Six Special-Edition Spirits for the Serious Collector, Priced $23,000 and Up
There’s a time for impressing your kith and kin with an obscure bottle of booze sourced from a long-defunct distillery, or the object of a hyper-rare cult obsession. Then there’s a time when only the big guns will do—major new releases of majorly old spirits from the industry’s best-known names.
Targeted specifically at the collector market, these six bottles dispense with such gimmickry as £150,000 ($185,880) diamond-encrusted decanters that are typically used to pad the price. They focus instead on offering truly one-of-a-kind liquids worth tucking away as an investment— or, if 2016 has been particularly generous, indulging in the ultimate connoisseurship now.
Bowmore 1961 50 Year Old — $23,000 MSRP
“Succulent, hints of mango with a bright, light, floral zip” is not how you’d usually describe an Islay single malt Scotch. Yet, after a 50-year rest in two bourbon hogshead casks, stored in damp cellars lashed by North Atlantic waves, the expected peatiness and oaky intensity of Bowmore’s oldest bottling had transformed into a golden, honeyed liquid. It was like no whisky I’d ever nosed or tasted. In a word: beguiling. In another, sublime. (Beam Suntory’s Master of Malts, Iain McCallum, had a few other notes during my tasting: black truffles, peaches and cream, rich, dense, insane fruit.) The last 50 bottles out of a 200 unit run went out to stores this month, with hefty silver stoppers and beautifully handmade Elmwood cabinets.
This 1961 edition kicks off a new, six-part 50 Year Old Collection Series, in which master blender Rachel Barrie will pick a half-century-old spirit to be released annually. ($23,889.99; oakandbarrelnyc.com)
The Macallan 65 Year Old in Lalique — $35,000 MSRP
The auction market loves a Macallan whisky, with 25 percent of gaveled sales last year accorded the brand. The final bottle in the distiller’s decade-spanning “Six Pillars” collaboration with French crystal maker Lalique should be no different; only 450 units are available. The spirit itself is a rare, peated version of this Speyside standard-setter, with a dark walnut color and rich, viscous cling. (Post-World War II coal shortages necessitated malting with local peat.) Its epic rest in sherry-seasoned French casks, first filled in November 1950, has imparted cinnamon and black pepper spice that give way to oaky, tannic notes sweetened by dark fruits, dates, and toasted cocoa beans. ($34,999.99; chelseawinevault.com)
The Balvenie Fifty, Cask 4570 — $38,000 MSRP
A single-cask expression first laid down in May 1963, the Balvenie Fifty’s half-century rest in European oak yielded 128 bottles of a complex, golden-hued liquid. It’s less oaky than you might expect, though, thanks to the larger-sized sherry hogshead cask. No. 4570 starts with sugar and honeyed spice on the nose, tangy vanilla up front, and finishes with a syrupy, malty sweetness; by comparison, a sister batch from Cask 4567, filled on the same day and released in 2013, came out redder, drier, and heavier on the fruit and spice. Together they’re a lesson in the mysterious marvels of long-term aging—symbolized further by the handcrafted, 49-ring wooden container, with a barrel-like brass strap. (£26,500; thewhiskyexchange.com)
Glenfiddich 50 Year Old — $40,000 MSRP
With the last 50 bottles (of 450 total) being distributed globally next year, Glenfiddich’s super-aged expression will probably start to climb in value, if not lore, as it becomes rarer than 50-year-old single malt Scotch already is. Drawn from two casks and married in American oak for six months, the resulting pale, gold spirit is surprisingly vibrant, with rose and orange citrus on the nose, sweet toffee and vanilla on the tongue, and just a smidge of smoke before progressing to an almost herbal, oaky finish. Each bottle is individually numbered in wax and finished with Scottish silver detailing, bound up in a hand-stitched leather case. ($29,999.99; bevmo.com)
The Glenlivet Winchester Collection: Vintage 1966 — $25,000 MSRP
Only 100 bottles of this rare single malt have hit the collector’s market on the heels of a successful Vintage 1964 release in 2014. Both are named for current master distiller Alan Winchester, following the vision of his predecessor, Robert Arthur. Ex-sherry casks and a Rip Van Winkle-worthy sleep have imbued the darkened spirit with a complex mélange of soft fruit and delicate notes of baking spice (think citrus, licorice, cinnamon), plus a smooth, long finish. As is typical with these luxury rarities, the packaging draws as much attention as the whisky: A handmade cherry-wood cabinet is locked with a key and the hand-blown decanter is capped by a heavy gold stopper and smoke-colored Cairngorm quartz stone. (£19,995; harrods.com)
Hennessy 8 — $39,000 MSRP
You may be forgiven to thinking this ultra-luxe cognac is all about the crystal carafe, an insane-slash-incredible feat of Baccarat glasswork. The bottle’s eight rings mark both the passing of the torch from master blender Yann Fillioux to nephew Renaud (the eighth generation to hold the title), as well as the eight eaux-de-vie blended within (seven chosen by Yann, one by Renaud, from distillate as old as 200 years). What’s more, 25 layers of oak staves in the ornate, copper-inlaid chest represent the maison’s 250-year history; only 250 bottles were made worldwide. But it’s exactly the grand symbolism of the whole endeavor—and yes, the exceptionally elegant, velvety liquid—that catapults this into collector territory. (Private sale only; inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org)