Shipwrecked Whisky Goes Up For Auction 128 Years Later

A collection of whisky bottles that went down with a ship 128 years ago is set to be auctioned in Glasgow, having been rescued from the wreck in 1977.

Auctioneers McTear’s will be selling a collection of bottles from the SS Wallachia on April 14th. The ship, owned by Burrell Collection founder Sir William Burrell, sank in the Firth of Clyde in 1895, taking down with it a cargo of whisky and beer. However, a group of divers managed to recover many of the bottles 82 years later.

Now, one of the divers involved is to sell his collection, including one of just two decanters of Wilkinson’s Famous Liqueur Whisky recovered from the ship, in the Whisky: Timeless Treasures auction. The haul is expected to sell for between £3,000 and £5,000.

Impressive though this figure may be, some may observe that cask whisky investment is a rather safer and less technically difficult way of making money from the amber dew as it becomes increasingly vintage over time than making risky dives down to shipwrecks.

McTear’s whisky specialist, Ewan Thomson, commented: “This is a wonderful collection, with a truly historic story to tell.” 

He added: “Although individual bottles of ‘Wallachia whisky’ have been sold in the past, this is the largest and best preserved selection to go under the hammer. “

Mr Thomson did note, however, that the interest may be as much in the bottles themselves as collector’s items as the actually whisky contained in them.

The SS Wallachia is not the most famous ship to sink off the Scottish coast with a load of whisky on board. That title undoubtedly goes to the SS Politician, which ran aground on Eriksay during a storm in 1941 and had much of its cargo liberated by the islanders, despite the best – and only partially successful – efforts of customs officers to recover the bottles. 

Such was the infamy of the incident that it inspired the 1949 film ‘Whisky Galore!’, loosely based on the true story.

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