Anybody who knows anything about whisky collecting has probably heard of the Corti Brothers. Whilst relatively unknown to most of the general public, the Corti Brothers name carries a lot of weight in the whisky industry, and Corti Brothers bottlings are high sought-after in the market.
We are pleased to announce that at Mark Littler Ltd we have three Corti Brothers bottlings of Highland Park available to buy on our online shop.
The Corti Brothers
The Corti Brothers brand was created in 1947, when brothers Frank and Gino Corti bought an Italian delicatessen with the aim of bringing new food and beverage-based experiences to their community in Sacramento.
In 1952 the need arose to expand into a bigger store. The brothers became extremely successful, selling everything from meat, cheese, and fish, to bourbon and single malt Scotch whisky.
Frank Corti’s son, Darrell, was educated in the family business by his father and he soon became something of a walking encyclopedia, with impressive knowledge about all things food and wine.
It was Darrell Corti who, in the 1970s and 1980s, decided to explore the idea of bottling bourbon and whisky.
Corti’s Bourbon Adventure
It all began when Darrell Corti decided that an all-American spirit (bourbon being the USA’s only national drink) should be on offer to his clients on the occasion of the Bicentennial – the 200th birthday of the United States of America fell in 1976.
In 1975, Darrell Corti set out on a journey through the state of Kentucky to find bourbon to bottle for the special occasion. He was met with many questions as to why he was bothering to purchase bourbon; according to many the beverage was on the way out, and vodka was on the way in.
Corti eventually purchased four bourbons to offer to his clientele: Rare Olde Corn Whiskey 12 Year Old, Masterson Station Straight Rye 16 Year Old, Collector’s Item Straight Rye 16 Year Old, and Bicentennial Commemoration Bourbon 16 Year Old.
Despite the Corti Brothers newsletter reaching clients all up and down the west and east coast, the bourbons did not sell. At the time, you could buy bottles of a bourbon named Old Forester for $5 per bottle. This meant that not many were interested in the more expensive bourbon that the Corti Brothers had to offer.
However, Darrell Corti had developed a taste for bourbon and whisky, and did not let this deter him. Instead, he managed to make the best of a bad situation.
The Whisky Loch
In the 1980s the whisky industry found itself in the midst of the so-called “whisky loch”. The phenomenon devastated the industry and saw a huge number of distilleries in Scotland close their doors.
An industry-wide excess of whisky in a time where vodka and white rum were becoming increasingly popular forced the closure of many distilleries. These included Banff, Brora, Glenury Royal, and Port Ellen.
Some of these distilleries have been demolished, others converted into buildings for other purposes (a Beefeater restaurant, in the case of Rosebank). Thankfully, and to the delight of whisky fans everywhere, Brora and Port Ellen – two of the most infamous and sought-after victims of the whisky loch – are coming back online in 2021. In fact, Brora recently reopened in May 2021.
The whisky loch had a devastating effect on the whisky industry, with many believing that the beverage would never recover.
However, across the pond, Darrell Corti had decided that then was the perfect time to turn his attention to single malt Scotch whisky.
Narsai David, Averys, & R.W. Duthie Co.
By the late 1970s, Darrell Corti had struck up a friendship with Narsai David, the owner of a restaurant in Kensington, San Diego.
In 1978, David ventured to the UK to visit Avery’s, Bristol. He was so impressed with the samples of single malt Scotch whisky that he brought some back to the United States. These became the first single malts ever to be released by the Corti Brothers brand.
Averys is a historic wine-merchant and independent bottler, who also had a hand in helping Darrel Corti to fill and sell bottles of single malt Scotch whisky to his many clients.
Much like Darrel Corti, the firm was ahead of the times in terms of bottling Scotch, as they were bottling single malts in the 1930s when blends were far preferable. And so it seemed only fitting that Darrell Corti enlisted Averys’ help to bottle single malts from distilleries such as Glen Grant and Highland Park.
The firm was established in Bristol in 1793, and began life bottling wines, sherries, and ports. Averys gained prominence throughout the 20th century, with the 1960s, 70s, and 80s being the most active periods for the company.
Averys has remained fairly quiet since the 1980s, and Averys bottlings from the firm’s heyday are highly sought-after on the secondary market.
A collaboration ensued, which saw Darrell Corti and Narsai David selecting, importing, and bottling single malt Scotch whisky that could be bought fairly cheaply at the time due to the whisky loch. The pair collaborated on dozens of releases, with Corti flying solo on others.
The bottling was also outsourced to R.W. Duthie Company, an Aberdeen-based subsidiary of WM Cadenheads. The bottles were then exported to the United States, where Corti and David marketed and sold the exceptional single malts to their clients.
The releases became known as Duthie for Corti and Averys for Corti.
What Makes The Bottles So Special?
Duthie for Corti bottles are extremely rare and highly-sought after by whisky collectors. But, what makes the bottles so special?
These whiskies were bottled at a time when the single malt market was suffering. There was no interest in single malt whisky, and declining interest in blends during the whisky loch of the 1980s. This means that the casks that were bottled for Corti could be bought fairly cheaply, despite the fact that the malts hailed from distilleries such as Clynelish, Springbank, and Highland Park.
These were casks with 1950s and 60s vintages and high age statements, and yet they may have been destined for blends if Darrell Corti had not rescued these casks from the edge.
Darrell Corti expressed a desire to bottle the whiskies in clear bottles so that clients could gaze upon the purity of the whisky, and the colouring that came with decades in a cask.
The Duthie for Corti bottlings are also recognisable by their simple, no-frills beige labels bearing the name of the distillery, the vintage, and the age statement.
In an age where vintage statement and age statement bottlings are increasingly difficult to find, any Duthie for Corti bottling would be a fantastic addition to any whisky collection.
The bottles are very rarely seen on the secondary market. This sale is a very exciting chance for whisky collectors around the globe to get their hands on a Duthie for Corti bottle.
Whisky Auctioneer Corti Brothers & Samaroli Auction
In another exciting time for whisky collectors, from 17th-21st June, Whisky Auctioneer are dedicating an entire auction to Samaroli and Corti Brothers whiskies from the private collection of Emanuel Dron.
Visionary Masterpieces:Refined Selections of Samaroli and the Corti Brothers, courtesy of Whisky Auctioneer begins June 17th 2021, and ends on June 21st 2021. You can register your interest in the auction on Whisky Auctioneer’s website.