Auction News: Blending art and whisky

Auction News: Blending art and whisky

Whisky Auctioneer's Joe Wilson muses on how art can elevate whisky — and vice versa

Auction News | 30 Sep 2022 | By Joe Wilson

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Our last sale at Whisky Auctioneer gave us the opportunity to shine a spotlight on distillers and drinkers’ increasing investment in the idea of provenance; specifically, the disclosure of the origins of what makes up the dram in their glass. However, in the world of auctions – particularly when we find ourselves navigating the paths of heritage and antiquity – provenance is a broader and even more significant issue. How a whisky was made is important information, but where it has been since it was bottled is often essential.

Something we encounter less often, yet no less intriguing, is the provenance of an idea. Whiskies are expressive and individual spirits, and the thinking behind how distillers and bottlers choose to communicate this can be fascinating. Of course, whisky can and often does speak for itself – some of the most revered drams are hallmarked by barren liveries. Yet equally, there are many whiskies elevated further by their design.
Imagery that inspired the Moon Import bottlings.

In 2019 we gave our buyers an opportunity to engage with this side of the process, offering prints of the original artworks that inspired several iconic labels from the Italian independent bottler Moon Import. They were taken from the pages of Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, the same 18th-century German encyclopaedia in which they were discovered by Moon Import founder Pepi Mongiardino. They became the basis for legendary series such as The Animals, The Costumes, and The Sea, all bottled in 1988 and 1989, and we are delighted that our September 2022 auction provides an opportunity to revisit examples of bottles from each of these.

Further imagery that inspired the Moon Import bottlings.

This month’s sale also provides an opportunity to revisit the broader theme, this time by exploring the origins of one of the whisky world’s most spectacular bottles: the inaugural 50-year-old Highland Park release from 2010. Designed by renowned Scottish jeweller Maeve Gillies, we have the unique honour of having paired one of the bottles with her original design concept sketch.

Highland Park 50 Years Old and the original concept sketch.

While the encyclopaedia prints provided a lineage back to the Moon Import label artworks, this sketch will connect its eventual owner back to the artist herself and the very genesis of the bottle’s design. A true masterpiece, it is sculpted to evoke the rugged, coastal beauty of the Orkney isles and perfectly roots the whisky contained in the place that fashioned it for over five decades.

As the presentation of whiskies of this age is becoming increasingly dictated by the de rigueur practice of cross-brand collaborations, the introspective nature of bottles like the Highland Park 50 Years Old has become even more special. Placing the spirit and its own narrative to the fore, it is an example of in-tune bottle design at its most sensitive and creative, and very probably the finest of them.

This lot is a genuine once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A chance to not only take ownership of a historically significant bottle, but its entire story. Above all, it is simply a timely reminder that, in special cases like this, it is often more than just the whisky that was years in the making.

This article is sponsored by Whisky Auctioneer and is created in partnership with the team at Whisky Magazine. This sponsorship does not influence Whisky Magazine's coverage of auctions and Whisky Auctioneer do not have input on editorial decisions.

About Whisky Auctioneer

Whisky Auctioneer is one of the global market leaders and trusted authorities on the buying and selling of whisky and spirits at auction. Founded in 2013 and located in Perth, Whisky Auctioneer utilises its expertise and knowledge combined with its auction platform, to increase interest and passion in the whisky and spirits community.

Whisky Auctioneer endeavours to make the market more accessible for buyers and sellers of any background and geography. Its monthly global auctions feature some of the most comprehensive selections of old, rare and collectible whiskies and spirits available online.

Whisky Auctioneer became the first online auction house to sell a million-pound bottle and outperformed the nearest traditional auction house by 200 per cent in value from spirits sales in 2020, showcasing the move that whisky collectors, investors and drinkers have already made online and firmly establishing their leading position within the modern secondary whisky market.

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