Sotheby’s is set to auction two casks of whisky from the Brora and Port Ellen distilleries, estimated at between £700,000 ($880,000 USD) and £1,200,000 ($1,500,000 USD), in partnership with Diageo. The casks are part of Diageo’s Casks of Distinction program, and are among the rarest and most valuable in existence.
Dubbed “Whisky of Distinction | Port Ellen & Brora: Casks From A Bygone Era,” the auction will take place on June 14 with advanced bidding beginning on May 31. The Brora Cask is #480. Distilled in 1982, it has an estimated 52.8% ABV and is expected to yield 145 bottles. The Port Ellen Cask is #1145. Distilled in 1979, it has an estimated 52.9 ABV and is expected to contain 102 cask strength bottles.
“This partnership between Sotheby’s and Diageo showcases an unrivalled offering of rare whisky casks at auction,” said Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s head of whisky, North America and EMEA. “On trying the 1982 Brora I was astounded by its quality – the rich cooked fruit flavours elevating its signature lightly peated character. The Port Ellen is a masterclass in 1970s Islay smoke with significant cask influence, which, especially when from a closed distillery, is precisely the style that the world’s top whisky collectors seek out.”
Until last May, both Brora and Port Ellen distilleries were silent after being shuttered in 1983. Diageo, however, pledged £35 million ($46m USD) in 2017 to restart production at both distilleries. Highlands-based Brora began production again in May 2021, while Port Ellen is supposed to begin producing spirit again in summer 2023.
Each cask comes with a unique artistic experience in collaboration with the cask owner and commissions from two artists. The artwork envisioned will be printed on each of the bottles from the cask yield making them incredibly special.
For the Brora experience, New Zealand based Trey Ratcliff, renowned for his mesmerizing landscape photography which explores the beauty at the edge of the world, will travel to Scotland for the very first time to capture images that bring to life the landscape that helped shape this incredible whisky. Accompanied by the cask owner, one of the photographs they capture together will become a large format edition print for the owner to hang as they wish. The unique image will also be printed on bespoke labels for the bottles drawn from the cask.
For the Port Ellen experience, globally recognised designer and artist Ini Archibong will create a unique piece of art capturing the light of Port Ellen and its spirit in colored glass. The one-off sculpture will be a physical expression of the “Dram and the Water”; representing the precious nature of the liquid inside the cask, whilst unified and juxtaposed with our most precious resource – water. Crafted from Murano Glass and finished in the colors of Islay, the unique sculptural piece will be presented to the cask owner in Port Ellen once the distillery has reopened. Ini will also develop and create a bespoke color gradient that will be used to design a set of labels for the bottles drawn from the cask.
Additionally, the successful bidders will have the option to further age their casks for up to five years before they are bottled. Furthermore, the casks’ new owners will be able to invite up to three guests to join them for a Diageo Rare and Exceptional experience.
The two casks will be the opening bid during Sotheby’s Scotch whisky auction in London. Diageo will donate 5% of the final hammer price from both casks to Care International to support the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
For more information about the auction or to make a bid, head over to Sotheby’s official website.