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Going to Auction with Whisky

Over the past year I have auctioned a couple bottles of my Lady of the Glen through an auction website ( Auctioning is a fascinating part of the industry which I was initially wary of because of my lack experience in auctioneering and I had not anticipated my product being popular in an auction environment due to the relatively new nature of the brand. However, I learned from an auctioneer at Whisky Lounge 2013 that any bottling which is individually numbered from rare casks is ideal, especially if the number of the bottle is low!

Recently my interest has been fanned by stories in the press of casks being sold for record breaking prices; one cask of Macallan fetched HK$1.952 Million at Spink Auction. In the back of my mind I was aware of a family friend who attended Post Office and Police auctions and came back with some amazing bargains like a pair of Mike Tyson boxing gloves for a song! For me, the auction room was a mysterious place where a unique item could be acquired by the savvy bidder at a reasonable price but now I view auctions as a more laid back environment where you can take part from the comfort of your own home and where you can purchase good quality whisky not just for the purposes of adding to your collection but for drinking.

Reading Jemima Sissons’ article ‘Buying Spirits at Auction’ June 13 2014 one of interviews with the International Director of Wine in Europe and Asia for Christie’s reveals that when buying an old spirit, “a good bottle is pretty much guaranteed (compared to buying an old wine bottle)”. The article continues to claim that whisky auctioneering is a niche market with only 100 major whisky collectors worldwide. It also becomes apparent that there are many different motivations for buying at auction; a restaurant owner would attend to get some rare Whisky that would improve their Whisky gantry and others would view it as an opportunity to invest, take for example the W Club which has a post on Whisky investment advice.

At the auction you could be overwhelmed with the array of Whisky on offer, so it is important to have product knowledge and to understand the reasons why you are buying or else it could be like going to a supermarket hungry which is never good. The obvious traits like looking for Whisky from closed distilleries (Littlemill, Caperdonich, Port Ellen, St Magdene and Glenugie) or bottles which are marked for special occasions i.e. anniversaries of events are common knowledge. But, there are other factors which you can take into consideration when attempting to understand the value of a bottle of Whisky.
Again, Jemima Sissons’ article identifies further points to help a bidder know what to look out for, the most interestingly in my opinion I have noted below.  
• Japanese Whisky as there are only a few distilleries now
• Pre Prohibition American Bourbon (pre 1920)
• Pre 1950 Irish Whiskey

To reaffirm it is important to know why you are at the auction if it is to buy to drink or to buy to sell now or in the future. Earlier I mentioned the W club and on that page there is a referral to David Robertson who suggests building a portfolio of whisky as an investment, he identifies five key sectors

1. Contemporary Icons, such as limited release Bowmore or Ardbergs
2. Silent stills, which is whisky from distilleries no longer operating such as the Lady of the Glen 21 year old Littlemill
3. Hidden gems, which are less obvious whisky distilleries which a gambler would expect to increase in value
4. Trophy bottles, those being your age old Whisky from distilleries famous for quality
5. Antiques, the really old stuff such as Pre World War 2 Macallan
You can Read more about David Robertson here

To get a general idea of Whisky value you could visit the Whisky Exchange making sure to input the distillery name in the general whisky search and then trolling through the relevant distillation dates, bottling dates and if you have it the cask numbers to give you an idea of how much a Whisky is worth which is similar to your own or one you want buy.
If you have considered auctioning some of your Whisky an Auction House or website can value you it for free and all you need to do is provide a photo and a little detail. Should you choose to list your item there will be a process to confirm authenticity prior to listing and you can expect a listing fee and/or a commission for the auctioneer.

There are plenty of auction sites and shops out there too so you can afford to be savvy and find the right one for you. Coming into the festive period these auctions will be busy with people coming to raise some Christmas cash with those looking to get affordable whisky bargains or unique gifts for friends and family. 

Should you wish to know some more about auctioneering please feel free to get in touch with me and I can perhaps guide you on your next step.

Thank you,


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