The World’s Oldest Bottle of Whiskey Is Heading to Auction

Carbon dating suggests the spirit was bottled between 1763 and 1803.

By Bryan Hood 27/04/2021

The auction world is filled with rare bottles and casks of aged spirits. Few, though, can compare to a bottle of Old Ingledew Whiskey scheduled to go up for grabs this winter.

That’s because this bottle of the American whiskey—which will be sold by Skinner Auctioneers in June—is believed to be the world’s oldest. A recent laboratory test showed that the Old Ingledew, which originally was thought to date back to the 1850s, was instead likely bottled between 1763 and 1803.

Joseph Hyman, a spirit specialist with the auction house, teamed up with scientists from the University of Georgia and University of Glasgow to analyse the spirit earlier this year, according to a release. A sample of the liquid was taken and then tested using Carbon-14 dating, which analyzes the amount of radio carbon in an object (a similar process is being used to combat counterfeiting).

The test showed that there was an 81.1 per cent probability that the whiskey was actually bottled between 1763 and 1803, putting it in the historical context of the Revolutionary War and Whiskey Rebellion. It’s also possible that the whiskey is even older, since it was aged in oak barrels then stored for several decades in large glass demijohns before it was bottled.

The Old Ingledew, which was bottled by Evans & Ragland, Grocers and Commission Merchants of LaGrange, Georgia, once belonged to Wall Street financier John Pierpont Morgan, who obtained it during a business trip to the state, according to Barron’s. “It is a fascinating story,” Hyman told the publication. “The whiskey was not bottled at a distillery destroyed in the war, it is actually bottled by a general store, which is the same way the Scottish whisky Johnnie Walker started.”

Morgan’s son Jack gifted the bottle to future US Supreme Court justice and South Carolina governor James Byrnes in the early 1940s. Two other bottles of the whiskey went to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, though this is the only one that survives.

The bottle of Old Ingledew Whiskey will highlight Skinner’s online-only spirits auction during the last week of June. It’s estimated to sell for somewhere between $25,000 and $51,000, but with the whiskey’s history, don’t be surprised if it ends up selling for more.

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