A whisky collector from Asia has bought a cask of Ardbeg distilled in 1975 for a record-breaking £16 million. The sale price surpasses any auction record for a cask of single malt and is also the distillery’s oldest whisky release to date. For context, in August last year a 1991 cask of Macallan sold at Bonhams in Hong Kong for HK$4,464,000 (US$574,126).
The cask, dubbed “cask no. 3” is a merger of two different casks filled in 1975. The two casks, a Bourbon barrel and Sherry cask, were left to mature for 38 years before being filled into the single malt cask containing a unique brand of whisky.
Dr. Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks at Glenmorangie and Ardbeg and one of the most innovative distillers in the world is renowned for his ground-breaking wood management techniques, experimentation with exceptional casks at various ages and utilisation of extra maturation to deliver outstanding whiskies. Dr. Bill, a biochemist by training, is regarded as a pioneer of innovation in the malt whisky industry and travels the world searching for the best oak casks that will complement Glenmorangie’s whiskies and impart unique characteristics all of their own. Lumsden has received many awards for his unique creations.
Lumsden described the “one-of-a-kind” cask, stating that “Cask No. 3 is an extraordinary taste of Ardbeg’s past. 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 flavours are testament to the extraordinary skill of the Ardbeg team who have cared for it over the decades. I look forward to exploring how it continues to evolve over the next five years.”
Cask No. 3 was laid down before the Ardbeg distillery on Islay was mothballed during a turbulent period for the Scotch whisky industry.
Ardbeg has also decided to give £1 million (US$1.2m) from the sale to causes on Islay, the island in the Scottish Hebrides where the whisky was distilled. The money will be donated throughout the five-year bottling period.
Thomas Moradpour, CEO of Ardbeg, said that: “This sale is a source of pride for everyone in the Ardbeg community who has made our journey possible. Just 25 years ago, Ardbeg was on the brink of extinction, but today it is one of the most sought-after whiskies in the world.
“That is a reflection of generations of hard work: from those in the still house who craft our smoky spirit, to the warehouse staff who care for our casks over decades, to teams around the world who build the reputation of our whiskies with fans, bartenders and collectors.
“While such a rare whisky is out of reach for all but one of our fans, we put the same passion and care into every bottle of Ardbeg as went into this exclusive single malt in 1975 – from flagship Ardbeg 10 Years Old, to limited edition releases.
“Today, our new still house is working at full capacity to make more Ardbeg available than ever, and whisky creator Dr Bill Lumsden is busy imagining many more surprising smoky releases for Ardbeg fans. Because when a business like Ardbeg gets rewarded for 50 years of patience, it gives us the confidence to keep investing in the future of our distillery, and in our island community. The journey continues.”