MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — A bottle of historic bourbon whiskey thought to be the only surviving stash from the cellar of financier John Pierpont Morgan proved to be an intoxicating item at Skinner’s recent Rare Spirits sale.
The single bottle of Old Ingledew Whiskey, bottled in the 1860s in La Grange, Georgia, by Evans and Ragland, sold for $137,500, smashing the pre-sale estimate of $20,000- $40,000.
Skinner’s rare spirits expert Joseph Hyman said the contents of the bottle had been carbon-14 dated (using a hypodermic needle through the cork) to 1763-1803. This places it in the historical context of the Revolutionary War of the 1770s and the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, making it one of the oldest known whiskeys in existence. Standard practice was to store spirits in large glass demijohns after being aged in oak barrels.
The whiskey had reportedly been purchased by Morgan in the 1860s during visits to Georgia, and is thought to be the only surviving bottle of a trio gifted in the 1940s to Washington power elite.
The bottle, which was part of his estate, was given by his son, Jack Morgan, to James Byrnes of South Carolina. Byrnes, a U.S. Congressman, U.S. Senator and Supreme Court Justice prior to World War II, was governor of South Carolina from 1951 to 1955. After retiring from office, Byrnes gave the bottle to Francis Drake, a friend and neighbor. The bottle remained in the Drake family until they approached Skinner about selling it.
Skinner’s rare spirits specialist, Joseph Hyman, said he was not aware of any other bottles of this whiskey having come to auction. It sold to an American buyer. For more information, visit www.skinnerinc.com.