The Mysterious Story Behind The World's Oldest Bottle Of Bourbon

In the world of rare whiskey and bourbon, an outstanding bottle that's been aged for a considerable period of time tends to fetch the highest prices. For example, the Macallan Fine and Rare 60 Year Old auctioned in 2019, took the title of most expensive whiskey in the world going for just under $2 million (via Elite Traveler). While the priciest bottles tend to be attention-grabbing, there is one bottle that is just as interesting thanks to its puzzling history. In April 2021, Skinner Auctioneers opened up what they called "the oldest currently known whiskey bottle" to bids (via Food & Wine). 

However, they didn't actually know how old the bottle of bourbon was or when it was made. What's even more interesting is that the label on the bottle, which had been hand-taped at that, didn't even know how old the bourbon was. It read, "This Bourbon was probably made prior to 1865 and was in the cellars of Mr. John Pierpont Morgan from whose estate it was acquired upon his death. As far as is known, there were no Bourbon distilleries in Georgia after the Civil War." While the typed label suggested a timeline prior to 1865, carbon dating the bourbon inside the bottle placed it even further back — between 1763 and 1803.

Its age isn't the only notable thing about this bottle

If you picked up on the name mentioned on the typed label affixed to the bottle, then you likely realized this isn't any ordinary bottle of bourbon. It belonged to the famous banker J.P. Morgan. Apart from his ownership in what must be a long line of people to own this bottle, Morgan's part in the bottle's history also helps those looking back at its history to understand it a bit more. Joseph Hyman, a rare spirits expert, researched the bottle's history including when and how Morgan obtained the bottle (via Food & Wine). 

Hyman explained, "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.'" However interesting the story might be, the bourbon was not valued at the sky-high prices as those of other whiskies such as the Macallan Fine and Rare 60 Year Old. In fact, this perplexing bottle only brought in $137,000 which is still much more than its top value of $40,000.