Shh! Secret Scotch whiskies hidden in an Italian vault auction in London

Not so long ago, we were wondering how to furnish a luxury property with collectibles, and two of the ideas we considered were a cellar containing rare wines and whiskies (something of a given) and an antique bookcase with a secret door - such as that owned by George IV.

So it's with a mixture of joy and disappointment that we hear someone had already combined the two ideas in a real home, decades ago.

Sealed Macallan-Glenlivet

Christie's wine and spirit experts were alerted to this when they were invited to an Italian villa to take a look at some wine in the cellar - nothing particularly unusual about that. Christie's Noah May recalls the day:

"The house was magnificent, a treasure trove filled with fine sculpture and modern art; it was clear that there was hard work ahead, but with this knowledge came a sense of anticipation.

"As soon as we were settled, our host was keen to focus our attention on a bookcase in the corner of the sitting room. Confused, we followed his lead, suddenly reminded that in this industry things are rarely quite as they seem.

"The bookcase slid back to expose a hidden metal door, six inches thick, and wrought from solid steel.  A few deft workings around a combination lock and slowly, carefully, the door began to open, giving way to a sight that could make any whisky lover sob with joy [...]"

Secret Talisker whisky

"In this elegant, wood-panelled room stood almost two thousand bottles of whisky and other spirits, some of which dated back to first decades of the twentieth century."

The whiskies are to be offered at Christie's upcoming wine, whisky and spirits auction, which we reported on, mostly with relatively modest estimates. Some excellent investments are on offer.

"What was also apparent was that we had been invited into someone's private world; a microcosm where passion and connoisseurship met.

"Scotland and the great single malts were his first love. Looking along the meticulously ordered shelves, particular rarities stood out - The Macallan 1945, 1938 or 1946 - ancient whiskies that have endured, yet which are almost impossible to find today."

The collection covered most of the major distilleries of Scotland, from the Speyside Macallans west to the likes of Bowmore and Laphroaig from Islay and up into the Highlands - a virtual tour of the country in bottle-form. Then there were the really obscure types:

Porcelain Decanter

"Amid all the Laphroaigs and the Tamnavulins we came upon this assortment of pint-sized bottles that could transpire to be the most significant collection of Prohibition Era whiskey to ever be sold at auction. The bottles were dusty and irregular in shape, unlike anything I'd seen before.

"Some date back to the years of the First World War - 'Old Granddad Whiskey 1916 - Unexcelled - For Medical Use Only' or 'St George Reserve -Eighteen Summers Old' - even their names seem redolent of a very different time."

We have heard of the occasional secret cellar - France's Tour d'Argent restaurant sold some exceptional wines last year which had been carefully walled away from the invading Nazis during WWII - but this is perhaps the finest and most exciting stash of whisky found in recent times.



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