More than £3 million has been raised for good causes, after the Scotch whisky industry came together for a charity auction.
Over 40 exceptional whiskies and experiences found new owners from all over the world on December 3, when the first in a series of auctions under the banner The Distillers One of One took place at Barnbougle Castle near Edinburgh, organised by The Distiller’s Charity, the philanthropic arm of The Worshipful Company of Distillers, in collaboration with Sotheby’s.
The auction was staged in the Banqueting Hall, during a lively lunch where the bidders regularly erupted into applause as records tumbled, new benchmarks were set, and funds were raised for the charitable causes.
Collectors in the room, on the telephones and online competed for the 42 lots on offer, and by the time the sale drew to a close, the auction had reached a total of £3.1 million, two and a half times the pre-sale low estimate. Participants from around the world were out in force with registrants from 24 countries.
More than £2 million will be divided between four charity partners of The Youth Action Fund, which has been created by The Distillers’ Charity to transform the life chances of 16 to 25-year-old people in Scotland, empowering them to create positive change in their lives and communities.
Jonathan Driver, Master of The Worshipful Company of Distillers, said: ‘We are truly overwhelmed by the amount that has been raised and are so grateful to all of the sponsors, brands and bidders who got involved, donated spectacular lots and showed us incredible support, for making this happen.
‘To know that over £2.5 million will now be distributed to help young people across Scotland through our charity partners is really special. The success of our first auction is so exciting and we are thrilled that we can continue to support more people for at least the next six years, thanks to our ongoing partnership with Sotheby’s.
‘This whole event wouldn’t have been possible had companies of all sizes from across the Scotch Whisky industry not come together in this amazing collective endeavour. It showcases just how extraordinary the people who work in the world of Scotch Whisky are and we are privileged to have been the catalyst for this landmark sale. We want to extend a huge thanks to everyone involved.’
Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Wine, said: ‘Our global wine and spirits team were delighted to partner with The Worshipful Company of Distillers and their philanthropic arm, The Distillers’ Charity, to create a new series of charity auctions that showcase the best of the Scotch Whisky industry and provide important funds to benefit disadvantaged young people in Scotland.
‘The phenomenal outcome of this auction follows the significant success of the recent Hospices de Beaune wine sale and we look forward to our first auction with the Napa Valley Vintners early in the year. We are committed to working together with these charitable organisations to unite collectors with special opportunities to acquire rare bottles, while benefiting the communities of each region.’
Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s Spirits Specialist, said: ‘Working with The Worshipful Company of Distillers to present the biggest charity auction project in the history of Scotch Whisky has been one of the most rewarding projects of my career.
‘This was a truly unique collection of whiskies, for which we can thank the creativity and generosity of the distilleries who willingly came on board. Equally generous were the collectors who participated, driving the overall total beyond expectations. Record prices were achieved for Bowmore, Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Ladyburn, and Talisker, and more besides.’
Leading the sale was the spectacular four bottle set of Glenfiddich from the 1950s (1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959). An extended 30-minute bidding battle broke out as eight collectors competed against each other, driving the final sale price to £1,037,500 (est. £220,000-350,000). Provided by William Grant & Sons, this ultra-rare collector’s piece established a new auction record for Glenfiddich.
The Distillers One of One charity auction was the brainchild of Jonathan Driver, one of the world’s leading experts of old and rare single malt whisky, a liveryman of The Worshipful Company of Distillers and Managing Director of Private Clients at William Grant & Sons, which is a Founding Partner of the auction.
Jonathan said: ‘This was an incredible experience to honour the spirit and quality of Scotland’s whisky industry and I am immensely proud that William Grant & Sons has been able to contribute over £1 million to the final auction total; all of which will make a significant difference to disadvantaged communities in Scotland. Each lot from Glenfiddich, The Balvenie and Ladyburn was truly a ‘one-of-one’ and I am
pleased the brand records broken by all three lots could bring attention and support to the philanthropic causes championed by The Distillers Charity.’
