The noble spirit of whisky is inherently bound up with legacy. Master distillers have created liquids from the three simple ingredients of barley, water and yeast for centuries, handing down the skills of the craft along with the spirit of innovation.
Family owners of Scotland’s distilleries have played a vital part in this, as guardians of the whisky-making tradition.
The opportunity to collect whiskies and experiences that embody this legacy is taking place at The Distillers One of One auction, on 3 December at Barnbougle Castle near Edinburgh, bringing together treasures from across the whisky industry in a gathering of lots unlike anything organised before.
Arranged by the Worshipful Company of Distillers, the auction will be comprised solely of lots created especially for this event by Scotland’s leading whisky distilleries.
These lots are contemporary takes on legacy-filled liquids and each haa been crafted to become part of the collector’s own legacy. Bringing these heavyweights together has been motivated by a philanthropic aim, to raise in excess of £1 million for disadvantaged young people in Scotland, through The Distillers’ Charity.
William Grant & Sons is privileged to be involved. It is donating three unseen wonders to the auction from The Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Ladyburn.
In doing so it will mark the launch of its Private Clients business, enabling the most discerning collectors in the world who desire a personal relationship directly with the distillery to access the rarest whiskies in its archives, which are exemplified by the three lots it is offering in this auction.
With all lots being finished or created this year, the auction demonstrates that, despite its long legacy, the cutting edge of the industry still thrives.
This history informs this continual reinvention, and it is epitomised in this auction. To select a handful of highlights is almost impossible, but here are ten I encourage you to see…
The Balvenie 1964 Single Bottle Release
This bottle of The Balvenie is one of the oldest and rarest expressions ever released by the distillery. Having matured in its cask for 56 years, this is the only bottle in existence from cask 10379 and was handpicked by The Balvenie Malt Master, David C. Stewart MBE, for its sublime balance of flavour and depth of character. It is bottled in a hand-blown decanter by Dartington Crystal and encased in packaging made by fine contemporary furniture maker Sam Chinnery and Neil Stevenson, founder of N.E.J. Stevenson, Royal Warrant holder as Cabinet Maker By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen.
Last Drop Distillers - A bespoke Blended Scotch Whisky at least 35 years of age
Speciality bottler of rare and ultra-aged spirits, The Last Drop Distillers, is offering an experience to create a completely bespoke blended Scotch whisky of at least 35 years of age. This is an opportunity to craft a totally unique expression under the tutelage of Colin Scott, Master Blender for The Last Drop and with nearly 50 years of experience in the industry. This personalised blend will be a true reflection of the individual’s tastes and preferences, creating a one-of-one whisky, impossible to replicate.
Talisker - 1978 Cask of Distinction
Casks of Distinction are selected by Diageo for their outstanding quality from the 50 warehouses in its care. The Talisker 1978 Cask of Distinction is chosen for its extraordinary quality, having been nurtured at Talisker distillery on the Isle of Skye for the past 43 years. It is the first ever Cask of Distinction to be offered at auction and, upon sale, will be matured for another five years before bottling in crystal decanters and encased in hand-made presentation boxes. It is paired with a cask-end that has been turned into an artwork by Scottish Turner Prize-winning painter Callum Innes.
Bowmore - 51-Year-Old Bowmore Onyx in hand carved, bespoke black glass vessel
The pioneering whisky house Bowmore offers an exceptionally rare single malt whisky, the Bowmore Onyx, the first ever 51-year-old developed and released by the distillery. Casked in a refill hogshead barrel since 1970, the liquid has been bottled in a one-of-a-kind handblown onyx-coloured glass vessel. This packaging is inspired by the peat-laden terroir of Bowmore distillery’s island home of Islay which makes the whisky’s taste so distinctive.
Glenfiddich: The 1950s
A prelude selection of four bottles from the last four remaining casks of Glenfiddich distilled in the 1950s, this lot offers the opportunity to acquire a piece of single malt Scotch history. These expressions from 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959 were distilled when Single Malt bottlings barely existed. They have been nurtured over generations directly by the Grant-Gordon family and Glenfiddich Master Distillers. Each liquid is bottled in a Baccarat crystal decanter with a 24-carat gold neck and encased in a cabinet designed and made by Neil Stevenson. The cabinet is fitted with a high precision thermometer and hygrometer from world-renowned instrument makers, Fischer.
Ladyburn 1966 David Bailey one-off John Lennon Edition
This is a unique bottling from ‘lost’ distillery Ladyburn. A 54-year-old whisky distilled in 1966, featuring a highly sought-after hand-signed photograph by David Bailey, one of the greatest contemporary portrait photographers, of the icon John Lennon, initially released in 1965 as part of Bailey’s Box of Pin-Ups. Ladyburn was one of the shortest-lived distilleries in history as it only operated for nine years (from 1966 to 1975) with very few casks remaining. It is regarded as a vanguard of its time in knowledge and expertise and the liquid marks an extraordinary moment in the history of Scotch whisky in the 1960s.
Glen Garioch - Two Glen Garioch casks, 1990 and newly filled, in a bespoke oak cradle
Two casks offered in a single lot by Glen Garioch epitomise the tastes of the past and the future found in the The Distillers One of One auction. The first is a 31-year-old cask distilled in 1990, when the distillery exclusively used direct fire for its stills, a technique found very rarely today. The second cask holds a liquid of historical significance. Following the recent reintroduction of direct fire to Glen Garioch’s stills, this second cask contains the first liquid distilled using this original method, filled in 2021. The 31-year difference is symbolically joined together by a shared practice, and physically connected by being set together in a bespoke oak cradle.
The Glenturret - ‘Uaine’ by The Glenturret
Scotland’s oldest working distillery, The Glenturret, has created ‘Uaine’ - a bottle from a 1987 Sherry cask crafted by the distillery’s Master Blender, Bob Dalgarno. The 34-year-old liquid has been bottled in a specially designed crystal decanter by renowned French crystalmakers Lalique. This hand-blown vessel is made from green crystal, the rarest material used for bottling whisky. This acquisition includes an invitation to The Glenturret Distillery to enjoy a sensational gastronomic experience, led by Head Chef, Mark Donald at the newly opened Lalique Restaurant.
Gordon & MacPhail - Guided selection of One of One bottling from the 1940s-50s
On offer from Gordon & MacPhail, the 126-year-old family business, is the opportunity to select and acquire a cask of greatly aged single malt whisky from the 1940s or 1950s. The experience will take place with a tour of Gordon & MacPhail’s warehouses in Elgin, Scotland where a guided selection of aged casks will be made available for tasting. After choosing the favourite of the casks, one bottle of the whisky it contains will be filled into a unique decanter, with a second bottle provided for drinking – a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Bruichladdich - Mature cask of 2011 organic Bruichladdich single malt Scotch whisky
Bruichladdich Distillery, based on the island of Islay, is offering a 2011 cask of organic Scottish-grown barley single malt for the first ever time at auction. The B Corp Certified distillery utilises progressive farming practices in its relentless pursuit of flavour, only using barley grown at Mid Coul farm in Inverness by William Rose. This consideration of the barley’s origin emphasises the importance of ‘terroir’ of the whisky’s main ingredient, an approach more often found in viniculture. Rose’s farm adopts organic methods to work in harmony with nature, nourishing the soil with sustainable practices, while taking a progressive approach to technology and renewable energy operation.