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Five Rare Bottles of American Whiskey from Closed Distilleries Are Being Auctioned Off

The Rare American Whiskey Selection Auction 0 Hero
Photo: Sotheby's

When it comes to rare spirits, we always typically pointed to the whiskey that hails from Scotland or Japan, with some so obscure that they’ve sold for upwards of $1 million at auction. In recent vintage, certain distilleries Stateside have been creating exclusivity among their products with innovative single-barrel techniques, extra-old age statements like the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, or even hyped-up small batches like the annual range from Pappy’s. 

The Rare American Whiskey Selection Auction 1
Photo: Sotheby’s

However, in 1997, United Distillers’ Classic Kentucky Bourbon Company had the visionary idea to release a series of collectible ultra-premium whiskeys from closed distilleries in the United States — the first of its kind. It was a risky move, to say the least, since the idea of charging people hundreds of dollars for a corn-based whiskey, let alone an entire series’ worth, wasn’t necessarily acceptable. But it wouldn’t matter; United Distillers would merge with International Distillers & Vintners at that time and the Rare American Whiskey Selection project would be abandoned.

Although the original idea had been to come out with 6,000 bottles per release, only 10 prototype bottles were actually made: five were kept at UD’s Stitzel-Weller distillery before apparently being lost in a fire, and five were kept at UD’s headquarters in Europe. The five 700mL European bottles are currently up for auction right now via Sotheby’s. All bottled at barrel proof, the set consists of a 21-year whiskey from Old Quaker in Indiana, a 17-year straight bourbon from Stitzel-Weller (who distilled Pappy’s pre-1992), a 17-year straight bourbon from Taylor-Williams, a 16-year straight rye from George T. Stagg, and a 15-year rye mash from Buffalo Springs. The back of each bottle features a picture of the distillery with information on its history.

With auction estimates being as high as £100,000 (~$124,210) for the entire 5-bottle set, the Rare American Whiskey Selection will begin its live auction on April 14 via Sotheby’s. The current bid is at £13,000 (~$16,148).