What does 258-year-old cognac taste like? For R3m you can find out
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London - It was distilled in the time of Catherine the Great.
So anyone taking a sip of this 258-year-old cognac really would be getting a taste of history.
But it would be an expensive tipple – as the bottle is expected to fetch £160 000 (about R3.6-million) at auction.
The spirit dates from 1762, the year Catherine became empress of Russia. Despite its age, auctioneers said it should still taste good and will have "maintained its character".
The cognac has been stored, complete with the original label, in a family cellar for 140 years.
It was originally given to one of the family’s ancestors, who worked in a distillery in the Cognac region of France, in lieu of payment when an insect infestation "wiped out" vineyards across Europe.
Sotheby’s spirits specialist Jonny Fowle said the young man had probably worked there for ten years in the late 19th century, around the time of the phylloxera infestation, or Great French Wine Blight.
"He probably finished his time in Cognac when phylloxera hit," Fowle said. "He returned home to his family and in lieu of payment he had a huge cart full of bottles of cognac." The family decided to keep the bottle now on sale, which was already more than 100 years old at the time.
It is one of only three so-called Gautier cognac 1762 bottles to survive. One is in a museum in France and another sold at auction in New York in 2014 for around £48 000.
Fowle said of the 700ml bottle under auction – which contains enough for 28 measures: "We can assume the alcohol level in it is pretty high and that would have acted as a preservative for hundreds of years."
Other bottles in Sotheby’s online auction, which will run until May 28, include a whisky expected to fetch £100 000.