If you’re gonna drop $75,000 on a bottle of whiskey, the liquid inside better be sublime. And the bottle itself? It should elevate the experience. It should possess craftsmanship that turns it into a conversation piece and a collector’s item you can proudly display on a shelf at your wet bar or bar cart. This unicorn expression we’re referring to is called ARC-52, a collab between Bowmore and Aston-Martin, which comes in a decanter that looks akin to a crystal spaceship.
Bowmore, a scotch distillery located on the island of Islay which is known for its peated whiskey, is no stranger to the concept of well-aged, extremely expensive single malts. But this new collaboration with luxury automaker Aston Martin, part of a long-running partnership, is pretty stunning in terms of both design and flavor.
ARC-52 is a 52-year-old single malt whisky. It was distilled in 1968, the same year humans first orbited the moon. (That historical context is just a fun fact; it doesn’t have much significance in the whiskey world, but it does lend itself nicely to storytelling.)
There are just 100 bottles available of ARC-52, one of the oldest releases from Bowmore so far, and it clocks in at 42.3% ABV. The whisky is a marriage of equal proportions: half the whisky is aged in American oak ex-bourbon hogshead and half is aged in a European oak Oloroso sherry butt.
I was lucky enough to try a sample at a recent event at The Glass House in New Canaan, CT.
Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: old whisky doesn’t mean good whisky. On the contrary, despite the exorbitant price it commands, sometimes decades in a barrel can alter the character of whisky until it might as well be cognac or rum for all you know. But this half-century-old dram from Bowmore is a tasty liquid relic.
It’s full of tropical fruit, as is often the case with scotch this old, but that’s not all there is to this tipple. The nose leads off with green apple, pineapple, and lots of pear. That last note is one I normally associate with whisky from Glenfiddich, but it’s evident here as well. The palate opens up with mango, cinnamon, and raspberry jam followed by a bit of tannic spice and some cranberry and vanilla that fades out on the finish.
This is definitely not an everyday sipper, but at $75K a pop it’s not really meant to be.
A word on design
The design of the bottle is striking, if rather unconventional, and is supposed to represent the aesthetic defined by Aston Martin’s luxury cars. The hand-blown glass decanter rests on two points in sort of a rounded triangle shape.
There’s a metal cover on top that you need a magnetic key to open, and once this is off you can pour the whisky—although it does seem to be a bit unwieldy in that regard, or at least I’d be nervous about spilling it.
“This whisky is the zenith of our partnership,” said Cathal Loughnane, Aston Martin Head of Global Partnerships, at the recent media unveiling. “This 52-year-old whisky is exceptional, and it was our challenge to create a vessel as exceptional as the liquid. We really wanted to innovate, push the limits of what a bottle is. We wanted to create something surprising and magical, so we spent years developing the magnetic system. We wanted it to be more than just a bottle, but a sculpture that holds the whisky in the perfect state.”
The truth is that no whisky is perfect, despite the hype, price, and extraordinary vessel it might come in. This is a whiskey specifically designed for high-roller collectors, and that’s who’s going to purchase it—and, let’s be honest, probably never actually drink it.
But if you find yourself with some cash burning a hole in your pocket and the time to hunt down one of these bottles, go ahead and pop it open. Or buy two—one to drink and one for your collection.
ARC-52 launches this month to the New York City and Los Angeles markets.
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