Upcoming Auction: 100 Years Of American Whiskey History

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America has had a storied history of distilling since the 18th century. From thrifty farmers that turned their hands to distilling alcohol with surplus crop, to settlers from Scotland and Ireland who set up stills on arrival to the ‘new world’, the early days of whiskey production would go on to shape what is now a thriving industry synonymous with American culture. 

But in 1920 America saw its (legal) production of whiskey ground to a halt with the introduction of strict Prohibition laws - an era that would become one of the most historically significant moments in American history.

Now almost a century later, an extraordinary collection of over 600 whiskey expressions ranging from the pre-prohibition era to the present day are coming to online auction on Whisky Auctioneer. Spanning over 100 years in total, the auction will represent a timeline of America’s distilling history, journeying through its periods of challenge and triumph.

The 10-day sale will run from 13-23 August and feature some of the most sought after American and bourbon whiskeys ever produced. The oldest bottle to feature in the auction will be an Old Overholt expression, distilled in 1908 in the years before prohibition. Highly sought after bottles produced during America’s prohibition years will also feature, including  Old Mock, I.W. Harper, and Harry E. Wilkin whiskeys. 

Some of the most collectible bourbon will feature in the sale, including expressions bottled under the guidance of Julian Van Winkle Jr. from the legendary Van Winkle family. These consist of Pappy Van Winkle, Old Rip Van Winkle and Van Winkle Reserve bottlings, and also feature the very rare 1975 Special Reserve bottled exclusively for the Corti Brothers of Sacramento. A variety of expressions from iconic brands such as Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Maker’s Mark will also feature.

The auction follows our sale of the ‘Heart and Soul’ of Pat’s Whisk(e)y Collection last year, which secured mass interest across the globe and an overall hammer price of $485,625 (£375,000).

And this interest in American whiskey is showing no sign of slowing down - Whisky Auctioneer has recorded a 600% increase in the volume of whiskeys from the USA featuring in its auctions between 2016 and 2020, with value increasing by over 900% in the same time period.

Other highlights in the upcoming auction that are expected to excite collectors and American whiskey lovers include:

  • Over 65 expressions of Willett Family Estate bourbon and ryes, including some which have been personally autographed by legendary industry figure, Even Kulsveen.

  • More than 40 commemorative decanters containing liquid from Stitzel-Weller and Michters.

  • Several legendary examples of the famous A.H. Hirsch 1974 Reserve, including one of Van Winkle's earliest Lawrenceburg bottlings, produced on 26th February 1990.

  • Highly revered bottlings of 'Old Heaven Hill' distilled before the original Bardstown distillery's notorious fire in 1996. These finite expressions are a highly prized possession for bourbon collectors and connoisseurs.

  • A very rare and sought-after 1999 bottling of 16 year old Stitzel-Weller bourbon produced by Van Winkle for the Twisted Spoke bar in Chicago, IL.

 

Joe Wilson, Head of Content at Whisky Auctioneer, said:

“We’ve seen interest in Bourbon and American whiskey soar over recent years. Once confined to small, passionate communities of “dusty-hunters” and online forums, the world of collectible bourbon is now a mainstream fascination. This auction celebrates the names that proved so influential in the evolution of this, from A.H. Hirsch and Van Winkle to Buffalo Trace.

 

However, through a carefully curated selection of 20th century classics, this auction is also a ground-breaking opportunity to explore, engage with and ultimately own a piece of the story that ever increases to capture the hearts and minds of whisky-lovers across the world.”

 

Peggy Noe Stevens, Founder of the Bourbon Women Association and the world’s first Female Master Bourbon Taster, said: 

“This incredible American Whiskey auction is literally a treasure trove of some of the finest whiskey and vintage finds available on the market! In my 30 years as a spirits veteran and Master Taster, this one-of-a-kind collection is certainly one for the record books, pleasing any palate and showcasing the finesse and expertise of our famed Master Distillers.”

 

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