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whisky art

Scotch Whisky by John Lamond

Record prices have been set...again! While I, from a drinker's viewpoint, object to collectors pushing up the prices of these wonderful bottles (which will probably never be drunk), the recent sale of a hideously expensive bottling by Macallan is difficult to object to.

The company released its oldest-ever bottling, a 64-year-old whisky in an individually handcrafted crystal decanter made using the Cire Perdu, or Lost Wax, method -- an ancient process originally developed to cast large pieces in bronze. After first modeling the piece in wax, it is covered with plaster and then sent to the oven to bake the clay while the wax melts. Finally, molten crystal is poured into the emptied shape. It is a very labour-intensive process, which has now been superseded by modern methods.

The whisky came from three casks, all constructed from sherry-seasoned Spanish oak. The first was filled in 1942, the second in 1945 and the third in January 1946, which, being the youngest of the three, dictated the "official" age of the bottling.

The bottle (is it possible to call such a vessel simply "a bottle"?) holds 1.5 litres and was auctioned in New York in November 2010. Prior to this, Macallan did a world tour of 10 major cities, where a 10-centilitre sample of the whisky, about 3.3 fluid ounces, was auctioned at each stop. All proceeds from these auctions went to "charity: water," a non-profit organization bringing clean water to developing nations. From the $5,000 raised in Paris to the $41,000 raised in Taipei, these 11 small bottles (two were sold in London) brought in a total of $139,046. The full decanter fetched an eye-popping $460,000. A record that I cannot see being surpassed for quite some time.

The good news? In fewer than 10 minutes, The Macallan-Lalique partnership raised enough to bring more than 23,000 people clean, safe drinking water and, over the preceding months, they raised enough money to provide safe water supplies to a further 7,000. How can I object to that?

The full text of this article is available in the Spring 2011 issue of Scottish Life.

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