Rare rum discovered by Harrogate wine company raises almost £80,000 for charity

Andy Langshaw (left) and Mark Lascelles with the old rum bottle at Harrogate Fine Wine Company
Andy Langshaw (left) and Mark Lascelles with the old rum bottle at Harrogate Fine Wine Company
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The oldest rum ever sold at auction has also become the most expensive, fetching almost £80,000 for 12 bottles.

The bottles were uncovered by Harrogate Fine Wine Company owner Andy Langshaw and Mark Lascelles when they were carrying out an inventory of the cellars at Harewood House in 2011.

Mr Lascelles, brother of the eighth Earl of Harewood, said: “I had always known the bottles were down there but I wouldn’t have given them another look.

“But when my late father asked us to do an inventory we thought we might take one and test it out, even though the mould was pretty unsavoury.

“They were obviously pretty old, as they had clearly been hand blown.

“We brought a bottle back to the shop and it took maybe half an hour to get the mould off, and then another half an hour to get the cork out.”

The bottles were then evaluated by Tennants Auctioneers in Harrogate who dated them to around 1780 - a date confirmed by the books detailing the house’s cellar stocks.

Though valued by Christie’s Auction House at £600-£800 per bottle, the lots fetched much more than expected at £8,225 each.

“Nobody had discovered anything like it before so we didn’t know what it would sell for,” Mr Lascelles said.

“The auction was probably the most exciting thing I have ever watched.”

All of the proceeds went to the Geraldine Connor Foundation - a British Caribbean charity dedicated to helping young people in performing arts that has strong links with Harewood House.

Co-director of the foundation Sheila Haworth said: “This money will be a stepping stone encouraging us to start this year’s summer school, meaning young people can get involved straight away.

“Young people are lost in the summer holidays, but for six long weeks they can work with professionals and at the end of it they have themselves a performance.”

Mr Langshaw said: “The idea had always been to raise money for some kind of British Caribbean charity or foundation, and we have succeeded spectacularly at that.

“It is a once in a lifetime discovery for someone in the wine trade and it has been a privilege to be involved.”

The Lascelles family owned several sugar plantations in Barbados from the seventeenth-century, and Mr Lascelles said the discovery that the bottles contained rum made perfect sense given this historic association.

Some of the rum has now been returned to Barbados to commemorate this 300-year-old link.