The 10 most talked about spirits auctionsBy Amy Hopkins
There have been some pretty exciting spirits auctioned in the past year, including a six-litre crystal decanter of rare whisky and a long forgotten rum from the 18th Century.
Auctions of rare and expensive spirits have long been a fascinating spectator’s sport. With high prices reflecting the rarity of coveted bottles, big sales frequently make big news in the spirits industry.
Collectors and status seekers attend auction houses across the world with the hope of acquiring a unique and desirable expression, and paying a price to match.
A new record for the most expensive spirit to ever be sold at auction has been claimed this year, but which other interesting and, inevitably, pricey lots went under the hammer?
Click through the following pages to see our pick of the spirits auctions which got tongues wagging in the last 12 months or so.
Think we’ve missed out any essentials selections? Let is know by leaving a comment below.
The Macallan M six-litre decanter
A six-litre decanter of The Macallan M broke the Guinness World Record for the most expensive whisky to ever be sold at auction when it went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong in January this year – fetching an astonishing £381,620 (US$628,000)
This huge bid smashed the predicted sale of £314,000 by £67,620. Weighing 16.8kg, the crystal decanter, named Constantine, was created by Lalique to commemorate the Hong Kong launch of the original The Macallan M in October 2013.
The auction scooped the “most expensive” title from another The Macallan bottling in Lalique – The Macallan 64 Year Old in Lalique Cire Perdue which sold for US$460,000 (£291,125) in 2010.
Engraved with autographs of M’s three creators – Fabien Baron, founder and creative director of Baron & Baron, Silvio Denz, president and CEO of Lalique, and Bob Dalgarno, whisky maker at The Macallan – the six litre decanter is one of four in existence. While one decanter has been sold to a private collector in Asia, a further two have been archived by The Macallan.
18th Century Harewood House rum
The oldest rum ever to be sold at auction, this collection from the 18th Century sold for £78,255 at London’s Christie’s in December.
A total of 12 bottles of light and dark rum dating back to the 1780s were recently rediscovered in the cellar of Leeds stately home Harewood House. All expressions were distilled in Barbados, shipped in barrels to the UK, and bottled at Harewood House.
Fetching over six times the pre-auction estimate of £600-£800 per lot, The Harewood Rum ‘Dark’ 1780 sold for an outstanding £8,225 each. One notable recipient was global rum ambassador Ian Burrell.
All money raised by the sale of the collection was donated to the Geraldine Connor Foundation, a charity which supports disenfranchised young people in the performing arts.
Shipwrecked Whisky Galore bottles
Two bottles of whisky salvaged form the shipwreck which inspired the film Whisky Galore sold for £12,050 at an online auction through Scotch Whisky Auctions in May 2013.
The bottles were part of the cargo on-board the 8,000 tonne SS Politician, which ran aground and later sank off the Island of Eriskat in the Outer Hebrides. The ship was bound for Jamaica with a cargo including 28,000 cases of malt whisky when it met with disaster in February 1941.
Islanders salvaged as many bottles as possible and stored them away from custom officials. The two auctioned bottles were bought by an Aberdeenshire man, and after he recently died his widow decided to sell them, along with the letters of authentication and the neck tags from Christie’s.
One other bottle of Scotch from the same ship wreck sold for £1,300 in January this year.
James Bond The Macallan 1962
The Macallan donated a bottle of its 1962 expression to celebrate 50 years of the James Bond film franchise, signed by current Bond incarnation Daniel Craig, Bond villain Javier Bardem and Bond girl Berenice Marlohe.
All proceeds from the auction of this lot went to Government Communications Fund (GC Fund) that supports former and serving members of GCHQ facing hardship and distress.
Bidding opened at £5,000 at Sotheby’s in London on 17 April, fetching £9,635 in total.
It was in 1962 when Bond first appeared on our screens in the guise of Sean Connery in Dr. No, alongside Ursula Andress. The Macallan 1962 was featured in Skyfall, which became the highest grossing Bond film ever.
This rare bottle of Aberlour-Glenlivet Scotch believed to have belonged to John F. Kennedy sold for £3,928 (US$6,545) at a New York Bonhams auction in October last year.
Presented with a sterling silver capsule engraved “Happy Birthday from Jack”, the piece is believed to have been a gift from JFK to his old friend and school roommate Kirk LeMoyne “Lem” Billings.
The whisky was bottled by WH Holt & Sons and almost doubled its estimated sale of US$3,000.
Queen Elizabeth II 1952 Cognac
A 1952 vintage of Hine Cognac bottled to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in the same year, sold as part of Bonhams Fine & Rare Wines sale in February last year.
Bottled in 1987, the Cognac is just one of several set aside in Hine’s personal reserves in 1952 to commemorate the Queen’s accession to the throne.
In 1977 a small quantity was bottled and presented to Her Majesty on her Silver Jubilee, a decade later the rest was bottled.
The auction exceeded the estimated sale of £500, fetching £920.
Rémy Martin Louis XIII
In September 2013, a jeroboam of Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac sold for €32,000 at the La Part des Anges charity auction in Cognac.
This was the highest bid of the entire auction, helping to raise over €175,000 in total, the most successful La Part des Anges so far.
It was offered by spirits collector Mahesh Patel and helped raise money for the French Red Cross and local charity L’Arche à Cognac
Bowmore 1964 Single Malt
Part of a charity auction by the Worshipful Company of Distillers in October 2013, this Bowmore 1964 Single Malt fetched the highest sale of £61,000.
Donated by brand owner Morrison Bowmore Distillers, the whisky was distilled on the 5 November 1964 and filled into a first fill Oloroso Sherry Butt.
The bottle is made of hand blown glass produced by Glasstorm in Tain, and comes encased in a box made produced by Peter Toaig cabinetmakers in Cumbria using Scottish Oak.
It greatly exceeded its estimated sale of £10,000-£30,000. Overall, the auction raised £250,000 for charity.
Karuizawa 1968 Japanese whisky
Sold for: £3,502
In May last year, Japanese whisky fans competed fiercely for a collection of rare whisky bottles at Bonhams in Hong Kong.
Over 30 rare bottles were available, the best-selling lots of which were a bottle of 1968 Karuizawa which sold for double its estimate at HK$45,220 (£3,502)
Four bottles of Hangyu Ichiro’s Card Series also sold for HK$22,610 (£1,755).
Al Capone’s cocktail shaker
A silver cocktail shaker reported to have once belonged to legendary gangster Al Capone smashed its estimated value of £1,000-£1,500 when it sold for £50,000 at Sotheby’s in London last month.
The shaker is thought to have been given to Alphonse Capone by some of his associates as a Christmas gift in 1932.
It was later acquired from his estate of a former member of staff.