A bottle of bourbon that potentially predates the Revolutionary War and the Whiskey Rebellion was the subject of intense bidding at a rare spirits auction that ended on June 30.
Touted as the oldest known whiskey in existence by auction house Skinner, the bottle was estimated to realize between $20,000 – $40,000. The predictions were shattered when the Morgan Library, a museum and independent research institution that was originally the private library of financier J.P. Morgan, eventually paid $110,000 for the Old Ingledew whiskey bottled in the 1860s by Evans & Ragland in La Grange, GA. (Some outlets have reported the final selling amount to be $137,500.)
The liquid inside is believed to be a century older than its bottling date. Appraisers utilized carbon-14 testing conducted by extracting precious liquid with a hypodermic syringe to reveal an origin date of approximately 1763, with a high probability that the whiskey was distilled in the late 18th century.
The Morgan Library was especially interested in the historical connection between the vintage whiskey and J.P. Morgan himself. The bottle is adorned with a typewritten label stating “This Bourbon was probably made prior to 1865 and was in the cellars of Mr. John Pierpoint Morgan from whose estate it was acquired upon his death.”
As reported by Garden & Gun, Rex Woolbright discovered the antique while rummaging through a late relative’s belongings. Research indicates that J.P Morgan purchased three identical bottles, which were passed to his son, Jack. One bottle was gifted to distant cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt, another to Harry Truman, and the last to James Byrnes.
It was this third bottle that found its way to auction after the former congressman, Supreme Court Justice, and governor of South Carolina gave it to his neighbor and family friend, Logan Drake, who was Woolbright’s grandfather. He later told Garden & Gun that the only reason the bottle wasn’t opened and toasted away years ago is that his family preferred Scotch.
While the origin of the liquid remains a mystery, now the bottle is right back where it resided for many years, amongst J.P. Morgan’s possessions.