The New England auction house, Skinner auctioned what is believed to be the world’s oldest bottle of whisky, the Old Ingledew Whiskey. Part of the Rare Spirits online auction, the historic bottle was estimated to fetch between $20,000-40,000. Instead the gavel price shattered expectations, selling for $137,500.
Carbon 14 dating tests conducted in 2021 in collaboration with the University of Georgia indicate with the highest probability, that the bourbon whisky was produced between 1762-1802. Subsequent evaluation by the University of Glasgow determined a 53% probability that the bourbon was produced between 1763-1803. This means the whisky is from the era of The Revolutionary War of the 1770s and the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s.
The Old Ingledew was originally 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. For whisky produced in the late 1700s, standard practice was to store it in large glass demijohns after being aged in oak barrels. Since whisky matures in wooden barrels, not glass, the age statement of the spirit is unknown.
Skinner’s Rare Spirits expert, Joseph Hyman, remarks that the bottle “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.”
Back label reading: “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.”
The bottle is reported to have been passed through illustrious hand throughout its 250-year history. Reportedly purchased by financier John Pierpont Morgan 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. Two sister bottles were given to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was a distant cousin to Morgan, and Harry S. Truman, between 1942-44, respectively.
The second owner of the bottle auctioned, Byrnes, was a US Congressman, US Senator, and Supreme Court Justice before WWII, even serving as a Director of War Mobilization, Secretary of State and South Carolina governor. After leaving office, Byrnes gifted the bottle to close friend and neighbour Francis Drake. Drake and his descendants, however, were exclusive Scotch drinkers, who safeguarded the bottle for three generations.
Though this is the oldest known bottle of whisky, it is by no means the most expensive, check out the list of most expensive whiskies in the world, here.