If you want to try the rare new release from Speyside scotch whisky distillery Craigellachie, you can't buy it. The only way you can taste the special dram is by winning a spot at the Bar 51 pop up in Sydney next month.
Over three nights, 80 whisky fans (and their lucky plus ones) will visit the "bar within a bar" inside the Duke of Clarence Hotel to try the 51-year-old whisky alongside the brand's three stalwarts: the 13-year-old, the 17-year-old and the 23-year-old.
"The idea was to go against the grain, as it were, and "share the rare"," says global ambassador Georgie Bell.
"[Usually] a really expensive, old bottle of whisky becomes like the pied piper and it's put into a bottle that people value more than the whisky inside it. But this whisky is so great, and we thought, "Why are we not sharing this?""
The Craigellachie 51 started its life in 1962 as 250 litres of spirit, but there were just 51 bottles salvageable after "the angel's had taken their share," says Bell.
While most distilleries sell their oldest whisky as an ultra-limited edition at thousands of dollars a bottle, the Bacardi brand decided to do things differently.
"Often when you leave a whisky for a very long period of time, it can come out tasting like the wood that it's been in," explains Bell. "It's not overly delicious, and chewy and tannic, and it loses that distillery character."
"But the amazing thing about the 51 is that after all that time, it's still balanced with distillery character … so you end up with a whisky that is incredibly well rounded and has that harmonious interchange."
The Craigellachie distillery was built in 1891, but for over a century it was primarily used in blending, only gaining accolades as a single malt in 2014. By 2017, the top shelf Craigellachie 31-year-old was named best single malt at the World Whisky Awards. "It was one of those folklaws for whisky enthusiasts, but it wasn't widely known," says Bell. "It has that oily, grizzly but slightly tropical character note which is really interesting to try."
Bar 51 takes its inspiration from the tiny bars of Tokyo's Golden Gai, with Sydney the third of four stops on an international tour. The tour started in London last November, then moved to New York in May, with the fourth and final Bar 51 landing in South Africa at the end of the year.
"We thought we'd bring it back to what it's all about which is the whisky itself," says Bell. "And also bring it back to what I love about whisky, which is where you have a group of people sitting in a room, clinking glasses, and you might have met some people, you might not have met others but by the end of the night you know everyone and you've had a really lovely time."
Groups of six people will come through Bar 51 at The Duke of Clarence, Sydney, from October 23-25, with the winners chosen by ballot – the London pop-up attracted some 5000 entries for its handful of spots.
The lottery is open until midnight on Friday, October 11 and can be found at craigellachie.com.