Whisky from Famed Shipwreck for Sale at Auction

Credit: Grand Whisky Auction

On February 3, 1941, the SS Politician left port in Liverpool, England, on its way to Jamaica and New Orleans with 260,000 bottles of whisky – among other things to raise money for the war effort. It never made it to the Americas but it managed to sail in to history as one of the most famous ship wrecks of the 20th century.

A bottle recovered from that shipwreck is for sale in an online auction and is expected to fetch up to $20,000.

The bottle comes from one of the most famous shipwrecks in history, the S.S Politician.
The bottle comes from one of the most famous shipwrecks in history, the S.S Politician.

Known as “sunken scotch,” bottles of whisky brought up from the depths after spending years or even decades underwater go on sale every few years and generally can be expected to be bought for high dollar amounts.

The whisky is being sold through The Grand Whisky Auction in a lot with a diver’s helmet recovered from the same wreck, two bricks from the SS Politician, and an original poster from the “Whisky Galore” movie that is based on the tale of the SS Politician and the turmoil that arose after it sank.

The ship ran aground off the Isle of Eriskay during gale force winds. Locals sailed out to offer assistance to the crew as the ship began to flood. The crew was rescued and, when they learned of the cargo on board, the locals turned their attention to “rescuing” the whisky.

To the locals, there was nothing illegal about taking the whisky as their interpretation of maritime salvage law meant that anything lost at sea belonged to whoever came and got it.

The local customs official, Charles McColl, saw things differently and lodged an official complaint with the local police accusing the locals of stealing the cargo.

On April 26 of that year, a group of men were convicted of theft of some of the whisky and fined between three and five British pounds. McColl was incensed at the lenient sentence. The police were locals themselves and didn’t see the theft as being all that big a deal. But McColl persisted and managed to get up to six weeks of prison for some of the men.

Second salvage attempt
Second salvage attempt

Official salvage attempts were not successful and so McColl applied for and received permission to blow the hull and sink the ship.

Compton Mackenzie lived on the island during the “whisky rescue” and immortalized the events in a book titled “Whisky Galore” which was published in 1947. Two years later it was made into a movie which was remade in 2016.

Fair Use: Ealing Studios
Fair Use: Ealing Studios

The whisky in the auction was not recovered in the 1940s. This bottle was found over fifty years later by George Currie who was repairing an undersea cable when he discovered the sunken “treasure.” Along with a team of divers, he was able to recover a VAT 69, Ballantine’s and some bottles of Gibbey’s.

In 2013, another pair of bottles from the Politician were sold at auction for £12,050.

If you are interested in purchasing this unique whisky, you should be aware that whisky does not mature in the bottle but place your bid here.

Another Article From Us: SS Richard Montgomery Contains Enough Munitions to Create a Tsunami

It will be the same expression it was when it was bottled almost 80 years ago. That said, it should taste pretty much the same as it did back then – assuming the seal has remained airtight in all that time.