“Art of Bourbon” Auction Offer Bidders Chance to Own History

Louisville, KY, Sept. 10, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --

LOUISVILLE, KY September 9, 2019 — The Speed Art Museum unveiled a stunning lineup for its second online and live bourbon auction on September 19 featuring some of the rarest and most prized bourbons and ryes available anywhere.

Here’s a tasting of the most sought-after lots up for bid:

T.W. Samuels Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Bottle in Bond, 1942 Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000

Quite possibly one of the rarest American whiskeys in the world. It was bottled before the government ceased distilling operations in 1942 for the World War II effort, before Maker’s Mark, before the iconic red dripping wax, and before whiskey-maker Bill Samuels Jr.’s father allegedly burned the family recipe. Before all of it.

  • This bourbon is part of the Samuels family legacy and is one of the rarest bottles from the 1940s.

  • At the time of this T.W. Samuels bottling in early 1942, Maker’s Mark didn’t even exist. The T.W. Samuels brand belonged to the Samuels family, who later founded Maker’s Mark.
  • Present-day Samuels family lore holds that Bill Samuels Sr. burned the original T.W. Samuels recipe. And if this legend is true, this bottle contains extinct liquid that can never be duplicated.

Eight. Bottles. Of. Pappy.

Referred to as the bourbon so exclusive that even billionaires can’t buy it. But what makes this lot of Pappy Van Winkle even rarer? Five bottles are auctioned as a group. Sold as part of Julian P. Van Winkle III’s private collection, each bottle has been personally signed by Van Winkle specifically for this non-profit auction. This lot could bring as much as $15,000 at auction.

  • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 year, 2018
  • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 year, 2017
  • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 year, 2018
  • Old Rip Van Winkle 10-year old, 2017
  • Van Winkle Special Reserve, 12 year, 2017

Auctioned individually and signed by Van Winkle:

  • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 year, 2015, Estimate $8,000
  • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 year, 2018, Estimate: $5,000
  • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 year, 2018, Estimate: $1,500


With demand far exceeding supply coupled with purchasing limits, “you can’t even buy eight bottles of Pappy at one time,” said renowned bourbon author Fred Minnick, auction curator and editor of Bourbon+ Magazine.

Van Winkle acknowledged that while many collectors and enthusiasts will be eyeing this valuable brown water, he’s particularly pleased the family can support the Speed Museum. "Of course we’re going to donate to the Speed. It’s our way of stepping-up and contributing to a worthwhile cause and I can’t think of a better reason to share Pappy,” said Van Winkle, Pappy’s grandson and a third generation whiskey maker.

Overholt Rye 1909 Estimate: $15,000

So elusive that it’s considered the unicorn of whiskeys and has enough star power to entice the most serious of collectors. It remains today one of the best reviewed, most sought after and rarest old whiskies known. Specifically bottled for the Mellon family and solely auctioned at Christie’s, it hasn’t seen an auction block in years.

“A 1.5-ounce pour will set you back $1,250, and that’s if you can even get it,” said Minnick. “It has such a historic taste. They just don't make whiskey like that anymore.”

In many ways, Overholt Rye’s distinguished provenance rivals the bottle’s contents:

  • Andrew Mellon purchased a third of the Overholt distillery from Henry Clay Frick, the founder’s grandson. Frick and Mellon, both wealthy industrialists from the gilded age, were lifelong friends. Upon his passing in 1919, Frick left his shares to Mellon who became the distillery’s majority owner.

  • Before Prohibition in 1920, Mellon and his brothers stored the best barrels of rye from the preceding 15 years. Later, Mellon was forced to sell his share in the distillery after he was named U.S. Treasury Secretary.

  • During Prohibition, the Mellon brothers would bottle some for personal consumption, eventually bottling the remaining barrels at the end of Prohibition.

  • Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, inherited the rye. In 2014, following Scaife’s death, a wine cellar was discovered containing about 60 cases of Overholt Rye from 1904-1912. Christie’s auctioned off those cases, and well-known collector and Speed patron, Marc Abrams, purchased six cases and donated one bottle to the Speed.

