The Aestheticism and Mathematics of Blending
I have kept writing on the brands, blending, distillation ... so let’s talk something beyond the scope this time.
Last month, a bottle of Brora distilled in 1972, which is the most aged expression ever, was up for auction in Hong Kong and was finally sold at HK$ 147,000. The closure of the distillery and the long ageing period of the whisky account for the popularity and price, but it is the story about a sunken ship and the movie it associated with that made it commanding a promising price.
26,000 cases of whisky. Who would let go?
In the whiskey frenzy, a bottle from a closed distillery, which was distilled at the golden age of the distillery and matured in Sherry butt for 44 years, is easy to sell at a great price. However, rarity is not necessarily derived from age or closure of the distillery. The bottles which has been shipwrecked or having appearance in movie could be promising at a high price as well.
In February 1941, A carrier with 8,000 tonnage (SS Politican), carrying 28,000 cases of whiskies including Johnnie Walker (Red Label & Black Label), Ballantine, etc, was suffered an accident at Eriskat Island while it’s on the way to Jamaica.
Whisky was subjected to quota during the World War period. The islanders who were starving for whisky seized on the flaw, after keep calm in Sabbat, to steal the whiskies from the loosely guarded ship, and therefore a party to share the drams.
Of course, the thefts were reported and the correspondent people were accused according to law. Regrettably the customs officers decided to bury the entire ship together with the whiskies.
If you were not a whisky lover, you might not understand the days with no whisky. If I was one of the islanders, I probably wouldn’t be afraid of legal punishment. What I concerned about would be there’s not enough whisky.
The story has inspired the creation of a novel, which was later adapted to a movie with the same name - <<Whisky Galore!>>. The film was ranked no.24 by the British Film Institute (BFI), along with other movies you are familiar with, including The 39 Steps by Hitchcock, Trainspotting, Four Weddings and a Funeral and so on. In 2016, <<Whisky Galore!>> was remade and was just shown in England last month, with Ellie Kendrick playing the main actress role. In the reality, the “SS Politican” which is now sunk deep beneath the sea, is still under progress of salvage operation.
Buying the history
In 1987, 8 bottles of whisky were fished out by Donald Macphee, who then sold them at £ 4,000. In 2013, two of them were up for Christie's auction and sold at £ 12,050 as a result.
In 2010, another survived bottle, Ballantine, was also auctioned at £ 2,200. This 1970 bottle was salvaged by frogman along with other 5 bottles. Together with the 1989 large-scale salvage action, only 32 bottles out of 29,000 cases (264,000 bottles) have been fished out so far.
There were noticeable example of sunken whisky/wine in recent decades, which among the most mentioned is Champagnes underneath the Baltic Sea, which were salvaged in 2010. A banquet was even held to share the 200-year-old Champagnes…. However, the whiskies underneath the sea were, after some 70 years, not deemed for consuming anymore. “ Everybody loves the idea of the wily islanders diving to the bottom of the wreck and coming back up with bottles of whisky which they would then hide from the customs＂said the Scotch Whisky Auctions director Bill Mackintosh.
上月，一瓶於 1972 年蒸餾的布朗接（Brora）在港拍賣，是至今供拍賣，該廠最陳年作品，成交價為 147,000 港元。這類關廠長陳年威士忌，當然有價有市，不過要賣得好價錢，除了是因為酒廠結業、漫長陳年，還可以是因為沉船，還有電影……
在威士忌狂熱當中，一瓶來自 1983 年正式結業酒廠，在蒸餾廠的黃金年代蒸餾入桶，酒釀在雪莉桶中陳年超過 44 年，要賣得好價錢，一點不難。不過，珍罕不一定由於關廠加陳年，一次沉船意外加上一套熱賣電影，酒釀總使不知道是否合飲，一樣可以賣個高價。
1941 年2 月，八千噸的貨船政治家號（SS Politican），載著 28,000 箱的威士忌，當中包括 Johnnie Walker 的紅牌及黑牌，Ballantine 等，無數不同的牌子，在前往牙買加的途中，不幸在 Eriskat 島發生船難。
這真人真事，啟發了小說創作，其後更被改編為同名電影喜劇「荒島酒池」（Whisky Galore!）。電影在最權威，由英國電影學會（BFI）訂定的英國電影排行榜，位列 24，榜上有名，較港人熟悉的，還有希治閣 The 39 Steps、《迷幻列車》（Trainspotting）、《四個婚禮和一個葬禮》（Four Weddings and a Funeral）等等。2016 年，Whisky Galore! 被重新翻拍，女主角是 Ellie Kendrick，上月剛在英國上畫。不過，在現實世界故事還末完，威士忌墮進深海，陸續被打撈起來。
1987 年，由 Donald Macphee 在船隻殘骸中發現 8 瓶威士忌，Macphee 售出後賺得 4000 英鎊。而在 2013 年，當中兩瓶的持有者經由佳士得拍賣，成交價為 12,050 英鎊。
在 2010 年時，另一瓶生還威士忌 Ballantine 也被拍賣，當時的成交價為 2,200 英鎊。這瓶威士忌是 1970 年，英國鏡報出資請蛙人打撈，該次行動總共尋得 6 瓶。雖然船上當時載著28,000箱（264,000 瓶）的威士忌，不過再加上 1989 年的大型打撈行動，最後共只尋回 32 瓶。
這種沉船酒，近年最多人提及的是沉在波羅的海的香檳，於 2010 年被打撈上來後，還曾設宴開瓶，喚醒沉睡近二百年的酒釀，據聞酒還飲得……不過，這些沉睡在蘇格蘭汪洋，已經裝瓶的威士忌，經歷多年，只看酒色似乎已經魂飛魄散，蘇格蘭威士忌拍賣（Scotch Whisky Auctions）總監 Bill Mackintosh 認為故事吸引最重要：「很多人也十分喜歡這個故事，狡猾的島民潛進沉船打撈威士忌，然後希望可以瞞過海關。」