Whisky Magazine Issue 125
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How a bottle of Henry McKenna went for a song
As I walked into the Kentucky Bourbon Festival auction room, I sized up the competition. There was Bill Thomas, owner of the iconic Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington DC. Last year, Bill hosted me for a Whiskey Women book signing. His personal collection puts mine to shame. There was Mike Miller, owner of Chicago's Delilah's, the punkest bourbon bar in the world with a selection that will humble even the savviest collectors. As we whiskey lovers conversed, somebody mentioned a Henry McKenna sold for $35,000 at the former distillery's auction. Mike commented: “Well, it's a good thing I wasn't there. I'd have pulled the check book out for $40,000.” This certainly signalled Mike was ready to buy, as were the other collectors in the room. Up for sale were historical classics, such as the Old Miller Prentice distilled in 1935 and bottled in 1941 and the Golden Wedding Whiskey distilled in 1917 and bottled in 1933, as well as contemporary icons that included the recent Pappy Van Winkle releases and Four Roses limited editions. I suspected most bidders were here for Pappy Van Winkle, the elusive bourbon that drives us all insane for its lack of availability. There was only one bottle I wanted, and it was unfortunately leading off the auction. Standing 11 inches tall with a plastic screw cap and an intact tax stamp, Henry McKenna 6 Years Old was bottled in 1977. The distiller was Ed Foote, a 2014 inductee to the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame. Ed and I have become personal fr...