Sky high prices for rare, limited-edition whiskeys should not be news. Whiskey aficionados all around the world know the value of a well-aged bottle of Scotch and rarely blink an eye to the astronomical prices distilleries demand for them.
But there are rare times when auctions or private sales of single bottles of whiskeys or casks set unbelievable records, like the time the largest bottle of whiskey was sold at an auction for $1.1 million. Turns out, there’s a new record breaker in town and this time it’s a biggie.
Ardbeg, a 200-year-old distillery from the small remote Scottish Isle of Islay, has reportedly sold a cask of whiskey for $19 million (over INR 150 crores). The cask, known as Cask No. 3, was sold to an anonymous collector in a private sale recently at a price that is way higher than the last highest price fetched for a cask of Scotch, which was $2.3 million.
Because this was not a part of an auction, the details of the sale do not have to be disclosed or be scrutinised on the open market. But Ardbeg has confirmed that the sale of Cask No. 3 at the reported price makes it the most expensive whiskey sold ever, at least according to the available records.
“It’s certainly the most expensive we have ever sold and—while we don’t have access to information on private sales by competitors, all the publicly available information suggests it is a category record,” said a spokesperson of the distillery to Food & Wine.
One of the major reasons why this cask of whiskey was so expensive was because this is the only cask that survived a very tumultous period in Ardbeg’s history. Like many distilleries of the time, Ardbeg struggled to remain afloat during Scotland’s lean period in 1970s and 80s. To survive, it had to sell most of its stock but ultimately had to be closed down around 1981. In 1997, however, Glenmorangie stepped in and purchased the distillery and proceeded to get it back on its feet.
This particular cask of whiskey contains 446 bottles worth of Scotch and is the oldest Ardbeg Scotch ever released. It’s also one that cannot be replicated for atleast a decade, according to Ardbeg. “Cask No. 3 is an extraordinary taste of Ardbeg’s past,” said Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of whisky creation, “Its aromas are nutty, herbal and smoky, while its tastes of tar, espresso coffee and spearmint have an astonishing finesse for a whisky of such age. So little stock survives from this era, that this cask really is one of a kind. And its complex flavors are testament to the extraordinary skill of the Ardbeg team who have cared for it over the decades.”
According to the terms of the sale, the distillery will hold on to the cask and package 88 bottles every year, for the next five years, on behalf of the private owner.