The Under the Hammer column with Tennants Auctioneers
This Friday (September 27) Tennants Auctioneers will be holding the next instalment of the quarterly Fine Wine and Whisky sales held at the Leyburn salerooms.
The sale follows on from the Summer’s tremendously successful sale of the 125-lot El-Shamy Collection; one of the most important private cellars to come to auction outside of London in recent years, the collection saw a perfect 100% sold rate and achieved an impressive hammer total of £233,240.
The September sale sees a further fine array of wines, ports and spirits, but with a particular leaning towards whiskies.
The market for collectable whisky has been growing apace in recent years. Whilst the spirit has held a long-established place as a high-end product, celebrity endorsements and associations with other luxury brands have opened the market to a broader spectrum of buyers.
Distilleries have responded to the demand for collectable, scarce bottles by producing limited editions (many of which are numbered) in appealing packaging. As collectors compete for prized bottles, prices of whisky on the secondary auction market are rising.
Macallan continues to dominate the field of collectable whiskies. A name synonymous with exceptional quality, the Speyside distillery has strived to create the finest single malts and since the 1980s has grown to be one of the top global whisky brands.
A growing number of collectors and investors, particularly in the United States and in Asia, have inflated prices for Macallan at auction to a record level.
Exceptional and rare bottles can fetch tens of thousands of pounds, but the majority of bottles on the open auction market fall within the £1,000-£5,000 range.
Some of the most sought-after bottles of Macallan at auction are those the distillery produced as limited editions to mark special events, and one of the most in-demand limited editions is the Macallan Private Eye. Released in 1996 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the famous magazine, the edition consisted of 5,000 individually numbered bottles and adorned with a label designed by cartoonist and illustrator Ralph Steadman.
Despite the whisky not being from a particular vintage or even the age being declared, such is the demand from collectors that it can sell for in the region of £3,000 at auction, having been originally retailed at only £36.
A bottle (number 2281 of 5000) is being sold in the September sale with an estimate of £2,500-3,000 plus buyer’s premium.
Now smaller distilleries are seeing a growing following of collectors, with whiskies such as Ardbeg and Bruichladdich now achieving almost cult status.
Bruichladdich, which is based on Islay in the Hebrides, is growing a reputation for producing collectable cask-strength limited editions with attractive labelling. Relatively modest in price in comparison with the likes of Macallan, most bottles sell for around £100.
Ardbeg, a fellow Islay distillery, has been ahead of the curve, having produced numerous limited editions over the years.
Indeed, they even experimented with maturing whisky at zero gravity by sending small quantities into space. This led to the production of the Ardbeg ‘Galileo’ edition, a bottle of which is up for sale with an estimate of £120-180.
The more desirable bottlings of Ardbeg sell in the mid to high hundreds, however, certain rare releases, such as their ‘Lord of the Isles’ edition can reach into the thousands for a single bottle. An example of Ardbeg limited 1977 Edition Islay Single Malt is on offer in the sale with an estimate of £400-500 (plus buyer’s premium).
Elsewhere in the sale, a good selection of wine from some of the leading French houses includes Chateau Haut Brion 2004, Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2003 and Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classe 1955 - all guaranteed to satisfy even the most discerning palates.
For further details about any sale at Tennants please call 01423 531661 or see website for details www.tennants.co.uk.