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Headed to Auction: Highland Park’s 50 Year Old single malt captures time in a bottle

One of the rarest bottlings of this limited-edition Scotch can be yours through Bonhams this January.

A half-century is a milestone worthy of celebration on any occasion; in a world of ephemera, it’s a marker of of quality. Of things that endure. Of things created to last. In love, 50 years is the Golden Anniversary; in Scotch, the continuation of a legacy, like for Highland Park, whose new 50 Year Old single malt celebrates the Orkney distillery’s 223 years of excellence.

A style with rich, sherried dried fruit and sweet toffee, Highland Park 50 Year Old single malt Scotch Whisky comes in a limited-edition run of 274 bottles, each signed by Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion. And for serious Scotch lovers, the first of these bottles is hitting the Bonhams auction block on 21 January 2022, with an estimated worth of HK$210,000 to HK$250,000.

“This 50 Year old whisky is one of our oldest and rarest releases and I’m very proud to have been part of its journey,” says Motion. “When I sampled it, it has absorbed the rich sherried flavours of dried fruit and sweet toffee from its final first-fill cask maturation, but still retained all the delicate fragrance and flavours driven by the original refill casks.”

Highland Park’s third 50 Year Old single malt

Just the third 50 Year Old bottling in Highland Park history, every step of its creation has been intricately considered and measured to present the utmost delicate and rich flavours that a great whisky can offer. Created using a traditional solera system — a way of maturing sherry — the Scotch delivers richness and maturity of flavours both old and new.

For those unfamiliar with the solera system, the process borrows a small quantity of whisky produced from a previous batch, blending it with the new expression to capture flavours within a flavour — legacies within a legacy. Highland Park’s new 50 Year Old edition marries together a careful selection from nine refill casks from 1968, re-racked into fine first-fill sherry seasoned oak casks. After 12 years of maturation, one limited cask was chosen and blended with a minute portion of the previous 50 Year Old release by the distillery.

“I introduced a small quantity of this cask to some of our 2018 batch of 50 Year Old, to create a further layer of depth and complexity,” adds Motion. “As the 2018 50 Year Old contains some of our 2010 batch, this approach allows me to maintain the core DNA of our oldest Highland park whisky through each extremely limited batch release.”

The whisky auction market remains robust

Daniel Lam

Despite the impact of the pandemic, the whisky auction market has remained strong and has even engendered a following among young collectors, according to Daniel Lam, Specialist for Fine Wine & Whiskies at Bonhams.

“[Whisky] has become a mainstream category in almost all international auction houses,” says Lam. “For Scotch, Japanese whisky and US bourbon, the market has nourished a group of very young collectors, which is a positive sign for the future of whisky auctions.”

For Lam, Highland Park’s 50 Year Old single malt Scotch Whisky makes an appealing auction piece for its legacy and presentation, as well as exclusivity of only 274 bottles.

“Each whisky distillery has it own unique premium bottling, and Highland Park, situated as the most northern distillery in Scotland, its style is very distinctive,” says Lam. “I personally adore the packaging, the craftsmanship and the golden hand-crafted decanter.”

Making green the new black

The upcoming charity auction is in support of Green Power, a renowned green group NGO addressing the diverse environmental issues in local communities such as climate change, waste reduction and biodiversity. All net proceeds from the auction will be donated to the organisation in support of their environmental education and sustainability projects.

“Bonhams plays a part in society, we value corporate social responsibility. Therefore, we would like to support Green Power for their good causes in addressing and mitigating environmental issues especially here in Hong Kong,” says Lam, noting the importance of sustainable development for the future of whisky.

“There is a saying, ‘green is the new black’; we ought to address the importance of sustainability to whisky distillers for long term development of the whisky industry,” adds Lam. “Partnering with Green Power could bring awareness of ‘being green’ to whisky distillers.”

A collector’s piece

Not only is the whisky a time capsule of historical flavours, it comes in as l’objet d’art of its own: the heavyweight glass bottle is embossed with a design inspired by the Norse heritage of Orkney island, dating back over 1,200 years, coming packaged in a hand-made wooden box crafted by Scottish Master Craftsman John Galvin.

One of its exclusive 274 bottles is set to go up for auction on 21 January 2022, with an estimated worth of HK$210,000 to HK$250,000.

For more information, visit highlandparkwhisky.com.

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