Drams Under the Hammer: January 2023

Drams Under the Hammer: January 2023

What to watch in the auction world this month

Auction News | 04 Jan 2023 | By Bradley Weir

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This month's Drams Under the Hammer reflects on the past calendar year, which featured a number of broken records for distilleries across the world including Port Ellen, Pappy Van Winkle and Ardbeg, as well as the upcoming auctions at Whisky Auctioneer following their impressive 2022.

What you missed...

Pappy Van Winkle auction record set

In New York, a new auction record has been set for Pappy Van Winkle. A bottle of 23 year old Family Reserve has sold for $52,500, which is an incredible increase on the pre-sale estimate of between $3,000 and $4,000.

The bidding came down to a battle between two collectors, which is said to have pushed the final sail price even higher. The bottle was presented in its original black velvet bag from its release back in 2008.

There were a total of 14 individual bottles of Pappy Van Winkle at the auction which sold for more than their estimates. Originally, the pre-sale combined estimate for the expressions was $31,000-$44,000, but the actual combined total was $396,250.

The brand of Pappy Van Winkle has become key among whisky enthusiasts and collectors, with their expressions often the most sought-after at auction and gathering an almost cult-like following.

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s Head of Whisky & Spirits, North America and EMEA, said: "It was exciting to be on the rostrum conducting the sale for this record-breaking bottle, which went far beyond anyone's expectations. The auction marked a remarkable end to a year that has seen prices soar for American whiskey at Sotheby's."

Whisky Auctioneer ends 2022 with £50m total hammer price

Whisky Auctioneer is celebrating a highly successful 2022, with calculations showing that its total hammer price of lots sold throughout the year has exceeded £50 million.

The year saw new world records set for a variety of distilleries across the industry, including Port Ellen’s £100,000 12 year old expression to commemorate the Queen’s visit and a 1974 vintage Ardbeg which reached £35,000. Elsewhere, White Peak distillery’s Wire Works Bottle no. 1 became the most expensive bottle of English whisky ever sold at auction, with a hammer price of £9,900.

Founder Iain McClune commented: “2022 was another year of progress at Whisky Auctioneer, with the opening of our London office, record-breaking results and the development of new and continued partnerships across the whisky industry. As we reflect on 2022, it is amazing to look back on everything Whisky Auctioneer has achieved. 2023 will be our tenth anniversary which we are excited to celebrate, and I can’t
wait to see how the next decade unfolds."

The year was a successful one even outside of the realms of bidding and selling, with the Perth-based company welcoming 21 new staff members across the UK and Germany, bringing its total staff number to 74.

A number of brands partnered with Whisky Auctioneer in delivering charity intiativities throughout the year, too, including Chivas Brothers, William Grant & Sons, Nc’nean and White Peak. More than £200,000 was raised in the calendar year.

Coming up...

Ben Nevis 1926 63 Year Old and more

Words by Heather Storgaard

Distilled nearly a century ago in the height of America’s Prohibition, this is a spectacular single cask whisky. It was bottled at 36% ABV before the SWA enforced regulations that Scotch whisky must be bottled at a minimum alcoholic strength of 40%, meaning it wouldn’t even qualify as Scotch whisky if bottled today!

The first official Ben Nevis releases only came to market in the 1990s and these early releases are incredibly rare now, and seldom offered for sale. After 63 years in cask, it was one of the oldest whiskies in the distillery’s possession and one of only 96 bottles. Alongside this bottle, Whisky Auctioneer also have an array of incredible 1960s vintage Ben Nevis bottles available in their extended December auction, closing on January 9th.

Port Ellen Expressions

Words by Heather Storgaard

Port Ellen, Islay’s lost distillery, remains a favourite among whisky collectors. This month, Whisky Auctioneer have an amazing selection of Port Ellen expressions, including Port Ellen Casks of Distinction and Feis Ile releases. The highlight for Port Ellen enthusiasts will no doubt be a Port Ellen 12 Year Old Samaroli Full Proof, believed to be the first time this bottle has ever been offered at auction and the only example at this strength to have been released while the distillery was still open.

Extraordinary Italian Independents

Words by Heather Storgaard

Since the 1980s, Italian independent bottlers have had an enormous impact on Scotch Whisky, placing a focus on single malts in a time when many iconic distilleries were still focused mostly on blends. This month, Whisky Auctioneer’s extended auction contains many stand-out bottles from iconic names such as Samaroli, Sestante and Intertrade. Increasingly rare examples of Scapa, Old Pulteney, Laphroaig and many more from the 1960s and 70s are available to bid on until 9th January.

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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