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Bottle of Scotch Believed Given by JFK to His Best Friend Comes to Auction

Bonhams October 13 auction of Whisky, Cognac & Rare Spirits will feature a rare Aberlour-Glenlivet scotch whisky bottled by WH Holt & Sons, once in the estate of Kirk LeMoyne "Lem" Billings (1916-1981), President John F Kennedy's prep school roommate and life-long friend (est. $2,500-3,000). Engraved with a sterling silver capsule reading "Happy Birthday from Jack," the bottle is believed to be a rare memento of the extraordinary friendship between the two men. Despite declining the President’s 1961 offer to head the Peace Corps, the two were so close that Billings had his own room in the White House during Kennedy's administration.  

Additional highlights with Presidential connections include two bottles of Makers Mark selected for President Ronald Reagan by the George Washington University Hospital doctors who saved the President's life after the March 1981 assassination attempt. The bottles were selected to honor Reagan’s 1985 inauguration (est. $1,500-2,000 each).  Also available is a bottle of rum complete with Presidential seal and explanatory label. This rum was made from a blend of exceptional Jamaican varieties, including a vintage distilled in 1906 to commemorate President Theodore Roosevelt's Nobel Peace Prize. This bottle was given to President Reagan to commemorate his 1982 visit to the Island (est. $600-800).

The auction contains many historic bottles, such as an 1862 Old Vatted Glenlivet, believed to be from the estate of William Bayard Cutting (1850-1912), a 19th century industrialist and noted New York aristocrat (est. $6,000-8,000). From the estate of Harry Hines Woodring, Governor of Kansas from 1931-33 and US Secretary of War from 1936-40, comes a late 1930's 20 year old Bonaparte Brand Cognac Fine Champagne (est. $600 - 800).

Other whisky highlights on offer include a 52 year old Macallan from 1946 in a wooden display case (est. $6,000-8,000), and a three bottle set of 1974 AH Hirsch 16 year old bourbon (est. $1,700-2,200 each).  Rye whiskies up for auction include three rare, pre-prohibition Old Hermitage Rye Whiskey Reserve from W.A. Gaines & Co. Distillers, made near the turn of the 20th century (est. $800-1,000 each).

Exclusive cognacs from legendary makers such as Remy Martin, Courvoisier, AE Dor and Martell will also be available. Of special interest is an extraordinary 1802 Lheraud, one of only a handful of bottles of the prized vintage known to exist (est. $14,000-18,000). 

Bonhams will also offer the unique Master Distillers Unity bottles from Heaven Hill, an exceptional blend of bourbons from Kentucky's seven major distilleries. Created in honor of Parker Beam and his fight against ALS, they are bottled in crystal decanters and presented in a wooden display case (est. $1,800-2,500).

Joe Hyman, Bonhams Whisky Specialist, comments, "I'm very pleased to bring this exceptional variety of bottlings to the market. Bonhams is the only international auction house offering dedicated whisky sales in the US, and I'm confident that both collectors and connoisseurs will find what they are looking for at the auction."

Bonhams Whisky, Cognac & Rare Spirits auction will take place October 13 in New York. Bonhams will host a whisky tasting and preview of the auction highlights on October 10. A catalog will be available at www.bonhams.com/auctions/21015