Maker’s Mark Barrel Selection: Your Own Unique Barrel of Maker’s Mark and Dale Chihuly Artwork Estimate: $20,000 - $25,000

Hands down this is considered the best, once-in-a-lifetime experience in American whiskey. As personal guests of Maker’s Mark Chief Distillery Officer Rob Samuels, an 8th generation whiskey maker, the winning bidder and nine friends won’t simply select a barrel at Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto, Ky. Instead, the winner gets to create his/her own special Maker’s Mark “taste vision.” Using the same process as head honcho Bill Samuels Jr. did when he created Maker’s 46, the Samuels will work alongside you to formulate a personalized, never-been-made barrel of Maker’s Mark bourbon.

Maker’s Mark upped the ante for the night: Bringing art and bourbon together in a way that only Maker’s Mark can offer, the winner will also receive a rare piece of iconic Dale Chihuly's glass artwork, gifted from the distillery’s private collection.

“I’ve always felt a deep connection between fine art and the vision my grandparents created at Maker's Mark, which was all about the painstaking attention to detail it takes to handcraft something truly unique,” said Samuels. “They also believed it was important to give back to the community in meaningful ways. So it seems a natural fit for us to provide this once-in-a-lifetime experience to celebrate that shared vision and support the remarkable work of the Speed Museum.”

This specific bourbon offering has never been offered before and the Chihuly addition further sets the exclusive tone for this auction. The bidder gets a complete Loretto, Ky. experience that no private individual has ever had. To top it off, Maker’s Mark donated a dinner at the distillery’s Star Hill Provisions with a special menu created by Chef Newman Miller, a Top Chef judge.

John Poindexter Old Bourbon Estimate: $5,000

Bottled during Prohibition, this vintage “dusty bottle” was distilled in Spring 1916 and bottled in 1928 by the James E. Pepper Distillery in Harrison Country, Ky. During Prohibition, six companies could legally sell “medicinal” whiskey, all of it bottled-in-bond at 100 proof and government stamped. This pint, aged 12 years, would have had to be prescribed by a doctor and labeled “medicinal” during a time when it was illegal to sell alcohol but legal to prescribe.

“It’s so rare because these bottles just don’t exist anymore. And as a collector, it’s very frustrating because they’re going extinct,” said Minnick.

W.L. Weller Centennial 10-Year-Old Estimate: $2,000 - $5,000

Bottled in the late 1990s, this ultra-rare private barrel selection may have been one of the first Buffalo Trace products bottled shortly after the distillery acquired Weller from United Distillers in 1999.

This bottle, which does not come up for auction often, is a 10-year-old wheated bourbon distilled at Stitzel-Weller and bottled at Buffalo Trace. It’s one of the most sought after and legendary bottles because of its link to the W.L. Weller Bourbon Heritage Collection.

“This particular bottle is causing some serious buzz among collectors,” said Minnick. “This seems to be the one that could surprise us all.”

Other notables among the 54 lots offered

In addition to the above auction items, the Art of Bourbon will include other lots of covetable whiskeys and bourbon-related packages. Organizers expect the online portion of the event to draw interest from serious bourbon enthusiasts and connoisseurs from around the globe.

“We wanted our distillery to shine right out of the gate at this auction, so we donated special items that we knew all levels of bourbon collectors would be eyeing,” said Kyle Henderson, of Angle’s Envy. Henderson is the distillery’s production manager and is son and grandson, respectively, of Angel’s Envy legendary co-founders Wes Henderson and Lincoln Henderson. 

Angel’s Envy donated a bottle of each 2013-18 Cask and a bottle of the Angel’s Envy grand opening release, the first port barrel ever filled in 2010. This 100-proof port was privately released for the distillery in 2016 and was never available to the public. It could bring as much as $5,000 at the event. “It’s our way of thanking the Speed for continuing to bring arts to the community,” said Henderson.

Louisville-based Brown-Forman pledged its support to the Museum event by donating many high-profile items, including a coveted bottle of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 2008. 

