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Ardbeg single malt reaches record-breaking price

A whisky collector from Asia has paid an astonishing £16m for a ‘one-of-a-kind’ 1975 cask of Ardbeg single malt Scotch whisky – thought to be a world record sum and far in excess of anything recorded at auction.

The unnamed collector is set to receive 440 bottles of single malt in total from ‘Cask No. 3’ – 88 each year over the next five years, giving her a vertical series of 1975 Ardbegs bottled at 46, 47, 48, 49 and 50 years old by 2026.

The sum paid equates to more than £36,000 per bottle, and is more than 16 times the record amount paid at auction for a single cask of whisky – set in April this year, when a private buyer from the US paid £915,500 (hammer price) for a 1988 Macallan cask.

However, private cask transactions of this type are far harder to track as the sums involved are not always publicly available.

Older Ardbegs are especially rare because, during the 1970s, much of the Islay distillery’s output was used in blends. Ardbeg was closed for most of the 1980s and operated only sporadically after 1989, before reopening fully in 1997.

The whisky in Cask No. 3 was distilled at Ardbeg on 25 November 1975, when the distillery still malted its barley on-site, and the spirit was initially filled into two casks – one ex-Bourbon and the other ex-oloroso Sherry.

It matured for 38 years until 31 March 2014, when Ardbeg’s director of whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, decided to combine the two casks, ‘marrying’ them in a refill ex-oloroso Sherry butt designed to give only a subtle influence from the oak.

‘Cask No. 3 is an extraordinary taste of Ardbeg’s past,’ said Dr Lumsden, who will oversee the cask’s ongoing maturation. ‘Its aromas are nutty, herbal and smoky, while its tastes of tar, espresso coffee and spearmint have an astonishing finesse for a whisky of such age.

‘So little stock survives from this era that this cask really is one of a kind. I look forward to exploring how it continues to evolve over the next five years.’

Ardbeg owner Moët Hennessy has announced that it will donate £1m out of the £16m proceeds from the cask sale to causes on the isle of Islay.

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