It’s Brora & Clynelish week here at Mark Littler Ltd, and to kick off the week we are going to talk about the most expensive bottles of Brora & Clynelish ever sold at auction.
The Brora and Clynelish distilleries have intertwining histories dating back to the founding of the original Clynelish distillery in 1819. With such a rich and shared history, you might be thinking that the whiskies from each of these distilleries are pretty much the same in terms of character, taste, and value.
From our blog ‘Brora & Clynelish: The Ultimate Investors Guide Including Rare Malts Series Bottle Price Analysis’, Brora Rare Malts bottlings have historically performed better at auction than its counterpart, perhaps suggesting that Brora is more sought-after by collectors. But, what if we were to look not just at one series of bottlings, but at the most expensive bottles of Brora and Clynelish ever sold at auction?
The Most Expensive Bottles of Brora Ever Sold At Auction
Nov 2020 Brora 1972 40 Year Old Cask Strength £26,750
Nov 2020 Brora 1972 40 Year Old Cask Strength £25,751
Sep 2019 Brora 1972 40 year old Cask Strength £20,100
Nov 2018 Brora 1972 40 Year Old Cask Strength £19,000
Dec 2018 Brora 1972 40 Year Old Cask Strength £15,200
As you can see, one particular Brora bottling dominates the top five. Only 160 bottles of the Brora 1972 40 Year Old were ever produced, making it one of the rarest Brora bottlings in existence, and the second oldest, beaten only by the more recent 44-year-old expression.
The crystal decanters are all engraved with the distillation year (1972) and the image of the Scottish wildcat, whilst the stopper is engraved with the age-statement. Each of the decanters comes with a handcrafted wooden case, designed and created by N.E.J Stevenson, the famed cabinet makers.
The liquid was bottled at cask strength – 59.1%.
The Most Expensive Bottles of Clynelish Ever Sold At Auction
Oct 2018 Clynelish 12 Year 1950/60s – M Di Chiano £36,200
Oct 2019 Clynelish 12 Year Old 1950/60s – Di Chiano Import £14,500
Feb 2019 Clynelish 12 Year Old 1950/60s £13,514
Aug 2019 Clynelish 1966 Cadenhead’s 23 Year Old Sestante White Label £13,500
Mar 2019 Clynelish 1966 Sestante 23 Year Old Cadenhead’s White Label £13,100
The top three spots on this list are taken up by the Clynelish 12 Year Old that was bottled between the 1950s and 1960s by Ainslie and Heilbron. These rare bottles are some of the only single malts ever to be bottled with a spring-cap.
The whisky was distilled at the old Clynelish distillery, before it became Brora in 1975, after running as Clynelish A alongside Clynelish B when the new distillery was built in 1968. Brora was mothballed in 1983 and has been silent ever since. Although, in 2017 Diageo announced plans to reopen the distillery, much to the delight of Brora fans. The reopening was delayed by Covid-19, but is set to take place in summer 2021.
The fourth and fifth to spots are taken up by the Clynelish 1966 Cadenhead’s 23 Year Old. This series is known as the white label series, and this particular bottling was bottled in 1989 or 1990 for Sesante, the Italian Importers. Sesante was founded in the 1970s, and started bottling single casks in the 1980s.
Something that perhaps makes these bottles something of a novelty as well as a rarity is that the vintage statement is actually wrong – the whisky was distilled in December 1965, not 1966 as the label suggests. This whisky was also distilled at the old Clynelish distillery, now known as Brora. So, technically, these whiskies were distilled at Brora distillery, not Clynelish. Confusing, right? Welcome to the complex history of Brora and Clynelish.
So, if the top three bottles are all the same, why did one sell for over twice as much as the other?
Well, upon inspection of the bottles, the £36,200 bottling has a higher level in the neck than the second-place bottling. The label is also in better condition.
However, it is most likely that the buyers that were interested in the bottle entered into a bidding war, pushing the price up and up and up until one of them could bid no longer. This just goes to show what collectors are willing to pay for a rare and unique bottling.
So, which whisky is better?
And, so from the data above we can see that Brora bottlings seem to sell for more consistently high prices. Clynelish, however, surprises us periodically by selling for a price well above what collectors expect. After all, if a collector with enough money sees a bottle that is missing from their collection, they will want to fill that gap in their whisky cabinet.
The above data by no means suggests that Brora whisky is better than Clynelish whisky, but suggests that Brora is more consistently collectible than Clynelish. However, the periodical high prices paid for Clynelish bottlings suggests that Clynelish, too, is becoming increasingly collectible compared to its counterpart.
Watch this space for more information surrounding Brora & Clynelish, as we continue on our Brora & Clynelish week.
If you would like to explore the comparison between Brora Rare Malts and Clynelish Rare Malts then please visit our blog.
UPDATE: Brora Breaks Records
Since this blog was first published, Brora has outdone itself, as a bottle of the Brora 1972 40 Year Old Cask Strength sold through Sotheby’s for an astonishing £54,450.
The bottle was number 130 of 160 and was sold with the presentation case. This is now, by far, the highest price ever paid for a bottle of Brora at auction.