The Old Rip Van Winkle

Many people on this side of the Atlantic see American whiskey as a poor alternative to our native scotch whiskies, but in reality there are some sensational Kentucky bourbons, Tennessee whiskies, and spirits from outwith these two powerhouse states of whiskey.

So what is Bourbon?

It is whiskey produced in the USA, from grains which are at least 51% corn, and must be aged in virgin oak charred casks. Unlike Scotch whisky, there is no minimum age for a bourbon, with the exception of those labelled ‘Straight Kentucky Bourbon’, which cannot be any younger than 2 years old. There are some other nuances which must be abided by, such as strength at distillation, during maturation and at bottling, as well as some other smaller, but no less crucial requirements.


Due to the nature of the spirits interaction with the brand new casks, bourbons rarely have any significant aging, as to many maturing the spirit for long periods of time can cause an imbalance in the character.

Those which do receive a greater length of maturation are highly desired amongst collectors.

The October 22 Rare & Fine Whisky Auction plays host to some of these older, wiser American spirits. Headlining these bottles is lot 170, the Old Rip Van Winkle. The spirits were drawn from casks which were laid down in 1986, and left to slumber for glorious 23 years. The bourbon was then bottled in one only 1,200 crystal decanters, and presented in a leather lined box, with two Glencairn Crystal glasses. This prime example of American distillate is expected to achieve a hammer price of £7,000-£9,000. A must have for American whiskey collectors.


Click here to view the full auction catalogue >>

Graeme Maxwell


McTear’s is the longest-established auctioneer of whisky in the world. Entries are invited for this international auction, taking place 3 December. For a complimentary, no-obligation valuation, visit our Glasgow Galleries or contact our specialist on 0141 810 2880 or


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