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The oldest bottle of whisky in the world?
Rare Victorian Glenavon Scotch will sell at Bonhams
A bottle of whisky that could be the oldest in existence is to be sold at Bonhams on 29 November. The bottle’s label reads ‘GLENAVON *** Special Liqueur Whisky Bottled by the Distillers,’ yet Glenavon ceased operating in the 1850s. If the whisky was indeed ‘bottled by the distillers,’ it will be one of the oldest bottles of whisky ever to come to auction. It is expected to fetch between £5,000 – 10,000 at Bonhams’ Sale of Fine Wine, Port & Spirits at 101 New Bond Street, London, on 29 November 2006.
It has been in the family of a lady in Ireland for generations, and this is believed to be the first time in its history it has been offered at auction.
Glenavon Distillery was situated at Ballindalloch, where the River Avon meets the River Spey, although its precise location is not known. It was recorded as operating in 1851 and licensed to John G. Smith in 1852. John Gordon Smith was the son of George Smith, founder of the nearby Glenlivet Distillery, and he joined his father in the business in 1846, helping him to establish a small distillery at Delnabo in 1849.
Charles MacLean, Bonhams’ consultant and a world authority on whisky has been researching the bottle’s origin. “It has been suggested that Delnabo and Glenavon may have been one and the same,” he explains. “What is certain is that the Smiths closed Delnabo in 1858, and in the following year they consolidated all their distilleries (including Glenavon/ Delnabo) at Minmore, the site of the present Glenlivet Distillery. Since the label reads ‘Glenavon’ and ‘Bottled by the Distillers,’ it implies that it was bottled before the move to Minmore. Yet even if it had been bottled by the Smiths after the closure of Glenavon, authentic bottles of Scotch from the 1870s are extremely rare. John Smith died in 1901, so we know it was bottled before then.”
The bottle itself is an unusual size, slightly smaller than the familiar 75cl, and is made from olive-green glass. The liquid inside appears to be pale gold, and the level is surprisingly high for such an old bottle, almost to the neck.
Prior to the sale on 29th November, Charlie MacLean will be conducting a tutored tasting for Bonhams in London entitled 'The same as it ever was?' examining how Scotch Whisky has changed over time. This will be held at 6.30pm on 15th November at 101 New Bond Street. Charlie is acknowledged as one of the leading experts on Scotch Whisky in the world and places are strictly limited.