Whiskey and wings up for auction this summer

Sotheby’s set to sell rare bottles from around the world while Birr auction house offers a wing rib from first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic

Whiskey auctions are always reminders of someone’s exceptional restraint. Bidding is now open on part two of the Sotheby’s Whisky and Whiskey Camouflage Collection. If you were the type to stare lovingly at a Macallan 72-year-old in a Lalique decanter, and yet leave it unopened with the presentation box intact, you too could be looking at an estimated reserve of $70,000-$90,000 (€63,744-€81,963).

The first part of this auction, of a personal collection that runs to some 1,500 bottles, took place in March of this year. The collection includes bourbon and rye, and Japanese whisky, as well as Scotch and Irish whiskey, although there is a predominance of the fruits of US distillery labours, including examples from Michter’s and Van Winkle, which Sotheby’s global head of spirits Jonny Fowle notes are “consistently amongst the most collectible producers sold at Sotheby’s whiskey auctions”.

Part one highlights included a Redemption Bourbon, distilled in 1978, of which only 18 bottles were ever made. That went for $22,500 (€20,494) against an estimate of $10,000-$15,000. On the Irish side, a Midleton Very Rare from 2012 went for $688 (€627). Bidding closes on part two on August 17th. sothebys.com

Flying high

When Alcock and Brown made history in 1919 by making the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in their Vickers Vimy Bomber, they must have wondered if they were landing on the moon when they crashed to earth on Connemara’s Derrigimlagh Bog. One of the earliest to arrive on the scene was local photographer R W Simmons, who did a spot of salvage at the same time as snapping the action for the newspapers. Simmons scooped up an aileron rib, part of the plane’s wing system, which is now offered for sale through Purcell Auctioneers, based in Birr, Co Offaly, on August 17th.


Earlier this year, Purcell’s sold another piece of the plane, a broken dynamo propeller, which Alcock and Brown had given to the local Marconi wireless station master, no doubt in grateful thanks for their survival, and with no thanks to the dynamo propeller itself, which had been broken by an inconveniently flying goose a few hours after take-off, disabling the plane’s electrics and radio comms. With an estimate of €1,000-€2,000 in Purcell’s March 22nd sale, it sold for €8,400, which makes the estimate for the wing rib of €6,000-€8,000 make sense, especially as it includes a piece of intriguing ephemera: a paper cutting that reads “£50 for £1,” adding “The owner of a Treasury Pound Note carried across the Atlantic by Sir John Alcock on the 1st non-stop flight has refused £50 for it.” Bet they were kicking themselves later. An Alcock and Brown scrapbook also features in the sale, with an estimate of €1,200-€1,800. purcellauctioneers.ie

Steaming ahead

Lovers of all things vintage should make tracks for Birr, where Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival is in full swing this weekend. Including the air display on August 5th and the vintage parade on August 6th, there are also steam engines, costume competitions for kids, garden trails, walks, picnics, exhibitions, dancing, drumming and fireworks. Don’t miss the Spanish theatre company Cal y Canto’s The Wind Garden and Erebidae Circus’s Danu, both at Birr Castle.

Meanwhile, for lovers of trinkets and baubles, eclectic finds and maybe even the occasional rare treasure, a big draw will be the markets. The vintage market takes over Green Street on Saturday 5th, and the antique fair is at The County Arms Hotel on August 6th and 7th, with offerings such as jewellery, furniture, coins and notes, gold and silver, rugs, china and more. Admission is €3.50 on the door. Birr Vintage Week ends on August 12th. birrvintageweek.com

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton contributes to The Irish Times on art, architecture and other aspects of culture