New year, new auction opportunities! Read on to find out what’s hot in the auction world this month, and what you missed at the end of last year.
Here are four of auction director Isabel Graham-Yooll’s top picks from this month’s auction, which ends on 18 January and features 1,051 excellent lots of whiskies and spirits ranging from £5 bargains to eye-wateringly valuable liquid gold. Macallan Private Eye
It is hard to imagine a luxury brand aligning itself with a magazine that reports on corruption, self-interest and incompetence, but there was a time not so long ago, in 1996, when Macallan Private Eye was released to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the satirical magazine. This bottle comes with a copy of The Private Eye Annual from 1996, so you can browse the headlines as you sip your limited-edition Macallan. Just 5000 bottles of this classic, richly sherried old-school Macallan were released. The vatting includes a single cask from 1961, the year Private Eye was founded, and has an illustrated label by gonzo cartoonist Ralph Steadman. Macallan Private Eye originally sold for £36, and has gone on to become one of the most sought-after Macallans ever. Macbeth Grand Old Parr 12 Years Old
It is not well-known that, back in 1987, United Distillers sponsored a National Theatre production of Macbeth by the highly esteemed Japanese director Yoshio Ninagawa and his company from Tokyo. This very limited-edition bottling of Macbeth Grand Old Parr 12 Years Old whisky was created to celebrate the first night on 17 September 1987. Included in this sale is the original Macbeth poster. Macallan Raffles Hotel
These 'Raffles' have become auction favourites; much more importantly, the whisky is exceptional, classic, Macallan. Macallan Raffles Hotel Malt Scotch Whisky was bottled for the eponymous hotel in Singapore, which itself was named after the British founder of colonial-era Singapore, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Around the time Raffles Hotel Singapore celebrated its centenary – it was established in 1887 by Armenian hoteliers and is now a National Monument – this special, limited-edition Macallan was released, featuring archive images of the luxurious colonial-era building on the label. Glenury Royal 36 Years Old
Sadly, you don't find many of these Glenury Royal 36 Years Olds – only 1,926 of them were bottled in 2007 for Diageo's Special Releases and a mere handful of those ever reappear at auction. Just like the multi-award-winning Glenury Royal 29 Years Old bottled for the Rare Malts Selection, this whisky was distilled in 1970, well before Glenury Royal became yet another statistic amongst the many distilleries we lost in the 1980s. And yet, this 57.9% ABV bottling is an absolutely superb old Highland-style whisky, robust and richly sherried but exceptionally delicate nonetheless. Snap it up if you love a grown-up, old-school whisky.
In Fine Spirits
French auctioneer Fine Spirits Auction has shared highlights from the upcoming sale
(21 January to 11 February) with us – the catalogue was confirmed just this morning. With approximately 400 bottles going under the hammer, everything from valuable bottlings from big Scottish and Japanese names to gems from closed distilleries will be available. Highlights include a Yamazaki 1998 Suntory Single Cask (61 % ABV); a The Macallan 18 Years Old 1968 (1987 Corade import); a Karuizawa 31 Years Old 1981 Number One Drinks 'Prendre le Rythme' Sherry Butt n°78 (bottled 2013 by LMDW); and a Courcelles Rum 1948.
Fine Spirits Auction is a partnership between La Maison du Whisky, a French specialist in whisky, rum, and spirits since 1956, and iDealwine, global leader in online wine auctions and France’s favourite wine auctioneer.
What you've missed…
A highly collective first edition of a 1845 whisky travelogue has been sold by London auctioneer Whisky.Auction for £3,450. Often referred to as the most important book ever written about whisky, The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom
contains an in-depth look at the whisky distilleries of the United Kingdom and Ireland in their early glory days as well as sketches, maps and advertisements. As it was originally a trade publication, copies would rarely have been found in bookshops.
From 1885 to 1887, author Alfred Barnard embarked on an exhaustive 2-year pilgrimage around 162 distilleries in Scotland, Ireland and England. His published findings include detailed and engaging descriptions of whisky production at each of the UK’s then-working distilleries (see the image of Bowmore's still room below). Take, for instance, Marrowbone Lane Distillery in Dublin – the vast operation is described by Barnard in great detail over five pages; it closed 30 years later. Thus, this historic book serves as an essential reference for old and rare whisky collectors, not just for information on closed distilleries but because many distillation practices mentioned have changed beyond recognition.
Isabel Graham-Yooll, auction director at Whisky.Auction, has noticed that the increased demand for rare collectable whisky has led people to aspire to learn more about the spirit’s history: “We were thrilled to see this book be made available for the public to bid on. It’s a book we often refer to but rarely get the opportunity to read… Barnard drew on the local lore and legend told to him by the many characters he met on his travels, ranging from proprietors and chief excise officers to hoteliers and coachmen. He describes the journeys taken to reach each distillery (the journey often more important than the destination), be it by train, steam boat, horse and cart or on foot."
Scottish new make sets record
Ardross Distillery’s spirit has become the first-ever new make to be auctioned in cask at Christie’s. Part of the lineup of the Finest and Rarest Wines & Spirits auction which took place on 2 and 3 December 2021, garnering a Christie’s category of record £7,629,753, this makes Ardross the first-ever new Scotch whisky distillery to auction its casks with this auction house.
Ardross Distillery only started producing new-make spirit 25 months ago. Available for auction were the first three whiskies ever filled by the distillery: The First Ardross Ex-Bourbon Cask, Sherry Cask and Japanese Mizunara Oak Cask respectively. The ultimate price realised was £200,000 (before fees).
The buyer, whose purchase will be stored and insured for free in the Ardross bonded warehouse for a period of up to 50 years, is a member of the Ardross Single Cask Society. Limited to 100 members a year, the Society was founded by Barthelemy Brosseau and is overseen by master blender Andrew Rankin .
Whisky miniature collection makes £30,000
Kettering-based collector Brian Marshall’s collection of 4,000 whisky miniatures (which we reported on last November
), has gone under the hammer at an amazing £29,750 at auction.
The collection was amassed by Marshall, who says he “[doesn’t] like the taste” of whisky, over a 30-year period beginning in the late eighties. It was sold in two timed online auctions by Gildings Auctioneers in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.
Marshall commented, “I thought the entire collection would make £7,000 - £8,000 at the very most, so this is a very pleasant Christmas bonus! In particular, I thought the Private Eye bottle might make £200 so to see it go for £340 is fantastic. And, as a lifelong Manchester United fan, it was great to see two sets commemorating the 1968 European Cup winners sell for £161 and £130 each.”
The standout lot in part one of the auction, which ended in November, was another copy of Barnard’s The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom
, estimated at £300 but sold for an astonishing £2,280 inclusive of charges. Part two, which ended in December, saw the whisky itself take centre stage – a highlight was a rare Springbank box set of four miniatures, which sold for £1,054, inclusive of charges.
The good news for whisky lovers who missed out this time is that 100 lots remained unsold over the two auctions, including whisky-related ceramics, bar-top items and other ephemera. They will be offered at auction early this year.
Read Whisky Auctioneer's 2021 roundup
Our auction news partner Whisky Auctioneer has curated a roundup of their 2021 highlights – read about everything from auction records and a new Germany-based operations hub to their most successful social media post of the year here
Whisky Auctioneer's December Auction News
Whisky Auctioneer expert Joe Wilson spoke of the largesse and excitement of whisky auctions in the festive period in his December Auction News
for Whisky Magazine.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.
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