OTTAWA – Do you love rich Scotch whisky with “intense” flavours of mango and smoke? Do you view James Bond’s famous 1964 Aston Martin DB5 to be more art than vehicle? Do you have $85,000 lying around?
If so, then you may be interested in the LCBO’s latest acquisition going up for sale in the next weeks: one of the world’s 25 bottles (27 if you count the two bottles locked away in the Bowmore Distillery’s vaults) of Black Bowmore DB5 1964.
The 31-year old Scotch whisky is one of 25 bourbons, Scotch and American whiskies being sold as part of the LCBO’s latest allocation lottery beginning Thursday morning.
The price: an eye-popping $85,000 (plus a $0.20 deposit on the bottle), making it one of the most expensive whisky bottles ever sold by the LCBO.
For that price, the buyer is receiving a bottle of renown and ultra-rare “Black Bowmore,” the name of the first batch of Bowmore’s whiskies distilled in November of 1964 — when the distillery “entered the modern age” by changing its boiler system from coal to steam — and then aged in casks that had previously contained sherry wine.
This particular edition was poured out of its cask in 1995, making it a 31-year-old whisky, and then stored in “neutral containers” which won’t affect the flavour of the liquid until it is put up for sale. It is bottled at 49.6 per cent alcohol per volume, or ABV (by law, a Scotch whisky must be bottled at minimum 40 per cent ABV). In comparison, an unfortified wine is generally around 12 per cent ABV.
But beyond the rareness of the whisky, what makes the product truly special is the packaging, said James Neil, whose business card bears the impressive title of world whisky ambassador in Canada for Beam Suntory.
(His employer is a whisky behemoth that owns a plethora of brands around the world including Bowmore and Canada’s Alberta Premium and Canadian Club.)
The whisky comes in a handcrafted glass bottle that is fitted into a genuine Aston Martin DB5 piston in homage to the car that became a pop culture icon with the release of legendary James Bond movie “Goldfinger” in … 1964.
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“The bottle is way heavier than expected, it’s unimaginable. It was a very nerve-wracking photo shoot when I had to hold the bottle,” Neil said with a laugh, referring to promotional pictures taken by the distillery.
“A lot of the casing for the bottle is actually handcrafted in Italy. And when you open it up, the bottle sits in a padded banquette that mirrors the Aston Martin upholstery in the backseat of the car. You are buying the Aston Martin of Scotch whisky when you pick up a bottle of Bowmore DB5,” he said.
But if you’re one of the millions of Ontarians who will likely never own, taste or even see this extremely rare bottle, you may still be wondering how the Black Bowmore DB5 looks, smells and tastes.
According to tasting notes provided by the distillery, the whisky has a “deep obsidian black” colour.
You are buying the Aston Martin of Scotch whisky when you pick up a bottle of Bowmore DB5
On the nose, the eventual deep-pocketed LCBO client can expect “layers of ripe exotic fruits and crème caramel” which eventually evolve into “soft tobacco smoke, aromatic orange peel and rich black cherry”, the distillery says.
Once the liquid hits the tongue and palate, “intense flavours of mango, passion fruit and acacia honey interwoven with a powerful combination of coffee and tobacco smoke” should entice the drinker, the official tasting notes conclude.
Other than the Black Bowmore, the LCBO’s allocation lottery includes many other rare and sought-after whiskies such as Buffalo Trace Distillery’s George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller or famed Pappy Van Winkle line of bourbons, as well as four Scotch whiskies from Islay distillery Ardbeg.
But none of those whiskies compare either in age, in scarcity or in price to the Bowmore (though neither of those three things are indicative of a whisky’s value or quality, this reporter must note).
Will the eventual buyer likely ever even drink the pricey liquid? Ideally, but unlikely, Neil admitted with a laugh.
But the fact that that Beam Suntory allocated not just one but two of the 25 bottles to Canada (the other will be sold in British Columbia in February) is remarkable as well, the company ambassador noted.
He thinks its testament to the “incredible” growth of Canadians’ interest in whisky in recent years that has made the country a “top priority” for major brands such as his.
“I remember last year going home and thinking, ‘It’d be nice to get one bottle in Canada but oof’. And then we received two,” Neil said. “As a country that is appreciating these single malt whiskies, the collectors are definitely here. We are seeing double-digit growth and market share for the Bowmore brand here.”
The LCBO declined a request for an interview, but noted in a statement that it was extremely fortunate to have been allocated one of the extremely few bottles ever produced.
“We are grateful to have been allocated one of the 25 bottles of Bowmore 1964 31-year old single malt scotch whisky available in the world, which we are sure will also be appreciated by the LCBO customer who chooses to collect this rare product,” Abhay Garg, vice president, merchandising, at the LCBO said in an emailed statement.
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