Sorry to tell you this. Your whisky collection may not sell for a fortune. When there are legions of eager buyers, surely it should be easy to auction good collectible bottles? So what goes wrong? For starters, the auction specialist will advise you on the state of the market and offer their estimation on value. Some vendors enter that conversation with fixed views on the profit they are convinced they will collect. It could be optimistically based on one previous sale or a retail price seen on a website. The customer is always right, of course, and if the client cannot be dissuaded, then it may go under the hammer stifled under a high minimum reserve. More often than not, these are the lots which fail to sell. Whilst the auction house will not make their premiums, the vendor will still be charged a lot fee. They may be liable for insurance charges and catalogue photographs on top. Fortunately, there is a second bite of the cherry these days. Auction houses contact their regular buyers with a list of after sales to tempt anyone who didn’t blow their budget. Ideally, there should be some leeway around the reserves but they seldom change. In practice, they cannot sell them for any less than 10 per cent under the asking price. So if you’re selling take good advice and that cheque will duly arrive.
For such a scarce bottle, a surprising number of bottles of The Macallan 1948 Select Reserve 51 Years Old appeared for sale throughout 2013. They produced 366 bottles of this release, one for each day of that leap year. The certificate inside may be signed by David Robertson, then distillery manager at The Macallan, and now the man running the Whisky Trading Company Ltd. November saw a bottle trading for £4,000 at Golding Young & Mawer in Grantham, which was matched by the same price at McTear’s a week later. Bonham’s, Edinburgh claimed the joint highest price of the year in December when it hit £6,000, matching Christies summer auction in London. There are alternatives: The Macallan Vintage 1948 was a 2002 bottling from cask 609. It yielded only 124 bottles and cost £2,475 on release so it’s not a bottle we see very often. The Macallan Royal Marriage contains whisky from 1948 too (and 1961) and has been one of the star performers at auction in recent years. Costing less than £100 on release, it was trading for £500-700 in 2010. Last year, no bottles sold for less than £1,000 and the top price of the autumn was £2,100 at Mulberry Bank Auctions. The price hike is remarkable when there are still 20-30 bottles coming to market every year. Glenfiddich’s WMI ranking is now based squarely on trading of bottles without the boost it received from the Janet Sheed Roberts bottles sold for charity throughout 2012. Two bottles of the Glenfiddich 50 Years Old from 1937 sold this winter; a new record price for this rare bottling was set in Hong Kong at Bonhams when bottle No. 311 submitted for a bid of HK$150,000 (£11,850) though the £11,000 winning bid for bottle No. 416 at Bonhams, Edinburgh was not far behind and stands as a new UK record. Finally, Bonham’s Hong Kong sales continued to offer the best in Japanese whiskies. The top Japanese lot included HK$80,000 (£6,300) for 13 bottles of Hanyu from Ichiro’s Malt Card Series bottled in 2007-2012 including a different numbered card from the Ace of Diamonds through to the King of Hearts. HK$60,000 (£4,700) was paid for a Karuizawa 1966 21 Years Old Ocean Company bottling released in the 1980s. Single cask vintages and Noh bottlings from Karuizawa were hot property too; 2013 Noh releases of a Karuizawa 1981 31 Years Old Sherry butt and a Karuizawa 1983 29 Years Old Sherry hogshead fetched HK$22,000 (£1,730). Since being listed on the WMI in May 2013, Karuizawa could be the first non-Scotch brand to break into the top 25.
The Whisky Shop, Callander
What whisky have you bought to keep?
I’m new, but I’m going to buy the Balblair 1989 with my first month’s pay
What whisky will you sell or open soon?
I’d definitely open a bottle of our exclusive Benriach 1995 17 Years Old Virgin American Oak finish