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When Cars Met Whisky

When cars met whisky Bowmore aston martin DB5 Piston

On the first look, cars and whisky seem like a weird combination. Why are something that definitely shouldn't mix—drinking and driving—marketed in the same context? What could be the connection between cars and whisky?


Other than the fact that racing's history is linked to whisky, the answer is simple: they are both luxury goods.


In this article, The Whisky Ardvark will examine the connections between whisky and cars, including racing and recent collaborations between whisky and auto manufacturers. On many occasions, it was love at first sight.



 

Short History of Racing & Whisky


During the era of US Prohibition, bootleggers modified cars to outrun the police and installed heavy-duty springs, shock absorbers, and high-powered engines. Drivers race their high-powered cars on rugged country roads for fun in their spare time for bragging rights. When the alcohol ban was lifted in 1930, these skilled drivers found themselves unemployed but with high-performing cars. They continued racing against each other informally.


On December 14, 1947, former moonshine runner William 'Big Bill' France met with other drivers, car owners, and mechanics to establish standardised competition rules. Two months later, on February 21, 1948, the first official NASCAR race was held when the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing was formed.


bootlegger race cars vs NASCAR cars of today

Images by John M. Jennings / Just a Car Guy - Bootlegger Race Cars / Pinterest - NASCAR cars


From 2005 to 2009, Jack Daniel's and Jim Beam sponsored NASCAR cars when the ban on distillery sponsors was lifted. However, after four years, both companies concentrated their marketing efforts on other outlets.


On the other hand, Formula One was founded in 1950 for car companies to race their vehicles to see who could make the best-performing car. Initially, it only included auto companies from the UK.


The whisky brand most associated with the race is Johnnie Walker. It started when Rob Walker, the great-great-grandson of company founder John Walker, established his racing team in 1958. His star driver was Stirling Moss, who won Walker multiple Grand Prix victories.


Formula One Johnnie Walker Rob Walker

Image by Sports Car Digest - Rob Walker / GPToday - Formula One Johnnie Walker Sponsorship


In 2005, McLaren ended its long-standing deal with the West tobacco brand due to a European Union tobacco sponsorship ban that came into force on July 31, 2005. Johnnie Walker partnered with McLaren in an annual deal worth £10 to £15 million, with an additional £2 million dedicated to campaigning for safe driving and responsible drinking - including the #JoinThePact campaign. In 2014, Johnnie Walker became the official whisky of Formula One, but the deal ended around 2020 due to controversy.



 

From Sponsoring to Collaborations


Gone are the days when Jim Beam bottled its whiskey in model car ceramic decanters. Mainly produced in the 1970s and 80s, some of these collectables can still be found on various websites and auctions, but the whiskey is usually long gone.


Jim Beam car decanters 1970s and 1980s

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


In recent years, many whisky brands have partnered with well-known car manufacturers to create limited-edition expressions that often come with a hefty price tag. These collaborations usually target the same customer base as investment-grade products. Despite the obvious mixed messages about drinking and driving, the partnership between luxury brands is a natural choice.



These releases often justify their high prices through craftsmanship and tradition in all of their incarnations. The whisky ageing process, cask selection, and artistic input from the car companies all play a role in justifying the value of these products. For those undecided about whether to invest in cars or whisky, whisky seems to be the better choice in the current market. When combined, these bottlings answer the question of what kind of whisky a wealthy car enthusiast would purchase.


Fortunately, some collaborations are aimed at the everyday whisky drinker and are available at a reasonable price.


The value of these collaborations for the whisky brand lies in associating with a well-respected car brand that embodies luxury. The 'famous-by-association' effect is evident, especially when the whisky brand involved is not widely known. For others, the partnership is an extension of their high-value and limited-release whisky range, exuding luxury and collectability in its most dazzling form.


For this article, we have compiled recent collaborations between whisky brands and car manufacturers that are certain to leave a lasting impression.




 

Bowmore & Aston Martin


The partnership between Bowmore and Aston Martin was established in 2019 and has resulted in both affordable and expensive whisky bottlings.


Black Bowmore 1964 DB5 Aston Martin

The first release from their partnership was the Black Bowmore 1964, launched in late 2020. This particular whisky is a 31-year-old expression that has been matured in a Williams & Humbert Oloroso Sherry butt and bottled at 49.6% ABV. It features an authentic Aston Martin DB5 piston, and only 37 bottles were ever produced, with a retail price of £50,000. In 2024, the bottle retails for around £140,000.


