We first heard of the collection when the owner’s son contacted us for a valuation. All we had to go on was a single blurry photo of a bar full to the rafters with old and rare bottles, and images of a book which the collector had used to catalogue his acquisitions.
The book proved invaluable for us when it came to giving the family an early idea of the collection’s value. This collector had listed each bottle next to the price he had paid for it and, crucially, the date it was purchased.
I visited the family at their home to take a look at the collection and assess what we could put to auction. After a cup of tea and a ham roll we got to work.
I was astounded to see just how many bottles were on display. Everywhere I looked there were more: in cabinets, behind the in-house bar, on shelves high and low. I would pick up a bottle of Wood’s rum to find a Caroni Navy Rum hiding behind it. I cast my eye along one shelf to spy a Macallan 1957 nestled between a bottle of Bell’s and a Queen Anne blend. They just kept appearing.
The collector had bought anything and everything for the family’s home bar. If he hadn’t seen a bottle before, or just liked the look of it, he bought it. His friends knew about his hobby and whenever they went abroad they would always bring back a bottle or two for the bar. On the occasions when the family snuck a bottle away at a party, the spaces on the shelf were filled with another bottle or two.
The result is that the collection is broad and comprehensive, covering many of the most collectible single malts and blends of the era, as well as a wide range of American whiskey, rum, Cognac, gin, vodka and brandy.
Most of the bottles were diligently labelled with the price paid and the date they were purchased. More than a few of the bottles have become so rare that his diligent cataloguing has allowed us to fill gaps in our own picture archives. Some of the bottles helped confirm conjecture as fact while others challenged conventional wisdom when it came to dating the bottles.
For example, three Dalmores were all added to the collection in the 1970s. The dates on the labels give a reliable timeline of which came first.
Three Glengoynes, again from the 1970s, with dated labels. You can see the evolution of the label, cap and glass designs.
The owner passed away just a couple of years ago, so it was difficult for the family to consider selling the collection, it had been a permanent fixture in the family home for decades. What reassured them was knowing that these bottles, which had been lovingly collected over so many years, would end up in the furthest reaches of the globe and would continue to be looked after and provide enjoyment to other enthusiasts for decades to come.
It was a pleasure to catalogue these bottles for our auction and we can’t wait to see where the hammer falls on this fantastic collection.
Here are some of my personal highlights:
This one in a clear glass bottle has a great fill level and the date on the label is March 1979, which ties in with the combination of both metric and imperial measurements on the label.
A very rare example bottled by Mackenzie Brothers. Again in great condition, this label is dated May 1974, meaning we’ve got early 1960s distillate in the bottle.
A beautiful, high strength G & M bottling featuring their old-school stencil design on the glass. Purchased in November 1971.
This one with a screen-printed label is very rare indeed. Added to the collection in May 1973 for the princely sum of £3.70.
One of the few independent bottlings in the collection, this Glenrothes-Glenlivet was matured in sherry wood for 22 years before bottling in the late 1970s. Even then this was a pricey whisky at £14.
Two bottles of blended whisky from D Johnston & Co. of Laphroaig distillery. Both in great condition with excellent fill levels.
It’s very rare to see 1970s Caroni come to auction. The popularity of the more recent Velier bottlings means rum fans want to delve into the history and try some of the original releases. These two were on the market at the same time, with the 90 Proof being a fraction more expensive at £3.98.