“It’s funny and, in this case, exciting what we find tucked away in our closets. Uncovering this 2008 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon was a bit of a happy surprise. We’re thrilled it will be part of the Speed auction this year,” said Campbell Brown, president and managing director of Old Forester, and a fifth generation descendent of company founder George Garvin Brown.

That particular Birthday Bourbon release date is widely praised and even given an astounding 96 rating by Whiskey Advocate’s founder John Hansell, who is heralded as having one of the great whiskey palates of a generation.

“You do not come across this much anymore,” said Brown. “Arguably the crowd favorite of the bunch thus far. Hurts a little to put this in an auction, but for the Speed, happy to wave goodbye to this delicious bottle.” It’s estimated to bring $2,500 at auction.

Brown also is donating a bottle of the storied King of Kentucky Bourbon, which could bring as much as $2,000 at auction. The second-year limited release is of a 15-year-old bourbon, presented non-chill filtered at barrel strength.

Another Brown-Forman bottle up for bid: the Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition. It is the traditional Woodford Reserve that’s aged for an additional three years in XO Cognac casks and bottled in handmade crystal decanters from artists at Baccarat. Having tasted it direct from the barrel, Minnick noted this is the best Cognac finished bourbon he’s ever tasted. However, it’s not widely available and currently only sold in duty free stores. That bottle is estimated to bring $1,500 at auction.

The Speed added sharks to the whiskey mix when Jefferson’s Bourbon founder Trey Zoeller donated a shark-tagging experience aboard the vessel that carries four barrels of Jeffersons Oceans Bourbon as part of its payload.

The winning bidder gets to travel aboard an at-sea shark laboratory in the North Atlantic Ocean and pick his/her own ocean-going bourbon barrel as part of the entire shark-tagging experience.

For three years, barrels of Jefferson’s Bourbon are aged at sea with the idea that constant movement of the liquid in the barrels age the whiskey faster because more of the liquid is in contact with the wood. “When we tapped into the barrels, it completely exceeded my expectations. The liquid was black, almost syrupy. The sugars had caramelized. It was fantastic,” said Zoeller. (Auction estimate: $12,000 - $17,000)

The Speed Takes its Angel’s Share

In addition to bourbon, the Speed Art Museum will serve up another rarity, and it doesn’t have to do with “dusty bottles.” The biggest heavy hitters in the industry will attend the Art of Bourbon Auction.

Bourbon royalty - families with last names like Van Winkle, Brown, Samuels, Henderson and Dedman - will gather under the museum’s Beaux-Arts roof for the event. Guests will mingle with master distillers, members of the old-guard bourbon families, distillery executives and founders of new distilleries that have sprung up on and off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Prominent collectors from around the country fly in for this event.

“The Speed Art Museum, Kentucky’s largest and oldest art museum, is proud to have launched the premier, national nonprofit bourbon auction,” said Museum Director Stephen Reily. “For one night only, the Speed will rival the nation’s best bourbon bars so that all year long we can share the best art in the world with all of the people of Kentucky.”

Event proceeds support the art institution’s education programs and exhibitions. Bill Menish will serve as auctioneer.

Event organizers have again partnered with Bourbon & Beyond, a Louisville bourbon, food and music festival that coincides with the auction and draws more than 50,000 people. Minnick also serves as Bourbon & Beyond’s curator.

Art of Bourbon tickets, which are $200, include a cocktail hour, bourbon tastings and a seated dinner with a bourbon-inspired menu. 

About the Speed Art Museum

The Speed Art Museum is Kentucky’s largest art museum. Its mission is to “invite everyone to celebrate art forever.” An independent and encyclopedic museum located on the campus of the University of Louisville. In 1927, Louisville philanthropist Hattie Bishop Speed founded the Speed Art Museum, with a belief in the power of art to change people’s lives. The Speed Art Museum is free on Sunday through March of 2021, thanks in part to Brown-Forman. After Hours @ the Speed draw large and diverse crowds every third Friday of the month with music, drinks, and of course art. For more information, visit www.speedmuseum.org.


https://www.speedmuseum.org/art-of-bourbon-2019-press-kit/ for additional auction item info: artofbourbon.org.




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