Black Bowmore 1964 DB5 Aston Martin

Image by Elite Travel/ Miller Motors/ The Whisky Ardvark



Bowmore 'Designed by Aston Martin' GTR Collection


In August 2021, Bowmore launched a series called 'Designed by Aston Martin', exclusively available for global travel retail. The first release of the collection comprises three whiskies: No.1, a 10-year-old Dark & Intense, inspired by an Aston Martin racing car LM 10; No.2, a 15-year-old Golden & Elegant, influenced by an Aston Martin concept car Atom; and No.3, an 18-year-old Deep & Complex, depicting an Aston Martin luxury car DB MK III.


In August 2022, the second set was released for travel retail. This set also features three expressions: No.4, a 10-year-old inspired by the 1922 Aston Martin GP 'TT2'; No.5, a 15-year-old influenced by Aston Martin AM V8; and No.6, an 18-year-old depicting the 1959 Aston Martin DBR4.


The third GTR Collection was made available in travel retail in 2023. This collection includes three whiskies: No.7, a 10-year-old inspired by the 1923 Aston Martin Razor Blade; No.8, a 15-year-old influenced by the 1958 Aston Martin DB4; and No.9, an 18-year-old featuring Aston Martin DB9.


Bowmore Designed by Aston Martin Releases GTR Collection No1 No.2 No.3
Bowmore Designed by Aston Martin Releases GTR Collection No4 No.5 No.6
Bowmore Designed by Aston Martin Releases GTR Collection No.7 No.8 No.9

Image by The Whisky Ardvark/ Bowmore



Bowmore Aston Martin Masters Selection

In 2021, Bowmore introduced the first edition of their limited Aston Martin Masters Selection series, the 21-year-old Golden Ratio. This whisky is a blend of 61.8% of 21-year-old whisky and 38.2% of older whiskies up to 35 years. It was matured in a mix of first-fill PX casks and Oloroso sherry barrels and bottled at 51.8% ABV. Only 12,000 bottles were released worldwide.


The second expression, released in 2022, was a collaboration between master distiller Ron Welsh and Aston Martin's executive vice president and chief creative officer Marek Reichman. The 22-year-old whisky was initially matured in a combination of American oak ex-bourbon hogsheads and European oak sherry butts and finished in tawny Port casks.


The third edition, launched in 2023, is a 22-year-old expression bottled at 51%. It was matured in European oak sherry casks and American oak hogsheads.


Bowmore Aston Martin Masters Selection

Image by Bowmore / The Whisky Ardvark



Bowmore ARC-52 Aston Martin

In June 2022, Bowmore made a splash in the whisky world by releasing its bottling of Bowmore ARC-52. This elegant decanter is part of a series of collaborations between Bowmore and car manufacturer Aston Martin and has received acclaim for its artistic design.


The 52-year-old whisky has been matured in a combination of sherry and ex-bourbon casks and has an ABV of 42.3%. Only 100 decanters were produced. The collaboration aims to provide a luxurious experience for whisky and car enthusiasts alike, with each release drawing inspiration from the Golden Ratio found in nature to create visually pleasing compositions.


However, some have raised concerns about the bottle's practicality, which Bowmore describes as 'the very definition of balance'. Many have questioned how the whisky can be poured from the bottle without spilling. To answer the question, Aston Martin has engineered a high-tech pipette to be provided with the bottle to prevent any wastage. Some sceptics have predicted that the bottle was never intended to be opened due to its high collectability value, with a retail price of approximately £60,000 at the time of release.


In addition to the 100-bottle release, a single black-top bottle (one-of-one) of Aston Martin ARC-52 Mokume Edition was sold in a Sotheby's auction on May 26th, 2023, for £225,000.


Bowmore ARC-52 Aston Martin whisky decanters

Image by The Whisky Ardvark/ Bowmore



 

The Macallan & Bentley


The Macallan Horizon was first announced in August 2022 and officially launched in mid-March 2024 as part of the distillery's 200th-anniversary celebrations. The eye-catching whisky decanter, featuring a 180-degree twist, results from a partnership established in July 2021 between The Macallan distillery in Speyside and Bentley Motors. The limited bottling is promoted as futuristic and innovative, showcasing six materials associated with the brands: copper, aluminium, wood, glass, leather, and, of course, whisky.


Curated by The Macallan's master whisky maker, Kirsteen Campbell, the single malt whisky is blended from six first-fill sherry-seasoned casks selected from the distillery's warehouses. While the age of the six casks has not been disclosed, if a hint is given, the Horizon will be available for a suggested retail price of £40,000 per bottle. Only 700 bottles will be released worldwide.


