The Spirit of Brora with Trey Ratcliff
Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know that it’s fairly rare for me to take on client/brand work. It really takes something special to tempt me into that arena and a few months ago an interesting email dropped into my inbox which was impossible to ignore. Today I get to talk about it…
In the Highlands on the North East Coast of Scotland, Brora sits where the land meets the sea. A landscape of rolling hills, golden sand beaches and remnants of settlements pre-dating the Iron Age, its distillery is the stuff of legends.
Now 202-years-old, Brora distillery which closed in 1983, was reawakened in May 2021 following a meticulous three-year restoration. Whilst the distillery has reopened, there is limited whisky that remains from before its closure. One of these casks, from 1982, will be auctioned at Sotheby’s together with one of my fine art prints on June 14th as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebration. But there’s more…much more…
I’ll be travelling to Scotland in 2023, for the very first time, accompanied by the new cask owner. Together we will capture images that bring to life the landscape that helped shape this whisky. The cask owner’s selected photograph will become a large format edition print, just like those from my museum quality fine art collection at TreyRatcliff.com, and will also be used to create a set of bespoke labels for the bottles to be drawn from the cask.
We’ve an exceptional adventure planned and the successful bidder of the auction for this ultra-rare cask will also have the option to work together with Diageo’s experts to further age their Scotch for up to five years. It’s a unique opportunity to play a role in the final part of this unprecedented whisky story. Below is a little teaser about the project and you can register for the auction here.
Before I leave you with a few images from the project so far, down at the bottom of this post, it’s also worthy of note that a second cask will be auctioned on the same day. From another Diageo distillery, the Port Ellen distillery on Islay, this second rare cask (a 42-year-old) will be auctioned with a one-off artefact, crafted following the sale, in collaboration with the designer and artist Ini Archibong. Ini will create a unique piece of art capturing the light of Port Ellen and its spirit in coloured glass. The one-off sculpture will be a physical expression of the “Dram and the Water” – representing both the precious nature of the liquid inside the cask and the distillery’s most precious resource. Crafted from Murano Glass and finished in the colours of Islay, the unique sculptural piece will be presented to the cask owner in Port Ellen once the distillery has reopened. Ini will also develop and create a bespoke colour gradient that will be used to design a set of labels for the bottles drawn from the cask.
The casks, both Brora and Port Ellen, have been hand-picked from Diageo’s prestigious VIP programme Casks of Distinction. This offers exclusive access to purchase individual casks of rare and exceptional Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Diageo’s unrivalled stocks, with only a very small number of fully mature casks selected each year from the choice of millions of resting in Scotland and an even tinier number selected from the ghost casks from the fabled Brora and Port Ellen distilleries.
Jonny Fowle, Head of Whisky at Sotheby’s said, “This partnership between Sotheby’s and Diageo showcases an unrivalled offering of rare whisky casks at auction. On trying the 1982 Brora I was astounded by its quality – the rich cooked fruit flavours elevating its signature lightly peated character. The Port Ellen is a masterclass in 1970s Islay smoke with significant cask influence, which, especially when from a closed distillery, is precisely the style that the world’s top whisky collectors seek out.”
If you find yourself in London, be sure to drop by Sotheby’s and check out the cask and print in person. And here’s that auction link again. 🙂