Editor's Note: File this under "what could have been" or "don't cry over spilled whiskey." Either way it's a shame this project never saw the light of day. I for one would love to see a an another company release an annual collection that would complete with BTAC. Competition would keep everyone on their toes.
The Rare American Whiskey Selection 1976-1982 is a set of five 700ml bottles originally produced as the prototypes for a shelved American whiskey project from United Distillers (UD) in 1997.
The collection includes five barrel-proof bottlings: Old Quaker Indiana Corn Whiskey 21 Year Old (65% ABV) 1976, Stitzel-Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon 17 Year Old (53.5% ABV) 1980, Taylor-Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon 17 Year Old (56% ABV) 1980, George T Stagg Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey 16 Year Old (57% ABV) 1981, and Buffalo Springs Kentucky Rye Mash Whiskey 15 Year Old (62.5% ABV) 1982.
Three bidders went head-to-head for the collection, the only one in existence, which ultimately went to an American buyer.
It sold for 15 times its pre-sale low estimate of £10,000-£100,000 (US$12,377-US$132,779), Sotheby’s said.
The project was created by The Classic Kentucky Bourbon Company, a subsidiary of UD in 1997, which owned the Bernheim and Stitzel-Weller distilleries in Louisville, Kentucky.
The original premise of the project was to create an annual release of five different barrel-proof, high age-statement whiskies.
Two sets of the five whiskeys were created. One was sent to the Stitzel-Weller site for safekeeping, but it is believed to have been destroyed in a distillery fire.
The other collection remained at the company’s headquarters in the UK for the European market.
The whiskeys were initially to be launched in a limited run of 6,000 bottles per release. It would have marked a ‘landmark’ moment in the history of American whiskey, Sotheby’s said, and would have preceded the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection by several years.
The project was abandoned after UD merged with International Distillers & Vintners to create United Distillers & Vintners, which became the spirits division of Diageo.
Sotheby’s said the bottles represent a ‘crucial element of the story of rare American whiskey’s history that has until now gone untold’.