Today, Diageo and Sotheby’s have announced the opening of a sale of two of the rarest and most valuable casks of Single Malt Scotch Whisky in existence. The deal is part of the Platinum Jubilee Season at Sotheby’s and comprises eighty exceptional lots that are sure to spark interest with the world’s leading collectors and whisky investors.
As many regular readers will know, casks of whisky fetch staggering sums in current times and this trend is set to continue at the Whisky of Distinction | Port Ellen & Brora: Casks From A Bygone Era sale, which will be running until Tuesday the 14th of June.
When you see the names Sotheby’s and Diageo, you know you’ll be in for a treat and this is the ‘case’ with this quite incredible sale. Amongst the 80 lots will be two extremely rare casks that will undoubtedly raise the interest of whisky aficionados around the globe.
The two casks I’ve alluded to are lot #1 Port Ellen 1979 Cask of Distinction: Capturing the Light with Ini Archibong and lot #2 Brora 1982 Cask of Distinction: The Spirit of Brora with Trey Ratcliffe. Before anyone thinks to themselves, “They sound nice, I’ll get a bid in”, I should mention that the estimate for each cask is £700,000-£1,200,000! The sale isn’t only offering two of the most sought-after casks on the planet; another of the highlights is lot #4 titled The Macallan in Lalique 6 Pillars Collection NV (shown below), which comprises six exquisite decanters with an estimate of £350,000-£500,000.
I am quite sure some of you will be thinking, why do the casks have the estimates they do? Well, aside from the fact they contain astonishingly rare whisky from the dwindling original Bora and Port Ellen’ ghost’ stocks, they also come with unique opportunities. The winning bidders of each cask will get to collaborate on a commission with an internationally acclaimed artist to create a one-off piece that reflects the whisky and the distillery. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is being offered as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
The casks have been hand-picked from Diageo’s prestigious VIP programme, Casks of Distinction. This offers exclusive access to purchase individual casks of rare and exceptional Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Diageo’s unrivalled stocks, with only a very small number of fully mature casks selected each year from the choice of millions of resting in Scotland and an even tinier number selected from the fabled Brora and Port Ellen distilleries.
About the Port Ellen Distillery
Located on the western edge of the Isle of Islay, or the “Queen of the Hebrides”, Port Ellen is a priceless jewel in Diageo’s crown, glistening and glittering, with thousands of miles of ocean and sunlight stretching out in front of it every day. Gaining legendary status during its closed years, this cask is the most precious in existence from Port Ellen’s dwindling stocks of ghost casks. With its door shuttered in 1983, the current plan is for the distillery to start making whisky again in 2023.
The Port Ellen 1979 will be auctioned with a one-off artefact, crafted following the sale, in collaboration with the designer and artist Ini Archibong.
Ini Archibong will create a unique piece of art capturing the light of Port Ellen and its spirit in coloured glass. The one-off sculpture will be a physical expression of the “Dram and the Water” – representing both the precious nature of the liquid inside the cask and the distillery’s most precious resource. Crafted from Murano Glass and finished in the colours of Islay, the unique sculptural piece will be presented to the cask owner in Port Ellen once the distillery has reopened. Ini will also develop and create a bespoke colour gradient that will be used to design a set of labels for the bottles drawn from the cask.
Speaking about the artwork, Archibong said, “This art piece represents the precious nature of the liquid inside the cask. Unified and juxtaposed with our most precious resource – water – they represent the heart and soul of Islay and her people. Like a precious magic gem precariously holding a finite resource that offers endless memories, this piece is a reminder to its owner of the moment that they captured Islay in a cask and her spirit reflected on the surface of coloured glass. This artefact is a unique piece. There is only one.”
About the Brora Distillery
Nestled in the Highlands on the North East coast of Scotland, Brora became renowned for the exceptional quality and character of whisky maturing in its shuttered warehouses. Now 202-years-old, the Brora distillery was reawakened in May 2021 following a meticulous three-year restoration. Whilst the distillery has reopened, there is limited whisky that remains from before its closure, with this cask being the oldest in existence for sale from Brora.
The Brora 1982 cask will be offered alongside a stunning print by New Zealand based photographer Trey Ratcliff. Renowned for his mesmerising photography capturing the beauty of distant landscapes, the master photographer will travel to Scotland for the very first time, accompanied by the new cask owner. Together they will capture images that bring to life the landscape that helped shape this whisky. The cask owner’s selected photograph will become a large format edition print and be used to create a set of bespoke labels for the bottles to be drawn from the cask.
Speaking on the collaboration, Trey said, “My photographs capture moments in time and give those who view them an opportunity to reflect and transport to another place in the world. I’ve dedicated my life to capturing the beauty that exists at the very edge of the world, places where the sky meets the sea; Brora is one such place. I have been longing to travel to Scotland and take in its beautiful landscapes, and doing this for the first time, accompanied by someone who appreciates an exceptional whisky like this, will be an epic adventure.”
The successful bidder of the auction for these ultra-rare casks will have the option to work together with Diageo’s experts to further age their Scotch for up to five years. It’s a unique opportunity to play a role in the final part of these two unprecedented whiskies’ stories.
The casks are being auctioned in partnership with Sotheby’s as part of their ‘Jubilee Season’ due to their relevance to British craft and heritage on Tuesday 14th June 2022 in London, United Kingdom. Diageo will donate 5% of the hammer price from both casks to Care International to support their work in Ukraine.
The casks are being auctioned in partnership with Sotheby’s as part of their ‘Jubilee Season’ due to their relevance to British craft and heritage. Diageo will donate 5% of the hammer price from both casks to Care International to support their work in Ukraine.
Whisky of Distinction | Port Ellen & Brora: Casks From A Bygone Era runs from today until Tuesday 14th June. Two replicas of the casks and artwork will be on display throughout the sale at Sotheby’s New Bond Street as part of the Jubilee Season exhibition until Tuesday 14th June.
For more information on the sale, please visit www.sothebys.com/PortEllenBroraCasks.
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