The second most valuable lot of the sale was the Talisker 1978 Cask of Distinction, which was competed for by several collectors in the room, online and on the telephones, selling to a private collector for a record price of £625,000 (est. £350,000-500,000). This 43 Year Old cask of still-maturing Talisker single malt Scotch whisky was offered with a cask-end that has been turned into an original work of art by acclaimed Scottish painter Callum Innes.
The cask was donated by Diageo and part of its exclusive cask ownership programme, Casks of Distinction. The successful bidder is now the sole owner of Talisker Cask of Distinction 1978, one of the world’s rarest and most highly respected whiskies and a paired cask-end that has been turned into an original work of art by Turner Prize nominee Callum Innes. They will also receive the unique opportunity to visit the home of Casks of Distinction in Royal Deeside, where they can see their cask maturing inside the Casks of Distinction Warehouse.
James Mackay, head of rare and exceptional spirits at Diageo said: ‘We are honoured to have been a part of this initiative and to have helped towards raising £3.1million for The Youth Action Fund and look forward to continuing to work with The Distiller’s Charity to support young people in Scotland. This unique cask embodies a combination of art, craft and philanthropy, and is the first time a Cask of Distinction has been sold at auction. We are delighted it garnered so much support.’
Javier Ferrán, Diageo chairman, said: ‘We are delighted to support the Distillers One of One auction with a rare cask of Talisker Scotch whisky. We look forward to seeing our contribution to the auction generate significant funds for the Distillers’ Charity and to help enhance the life-chances of young people in communities the length and breadth of Scotland.’
A new auction record was achieved when the Bowmore Onyx 51 Year Old 1970 – presented in a striking, hand-blown, 1.4l black glass vessel taking its inspiration from the terroir of its island home – surpassed its estimate, selling for £400,000 (est. £100,000-180,000).
A further auction record was achieved for ‘lost’ distillery, Ladyburn, when a bottle of 54-year-old whisky distilled in 1966, uniquely labelled with a highly sought-after, hand-signed photograph by David Bailey of John Lennon, made £81,250 (est. £15,000-30,000).
Other significant purchases on the day, from those looking to secure themselves a piece of liquid history, included The Glen Garioch Twin Casks in Cradle 1990 and 2021, which realised £112,500 (est. £100,000-150,000), and The Balvenie 56 Year Old 1964, which exceeded its estimate of £50,000-80,000 to sell for £175,000.
Several once-in-a-lifetime whisky experiences were included in the auction, including the Gordon & MacPhail One of One Selection Experience from the 1940s or 1950s – an unforgettable, immersive visit to Speyside with the opportunity for the lucky recipient to work alongside the team to create their very own whisky – which sold for £87,500.
As well as the incredible support that the auction received through lot donations, the Distillers One of One auction was delighted to have the involvement of five sponsors that made the event possible. Blyth & Blyth, engineering design consultants, Simpson’s Malt, makers of high quality malt, Glencairn Crystal Studio, inventors of the industry’s favourite glass, The Glencairn Glass, J.C. Ribeiro, makers of high-quality cork stoppers and McLaren Packaging, designers and manufacturers of premium packaging.
The hammer price total of the auction will benefit The Distillers’ Charity with 90 per cent going to its newly created Youth Action Fund which will be used to change the life chances of disadvantaged young people in Scotland. The remaining ten percent will be used by The Distillers’ Charity for its general charitable purposes.
For this year’s auction, the Youth Action Fund will work together with the following four charities on specific initiatives in Scotland:
- Aberdeen Foyer, a charitable organisation supporting people towards independent living, learning and work;
- ENABLE Scotland, which delivers a range of support services across Scotland, including the ENABLE Works service which provides employment and skills support, assisting people with disabilities or other challenges into employment
- Street League, which uses the power of sport to support young people living in some of the UK’s most disadvantaged communities into work
- The Alcohol Education Trust (AET), which will work across the UK to keep young people safe around alcohol.
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