Oldest Scottish whisky in the world found behind cellar door in Perthshire's Blair Castle set for auction
But for Bertie Troughton, the resident trustee of Blair Castle in Perthshire, what he discovered is bound for the history books.
Around 40 bottles of Scotch, said to be one of the oldest in the world, were found late last year behind a cellar door at the 750-year-old castle, which is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Atholl.
The rare tipple is thought to have been distilled nearly 200 years ago and may have sipped by a young Queen Victoria, who visited the castle and developed a taste for the whisky and honey concoction Atholl Brose.
Mr Troughton said: “Just before Christmas is when I am usually rooting around the castle trying to create space and organise things, and I came across – in one of the back cellars – a heavy door leaning against an opening. I didn’t know what was behind it so I moved it and saw loads of bottles of dusty bottles that had a magical quality to them.
"There was a shelf label that said Blair Castle whisky casked 1833, bottled 1841. At that point, you're like ‘wow’. But I didn't realise immediately just how special it was. I didn't know it was going to be the oldest whisky in the world.”
Mr Troughton did as anyone would do and took a bottle home to try, confirming it was indeed whisky and a very nice one at that.
Since then, research in the archives of Blair Castle and Atholl Estates, alongside authentication of the whisky by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre via carbon dating, supports the drink’s early 19th-century origin.
The whisky is believed to have been distilled in 1833 and bottled in 1841, and later rebottled in 1932.
The archives included cellar inventories known as “bin books” and one, dated July 23 1834 – one year after the whisky was initially casked – shows cask whisky recorded in the cellar. It states: “Bin 65 – Store Whiskey – 72 bottles = 40 Gallons in wood”.
This is one of the earliest known references to whisky maturing in wood.
The 24 bottles of the historic liquid will be auctioned by Perth based Whisky Auctioneer.
Joe Wilson, head curator and spirits specialist at the company, said: “It can be an overused phrase, but this is history in a bottle and the opportunity to sample something distilled nearly 200 years ago. It's highly unlikely to ever come around again.
"I would not be surprised to see people buying this from both an investment angle, but also people wanting to open and drink this. It's exciting.”
Blair Castle archivist Keren Guthrie said a young Queen Victoria would have tried the whisky, adding another historical dimension to the find and sale.
She said: “When the whisky was distilled, the castle would have been a full Victorian house at that point. The whisky is listed in the household book and it lists everything that was consumed for that particular week. It also lists all the people who were staying in the castle at the time, so I think it's highly likely that she would have drank this.”
The discovery prompted Ms Guthrie to research this history of distilling at the castle and it goes right back to distilling aqua vita, and illicit distilling in the area.
Angus MacRaild, old and rare whisky specialist and co-founder of Kythe Distillery, is among the small group of people who have sampled the unique spirit. He said: “This is a profoundly historic whisky and a remarkable artefact of Scottish distilling that is unlikely to ever be equalled in terms of provenance and preservation. That it has been carefully re-bottled and preserved at natural strength, maintaining the freshness and power of this spirit for nearly two centuries is frankly, astonishing.
“To taste it myself, has been a great privilege. It is very much a distillate driven malt whisky, with minimal wood influence and one of a style which could have been produced any time in Scotland up until the 1950s.”
The bottles will go under the hammer as individual lots from November 24 to December 4. For more information about Whisky Auctioneer and to register your interest in the auction, please visit: whiskylink.co/Blair-Castle
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