This weekend, I took what will probably be the most expensive sip of my life. The drink: a 50-year-old The Glenlivet that costs HKD$250,000 for the bottle. The setting: an exclusive private member’s bar in New York.
My bragging rights reigned supreme among my friends and family since there was very little chance any of them would get to taste this elixir. I was part of a group of 25 people lucky enough to polish off one of only 100 bottles of The 1966 Winchester Collection in existence.
It was created by The Glenlivet master distiller Robert Arthur in 1966, a year famous in Britain for England’s World Cup win—although I quickly realised that was not something to mention in a room full of Scots. The name on the label though is that of Alan Winchester, the master distiller for The Glenlivet who has been working in the industry since 1975 and who spent the evening with us in New York, explaining the process of distilling his most impressive whisky to date.
“The release of Vintage 1966 marks a milestone for The Glenlivet Winchester Collection,” he said with pride, as he poured himself a glass. “Casks of this age and quality are such a rare thing these days, that the resulting liquid is literally history in a glass. I’m immensely proud to release this wonderful whisky, which has been cared for and crafted over generations. I just wish more people could drink it.”
So, what did it taste like? According to Winchester himself, it has a “soft and sweet complexity” that is “layered by a “delicate cinnamon and liquorice spice” followed by an “exceptionally long, smooth finish, with a hint of dryness”. Personally, I found it much richer, smoother and more complex than any other whisky I had tasted. There were hints of raisin, liquorice and even treacle that lingered long after the glass was finished.
It is currently available to buy online or at Harrods in London and can be shipped anywhere in the world. Although if you want something truly unique, the rare Master Distiller’s bottle will be auctioned in New York on October 21 2016 and is estimated to fetch USD $26,000 to $40,000 USD. The lucky recipient of this whisky will also secure the exclusive opportunity to own the first bottle released of the 2016 vintage in 50 years’ time.
The sale will take place in Christie’s, and proceeds from the sale of this once-in-a-lifetime bottle will be donated to the British Crafts Council, a London-based arts programme that puts British craft talent on the world stage. They have chosen to focus their efforts on Joseph Harrington, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, who has pioneered a process of glass casting called the lost ice technique. This involves sculpting ice in salt in a complex technique that leads to haunting, magnificent sculptures that will be centre stage alongside Design Miami later this year.
So for anyone with a love of rare Scottish whisky and unusual British culture, this is an opportunity not to be missed. Believe me.