My dear friend Kate houses a very important collection of her grandmothers. Kate’s grandmother Nell is fondly remembered by family for her scones and her collections. She hailed from Scotland, which is notorious for whisky, and after immigrating to New Zealand she received a few miniature bottles of whisky as presents. These few presents were the beginning of a very special collection. This was in the late 1950’s and little did she know but for the next fifty years her collection would grow to over five hundred different miniature bottles of whisky, gin, sherry and ports.
Just how did she collect so many? A friends husband worked for a liquor wholesaler. Travellers gave him samplers and he would pass them on to Nell for her collection, these would become collectors items later on. And of course the liquor bottles were the finest samples you could get.
Nell had more than 100 miniature bottles of whisky in her collection. A lot in different bottles, from miniature Lockness monsters, to kilted men and Scottish people. The amazing thing about the one hundred or so whiskeys was that they were not only different types of whiskeys but they came from a variety of distilleries, some that would have closed down by now. Nell’s favourite bottle in her collection was a whisky housed in a car.
Nell displayed all the miniature alcohol bottles around her house. They were all in cabinets and were her pride and joy. Kate remembers visiting her house and never contemplating touching any of the bottles. Which was just as well as none of them had ever been opened! Imagine that! Hundreds of bottles of alcolol, left unopened for fifty years. Hard to beleieve it was in New Zealand! After Nell died, bottles were sold. Most of the whisky bottles went and not just for collections but to fans of whisky who wanted to drink the whisky, especially the whisky from the smaller disterillaries, ones that had closed down.
Visiting the collection, that has sadly dwindled down to one hundred, my heart skipped a beat. The bottles are so beautiful and there is such a variety that I was desperate to touch, hold and stare at them in wonder. The detail in them and their perfection, is breath taking. I wanted to see them all and tried to photograph them carefully to share them. Have I found a new passion to collect? I found my favourite bottle and went home to investigate it’s history. It was a small, ceramic, flat bottle with a cottage imprinted on it with the name Burns underneath. Maybe I was drawn to it as my husbands family are Burns and also from Scotland. The house however was where Scotland’s son, poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796) grew up. You would know his work, with his most famous folk song Auld Lang Syne. This ceramic bottle on it’s own would look amazing in a frame.
I wish I saw all of the collection, together with Nell telling me the history of the pieces. I love the idea of collections being the history of a family. These are the stories shared and told by a family member that gets passed down through the generations. Splitting up a collection and passing them down to grandchildren/ great grandchildren can continue the history of a family.
Just to complete the ‘display’ end of this post, Kate and I decided the collection wasn’t reaching it’s full potential where it was situated. Sitting above the bookshelf, on a glass shelf away from three pairs of little hands was a better idea. She now has collectable pride!