It’s ‘the Whisky Olympics’—Ultra-Rare and One-off Bottles Head to Auction at Sotheby’s | Kanebridge News
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It’s ‘the Whisky Olympics’—Ultra-Rare and One-off Bottles Head to Auction at Sotheby’s

By Eric Grossman
Mon, Sep 18, 2023 10:22amGrey Clock 3 min

An ultra-rare whisky auction, known as the Distillers One of One, has announced its second edition will take place next month at Hopetoun House on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Scotland.

In partnership with Sotheby’s, the auction brings together a collection of one-off Scotch whiskies specially created and donated by leading distilleries across Scotland.

Headlining the sale is the highest valued lot, Bowmore STAC 55 Years Old, the oldest whisky the island distillery’s ever produced. It’s housed in a 1.5-litre hand-blown glass vessel that pays homage to Bowmore’s home on the island of Islay. The lot is estimated to sell for between £300,000 and £500,000 (roughly between US$371,900 and US$619,770).

The auction “represents all of the best elements of this industry: the community spirit, the rarity of the liquid, the creativity of the presentation, and, above all, the charitable nature,” says Jonny Fowle, global head of spirits at Sotheby’s.

Headlining the sale is the highest valued lot, Bowmore STAC 55 Years Old,.
Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Also of note is the 50-year-old Brora Iris (with an estimate between £200,000 and £400,000), the oldest Brora single malt that has ever been bottled and one that will never be made commercially available. The liquid is presented in a 1.5-litre decanter that’s suspended within a handcrafted stone sculpture. The bottle was designed to represent the eye of a Scottish Wildcat, the highly elusive native of the Scottish Highlands that is the emblem of the distillery.

Proceeds of the auction will be donated to the Distillers’ Charity, principally to the Youth Action Fund, which aims to improve the lives of disadvantaged young people in Scotch whisky-making communities.

The first Distillers One of One was held at Barnbougle Castle, also near Edinburgh, in December 2021. That auction featured more than 39 lots and achieved record-breaking hammer prices, with more than £2.4 million donated to The Distillers’ Charity.

“The success of the first auction was tremendous—the vision and work put in by the Distillers’ Charity supported by the contributions from the Scotch whisky industry has established a new force in Scotland to back our young people in extremely difficult times,” John Swinney, former deputy first minister of Scotland, said in the catalog notes.

Scheduled for Oct. 5, the auction—a ticketed event for which all attendees must be registered—will feature 39 lots with estimates ranging from £2,000 to £500,000. Collectors can place online bids in advance; a selection of lots is currently on view in Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries in London through Sept. 20.

The entire operation is dependent on the generosity of some of the most revered brands in the field, with producers both new and old presenting exceptional whiskies, all in the name of charity. In addition to the rare bottles, casks and experiences donated for sale, the brands also provide support to make the event possible.

The Visionary (which has an estimate between £50,000 and £90,000), is a single malt that has been aged 68 years.
Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Other offerings at the sale include the Visionary (with an estimate between £50,000 and £90,000), a single malt that has been aged 68 years, making it one of the oldest whiskies to be released by Speyside’s historic Glen Grant Distillery.

Another unique item for sale is the Gordon & MacPhail Recollection Showcase (with an estimate between £80,000 and £160,000). Housed in a handcrafted cabinet made of elm and oak, the offering features five engraved Glencairn decanters. Each contains a one-off 70-cl single malt from five distilleries that have been lost or silent for decades.

“A wiser man than me described this as being ‘the whisky olympics,’ Fowle says. “I cannot wait to be on the rostrum for this auction and see how we can develop this project into 2025.”


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GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


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