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FOR AUCTION: The world’s oldest whisky has an extraordinary history

The world’s oldest whisky bottle is going up for auction

A rare bottle of Old Ingledew Whiskey is expected to sell for between $20,000 and $60,000 when it goes up for auction in June.

The extraordinary whisky bottle has an equally extraordinary history having been gifted to some of America’s most famous men.

The exact age is up for debate, but most agree that it is the oldest surviving whisky in the world.

“The Old Ingledew Whiskey, bottled by Evans & Ragland, Lagrange GA, c. 1860s, is thought to be the only surviving bottle of a trio from the cellar of J.P. Morgan gifted in the 1940s to Washington power elite,” Skinner’s Rare Spirits expert, Joseph Hyman said.

whisky bottle auction
The rare whisky bottle up for auction.

The age debate

While Skinners has listed the whisky bottle as circa 1860, research conducted on the liquid inside shows it is much older.

Carbon 14 dating conducted in 2021 with the University of Georgia indicates, with the highest probability,  the whiskey was produced between 1762-1802.

The University of Glasgow checked the raw data and later determined the liquid inside the bottle was Bourbon with an 81.1 per cent probability of being produced between 1763-1803.

If correct, that means the whisky was produced during The Revolutionary War of the 1770s and the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s.

Bottled with care

The Old Ingledew was bottled by Evans & Ragland, Grocers and Commission Merchants, LaGrange, Georgia.

“Archival information indicates that Evans & Ragland were active in business circa the 1860s-70s, and the bottle is consistent with glass manufacture circa 1840-70,” Skinners said.

A label on the back of the bottle includes a personal note about where the world’s oldest whisky was found.

It reads: “This Bourbon was probably made prior to 1865 and was in the cellars of Mr. John Pierpont Morgan from whose estate it was acquired upon his death. As far as is known, there were no Bourbon distilleries in Georgia after the Civil War.”

World's oldest whisky bottle

Extraordinary history of the ‘oldest whisky’

According to the auctioneer, financier John Pierpont Morgan purchased the  whisky bottle during one of his frequent visits to Georgia.

“It is believed that his son, Jack Morgan, later gifted this bottle to James Byrnes of South Carolina and two sister bottles to Franklin D. Roosevelt (a distant cousin to Morgan) and Harry S. Truman, circa 1942-44,” Skinners said.

Byrnes was a US Congressman, Senator, and Supreme Court Justice prior to WWII.

He resigned from the court in 1942 “at the behest of his good friend, President Franklin D. Roosevelt” to become Director of War Mobilization.

In 1945, after Roosevelt’s death, the new US President, Harry S. Truman appointed Byrnes to Secretary of State.

Byrnes left his cabinet post in 1947 to move back to South Carolina where he successfully ran for governor, serving from 1951 to 1955.

When he retired from public office he gifted the bottle to his close friend and neighbour Francis Drake.

The English explorer, sea captain and slave trader only drank Scotch. So the world’s oldest whisky bottle sat untouched for three generations.

This bottle will be offered at auction in the June 22-30 Rare Spirits online auction with an estimate of $20,000-40,000.

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