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Fragrant Harbour

Jonny McCormickon the war on fakes and a look at rare whisky in the East
Berry Bros. & Rudd are to be applauded for their robust stance on counterfeit whiskies.The owners of The Glenrothes brand were integral in preventing the sale of a couple of bottles recently, supposedly bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd in the 1970s. One bottle was advertised as a single malt from the 1930s, the other from the 1940s. Both hailed from an Italian source and were subsequently withdrawn from sale. Simon Berry, Berry Bros. & Rudd chairman, proclaimed his intention to remove any fakes from circulation: “Having seen the damage wrought in fine wine circles by a few unscrupulous individuals, some of whom are now facing criminal proceedings, I am adamant that we will do what we can to prevent a similar situation arising in the world of single malt whisky. We cannot purport to be experts in all whisky forgeries but we can be certain when it comes to our own bottlings.” Auction transaction costs are considerable and you expect the auctioneer will take the time to research, value and authenticate the bottle.Although many distillery companies will do this, it’s laudable to see a brand owner putting themselves forward in this way. Should you have any doubts regarding a bottle of Berry Bros. & Rudd whisky, the company invite you to send the bottle in question to Douglas McIvor, Spirits Manager. If genuine, the bottle will be returned with a certificate of authenticity. Should the bottle be a fake it will be destroyed.AUCTION WATCH

It’s incredible to remember that it is 15 years since Hong Kong passed from British sovereign rule back to China. In recent years, the city has become quite the hub of the auction scene, with Bonhams acting as torchbearers for whisky on Hong Kong Island.The Macallan dominated proceedings at their sale in May with a procession of Campbell, Hope and King Ltd vintage releases distilled from 1952 through to 1964 under the Kemp family ownership followed by a magnificent 20 year series of 18 year olds from 1965 through to 1985. Relatively modern releases such as The Macallan’s Fine & Rare series performed well (1972 HKD 78,000/£6,390, 1970 HKD 32,000/£2,620, 1971 HKD 30,000/£2,460), as did the 100cl decanters of The Macallan distilled in 1977 and bottled by the Silver Seal Whisky Company which fetched HKD 75,000/£6,140 for the 33 Years Old and HKD 60,000/£4,915 for the 32 Years Old.The Hong Kong sales can reflect differences between the UK and Far Eastern markets.Not for the first time, many of the Glenmorangie failed to sell yet elsewhere prices for other malts exceed the current UK market prices. For example, Ardbeg Lord of the Isles sold for HKD 7,000/£575 whereas UK hammer prices have been in the range of £260-380 this year.Similarly, Highland Park 1967 rose to HKD 9,000/£740 against UK auction values nearer £360- 420 and Bowmore 30 Years Old Sea Dragon ceramic decanter trades for around £260-340 in the UK, yet one sold for HKD 15,000/£1,230 at Bonhams.April and May played host to whisky auctions great and small. Artcurial, Paris had a small but eclectic mix of aged malts on sale including a Mortlach 1938 distilled by George Cowie & Sons that drew £750, and a Linkwood 1939 distilled by John MacEwan & Co. that notched up £900.Tennant’s, Yorkshire had a smaller range than some previous sales but there was consistent quality within, such as The Macallan Royal Marriage 1948/61 for £1,200, Bowmore Bicentenary £650 and a Glenfiddich 21 Years Old Havana Reserve making a revolutionary £150.Charterhouse, Dorset turned up some fantastic early bottlings from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society including collectible cask number 1 bottlings from Brora, Glentauchers, Benromach, Glen Albyn, Ben Nevis, Millburn and Pittyvaich which were sold in six bottle lots for £100-200 per bottle.The two more substantial sales were held on opposite sides of Scotland at Taylor’s, Montrose and McTear’s, Glasgow. In the East, Taylor’s impressed with some fine examples of 1950s Glenfarclas including the Glenfarclas 42 Years Old 1959 Christmas Day bottling which made a festive £600 and Glenfarclas 1954 which took a respectable £390.There were some serious bargains to be had such as Glen Grant 1951 50 Years Old for £320 and a G&M Private Collection Royal Brackla 1964 29 Years Old for a giveaway £60, so it will be worth the trip for their next sale in July.Unfortunately, The Macallan in Lalique 55 and 57 Years Old did not find buyers, so watch to see if they appear at a different auction house later in the year.McTear’s kept up their pace with a solid sale which made a real feature of their next tranche of black label Cadenhead bottlings.These have been appearing from time to time, but the appearance of nearly two dozen in one sale is a rare sight indeed. The highest price (£900) went for a bottle of Cardow 16 Years Old distilled in 1962 during the Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd era and bottled in 1979, although this distillery has been more commonly known as Cardhu since the mid-1970s. A solid £550 bought a bottle of Glenugie 19 Years Old distilled in the winter of 1959 which came from a time when Strathclyde & Long John Distilleries had just taken ownership of the Peterhead distillery from Schenley Industries Inc. Another slice of history was the bottle of Balblair 12 Years Old distilled in 1965 which was produced before the Hiram Walker days and just 16 years after the distillery operations restarted.The distillery had been sold by the Ross family of Balnagowan to Banff solicitor Robert James “Bertie” Cumming in 1948 after being mothballed for nearly 40 years in the early 20th century.This bottling from 1977 at 80 proof fetched £400 on the day.The remainder of the sale was well stocked with rare whiskies and some admirable prices were achieved including a magnum of The Macallan Silver Jubilee which doubled its high estimate to make £3,000, the Bowmore Dynasty Decanter 31 Years Old that topped £2,200 and a US import bottling of Ladyburn 12 Year Old which made a rare appearance at auction and scooped £1,700.FORTHCOMING AUCTION DATES
(SUBJECT TO CHANGE) 21st July 2012
Taylor’s Auctions Rooms, Montrose Tel +44 (0)1674 672775
2nd August 2012
Thomas Roddick Scottish Auctions, Edin. Tel +44 (0)131 440 2448
10th August 2012
Tennant’s, North Yorkshire Tel +44 (0) 1969 623780
15th August 2012
McTear’s, Glasgow Tel +44 (0)141 810 2880
18th September 2012
Mulberry Bank Auctions, Glasgow Tel +44 (0)141 225 8181
19th September 2012
McTear’s, Glasgow Tel +44 (0)141 810 2880
10th October 2012
Bonhams, Edinburgh Tel +44 (0)1292 520 000
24th October 2012
McTear’s, Glasgow Tel +44 (0)141 810 2880

Forthcoming auctions