Back in April, Skinner Auctioneers announced that they would be auctioning off “the oldest currently known whiskey bottle” — a bottle so old, in fact, that they weren’t quite sure when it was produced. Even the label — hand-typed and taped onto the bottle — gave a bit of a shrug, stating only, “This Bourbon was probably made prior to 1865.” A bit of carbon dating of the liquid inside narrowed things down — determining with 81.1 per cent certainty that it was from 1763 to 1803 — and landing the tipple its “oldest” title.
But for anyone concerned that all this ambiguity might affect the auction value of this bottle of Old Ingledew Whiskey, don’t worry. In an era where a single bottle of scotch can sell for nearly $2 million (SGD 27,21,960), the world’s (probably) oldest whiskey sold just fine — more than tripling the pre-auction estimates of between $20,000 (SGD 27,219) and $40,000 (SGD 54,439) and fetching a whopping $137,000 (SGD 186,454).
Interestingly enough, beyond the vague dating information, the bottle’s two-sentence label also offered up a tidbit about its prior ownership, stating that it “was in the cellars of Mr John Pierpont Morgan” — AKA famed banker JP Morgan. So Skinner rare spirits expert Joseph Hyman looked into those details as well.
“We have further confirmed that JP Morgan, Sr did purchase the bulk of the madeira and whiskey from the Ridgely’s of Hampton House, in 1902, for approximately $7600 (SGD 10,343), and the Ridgely’s typed inventory from 1901 lists ‘Old Bourbon- (purchased) about 1860,'” Hyman told me via email. As a result, beyond the dating, he believes that, due to the “historical figures involved in the story, the market valued the bottle much higher than our estimates for a whiskey for which we, as yet, do not know who originally produced it.”
All of that information also helps explain the whiskey’s purported purchaser: Though Skinner officially states that the buyer was anonymous, The State reports that Rex Woolbright — the man who found the whiskey in his uncle’s estate — told the newspaper that the bottle will now be housed in New York’s Morgan Library and Museum… formerly the Pierpont Morgan Library. So yes, even though JP Morgan passed away in 1913, the oldest whiskey bottle is reportedly going full circle and ending up back in its former owner’s former personal library. As Woolbright was quoted as saying, “It’s finally at its home.”
This story first appeared on www.foodandwine.com
(Main and Feature Image Credit: Courtesy Skinner Auctioneers)
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