Skip to main content

This historian is auctioning off his rare whiskey collection

Willett 25 Years Old Black Wax (1 750ml bottle)

Who better to collect and archive a selection of historical rare whiskeys than a trained historian? Professional historian and whiskey enthusiast Paul S. Hirsch has been scouring the U.S. for rare bottles for more than two decades, and a sample of his collection is now going up for auction.

Hirsch got into whiskey collecting after a hit-and-run accident in 2000 left him an amputee, and he wanted a way to connect with people. He developed a system for searching out rare whiskeys, identifying areas to hunt for bottles based on the rise and fall of their historical prosperity. While whisky today is highly in demand, there was a period from the 1960s through to the 1990s when it didn’t sell well and many bottles were taken off the shelves. Today, some of these older gems can still be found by those willing to track them down and ask around for stores that have stock of postwar whiskies.

“The hunt for American whiskeys provided my second education in history and a primary education in generosity and hospitality. As a disabled American, my mobility was, and remains, limited, but finding wonderful bottles of whiskey enabled me to host tastings, dinner parties, and post-meal sipping sessions that sometimes ran until morning,” said Hirsch. “My wonderful friends came to my apartment and sampled hundreds of bottles with me. In the process, I learned that the hunt was just a small part of being a whiskey geek; the most lovely and indelible experiences were shared with the people that helped me heal and advance. Pouring the whiskey, I’d discovered, was my way of thanking my friends, of bringing us closer together, and of celebrating or mourning the peaks and troughs of life.”

Over the last 25 years, Hirsch has amassed an impressive collection, and 47 of these bottles will go up for auction at Bonhams Skinner. Some of the treats of the collection include a Willett 25 Years Old Black Wax, Karuizawa 31 Years Old from 1981, and Willett Family Estate 21 Years Old Gold Wax. The auction runs until June 18.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina Torbet is a cocktail enthusiast based in Berlin, with an ever-growing gin collection and a love for trying out new…
A Victorian glasshouse inspired these luxury Scotch whiskies
A Victorian glasshouse inspired these luxury Scotch whiskies from Glen Grant
glen grant glasshouse collection jpg

Another high-end whisky release is on the horizon, with renowned Scotch distillery The Glen Grant releasing three new expressions as part of its Glasshouse Collection. The collection brings together some of the oldest aged whiskies in the distillery's cellars, inspired by the glasshouse of the brand's founder, James Grant, which was built in the 1880s.

When Grant traveled the world, he brought back botanical specimens kept in the glasshouse for study. Now, the brand is taking this inspiration for three of its carefully preserved and curated scotches. The Glasshouse Collection consists of a 21-year-old, 25-year-old, and 30-year-old single malt scotch. This collection will be the final one from Master Distiller Dennis Malcolm before he retires from his sixty-year career in the whisky trade.

Read more
A brief history of the whiskey sour cocktail (and how to make different versions)
Learn to make all these recipes of this historical drink
George Dickel Whiskey Sour

What is a whisky sour? The whiskey sour cocktail officially dates back to the 1860s, but sailors in the British Navy had been drinking something very similar long before that. On long sea journeys, water was not always dependable, so to combat that, spirits were often used. Scurvy, too, was another danger on these journeys, so lemons and limes were consumed to help prevent the disease (incidentally, this is also one of the reasons why British folk are called ‘Limeys’).

Finally, sugar and water were added for taste. At this point, the drink is probably starting to sound familiar. (Grog, the rum-based favorite of pirates across the seven seas, is made from the same components, substituting whiskey for the sugarcane-based spirit.)

Read more
New Orleans in a glass: Stirring up a seductive Sazerac
Want the taste of the Big Easy? Add the Sazerac to your cocktail menu
Sazerac (with the red feather boa) is the official cocktail of New Orleans for summer drinks

One of America’s oldest known cocktails, the Sazerac cocktail is a New Orleans classic. One sip and you’ll quickly realize why this reddish-orange elixir has been going strong in the Big Easy and beyond since the 1800s. The Sazerac has a big, bold flavor that’s remarkably balanced, with a blend of sweetness, spice, and herbal notes, all wrapped up in one potent, whiskey-loving libation. Though difficult to master, it’s a fairly easy drink to make. It’s also a great cocktail to showcase your mixology skills, particularly while playing some fiery jazz in the background  (you can’t go wrong with Rebirth Brass Band.)
The classic Sazerac recipe

The Sazerac drink recipe is a fairly straightforward one, but if you want to have the authentic taste, make sure you are using the right bitters,

Read more