When it comes to finding precious dusties, taking a second look in your basement is never a bad idea — especially if you live in a Scottish castle.
On Wednesday, Whisky Auctioneer announced that bottles of Scotch whisky believed to have been distilled almost 200 years ago will go up for auction in November. Believed to house the oldest Scotch whisky in the world, the bottles were discovered under a hidden, 750-year-old cellar door at Blair Castle in Perthshire, Scotland. Immediately following the discovery, a local whisky expert and the Atholl family — who have presided over Blair Castle for over seven centuries — sampled the bottles before contacting Whisky Auctioneer.
The whisky is also rumored to have been sipped on by a young Queen Victoria during an 1844 visit to the castle. According to Bertie Troughton, resident trustee at Blair Castle, approximately 40 bottles of the whisky — all of which are estimated to have been distilled in 1833 and bottled in 1841 — were discovered late last year. Three years after the Scotch was bottled, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the castle for three weeks to stay with the Queen’s close friend, the 6th Duchess of Atholl. Based on Victorian-era news reports surrounding the royal’s love for “Atholl Brose,” a drink containing whisky and honey, experts have determined that it’s likely the royals sipped on whisky from the same batch as the bottles headed to the auction block.
The bottles were authenticated by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, which was able to corroborate the bottles’ 19th-century origins through carbon dating. Since the discovery, more extensive research of the Blair Castle and Atholl Estate archives has been conducted, which has also uncovered one of the earliest known references to Scotch whisky aging in wood casks. Archivists found the mention in old cellar inventories referred to as “bin books,” specifically Bin 65, which was dated one year after the whisky had entered the casks.
“Blair Castle is fortunate to have one of the best archives of any historic house in Scotland and it’s been wonderful to see the story of these fabulous bottles come to life in the archives,” Troughton says. “Whisky has always been a huge part of the history of Blair Castle and we will be building an exhibition around the bottles we keep after the auction so that all who visit Blair Castle can see and hear the story of this incredible whisky.”
According to Angus MacRaild, an old and rare whisky specialist and co-founder of Kythe Distillery, the Scotch has maintained its original freshness and power for nearly two centuries, which he deems to be “frankly, astonishing.” He notes that the whisky conveys minimal wood influence with strong textural weight and a flavor profile delivering medicinal characteristics without any pronounced peat smoke.
“Offering the world’s oldest Scotch whisky at auction is truly a once in a lifetime occurrence. I’m fortunate to be well acquainted with old and rare liquid, as Whisky Auctioneer handles some of the world’s rarest whisky bottlings,” Joe Wilson, head curator and spirits specialist at Whisky Auctioneer said in a company release. “This, however, is a transcendent discovery that is sure to capture not just the imagination of the whisky industry but also those well beyond.”
24 of the 40 bottles discovered at Blair Castle will be sold through Whisky Auctioneer beginning on November 24. More information regarding how to sign up for the auction can be found on Whisky Auctioneer’s website.