James Turrell’s Eight Decades Whisky: A Masterpiece Collaboration

Renowned American artist James Turrell, famed for his transformative work with light and space, marked his 80th birthday in May this year.

In a unique collaboration with The Glenturret, Scotland’s Oldest Working Distillery, and Lalique, Turrell unveiled his inaugural whisky decanter creation, Eight Decades.

Limited to a mere 80 decanters globally, this exclusive release culminates in a special artist’s proof, numbered #008, and was auctioned by Sotheby’s New York on 9 December during their Whisky & Whiskey – Festive Spirits and American Classics Auction.

Design Inspired by Ancient Egypt: A Ceremonial Ode to Light

The decanter’s design showcases a streamlined silhouette crowned by a pyramidal deep blue crystal stopper. Drawing inspiration from Ancient Egypt, where deliberate lighting of monuments held ceremonial significance, Turrell’s creation pays homage to his reputation as the artist of light.

The auction lot featured proof decanter #008, filled with a bespoke whisky crafted for the occasion by The Glenturret’s Whisky Maker, Bob Dalgarno. Additionally, it includes three hand sketches by James Turrell from the decanter’s design phase, each signed by the artist.

Lalique and The Glenturret extended an invitation to the buyer to witness the manufacturing process at both the glassmaker’s Alsace factory and the Crieff distillery, concluded with a dining experience at the Michelin-starred The Glenturret Lalique Restaurant.

James Turrell's Eight Decades Whisky: A Masterpiece Collaboration

Crafting Turrell’s Vision: Design Challenges and Artisanal Triumph

Realizing James Turrell’s vision for Eight Decades demanded an extensive design process, encompassing drawings, mould manufacturing, hot glass trials, and prototypes. The artist’s proof stands as a testament to this laborious journey.

The Lalique artisans faced technical challenges in shaping the bottle, injected with a violet crystal at the neck, ensuring even distribution for a transparency that enhances the amber-coloured whisky within.

The whisky, a blend from eight casks spanning 1987 to 1998, symbolizes various facets of Turrell’s life, character, and vocation. Its aromatic profile includes notes of dark-dried fruit, chocolate orange, ginger cake, red berries, fresh apples, and subtle oak.

James Turrell's Eight Decades Whisky: A Masterpiece Collaboration

The palate reveals gentle wood spices, and rich fruit cake with treacle and honeycomb, all harmonized with burnished oak, culminating in a lingering, mellow finish.

Charity in a Bottle: Proceeds Supporting the Roden Crater Foundation

All proceeds from the auction of proof decanter #008, estimated at $60,000 – $100,000, will be donated to the Roden Crater Foundation. This foundation supports Turrell’s magnum opus – a controlled environment in Northern Arizona’s Painted Desert, serving as a 400,000-year-old volcanic cinder cone for experiencing and contemplating light.

The Roden Crater stands as a vast naked-eye observatory dedicated to stargazing, a project James Turrell has passionately nurtured since its acquisition in 1979. The artist was honoured with the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2013, recognizing his dedication to this monumental work.

Industry Voices: The Glenturret and Sotheby’s Share Their Perspective

John Laurie, Managing Director of The Glenturret, expresses the team’s honour in collaborating with James Turrell, emphasizing the hard work and passion invested in creating the Eight Decades decanter.

James Turrell's Eight Decades Whisky: A Masterpiece Collaboration

Laurie notes the exceptional value of the artist’s proof and accompanying hand sketches, offering a unique opportunity to own a piece of Turrell’s art. Importantly, Laurie highlights the charitable aspect, stating, “The fact that all proceeds from the auction will be donated to charity is very important to us; we hope it will raise a substantial amount to support this cause.”

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s Global Head of Spirits, views The Glenturret’s collaboration with James Turrell as a groundbreaking venture in artist-whisky collaborations. This partnership, combining Scotland’s Oldest Working Distillery with a leading figure in the contemporary art world, promises to redefine whisky collecting.

Fowle expresses enthusiasm in supporting The Glenturret once again, recognizing the project’s unique appeal and its contribution to pushing the boundaries of the traditional whisky collection.

In conclusion, the unveiling of James Turrell’s Eight Decades Whisky Decanter stands at the crossroads of artistry, craftsmanship, and philanthropy. As this unique creation found its way to auction, it not only symbolizes the artist’s mastery of light but also becomes a vessel for supporting a cause close to Turrell’s heart, transcending the boundaries of conventional art and whisky appreciation.

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