There’s nothing like living vicariously through others, which is why we linger over stories about whisky auctions. Imagine plunking down $72,632 for a 55-year-old bottle of Glenfiddich Scotch made to honor the oldest living Scot. It was auctioned in Edinburgh recently and broke a European record.
The bottle was one of 15 bottles of the Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve (named for Janet Sheed Roberts, who is 110). The Scotch, which was put into casks in 1955 and bottled last month, had a list price of $46,500-$54,000.
Dedicated auctions of rare whiskies are on the rise and attracting an increasingly global clientele, according to Whisky Advocate.
In the 1980s, they primarily attracted members of the trade who bought lots to sell in their bars, restaurants or whisky shops. But online bidding has now upped the ante.
Nowadays, successful bidders are split 50-50 between trade and private buyers. “We’re seeing so many new buyers with the Internet now, particularly in American sales,” says Martin Green, known as the “Whisky Expert” at London-based Bonhams, which, along with Glasgow-based McTear’s and London-based Christie’s, is a top auction house that has made rare whiskies a specialty.
The whisky auction market has always centered around single malt. Top draws in recent years have included a Macallan 64-year-old in Lalique Cire Perdue that sold for $460,000 at Sotheby’s in New York last year; a Dalmore Oculus that went for $36,000; and a W&J Mutter Bowmore from the 19th century that sold for $39,000 in 2007. American whiskies remain a minority subject for collectors, with the main interest lying in Prohibition-era bottlings. But the recent vogue for limited-edition Bourbon and rye whiskey could represent future collectibles in the making.
After spreading from Scotland and across to Europe, whisky auctions didn’t become legal in New York until 2007. Christie’s held the first whisky sale at Rockefeller Galleries. Today, New York remains the sole U.S. city on the whisky auction circuit.