Whisky Auctioneer to auction rare Port Ellen 12 Year Old 'Queen's Visit’ bottling

As the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations get underway across the country, a serendipitous discovery is set to present a once in a lifetime chance to own a slice of Royal whisky history.

Published 26th May 2022
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

A rare bottle of Islay whisky, thought to be one of around only 40 in existence, has been discovered under the stairs in an Edinburgh household, and is set to take centre stage in Whisky Auctioneer's May auction.

The Port Ellen 12 Year Old 'Queen's Visit’ bottling was specially created to commemorate The Queen’s visit to Islay 42 years ago.

When Gordon McIntosh discovered the modest treasure in a cupboard under the stairs of his family home, he had little idea that it was one of the distillery's crown jewels.

Not only will this attract Royal historians, but it will also be a monumental event for whisky collectors as it is regarded as one of the most iconic and rare whiskies ever produced.

The last time this bottle was sold, it achieved a hammer price of £72,000 and given the timing it is expected to receive heightened interest.

Joe Wilson, head curator and spirits specialist at Whisky Auctioneer, said: “When snippets of history like this are discovered quite accidentally coupled with the fact that this is one of around only 40 bottles, it creates a real sense of anticipation around the auction.

“The whisky was only given to a handful of recipients and is also highly regarded in terms of liquid quality and taste by the select few that have had the opportunity to try it.

"From a collectability point of view, this whisky is incomparable.”

The ‘Queen’s Visit’ is believed to be the only distillery bottling from Port Ellen in its years of operation.

Port Ellen ceased production in 1983 and has developed a legendary reputation since with exceedingly scarce examples of their spirit appearing on the market.

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Gordon McIntosh, the bottle’s owner, said: “When we were selling our family home in Edinburgh over 23 years ago, the Port Ellen was one of a number of bottles I discovered by chance under the stairs.

“It was, luckily, kept upright and undisturbed in our home until we sold the house in 1998 and it moved through to Glasgow with me, re-establishing its position under our stairs.

“The bottle never really stood out as something special until a few months ago, and when a friend who runs a whisky tasting tour mentioned that Port Ellen was in generally high demand I had it valued; as it was a complete surprise to find out how rare it was we did consider keeping it.”

The exact number of bottles produced for the 1980 Royal visit is largely unknown, but it has been concluded that enough were filled so the Queen, and all senior staff present on the day, could take one home.

This, Gordon suspects, is how his father came to own such a rare bottle: “My father worked in the whisky industry so I presume that on one of his trips to Islay, he was gifted the Port Ellen bottle either in 1980 or possibly as a retirement present in 1985.”

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The latest auction coincides with both the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and the in-person return of the world renowned Fèis Ìle festival 2022 which will see whisky and Islay fans from across the globe gather on the island.

This bottle will appear alongside a host of other rare treasures in the auction which runs from 27 May to 6 June.

Highlights include entire casks distilled at the Ardbeg Distillery in 1994 and The Macallan Distillery in 1989, a trilogy of 1964 Black Bowmore releases, the Dalmore 50 Year Old and expressions of Laphroaig dating back to the 1940s and 1950s.

To find out more about the auction and to register, click here.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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