 500 Years of Scotch label – Teaninich 21yo 57.2%, Teaninich 1974 58.4% and Imperial 1979 43%. These were amongst the last MacArthur minis to be produced.”
”I have kept 8 MacArthur minis in my collection – Dailuaine Millennium edition distilled in 1962, Glenlossie 12yo gold label, Lomond 19yo tall still label, Mosstowie 13yo tall still label, Ladyburn 12yo tall still label, Lochside Grain, Ben Nevis Grain, and Cambus Grain. All of the others are available in auction!”
Joining all the James MacArthur’s are a ridiculous selection of Japanese whiskies. Alex acquired many of these miniatures during business trips to Japan in the 1980s. He was also fortunate enough to meet up with the late Taizo Shiratsuchi while in Osaka. Taizo and Alex traded for many years prior to his sad passing. He was able to get several Japanese minis for Alex which were either trade or tasting samples which were very hard to get.
What else to look out for…
From the proprietors you will find examples from Arran, Auchentoshan, Ardbeg, Aberlour, Aberfeldy, AnCnoc, Aultmore, Bowmore, Balvenie, Bruichladdich, Balblair, Bunnahabhain, Blair Athol, Benriach and Bladnoch.
As always there’s a whole host of interesting miniatures to choose from whether you’re a collector or drinker. If you’re not already registered, you can do so here.
All the best from all of us here at Whisky Online Auctions.