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Largest private whisky collection to be auctioned

Block of 3,900 bottles includes rarities that may sell for near US$2m apiece

London

THERE are whisky collectors - and then there was Richard Gooding. For two decades, the Colorado businessman and philanthropist spent countless hours exploring distilleries in Scotland and trawling auctions in his quest for the finest scotch specimens.

Gooding, who died in 2014 at 67, amassed 3,900 bottles, including some rarities that may sell for almost US$2 million apiece. In February and April, they will become the largest private whisky collection ever to hit the auction block, said Whisky Auctioneer, a Scottish firm that announced the online sale on Monday.

The trove includes an unprecedented number of bottles from storied names such as Macallan, Bowmore and Springbank.

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Collectors are driving prices of old and rare single malt scotch to gaudy levels. In October, Sotheby's auctioned off 467 bottles owned by another American collector, including a 1926 Macallan Fine & Rare 60 Year Old - the Holy Grail of whiskies - that sold for a record £1.45 million (S$2.59 million).

The Gooding auction will feature two of those Macallans, which were distilled in 1926 and then removed from a single cask in 1986. One of them features a label created by the Italian pop art painter Valerio Adami. Only a dozen of the Adami bottles were made, and the whisky world mourned when a 2011 earthquake in Japan destroyed one of them.

Becky Paskin, a scotch consultant and writer, said: "The number of people who have even tasted this whisky are few and far between, so to have two of these unicorn bottles in one auction is very exciting."

The sale, which may total as much as £8 million, is a coup for Iain McClune, a 33-year-old entrepreneur who founded Whisky Auctioneer in a two-room basement office in central Scotland six years ago.

His firm is one of a new generation of online players that are challenging traditional powers such as Sotheby's in the rare-spirits market.

Aficionados also are expected to zero in on bottles from so-called lost distilleries that stopped production long ago. They include Dallas Dhu, a one-time whisky-maker in Speyside known for a liquor imbued with flavours of butterscotch and spice. It closed in 1983.

There also will be ample lots of Bowmore from Islay, an island off the west coast of Scotland known for its peaty and smoky offerings. These whiskies were Gooding's favourites, said his widow, Nancy.

A 1964 Black Bowmore is expected to attract bids of £12,000 to £17,000. A 50-year-old Springbank from 1919 has an estimated range of £180,000 to £220,000.

Mrs Gooding said: "Richard's mission was to collect a bottle that represented every single distillery." BLOOMBERG