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Live Auctions Face Online Competition

Auction news with records broken
June’s live auction whisky scene was incredibly busy, with three major events in Scotland crammed into two days. Bonhams and McTear’s went head to head by scheduling their summer sales to run simultaneously (be warned: their calendars are set to collide again in October and December so plan accordingly). Live whisky auctions are having to face increasing competition from rival online platforms. So I wondered, how have the WMI eligible sales changed between June 2013 and June 2014 for Bonhams, McTear’s and Mulberry Bank Auctions?

Bonhams have had a strong, successful year, especially in New York and Hong Kong. Their Edinburgh sale contributed 373 eligible bottles to the WMI (up 30% on June 2013), and the value taken this year was £219,910 (up 136% on last year). McTear’s sold a significant number of multi-bottle lots this June, which are no longer counted in the WMI. Therefore, McTear’s contributed only 133 WMI eligible bottles (down 30%) with a sales total of £42,800 for these lots (down 37%). Finally, despite some highly impressive Macallan sales, Mulberry Bank Auctions had a difficult sale with a long list of unsold lots which ran to over half of the catalogue before post sales. Year on year, their number of eligible bottles had fallen by 66% from 280 to 95 bottles, with the takings from these bottles down 44% from June 2013.



Auction Watch



Bonhams raised the bar significantly when they set a new live auction record for the Glenfiddich 50 Year Old in June. The hammer fell in Edinburgh at £16,000 for bottle No.5, which was originally released in the early 1990s. Within the same sale, new records were set for the 1st edition of Black Bowmore at £4,200, but before we had caught our breath, the second edition of Black Bowmore sold for £4,500.

The next record to tumble was Highland Park 40 Year Old 1958. These sets do not come around very often and Bonhams had two for sale. The first made a solid £1,600, a new live record, but only matched the price of some of the online outfits. Then the second bottle came around and lured even greater competition before it eventually capitulated at £2,200.

The Laphroaig Vintage 1960 made £1,000 more than the previous live auction record. Particular bottles from the Diageo Rare Malts Selection have been nudging up in value this year, but when the Brora 1972 60.02% sold for £2,200, it set a new live auction record too (though it has got a bit to go to catch the €6,255 paid online for the same bottle through whiskyauction.com last November). Elsewhere, the Bruichladdich 125th anniversary 1970 was noted to break £400 for the very first time.

Where Mulberry Bank Auctions did excel was in offering one of the largest selections of vintage Macallan Fine and Rare editions ever seen. A remarkable parade of lots followed with The Macallan 1975 30 Year Old (£5,000), The Macallan 1974 30 Year Old (£6,000), The Macallan 1971 30 Year Old (£6,200), The Macallan 1970 32 Year Old (£6,300), The Macallan 1969 32 Year Old (£6,400), The Macallan 1952 50 Year Old (£10,500) and The Macallan 1951 51 Year Old (£10,800).

In a month where four individual bottles of single malt whisky were auctioned for more than £10,000 each in the salerooms, Mulberry Bank Auctions can certainly claim equal bragging rights with Bonhams.

In China, Spink have been developing a growing clientele of whisky collectors for their whisky and fine spirit auctions, but at this sale, they had a rather special lot.

A sherry butt of The Macallan distilled in 1991 gauged to contain the equivalent of 490 bottles at 53.8%. Unusually, the lot was subject to an irrevocable bid by a third party. The cask was reportedly bought for HK$1.6 million (£120,000) in early July.

Could this news tempt other cask owners back to the salerooms to attempt to sell their barrels?



Investment Drams



Neil Cammock

Assistant Manager of Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop


What whisky have you bought to keep but plan to open soon?

I have been saving a bottle of Cutty Sark 25 Year Old. About two years ago, they knocked £100 off the price at Glenturret distillery. It was a bargain, so I’m going to open it, to drink and share it.

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