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Rare Ardbeg cask sells for record £16 million

A whisky collector has bought a cask of Ardbeg distilled in 1975 for a record-breaking £16 million (US$19.3m).

Ardbeg Cask No 3
Cask No. 3 is a marriage of two casks that were filled in 1975

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 ‘one-of-a-kind’ cask, Cask No. 3, contains liquid distilled on Tuesday 25 November 1975.

The new make spirit was filled into two separate casks, a Bourbon barrel and an oloroso Sherry cask. Both casks were left to mature for more than 38 years.

On 31 March 2014, Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of whisky creation, decided to marry the two casks, and emptied the whisky into a single refill oloroso Sherry butt.

Now, at 46 years old, the single malt cask has been snapped up by a private female collector in Asia.

The sale is unique in that each year, over the next five years, 88 bottles of the single malt will be made. This will give the collector a unique vertical series of Ardbeg whiskies with a 1975 vintage, aged for 46, 47, 48, 49 and 50 years by 2026.

Lumsden said: “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.

Charitable donation

Ardbeg has also decided to give £1 million (US$1.2m) from the sale to causes on Islay. The money will be donated throughout the five-year bottling period.

Thomas Moradpour, CEO, said: “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.”

The Spirits Business and Lux Row Distillers has partnered to auction a cask of Rebel Bourbon to raise money for the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

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