A Wee Bit O’ Scratch: Glenfiddich 55-Year Fetches Princely Sum at Auction
Just how much money is it possible to drop on a wee bit of dram? Mix up the perfect blend of ego, rare aged Scotch whisky, an anniversary party, toss in a celebrity charity, add a dash of hubris and the answer is quite a lot. On Thursday night Mahesh Patel — who has alternately been described as a whisky collector, connoisseur and bourbon baron, but is nothing so much as the P.T. Barnum of whisky — dropped $94,000 on a bottle of ultra-rare 55-year-old Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve at a charity auction on New York’s Liberty Island.
While the auction, held in honor of the house of Glenfiddich’s 125 years of distilling with proceeds going to Adrian Grener’s SHFT Initiatives (the charity arm of a sort of hard-to-pin down sustainability company), filled its celebrity quotient with Grenier, its star was the Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve — named for the granddaughter of Glenfiddich founder William Grant and barreled in 1955 when she was 54-years-old. In 2011 the cask emerged from deep within Glenfiddich’s Warehouse 29 in North Lanarkshire to be bottled on the occasion of her 110th birthday — or at least what the angels didn’t get did.
Of the 15 hand-blown glass bottles filled, 11 have been made available to the public. Those have been making the charity circuit rounds, and befitting their celebrity status, rubbing shoulders with princes and movie stars. The first bottle went for £46,850 (around $73,000) at auction in the UK December 2011 soon after bottling. The second sold for £44,000 (about $69,000) at an event hosted by HRH Prince Harry. Patel purchased a third third bottle last night.
Guess Patel is intent on making his claim that whisky will rise 20 times in value in the next decade come true. Even if he has to do it all by himself.
The Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve is not even the most expensive bottle in Patel’s collection. He nabbed a bottle of Dalmore 64 Trinitas for a cool £100,000 in 2010. The sale on Thursday night by Christie’s did rank as the highest price ever paid for a whisky sold at auction, breaking the world record previously held by, yes, the bottle of Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve sold in December.
How’s it taste? Surprisingly, though we asked very nicely, we couldn’t get a bottle for a press tasting. However, Bonhams, the auction house that sold the bottle in December provided these helpful tasting notes, complete with of charming Scotticisms:
This precious whisky is pale gold in colour, the hue of autumn barley. On the nose, it is light and delicate with aromas of soft orange blossom and delicate violets intermingling with notes of toasted almonds and the subtlest whiff of smoke, the sweetness brought out more with a few drops of water. A perfect harmony of fruit and floral aromas, it has a surprisingly light touch of oak, incredible for a whisky that has spent so long in European wood. On the taste, creamy vanilla and a gentle smokiness are beautifully counterbalanced with some sweeter oak notes. A drop or two of water releases further zesty orange flavours and an incredible vibrancy. Immediately after tasting, the finish is slightly dry, but grows with time to become extremely long, lively and sweet. It seems incredible, but the original Highland character of this precious whisky really shines through, even after so many decades, just like The Wee Janie.
Below browse some photos from last night’s event (click to enlarge). Lots of backslapping and sayings of “Lang may yer lum reek!” but probably not too many “Mony a mickle maks a muckle!”
All photos by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Glenfiddich