How to buy Pre-Prohibition Rye Whiskey

I’ve been fortunate in my career to taste a lot of old whiskey and other spirits. I once tasted an 1806 Cognac and turned it into four stories. Tasting history is my hobby, but older whiskeys are becoming harder to obtain since everybody is doing it.

On October 24, the famous auction house Christie’s will have a lot of Pre-Prohibition rye up for auction. The Old Overholt lot includes rye whiskey from 1905, 1906, 1908, 1909, 1910, and 1912. If you win the bid, you will likely need to pick up at Christie’s Rockefeller address.

Old Overholt cases. Photo provided by Christie's.
Old Overholt cases. Photo provided by Christie’s.

The whiskey comes from Richard Mellon Scaife’s estate. The billionaire died in 2014 and was a descendent of banker Andrew Mellon, who owned a share in the Old Olverholt Distillery. Thus, there’s no questioning the authenticity of the whiskey.

Photo provided by Christie's
Photo provided by Christie’s

The auction also includes 1961 Chateau Petrus, several vintages of La Tache, Chateau Latour, and champagnes and fine wines that will surely go for three or four times as much as the rye. The whiskey has also been verified and tasted by my colleague David Wondrich, who served as my captain on last year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition and author of many books. Wondrich described the palate as: “Initial notes of cedar and sweet spice consistent with the nose, followed by pleasant waves of sweet grain character. Warm, dry and very long finish, not too wood-dominated, with a good deal of grain developing late. Very clean and extremely rich for an American rye whiskey. A very good whiskey.”

If you have the money to bid on such a historic whiskey gem, I recommend checking out the auction. And if you’re in Louisville, let me know if you win, I’ll be happy to taste with you.

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