The Macallan have broken the world record for the most expensive whisky bottle ever sold at live auction. The six litre Macallan ‘M’ Constantine sold for a hammer price of £316,000 at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong trumping the previous record held by The Macallan 64 Years Old in Lalique Cire Perdue since 2010. Whisky Maker Bob Dalgarno selected rare casks from 1940s – 1990s to create this non-age statement vatting. Despite January’s reputation for a sleepy month in the auction calendar, this record price has raised the bar considerably. Not even three weeks into the year, this is likely to be the top bottle of 2014 and keep ‘you know who’ at the top of the WMI. It will take a remarkable feat for another distillery to take this record from The Macallan. Can it be done?
The Macallan currently have eight bottlings in the list of the top 25 highest prices paid for a bottle of whisky at live auction. Although the Macallan 64 Years Old in Lalique Cire Perdue substantially increased the record, it held on to it for the shortest time of recent record holders. Prior to The Macallan, Bowmore held the record for 1,510 days for the £25,000 sale of the 19th century Mutter Bowmore in 2007. Before that, we must go back to 2002 for the £22,000 sale of The Dalmore Kildermorie 62 Years Old.
McTear’s, Glasgow were the only auction house braving a live whisky sale in January, but wisely, not until payday loomed. Undeterred, Black Bowmore 2nd Edition set a new record price at £3,200 early on in the sale.
Prices were fair with auction regulars touching the same or slightly lower values as earlier years (a commonly observed pattern in January). A Springbank Millennium set of six bottles and miniatures with whisky aged between 25 to 50 years sold for £3,600, the lowest price for over two years. Prices were significantly down on Bowmore Blair Castle International Horse Trials bottlings which only made £360-£380 when in previous years, they have fetched £600-750.
The Glenfiddich Centenary (£190) and The Macallan Replica 1841 (£180) both took a stretch in value. The auction had a good depth of Manager’s Dram bottlings, old Cadenhead dumpy bottles, and plenty of drinker’s lots.
There were some fine rarities too; a Kinclaith 1968 G&M Connoisseur’s Choice map label bottled in 1995 achieved £650, a boxed Bulloch Lade’s Old Rarity Blended Scotch bottled by appointment to H. M. King George VI managed £500 and Avery’s Supreme 40 Year Old Irish Whiskey by Dublin Whiskey Distillers took a remarkable £2,800. This was more diverse than previous McTear’s January sales, with selections of Cognac, vodka, Armagnac, Calvados, champagne and Madeira going under the hammer.
Scotch Whisky Auction’s first full 2014 sale ended in early February and there were a number of interesting trends. Brora and Karuizawa were the big winners with a marked inflection in their auction prices.
Karuizawa has been hitting new highs with every passing month, and this sale witnessed a Karuizawa Single Cask 45 Years Old sell for £1,750 and a Karuizawa Noh bottling 1977 32 Years Old make £1,450. The value of early Brora bottlings from the Diageo Special Releases has always lagged behind Port Ellen. It is much scarcer, with three times as many Port Ellen bottlings coming to the secondary market compared to Brora. Finally, it looks like collectors are recognising these inherent values for Brora in the market as this auction achieved £1,250 for the Brora 30 Years Old from 2004, £1,150 for the 2006 bottle, £720 for the 2007 bottle and £660 for a 2003 bottle.
The final Brora Rare Malts Selection was a 1982 vintage bottled at 20 Years Old in 2003 and Scotch Whisky Auction sold three bottles individually for £520. Its cult status ensures that collectors do not part with these bottles easily, but after this recent price jump, they might just be persuaded to unlock their whisky cabinets.