A private collector in Asia has shelled out £16m for a one-of-a-kind cask of whisky from Argyll and Bute.
The 1975 cask of single malt scotch whisky, which survived the distillery’s two brushes with closure, is the oldest-ever released by Ardbeg distillery in Islay.
The distillery said “Cask No. 3” was bought by an anonymous female collector based in Asia through a private sale.
Earlier this year, a cask of The Macallan 1988 whisky from Moray sold at auction for £1m, after being bought 34 years ago for just £5,000.
Experts have said the sale of the Ardbeg cask has surpassed any previous auction records for a cask of single malt, making for an extraordinary milestone in the distillery’s 200-year history.
Described as a “remarkable piece of liquid history” by whisky expert Charles MacLean MBE, the whisky will be bottled over the course of five years for its owner.
The distillery will continue to mature the spirit on Islay for the owner, giving her 88 bottles every year – a total of 440 bottles, at approximately £36,000 a pop.
Ardbeg has also decided to donate £1m from the proceeds of the sale to community causes in Islay over the next five years.
CEO Thomas Moradpour said: “This sale is a source of pride for everyone in the Ardbeg community who has made our journey possible. Just 25 years ago, Ardbeg was on the brink of extinction, but today it is one of the most sought-after whiskies in the world.
“That is a reflection of generations of hard work: from those in the stillhouse who craft our smoky spirit, to the warehouse staff who care for our casks over decades, to teams around the world who build the reputation of our whiskies with fans, bartenders and collectors.”
Dr Bill Lumsden, who will oversee the cask’s ongoing maturation, said: “Cask No. 3 is an extraordinary taste of Ardbeg’s past. Its aromas are nutty, herbal and smoky, while its tastes of tar, espresso coffee and spearmint have an astonishing finesse for a whisky of such age. So little stock survives from this era, that this cask really is one of a kind. And its complex flavours are testament to the extraordinary skill of the Ardbeg team who have cared for it over the decades. I look forward to exploring how it continues to evolve over the next five years.”
Charles MacLean MBE said: “This truly unique whisky is a remarkable piece of liquid history – an evocative taste of what Ardbeg was like when it malted its own barley. Many old whiskies can go flat with age. But Cask No. 3 is a really lovely whisky, hugely complex, still having vitality after nearly half a century.”