The World's Oldest Known Bottle of Whiskey Sold for $137,000

Once owned by J.P. Morgan, the bourbon inside could date as far back as the 18th Century.

Front and back views of Old Ingledew Whiskey bottle
Photo: Courtesy Skinner Auctioneers

Back in April, Skinner Auctioneers announced that they would be auctioning off "the oldest currently known whiskey bottle" — a bottle so old, in fact, that they weren't quite sure when it was produced. Even the label — hand-typed and taped onto the bottle — gave a bit of a shrug, stating only, "This Bourbon was probably made prior to 1865." A bit of carbon dating of the liquid inside narrowed things down — determining with 81.1 percent certainty that it was from 1763 to 1803 — and landing the tipple its "oldest" title.

Close up of label on Old Ingledew Whiskey
Courtesy Skinner Auctioneers

But for anyone concerned that all this ambiguity might affect the auction value of this bottle of Old Ingledew Whiskey, don't worry. In an era where a single bottle of Scotch can sell for nearly $2 million, the world's (probably) oldest whiskey sold just fine — more than tripling the pre-auction estimates of between $20,000 and $40,000 and fetching a whopping $137,000.

Interestingly enough, beyond the vague dating information, the bottle's two-sentence label also offered up a tidbit about its prior ownership, stating that it "was in the cellars of Mr. John Pierpont Morgan" — A.K.A. famed banker J.P. Morgan. So Skinner rare spirits expert Joseph Hyman looked into those details as well.

"We have further confirmed that J.P. Morgan, Sr. did purchase the bulk of the madeira and whiskey from the Ridgely's of Hampton House, in 1902, for approximately $7600, and the Ridgely's typed inventory from 1901 lists 'Old Bourbon- (purchased) about 1860,'" Hyman told me via email. As a result, beyond the dating, he believes that, due to the "historical figures involved in the story, the market valued the bottle much higher than our estimates for a whiskey for which we, as yet, do not know who originally produced it."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article cited a since-corrected article from The State suggesting that that the bottle would be put on display at the Morgan Library and Museum. This claim has been firmly disputed by Skinner Auctioneers which states that the buyer remains anonymous and any destination for the bottle is yet unknown.

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