A warehouse in Doral is home to some of the world’s oldest and rarest known spirits, including one of the oldest known rums — one that recently sold for $30,000.
The Harewood Barbados rum, bottled in 1780, sold to a collector in Switzerland for a world-record price of $29,999, according to Miami-based Old Liquors' manager Bart Laming.
This rum has a rich history dating back to the 18th century and was produced in Barbados for the Harewood House Estate — owned by the family many know from the British television series Downton Abbey — and stored in its cellar. The bottle was discovered in 2011 and sold at Christie's in 2013 for $9,500.
Two more bottles from the same collection now sit on a shelf at Old Liquors, the rare spirits retailer that recently began selling its wares to the public. Both dust-laden glass bottles are marked only by the wax that sealed them and a simple paper tag hanging from the neck.
According to Laming, they are only a snippet of the rarities collectors and enthusiasts can find at Old Liquors and part of what makes up a rare spirits cellar amassed throughout three generations, most recently owned by Bay van der Bunt.
It includes the oldest known Madeira from 1715, a cognac from 1747, Scotch from 1842, and an Armagnac from the 1800s.
“These bottles are liquid time capsules, able to capture a time and place unlike anything else in the world because it’s something you can actually experience with your senses,” Laming says. “These are bottles you can open, experience, and share with your friends and family.”
Today, Old Liquors is focused on connecting spirit connoisseurs with vintage bottles of the world’s rarest liquors.
Laming tells New Times that van der Bunt received the first bottles of his collection from his father, who often traveled between France and the Netherlands. He acquired a passion from his own father, a house steward at a British estate who was gifted bottles from the owner’s own private collection.
“Some of these bottles are the oldest of their kind in the world, including that rum we recently sold for $30,000,” says Laming. “But we also believe we have one of the oldest Madeiras in the world, from 1715, and cognac from 1811.”
For the past 30 years, van der Bunt has managed to amass a staggering collection of his own, today totaling around 10,000 bottles of rare and vintage spirits that date back as far as the early 1700s.
Despite the incredible history of his cellar, van der Bunt does not keep his collection as a museum. Instead, he has moved his collection to Miami, where Laming manages it.
While it's difficult to put a price on such one-of-a-kind items, Laming says the cellar's oldest picks — like the 1715 Madeira and the rarest in the collection — have the potential to sell for upwards of $100,000 apiece.
Laming, who relocated to the US in 2019, originally planned to open Old Spirits in 2020, but the pandemic presented logistical challenges that pushed the official launch to October 2022.
After tasting dozens of wines and spirits across four centuries, Laming continues van der Bunt's mission of finding rare and unique liquors to add to the collection, attending auctions and vetting offers from buyers looking to sell vintage wines and spirits.
Today, the business is slowly building a customer base in Miami, where the goal is to offer rare spirits aficionados a chance to handle, sample, and purchase the world's oldest wine-based spirits.
Part of that vision also includes selling to establishments interested in offering vintage spirits to the public with an onsite bottle list that lists pours by the half ounce or ounce, adds Laming.
Despite its location and outward appearance, pass through the door into the Old Liquors tasting and storage facility, and you'll feel you've been transported to an old-world European estate wine room. Indeed, the room was designed as a replica of van der Bunt's Norwegian cellar.
A long tasting table displays rare bottle picks — an 1848 cognac among them — Laming selected specifically for tastings. Many are part of a larger collection of bottles he's chosen for an upcoming event, a rare spirits-tasting dinner slated to take place at Klaw on Saturday, February 18. The dinner will offer attendees a one-of-a-kind pairing alongside two dozen of Old Spirits' most coveted bottles.
"This is the first tasting of this magnitude, I believe, in the world," says Laming. "It will be the experience of a lifetime. These bottles have never been offered to the public before, and certainly not with a large-scale tasting event."
The tasting, open to just 24 people for around $2,750 per person, will feature bottles that span 200 years of vintages, from a Madeira bottled in 1790 to an 1880 cognac. Moving forward, Laming hopes to offer similar tasting events, something almost unheard of in the rare spirits world.
"This cellar is a testament to the enduring appeal of rare, exceptional liquors, and we're proud to share a piece of the world of fine rum collecting here in Miami," sums up Laming.