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Miniature bottles of single malt Scotch reach record sums

Two rare miniature bottles of single malt Scotch – one distilled over a century ago and another from the legendary Malt Mill distillery on Islay – have become the most expensive whiskies of their kind at auction.

The 5cl miniature bottles of Springbank 1919 50 Year Old and Malt Mill 10 Year Old were sold this month for £7,360 ($8,871/ €8,659) and £6,670 ($8,039/ €7,848) respectively by online auction house Whisky.Auction – record sums for both distilleries.

Another miniature of Springbank 1919 sold at auction in August 2021 for £6,440, while a miniature of Malt Mill fetched £3,400 when it was sold by Scotch Whisky Auctions in February 2018.

The record sum for any whisky miniature at auction is believed to be the £12,500 paid for a 5cl bottle of Macallan 62 Year Old Lalique Six Pillars Collection No. 5 in April 2021 via Whisky Auctioneer.

Springbank 1919 – produced at the cult Campbeltown distillery that malts, distils, matures and bottles all its whisky on-site – is described by Whisky.Auction as ‘a firm collector’s favourite’, but Malt Mill is an altogether more mysterious – and even rarer – whisky.

Malt Mill was a tiny distillery that operated on the same site as Lagavulin on the isle of Islay from 1908 to 1962. It owed its creation to a long-running legal dispute between the Johnston family (owners of nearby Laphroaig) and the Mackies, the owners of Lagavulin who lost the right to distribute Laphroaig, and set up Malt Mill instead.

The distillery sprang to wider fame in Ken Loach’s 2012 film The Angels’ Share, which centres on the auction of a ‘priceless’ cask of Malt Mill.

With two small and old-fashioned pot stills and traditional worm condensers, Malt Mill is said to have produced a spirit that was ‘very full-bodied with a magnificent malty bouquet different from anything else on Islay’, as reported by whisky historian Dr Nicholas Morgan in Whisky.Auction Magazine.

Malt Mill’s tiny production was exclusively used in blends such as Mackie’s Ancient Scotch, but in the early 1990s some miniature bottle collectors acquired a sample bottle of mature Malt Mill – distilled in 1959 and bottled in 1969 – from a former distillery employee.

They arranged for four miniature bottles to be created, including the one sold in 2018 by Scotch Whisky Auctions.

The unnamed purchaser of the latest Malt Mill miniature told Whisky.Auction that they wouldn’t be opening it, adding: ‘Rather I’ll hang onto it for a few years and feel proud to own it.’

Isabel Graham-Yooll, Whisky.Auction director, said: ‘The prices achieved on these two very rare miniatures are exciting, but perhaps not unexpected given the rarity of these whiskies.

‘Much of the liquid we see coming to auction in miniatures is simply unavailable in full bottles, having been consumed many years before. Miniatures often outlive their full-size counterparts in “souvenir” style. And, sometimes, the liquid is so scarce that only miniatures ever existed.’

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