Whisky believed to be distilled almost 200 years ago and sipped by a young Queen Victoria has been found behind a hidden cellar door in a 750 year old castle in Scotland. Understood to be the oldest known Scotch whisky in existence, it will soon be offered for sale at auction.
In late 2022, Bertie Troughton, Resident Trustee at Blair Castle in Perthshire, found a number of old bottles in an unassuming cellar room. Around 40 bottles of whisky were discovered at the back of a shelf which are believed to have been distilled in 1833 and bottled in 1841 (the whisky was then rebottled in 1932). In November, 24 bottles will be sold via Perth-based Whisky Auctioneer, a market leader in the buying and selling of whisky and spirits at auction.
The bottles were initially sampled by the family and a local whisky expert before Whisky Auctioneer was contacted. Since then, research in the archives of Blair Castle and Atholl Estates, alongside authentication of the whisky by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre via carbon dating supports its early 19th century origin.
Joe Wilson, Head Curator and Spirits Specialist at Whisky Auctioneer, said:
“Offering the world’s oldest scotch whisky at auction is truly a once in a lifetime occurrence. I’m fortunate to be well acquainted with old and rare liquid, as Whisky Auctioneer handles some of the world’s rarest whisky bottlings. This, however, is a transcendent discovery that is sure to capture not just the imagination of the whisky industry but also those well beyond.
“Distilled in the 1830s, the whisky was made during a fascinating period when whisky production was experiencing massive change following the 1823 Excise Act, making it a particularly exciting find for those interested in the history and heritage of the Scotch whisky industry.”
Extensive references to the production of whisky and aqua vitae throughout history, specifically the early 19th century, were found in documents held in the Blair Castle and Atholl Estates archive.
Bertie Troughton Blair Castle Resident Trustee, commented:
“Blair Castle is fortunate to have one of the best archives of any historic house in Scotland and it’s been wonderful to see the story of these fabulous bottles come to life in the archives. Whisky has always been a huge part of the history of Blair Castle and we will be building an exhibition around the bottles we keep after the auction so that all who visit Blair Castle can see it and hear the history of this incredible whisky”.
Angus MacRaild, Old and Rare Whisky specialist and co-founder of Kythe Distillery, added:
“This is a profoundly historic whisky and a remarkable artefact of Scottish distilling that is unlikely to ever be equalled in terms of provenance and preservation. That it has been carefully re-bottled and preserved at natural strength, maintaining the freshness and power of this spirit for nearly two centuries is frankly, astonishing.
“To taste it myself, has been a great privilege. It is very much a distillate driven malt whisky, with minimal wood influence and one of a style which could have been produced any time in Scotland up until the 1950s. What I find most interesting is that this profile existed already as far back as the 1830s. It possesses clear textural weight in the mouth, along with a flavour profile that strongly involves medicinal characteristics without any notable or pronounced peat smoke.
“Not only do I find it historically fascinating, but a pleasurable and hugely charismatic whisky that I find quite typical of older style, distillate-forward highland malt whiskies.”
The archives included cellar inventories known as ‘bin books’. One such bin book, dated July 23rd 1834 – one year after the whisky was initially casked – shows whisky recorded in the cellar safely in its cask. It specifically references ‘Bin 65 – Store Whiskey – 72 bottles = 40 Gallons in wood’. This is one of the earliest known references to whisky maturing in wood.
24 individual lots will be sold through Whisky Auctioneer from 24 November to 4 December. For more information about Whisky Auctioneer and to register your interest in the auction, please visit: whiskylink.co/Blair-Castle
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