It’s boom time for clever and inventive craft gins but if you’re looking for unique, old or rare bottles from the widest variety of producers going back to the beginning of the 20th century, or if you’re experimenting with vintage cocktails, you’ll need to search the specialist auctions to discover the greatest finds. As more enthusiasts search for London dry gin for creating authentic vintage Negronis and perfect bespoke gin Martinis, I’ve been noticing prices of rare gins creeping up, so here is my personal selection of 10 of the most valuable and interesting gins.
Beautiful vintage gins also come in small packages and can fetch some surprising amounts at auction. £75 may seem like a small amount to start an article about expensive bottles but this is only 5cl of 1950s Gordon’s Gin. Sold for £75 at Whisky.Auction in 2021.
This gorgeously presented ‘gin in a tin’ from Booth’s was likely produced during prohibition. Due to the proliferation of bootleggers operating during this period in America, producers had to come up with inventive ways of discouraging counterfeit alcohol production. These tamper-proof tins became a common way of producers ensuring consumer confidence in their products. Sold for £535 at Whisky.Auction in 2019.
The Watenshi gin from Cambridge Distillery is a rare liquid indeed. Made by capturing the ‘angels share’ from their production of Japanese gin, this only yields around 15ml of liquid from each distillation, so to produce a single bottle requires up to fifty distillations. Presented in a beautiful, hand-blown decanter decorated with Japanese calligraphy and a silver plated feather, this is a stunning centrepiece for any gin enthusiast’s collection. Only six bottles are created per batch and in this month’s auction we have bottle number 1 of batch 5, which has already surpassed previous results. Sold for £700 at Whisky.Auction in 2021.
This gin from Germany’s Black Forest region is produced from a blend of 47 different botanicals, hence the name. The Distillers cut is a limited annual release, producing innovative gins in very limited numbers. Although better known for his wine-tasting prowess, prominent critic Robert Parker lauded Monkey 47 as ‘the greatest gin I have ever tasted’. High praise from one of the world’s most renowned palates. Sold for £525 at Whisky.Auction in 2018.
Kyoto Cask Aged Dry Gin – Ghost Series #13
Possibly the most expensive gin to be sold at auction, this bottle from the Kyoto Distillery is the 13th addition to the Ghost Series curated by renowned Japanese whisky expert Stefan van Eycken, and is the first non-whisky in the series. Each Ghost bottling is very limited and only 24 bottles of the Kyoto gin were produced. Sold for £10500 at Whisky Auctioneer in 2021.
Brentingby Gin Limited Edition Swarovski Crystal Bottle
This rather blingy creation was produced by Leicestershire craft gin producers Brentingby and decorated with 5000 to 6000 Swarovski crystals. Only a single bottle was made and it was auctioned to raise money for The Matt Hampson Foundation and NHS Charities. Sold for £1275 at The Grand Whisky Auction in 2021.
We regularly see beautiful vintage bottles at auction but every now and again we are lucky enough to come across not just a single bottle but a wonderfully preserved case. This lot of Gordon’s gin was sold in its original branded wooden crate as it would have been delivered to the US Navy Mess in the 1950s. Sold for £2100 at Whisky.Auction in 2021.
The majority of vintage gins we come across are English gins from the likes of Gordon’s, Gilbey’s and Booth’s, but we do occasionally see other traditional juniper based spirits. This beautifully preserved early 20th century bottle of Genever from John De Kuyper & Son, produced in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, was in great condition despite being around 100 years old. Production of Genever or Jenever dates back as far as the 16th century. Sold for £230 at Whisky.Auction in 2021.
Red Star Gin 1917 16 Year Old
This aged gin was distilled in 1917 and bottled shortly before the repeal of the Prohibition Act in 1933. Bottled by the Frankfort Distillery Company, one of only six companies to be granted a licence to bottle medicinal whisky and spirits during prohibition. At the time, patients in need of spirits to cure ailments were reportedly able to receive a doctor’s prescription for one pint of 100 proof spirit every 10 days. The label includes the message ‘for medicinal purposes only. Sale or use for other purposes will cause heavy penalties to be inflicted’. Sold for £625 at Whisky Auctioneer in 2021.
Kyoto Ki Noh Bi ex-Karuizawa Cask Dry Gin 2nd Edition
Matured in ex-Karuizawa whisky casks, the Ki Noh Bi gin series from Kyoto Distillery was the first collaboration between Japanese whisky and gin. Like many of Karuizawa’s whisky labels, the presentation of the Ki Noh Bi gin celebrates Japan’s traditional Noh Theatre. Sold for £1250 at Whisky Auctioneer in 2020.
The current spirits auction begins to end at 7:30pm on Tuesday 14 September 2021.