Wednesday, December 5, 2018

J.B. Leonis' Prized Whiskey On the Auction Block

I've said it before and I'll say it again: LA's hidden French history is filled with great stories you just can't make up.

Beret-tip to the anonymous reader who tipped me off about an upcoming Christie's auction. Specifically, Christie's is auctioning off Jean-Baptiste Leonis' secret stash of rare and valuable pre-Prohibition whiskey.

Before co-founding the City of Vernon and its eponymous bank, J.B. founded a store that sold, among other things, liquor (the city of Los Angeles was officially "dry" at the time). In Vernon's earliest days, while J.B. and the Furlong brothers were courting industrial tenants, the city's country club and bars were popular destinations for drinkers. But, as Prohibition loomed, J.B. secretly built hidden vaults in both of his homes for his beloved whiskey. As a banker, it wouldn't have been hard for him to obtain bank vault doors for the spaces. And no one knew...until J.B.'s grandson Leonis Malburg passed away in 2017, more than a century after J.B. secretly hid over 40 cases (!) of Hermitage, Old Crow, and more.

The auction is this Friday, December 7 in New York (click the link - they have a GREAT photo of J.B.'s hidden stash from the Leonis family's Hancock Park home*). Hint: jump to page 122 of the auction catalogue. If anyone goes, I'd love to hear about it.

Fellow Angelenos, this is your chance to own a very unique piece of LA's forgotten French history. Individual bottles are expected to go for roughly the same amount of money that my car is worth, so I'm definitely out!

*The second vault was at the Leonis family's Little Tujunga ranch. I believe the Huntington Harbour beach house was built MUCH later.