Travel back in time to 1893 and you could have bought a second fill hogshead of Dalmore 1892 from William Foulds, proprietor of Glenfyne Distillery (which is modestly labelled ‘The A1 Highland Whisky’ on his list). Before the firm went bankrupt in 1918, Foulds held an astonishing selection of casks for brokerage as well as its own range of blends. We listed the February 1893 edition of this wholesale price list in a previous auction, and this month you can buy the April 1893 edition.
Of the 46 distilleries with casks for sale, 14 have since closed, of which seven were in the Lowland region. Islay’s nine distilleries are mostly intact, with only the loss of Port Ellen and Lochindaal since publication. Port Ellen experimented with cask types very early on, maturing its malt in a variety of brandy, sherry and Marsala casks, while neighbouring Laphroaig had casks listed as second fills and ‘plain’. Imagine the drams they could have offered at Feis Ile 1893!
There are yet more familiar names here. John Hopkins & Co. is best known for its Glen Garry and Old Mull brands of blended Scotch whisky. We’ve seen 1960s and 1970s Glen Garrys sell for over £200 at auction, significantly more than its peers, and the reason for this level of interest may be on the label. John Hopkins & Co. was proprietor of Tobermory, St Magdalene, Glen Elgin, and founder of Speyburn distillery, and there’s always the hope that some of these malts made it in to the blends.
Aside from the prices of the company’s Cognac and Champagne brands, this wholesale list includes malt from Tobermory (vatting of plain and sherry casks) at 5 shillings 9 pence per gallon for the V.T. 4 Year Old, and 6 shillings 9 pence for the O.V.T 6 Year Old. Browsing the list of blends we see the familiar brand Glen Garry, noting that it was awarded a ‘Prize Medal’, also priced at 6 shillings 9 pence per bulk gallon. Like many others, John Hopkins & Co. was absorbed into Distillers Company Ltd. in the 1910s.
Another distillery which became part of Distillers Company Ltd. in the early 20th century was Clydesdale. This piece advertises the distillery’s stock of two, four, and six year old whiskies, labelled ‘V’, ‘OV’ and ‘SOV’ respectively. Whisky historian Alfred Barnard noted in 1887 (six years before this piece was published) that the whisky from Clydesdale was triple distilled, and that the warehouse held some 3500 casks of whisky of various ages. The distillery also housed a cooperage for storage and repairs, and ‘upwards of 100 sherry butts just imported from Spain’. Clydesdale distillery closed in 1919 when it became part of DCL.
Now part of Edrington, Robertson & Baxter was a prominent figure in the 19th century whisky business. The firm co-founded Bunnahabhain in 1881 as part of Islay Distilling Co., which later merged with Glenrothes distillery to form Highland Distillers. In 1892 Robertson & Baxter purchased Glenglassaugh for £10000 and sold it to Highland Distillers for £15000, an early example of ‘flipping’ in the whisky world? All three of these distilleries feature in the October 1893 newsletter, as well as Highland Park, Auchtertool and Sunbeam, which we suspect was a vatted malt brand.
We’ve all experienced delivery issues in the past and this lot of correspondence from Littlemill distillery includes a handwritten response regarding a missing parcel, well, a missing cask of whisky. The 19th century cursive handwriting is a little difficult to decipher, so here is our transcription of the letter:
Gents, we have made enquiries respecting the Cask Whisky forwarded on the 25th [illegible] to Mr Thos. Shill. Ref – The Railway Co. says that it was duly forwarded on the above date and that they will inform us in a day or two what has become of it. We will write you on receiving their answer. We are Gents, Your Obd [obedient] Servts [servants], Wm Hay & Co.
Staying with the 1800s, these Moet & Chandon posters by Alphonse Mucha encapsulate the spirit of the Belle Epoque beautifully. Mucha, a Czech artist living in France, became known for his decorative theatrical posters and advertisements for brands including Nestle, Ruinart, Job Cigarette Papers and, of course, Moet & Chandon. While his pieces usually featured young women with elaborate floral decoration, Mucha disliked the Art Nouveau label applied to his work, feeling instead that art is eternal. And perhaps he was correct. Nearly 100 years after they were composed, these pieces were reproduced as promotional material for the famous Moet & Chandon Champagne house.
While Mucha was creating advertisements for French fizz, Parisians were using soda syphons like this one to add some sparkle to their own beverages. This particular device is called a Seltzogene, or Gazogene, and was used to produce carbonated drinks. The lower globe would contain the liquid to be carbonated and the upper globe a mixture to create carbon dioxide. The gas in the upper chamber would then force the liquid below up a tube and out of the spout. This is a robust piece, made of heavy, thick glass and pewter. And that wicker casing is not just decorative, the high pressure inside was known to cause these to explode on occasion.