Mystery of the ‘Unicorn of Drams’ Unravelled
The Glasgow-based Scotch Whisky Auctions Ltd. have to their credit a mysterious, astronomical sell for £3,400, of one of the rarest and most expensive miniature dram of whisky ever. This mini 5 ml whisky wonder acquired by a collector in the 1990s, and bottled by James MacArthur & Co, went under the hammer on Sunday, February 4 2018.
Alex Barclay with his love of miniature bottles along with Mike Barbakoff, a fellow collector, acquired the 10-year old blender’s sample in the 1990s from a former Lagavulin distillery worker, and believing it to be absolutely genuine, brought it to the company for bottling.
This sample distilled in 1959, is believed to be the only Malt Mill bottle in existence, and rumoured to be containing the last remaining whisky from the lost and nearly mythical, Malt Mill distillery from Islay. The uncertainty lends a mysterious allure to the whisky that has always enticed collectors.
This record breaking auction especially for a miniature has raised speculation among enthusiasts with its enigmatic characteristic. The Malt Mill distillery built in 1908 on the same site as Lagavulin on the Islay had a prolonged production of most of the peated Islay single malt that was used for blended whisky such as White Horse and Mackie’s Ancient Scotch. Never formally bottled as a single malt, made it extremely attractive. The distillery, however, closed in 1962.
Currently, sole distillery, Lagavulin is proud to confirm only another such bottle on display – the last new make from Malt Mill at their visitor centre on the island, and it is believed that there is no such other existing spirit. However, rumours of its existence still continue among whisky enthusiasts, including that it has influenced the storyline of Glasgow-based, The Angel’s Share, an award-winning Ken Loach’s 2012 film.
Prior to this rarest of rare auction on Feb 4 2018, director of Scotch Whisky Auctions, Tom Gardiner said, “I haven’t a clue on its value; that’s the whole joy of an auction.” He further added, “This very rarely comes up, and the market will set the price for it.”
Although the provenance of this rare liquid remains a contemplation, Tom Gardiner is optimistic and almost certain about the authenticity of the miniature story. He signs off saying, “I’m sure it’s authentic as I am about every other bottle we have.”