The Glenlivet Winchester Collection 1966: Bottle No. 10
The record breaking bid.
The Beatles prance everywhere; Young Americans protest the Vietnam War; and the British government promises to keeps its troops in Malaysia until communists go away. (So we now have so-called Islamic State. Come back, all is forgiven.) In this storied milieu, master distiller Robert Arthur pulled a run of particularly outstanding whisky. It was 1966.
Cue 2017: A warm, drizzly evening. Traffic is horrendous, parking bays extinct. I perch on a stool, muted strains of music in my head, ensconced in the hazy bubble that comes only from good whisky, and witness the silent auction of Bottle No. 10 of The Glenlivet Winchester Collection 1966. Named for The Glenlivet master distiller Alan Winchester, only 100 bottles are available around the world, each with a reserve price of USD25,000.
Amidst a flutter of waiters bearing handsome trays of hors d'oeuvre, scurrying to feed the enthusiastic crowd, the hammer comes down. No. 10 is now the most expensive bottle of whisky ever sold in Malaysia. RM116,000. I reckon that’s RM3,800 a shot or about £700 per gulp, or USD800 a swallow, depending on your continent.
In the fog of morning after, the stats roll in: 28 bids, the auction extended by nine minutes. Scheduled for a 10pm closing, the offline auction was extended as a live one, with the winner smacking the other down at 10:09:39pm.
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So who is Alan Winchester, The Glenlivet master distiller? He grew up on Speyside, serendipity setting in motion the creation of this extraordinary whisky 50 years on.
On a fine blustery day, young Winchester was in the back of his parents’ car when he saw a distinguished-looking gentleman step out of a shiny, new vehicle at a petrol station. It was Robert Arthur, his parents told him, then master distiller at The Glenlivet.
Legend has it Winchester resolved in that moment to cut a similarly striking figure. It was Arthur who, as specialist Noah May explains, “selected the barrel of 1966 whisky and laid down this rarified spirit, sending it on a journey that would at some point intersect with Alan Winchester’s journey, linking their names inextricably.” The barrel that Arthur set aside had been guarded at the distillery by five generations of master distiller until Winchester drew the liquid from its sherry casks for bottling.
Those chosen for this process are said to be exceptional, and enhance the trademark soft, sumptuous complexity of The Glenlivet, with layers of spice, soft fruit and sweet treacle flavours in a tantalisingly rich, dark colour.
There was no Vintage 1966 for non-bidding mortals that night, but bottles of the Classics range were poured. The night’s welcome drink, Founder’s Reserve, was mild, like an amateur opening act: first time on stage, shyly hesitant yet eager to welcome, what it lacks in body, it makes up with light, teasing notes.
The 15-Year-Old that followed was like the type of companion I’d go for: captivating, full-bodied and expansive on the senses, warming body and soul, fragrant and full.
Followed by the 18-Year-Old, the night was set. I was well-enchanted, part with the on goings of the ticking clock, part buoyed by the flurry for food, drink, and merrymaking.