Premier auction house Sotheby’s has a spirited offering up for bid: Rare American Whiskey Selection 1976-1982. The five bottles, which were packaged in the mid-1990s as prototypes, are believed to be the only set in existence.
The original premise of the Rare American Whiskey Selection project was to create an annual release of five very different barrel-proof, high-age whiskeys. The project would have preceded the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection in 2000 (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old, and Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old) by a handful of years.
The five-bottle Rare American Whiskey Selection set includes:
- Old Quaker Indiana Corn Whiskey 21-Year-Old Limited Edition Barrel Proof – 130 Proof – 1976
- Stitzel-Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Limited Edition 17-Year-Old Barrel Proof – 107 Proof – 1980
- Taylor-Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Limited Edition 17-Year-Old Barrel Proof – 112 Proof – 1980
- George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Limited Edition 16-Year-Old Barrel Proof – 114 Proof – 1981
- Buffalo Springs Kentucky Rye Mash Whiskey Limited Edition 15-Year-Old Barrel Proof – 125 Proof – 1982
The live auction begins on April 14, but online bidding is open now. The Rare American Whiskey Selection has an estimate of £10,000 to £100,000 (roughly $12,000 to $123,000). The current bid is £38,000 ($46,900).
Rare American Whiskey Selection: Specs From Sotheby’s
The project was the initiative of The Classic Kentucky Bourbon Company, a subsidiary of United Distillers (UD) in 1997. At the time, UD owned the Bernheim Distillery and Stitzel-Weller. On the point of The Rare American Whiskey Selection project receiving approval for launch, UD merged with another company, International Distillers & Vinters to create United Distillers & Vintners, forming the spirits division of Diageo.
The original premise of the Rare American Whiskey Selection project was to create an annual release of five very different barrel-proof, high age statement whiskies. The project got as far as bottling two examples of each of the selected whiskeys, with prototype labels.
The two sets of liquid were split up and, ironically, one set was sent to the Stitzel-Weller distillery for safekeeping. While the other set remained at the company HQ in the UK for the European market. It is believed that the set at the SW distillery were destroyed in the distillery fire, making this set the only one that still remains in existence.
This series of whiskeys, initially to be released in a limited run of 6,000 bottles per release, would have been a landmark in the history of premium American Whiskey. In addition, the project would have preceded the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection by a number of years, and seen the footprint of US Whiskeys in whisk(e)y collector circles change dramatically. Of course, these bottles represent not only ultra-rare liquid from now-closed distilleries, but a crucial element of the story of rare American Whiskey’s history that has until now gone untold.