Rare Scotch whisky sold for £4,000 becomes most expensive whisky miniature ever sold at auction

A record-breaking price of £4,000 has been paid for what is believed to be the most expensive whisky miniature ever sold at auction. 

Published 23rd Oct 2019
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Bottled in the 1920s or 1930s, the single 5cl miniature of Old Orkney ‘0.0.’ Real Liqueur Whisky from the long closed Stromness Distillery was featured in an online sale by  Whisky.Auction dedicated to miniatures that included some of the rarest miniatures to ever have been made available to the public.

One of 84 miniatures submitted by one seller - who paid just £100 for the whole lot at an auction in Brighton on 1979 - the collection was predominantly blended Scotch whiskies and single malts bottled in the first half of the 20th century.

The seller, who wished to remain anonymous said he didn't even realise their value until he contacted Whisky.Auction to ask if some of his minis would be of interest to
bidders that he realised how rare and valuable they were.

He said: “I started collecting in 1979. I worked with a friend and we were talking about hobbies, he said that he collected Scotch whisky miniatures. I thought that was something different so I had a go and was hooked.

"I was lucky to find an auction that had a collection. I didn’t know what was in
it so I bid £100 and they phoned me the next day to say I had won it.”

Auction director for Whisky.Auction, Isabel Graham-Yooll, added: “As soon as this auction went live last week, there were some very keen bidders for this rare mini, but even we have been wide-eyed watching this one, seeing the bids gradually creep up over the course of the auction.

"This is the perfect illustration of the interest that exists in old and rare whisky. 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.”

So what really makes this whisky so valuable?

Stromness Distillery was located on the south-western part of mainland Orkney and operated between 1817 and 1928. When whisky historian Alfred Barnard visited in the 1880s, he remarked that it was "the most remote distillery in the Kingdom" producing "Highland Malt", and the output was just 7000 gallons per year (at the time, neighbouring Highland Park produced 50,000 gallons per year).

The whisky was sold as "Man O' Hoy", after one of the island's landmarks, and was renamed 'Old Orkney' when the distillery was reopened in 1878 by the MacPherson brothers. In the early 1900s, Stromness was acquired by J & J McConnell Ltd. (McConnell's Distillery Limited) who operated the distillery until its closure in 1928.

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Isabel Graham-Yooll said: "We believe this miniature was bottled in the 1920s or 1930s, and as a result, is exceptionally rare and scarcely appears at auction."

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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