Jonny McCormick reports on the year's top priced bottle and salutes Glenmorangie's gains.
Any whisky auction worth its salt will have its spectacular.Indubitably, it will be a trophy malt of notable pedigree, and these days owning such a legacy bottle will be an expensive business.Perhaps it’s being sold by someone who has never tasted it, to be bought by someone who will never taste it. But for some collectors, that’s not always the point. Dry-lipped anticipation passes into a daring game of brinkmanship; adrenaline-fuelled bids stack up while soberly-made budgets are discarded in the heat of the moment. When the gavel falls, the buyer is top dog and their decision can make worldwide headlines. It will inspire jawdropping awe and respectful admiration pricked with jealousy. Few distilleries can pull off the four figure, let alone five figure price ticket.AUCTION WATCH What a month! Firstly, Bonham’s made a welcome commitment to ongoing whisky sales in New York and announced its intention to host sales in Hong Kong. Secondly, on a background of austerity measures across Europe, a bottle of pre-war Glenfiddich, disgorged after 64 years maturation in 2001, sold for a staggering £21,000 in Edinburgh (£25,200 with premiums and tax). Lastly, with fierce competition for the WMI top rankings, Glenmorangie overtook Ardbeg to clinch third place and now has Bowmore in its sights. Bunnahabhain dropped out the top 25 after a 12 month stay after peaking at 17th position in March 2010 although its nadir was December 2008 when it was ranked 59th.At Bonham’s, Edinburgh, a near-perfect 96 per cent of the 396 lots sold for a hammer total of £160,000. Remarkably, over a third of the bottles were from independents including over 160 offerings between Gordon & MacPhail, Signatory, Cadenhead and SMWS. A G&M Connoisseur’s Choice Kinclaith 16 Years Old from 1966 and a Signatory bottling of 16 Years Old Macallan distilled in 1949 each sold for £550.Bottlings exceeding their estimates included a Glenlochy Rare Malts 1969 62.2%, (£600, estimate £150-200), Bowmore Scottish Power Centenary 12 16 Years Old (£750, estimate £200- 250) and a Cadenhead Oban 1963 bottled 1984 (£500, estimate £150-180). Not everything set records, though, as The Macallan 50 Years Old Lalique made £6,200, 21 per cent less than in March, but a Black Bowmore 1964 First Edition brought a solid £2,100.In Bonham’s evening auction in Manhattan, 65 per cent of the lots sold raising a hammer total of $157,000 (£108,000) resulting in sales of 56 per cent of the WMI eligible bottles on offer.The successful lots generated 71 per cent of their estimated value. The rarities that demanded our attention included The Macallan 50 Years Old $8,000, Gold Bowmore 1964 $4,750, Ladyburn 12 Years Old $3,000, Glen Albyn 10 16 Years Old bottled by John E McPherson & Sons $1,800 and a Macallan Private Eye that reached a lofty $1,100. Clearly, a buyers’ (and drinkers’) market and shrewd whisky lovers would be well advised to place bids in New York next time.
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