Despite being some of the longest-serving official bottlings from many of Diageo’s distilleries and having remained unchanged in their appearance for over thirty years, the Flora & Fauna range remains somewhat enigmatic. This is mostly by design as, while they are widely available from retailers, the bottles are not actively promoted by the company and are intentionally understated in the way they are labelled.
Introduced in 1991, the range was a means for United Distillers, Diageo’s precursor, to have its cake and eat it too, giving market representation to 22 of its single malt distilleries without having to create as many distinct brands and promote them in the same way it had for the six distilleries comprising its Classic Malts of Scotland range — Glenkinchie, Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore, Oban, Talisker, and Lagavulin. The Flora & Fauna name was coined for the originally untitled collection by the late whisky writer Michael Jackson, in reference to the uniformity of their presentation, each of which differs only by the illustrations on the labels which depict different varieties of local plants and wildlife.
Its simplicity, however, has been the key to its success. Functioning almost as a work-in-progress collection, United Distillers (and later Diageo) was able to make constant changes to the range without disruption to its distribution, with twenty-six distilleries featuring at one time or another. It also functioned as a priceless barometer of public opinion, providing a decade of real-time market feedback that gave Diageo the confidence to reintroduce dedicated brands for Caol Ila, Clynelish and Glen Elgin in 2002.
For all its success, the collection has remained very much in the shadows and today fewer than half of the expressions once represented are still being produced. A result of this is that special editions outside of the permanent range are incredibly unusual. The most recent of these was a collection of single casks bottled for a private collector in 2019, while the most recognisable is a set of nine cask strength, vintage releases from 1997. Lesser known is a trio of vintage bottlings selected and bottled specially for the Bristol Brandy Company in 1992, and we are delighted to offer all three in our July 2023 auction.
Bristol Brandy Company was founded in 1973 by John Barrett, whose exceptional palate has found fame most recently through his pioneering rum company, Bristol Spirits. His whisky selections are equally intriguing, choosing a 1979 vintage Caol Ila, a 1976 vintage Aultmore, and a youthful 1983 vintage Rosebank from the then Flora & Fauna range. All three are now exceptionally rare and the latter is making its debut appearance at Whisky Auctioneer.
While these were the earliest Flora & Fauna limited editions, they were also the last whiskies selected by Barrett for the Bristol Brandy Company, which was dissolved just two years later. They are truly a snapshot of whisky history from a bygone era. Not only did Rosebank subsequently close the year after this bottling’s release, but Aultmore was sold back to John Dewar & Sons at the end of the decade, too. Hugely special, these have become never-to-be-repeated Flora & Fauna whiskies, and very little like them ever has been either.
This article is sponsored by Whisky Auctioneer and is created in partnership with the team at Whisky Magazine. This sponsorship does not influence Whisky Magazine's coverage of auctions and Whisky Auctioneer do not have input on editorial decisions.
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