Our upcoming auction features a fantastic selection of independent bottlings for The Syndicate on Islay. Not much is widely known about The Syndicate, however, they can be described as a group of whisky aficionado's on the Isle of Islay (including some distillery managers) with an appreciation for exceptional single malt whiskies. They have stock of some rare vintage Islay single malt casks, in particular Lagavulin. They are particularly selective about what they bottle, and do so in painfully limited numbers (take the 2001 Bruichladdich 17 Year Old for example, with just ten bottles released).
We asked rare whisky expert, Angus MacRaild, to let us in on a bit more of the story behind The Syndicate.
In the 1970s, property investor John MacTaggart was ahead of the curve in possessing an enthusiasm for Islay single malts. What started as buying some private stocks of whisky for his Islay estate, would eventually evolve into what is known today as 'The Syndicate'. There is a certain charm about these bottlings that speaks to whisky lovers; simplistic, 'homespun' labels juxtaposed by the kinds of whiskies which most bottlers would do unspeakable things for in today's market. Lagavulin 1979, Laphroaig 1988, Ardbeg 1978, Caol Ila 1990 - the list goes on. It isn't surprising when you consider that the original 'MacTaggart' bottlings - examples of which such as some 1976 Juras occasionally show up at auction - were largely filled direct from cask into all manner of containers and given as payments and gifts to estate visitors and workers.
This changed when MacTaggart invited some friends to join him in the purchase of various fillings of Islay whiskies in the late 1970s. Most famously with a parcel of 1979 hogsheads of Lagavulin, which have most recently been bottled as a 40 year old. These bottlings have in recent years become firm fixtures on the secondary market, their values and reputation helped primarily by the fact they contain beautiful examples of the various distilleries. No doubt there are other casks still sitting in bond at Bruichladdich distillery (which John MacTaggart helped revive and carries out the bottling for the Syndicate), time will tell what other whiskies will join an already notable and fascinating series.