10 March 2017:  The first bottle of the Lagavulin 1991 single cask release that brought the bicentenary celebrations to a close on 31 December 2016 was sold this week at auction for £7,300. This sought-after bottle went under the hammer online at Whisky.Auction and achieved almost five times the starting price of £1,494 (the original RRSP for the Limited Edition). Diageo donated its full proceeds from the auction of this single bottle and Whisky.Auction the buyer’s commission, raising a total of £8,395 for Islay Heritage.

Steve Mithen, Trustee of Islay Heritage and Professor of Archaeology, commented: “We are thrilled with this boost to our fundraising thanks to the generosity of Diageo, Lagavulin Distillery, Whisky.Auction and, of course, the buyer of bottle number one.

We will put the donation to good use on Islay, enabling people to experience its rich and diverse history.”

In a bespoke, leather bound notebook made to accompany bottle 1/522, Lagavulin distillery manager Georgie Crawford wrote: “Our distillery character shines in this whisky and, as distillery manager and an Ileach, I am proud and grateful that the auction of this bottle is helping Islay Heritage to tell the story of this remarkable island we call home.”

Georgie’s tasting notes were accompanied by handwritten notes from four expert whisky writers: Dave Broom, Ian Buxton, Colin Hampden-White and Charlie MacLean.

Master of the Quaich Charlie MacLean, in his characteristic green ink, opened with: “My immediate comment on first tasting was ‘Best Ever’.” He added, “A cross between a dowager duchess and a salty sea-dog!”.

Ian Buxton, author of 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die, chose to pen a letter to the buyer with his thoughts on the release: “…we have here a new planet to explore – for this may just be the tastiest Lagavulin ever… a fully-matured spirit of exceptional quality and distinction…”. He signed off with “Drink, as you must; share, as you should, with pleasure and pride in the knowledge that all our knowledge of Islay will grow as a result of your benevolence and generosity! Slàinte Mhath!”.

The successful bidder will also be able to read thoughts on their Lagavulin 1991 from Dave Broom and Whisky Quarterly editor Colin Hampden-White.

Isabel Graham-Yooll, Auction & Private Client Director for Whisky.Auction, said: “Lagavulin 1991 was one of the star lots in our February auction. The combination of this acclaimed single cask Lagavulin Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky, highly collectible bottle number one, one-off tasting sample and notebook with the handwritten tasting notes of whisky luminaries drew much interest and a wonderful result for Islay Heritage.”

The auction follows the sell out of this 522*-bottle Lagavulin 1991 release through a ballot run by The Whisky Exchange, sister company to Whisky.Auction, which attracted over 7,000 entries from 74 countries. Diageo is donating its proceeds from these sales of Lagavulin 1991 (over £0.5m) to seven causes on Islay to promote the island and its communities.

*519 bottles were available in the ballot, the remaining three were allocated as follows: one to remain in Diageo’s Lagavulin archive, one for The Whisky Exchange as partner in the project, and 1/522 auctioned on Whisky.Auction.

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Diageo will donate its full proceeds from the auction of this single bottle to Islay Heritage (OSCR No. SC046938), the principal beneficiary from the initial seven charities, to fund projects on the island that are designed to enhance the knowledge and understanding of the rich and diverse history of Islay. 

Lagavulin 1991 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (52.7% ABV) Tasting Notes:

Appearance:         Lovely, deep olive-hued chestnut becoming clear orange-hued amber in sunlight. Fresh and lightly oily with water.

Nose:                     Instant and insistent, yet light, clean and detailed throughout. Charred oak and rich, mature fruits are backed by subtle milk chocolate and vanilla. Agitation reveals a recollection of new make and the characteristic Lagavulin note of fresh newsprint, developing burnt caramel, subtle spent match and a slightly sapid note of moist earth. Later, ripe red apple and a fine hint of smoked fish sprinkled with olive oil. Water changes all this, yielding fresh, sweet notes of candied peel, marzipan and sugar icing, of subtle maple smoked foods, and finally of honey and dark chocolate.

Body:                      Medium to rich; smooth. Softly fluid with water.