The Macallan Horizon Bentley Motors

Image by The Macallan



 

The Glenturret & Jaguar


Following the Lalique Group's takeover of Glenturret in 2019, the distillery has undergone a complete transformation, introducing several limited editions. The distillery's restaurant has been awarded two Michelin stars, and in March 2024, a high-end lodging was established on the estate grounds. The Glenturret has partnered with the Jaguar car manufacturer to mark its newfound luxury status.


The first release celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Jaguar E-Type No.1, produced for the North American market between 1961 and 1975. Bottled at 43.2%, the release does not feature an age statement, but it has been confirmed that the youngest whisky included is at least 30 years old. It was drawn from four casks: three Oloroso sherry European oak butts and one Amontillado sherry, a single American oak, and a quarter cask. Only 265 bottles of The Glenturret have been produced to celebrate the 265 brake horsepower of the E-Type car.


The second edition, Jaguar C-Type No.2, was released in early 2024. The release celebrates the 70th anniversary of the model's legendary domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its 220 engine horsepower. The 220-bottle limited release is aged for a minimum of 32 years and was drawn from 5 casks: four Oloroso sherry-seasoned European oak hogsheads and a single Pedro Ximenez sherry-seasoned American Oak hogshead. The whisky is bottled at a natural cask strength of 42.3%.


The Glenturret Jaguar car series whisky bottlings

Image by The Whisky Ardvark / The Glenturret / Jaguar



 

Coachbuilt & Rolls-Royce


Coachbuilt blended whisky, 'Original Blend', was launched in 2022 by whisky writer George Koutsakis. Shortly after meeting former Formula One driver Jenson Button, Button was named the blend's brand ambassador and face.


The duo quickly partnered with the classic coach-built car manufacturer Rolls-Royce in 2023, releasing a 300-bottle limited edition. 150 bottles were made available for Rolls-Royce London customers, and the remaining 150 bottles were released through a ballot with a price of £1,500 each.


The limited-release Coachbuilt x Rolls-Royce London 30-year-old is a small-batch whisky blend that includes 30- to 35-year-old whiskies, mainly aged in sherry casks. Unfortunately, little is known about the release, leaving details like the ABV at which the whisky was bottled a mystery.


In today's whisky world, transparency about products is highly valued. However, the Coachbuilt blended whisky brand provides little to no information about what goes into its blend. We believe the brand exemplifies a marketing-forward company that speaks a lot, using glorifying phrases without providing real information about its products.


Coachbuilt x Rolls-Royce London 30-year-old blended whisky

Image by The Spirits Business / Robb Report



 

Jack Daniel's & McLaren


In 2023, Jack Daniel's partnered with the Formula One race team McLaren in response to the increasing popularity of Formula One in the United States. Two limited edition label bottlings were released, one in 2023 and another in 2024, both containing the classic Jack Daniel's No.7 Tennessee whiskey.


The 2023 McL x JD edition was limited to 2,000 cases and was available in selected retailers within the US and in cities hosting the race's Grand Prix events. The 2024 edition of McL x JD was launched at the end of March 2024.


Jack Daniel's MacLaren McL x JD whisky

Image by The Whisky Ardvark / Jack Daniel's / McLaren 2024 Race Car



 

Kilchoman & Land Rover


Unlike other whisky distilleries and brands on this list, Kilchoman has a family link to the car it partnered with - The Land Rover. The Land Rover Defender was developed and tested on the island by Islay native Spencer Wilks, managing director of The Rover Group. The Land Rover Defender was launched to the public in 1948. The Kilchoman distillery was established in 2005 by Kathy Wills, granddaughter of Spencer Wilks, and her husband, Anthony.


Since 2014, Kilchoman has toured Europe in a distillery branded Land Rover. For the 2024 European Land Rover Tour, the brand will visit 20 countries and cover 10,000km.


In May 2023, the two companies' cooperation resulted in the launch of the Classic Defender Works V8 Islay Edition, retailing at £230,000. Alongside the limited edition car created to celebrate Land Rover's 75th anniversary, Kilchoman released a small-batch whisky partially aged in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Bottled at 51.3% and limited to only 639 bottles, the release size was inspired by the original registration serial number of Land Rover Series 1.


kilchoman distillery land rover tour and whisky

Image by Kilchoman / The Whisky Ardvark

 

Thank you for reading The Whisky Ardvark, and please drink responsibly. Make sure to check out some of our other informative articles listed below.



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