Palate:                   Hot and sweet. A moment of woody dryness; then calmer, with soothing, sweetly minty chocolate notes and comforting honey laced with a subtle chilli-like heat. A bitter-sweet, charred astringency rises in the mid-palate, carrying notes of cocoa and espresso toward the finish. Water brings succulent, sweet-spicy warmth and a balancing ripe fruit acidity. Then drying cocoa, crystallised ginger and peppermint lead smoothly to late, silky tannins.

Finish:                    Gentle, well balanced and fresh throughout. Quietly persistent with tart, red berry notes, a little cedar and a spicy, smoky-gingery warmth that makes for a pleasing aftertaste. 

The origins of Lagavulin

Local records suggest that Lagavulin was already a centre of whisky production in the early 18th century. There had almost certainly been many other illicit stills before John Johnston founded the first legal distillery at Lagavulin Bay in 1816. As with all Scottish distilleries, it passed through the hands of different owners, including the celebrated Sir Peter Mackie, whose company became White Horse Distillers, forever associated with Lagavulin. White Horse joined The Distillers Company Ltd. (eventually Diageo) in 1927. In 1989, Lagavulin, now normally bottled at 16 years rather than the original 12, became one of the six Classic Malts of Scotland. 

Lagavulin Legacy Charity information

The proceeds received by Diageo from the ballot sales of the Lagavulin 1991 bottling will be donated to the following registered charities in the following proportions, to fund projects on Islay which are designed to enhance the understanding of the rich and diverse history of Islay and enhance the life of the local community.

Islay Heritage(OSCR No. SC046938) A wide ranging scope to include: research at Dunyvaig Castle, the creation of an Islay Heritage trail to help more people understand its rich history, conservation work focusing on Kildalton chapel and education.FUNDING AMOUNT: £310,000
McTaggart Cyber Café(OSCR No. SC028306) Some upgrade works to the fabric of the building including heating, new doors & windows and improvements to the Bistro Café area to allow for more activities for a wider range of people.FUNDING AMOUNT: £60,000
Islay & Jura Community Enterprises Limited McTaggart Leisure Centre(OSCR No. SC015815) Some fundamental works are required for the swimming baths to upgrade equipment and improve energy efficient.FUNDING AMOUNT: £60,000
Finlaggan Trust(OSCR No. SC000821) Refurbishment and modernisation of the existing visitor centre and development of the Finlaggan Bridge.FUNDING AMOUNT: £60,000
Islay Arts(OSCR No. SC000272) Funding will enable Islay Arts to increase the scope of events it funds.FUNDING AMOUNT: £20,000
Islay Festival Association(OSCR No. SC004390) Funding will help support the organisation to develop its events programme.FUNDING AMOUNT: £10,000
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds(OSCR No. SC037654)(Charity Commission No. 207076) RSPB is actively engaged in peat restoration on its estates on Islay at The Oa and Loch Gruinart. The funding will be used to fund peat restoration and conservation on the island.FUNDING AMOUNT: £60,000

About Diageo:

Diageo is the world’s leading premium drinks business with an outstanding collection of beverage alcohol brands across spirits, beer and wine. These brands include Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, JεB, Buchanan’s and Windsor whiskies, Smirnoff, Cîroc and Ketel One vodkas, Baileys, Captain Morgan, Tanqueray and Guinness.

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Whisky.Auction is an auction website offering a monthly online auction of the finest and rarest whiskies from the most sought-after distilleries around the world, as well as fine spirits, miniatures and memorabilia.  It was set up by a collection of the industry’s leading whisky experts, including the world-renowned Sukhinder Singh from The Whisky Exchange, in April 2015.

Whisky.Auction is run by a knowledgeable and passionate team led by Director Isabel Graham-Yooll who bring together buyers and sellers from across the globe and offer a range of services including valuations of private collections. Whisky.Auction has sold over 10,000 lots of whiskies and fine spirits at the auction since it launched, and in a short time has become recognised as one of the most trusted and authoritative online whisky auctions in the world.

For more information, email or call 020 8838 9381.

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