Expert Tips: How To Sell Your Whisky At Auction

Wine And Whisky

Expert Tips: How To Sell Your Whisky At Auction

From mighty Macallans to rare, record-breaking Karuizawas, we look at the whiskies most likely to catch a collector’s eye and find out how to make them shoot to the top of the bidding list.

Published on 18 January 2018

Here’s a story that might send you rifling through the back of your drinks cabinet, particularly if you’ve amassed countless bottles and have friends with excellent taste in whisky: “An older couple brought in a unique and very rare bottle of Aberlour 1966 Private Cask #3123 after having it in the family for many years,” relates Laura MacLaren, a representative of Whisky Auctioneer – an online auction company that specialises in valuing and auctioning fine and rare whiskies.

“They were originally given it as a gift. We couldn’t find another example like it at the time, so it was very difficult to value. A 1960s Aberlour might typically achieve between £300 (US$406) and £600 (US$813), but we were delighted when it reached a fantastic hammer price of £1,750 (US$2,372)!” Since Whisky Auctioneer first began holding online auctions in 2013 from their headquarters in Perth, Scotland, their selection of lots has encompassed a broad range of whiskies, including Scotch, Bourbon, Japanese whisky, Irish whiskey, and other world whiskies.

One particularly exciting moment for them this year came in the form of a Karuizawa 1960 Single Cask #5627 during an auction in April, which went on to become the most expensive single bottle of Japanese whisky sold at auction. “It was the oldest and rarest Japanese whisky we have ever offered, and it was one of only 41 bottles produced,” MacLaren recalls. “They’re very rarely seen at auction, so there was a huge amount of buzz around this bottle before and during the auction. The final hammer price was £100,100 (US$135,688) – a record for us, and an European auction record as well.”

Whisky, Macallan, Karuizawa

Karuizawa 1960 Single Cask

It’s a clear illustration of how much our appreciation for whisky has broadened, not only in terms of the growth of the collectors market, but the heights at which we value what’s often termed “the water of life”, too. “Whisky has become a global phenomenon in over the past few years,” she asserts. “Being an online business allows us to reach this audience of whisky lovers around the world: we have buyers and sellers throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, America, Asia, and Australia.”

When asked whether there are any particular whiskies that the team of specialists at Whisky Auctioneer are hoping to come across, MacLaren points to The Macallan in Lalique Collection – a collection of six Lalique crystal decanters that hold single malts ranging from 50 to 65 years old, which she describes as, “Incredibly rare and hugely sought after. We don’t see many of these, and would love to feature more.”

So do keep an eye out for the sparkle of a crystal decanter in your whisky cabinet – though even if you don’t stumble across one that’s crafted by Lalique, there may well be a few whisky specimens that you can send to the auction block.

Here are a few expert tips to keep in mind if you are looking to sell your whiskies at auction:

Collectors pay attention to brands, age, vintage, and limited edition whiskies

Whisky, Macallan, Karuizawa

Macallan 1949

According to MacLaren, “A single malt is worth more than a blend or grain. Brand recognition is also important – famous names like Macallan and Glenfiddich will always do well. Within whisky, there are two types of bottling: official (the distillery) and independent (an independent company that has bought the liquid from a distillery to bottle). There is value in both – however, the very highest prices will usually go to official bottlings. If it is a closed distillery, where liquid is no longer being produced, this will increase the lot’s value as there are only a limited number of bottles in existence.

“Both vintage and age statements increase value – the older the better. Limited releases can also demand a higher value. Finally, condition and fill level play will affect value, with poor condition and low fill level driving a price down. In essence, for the best value, an official bottling of a big brand whisky in good condition, with an age and vintage that is stated and one that is a limited edition, should always perform well.”

Keep the box and preserve the label

Whisky, Macallan, Karuizawa

Dalmore 50 Year Old

“We always recommend emailing us a list of bottles along with clear well-lit images of the front and back of each,” MacLaren advises when it comes to approaching Whisky Auctioneer for a valuation. “Often, a verbal description is not sufficient to help us identify some of the older, more obscure bottlings, especially if the person enquiring is not very knowledgeable about whisky. Bottles can also be brought into our office for a valuation in person.

“Documentation is useful for provenance but not essential, as most bottles in Scotland aren’t released with any official form of documentation. The box and label are both important to value: the better the condition, the higher the value as these whiskies are often being purchased for collecting, not drinking purposes.”

Transport your whisky with the best packaging money can buy

Whisky, Macallan, Karuizawa

Bowmore 1964

“First and foremost, good packing is essential,” MacLaren states. “Internationally, there is a risk of leakage and breakage. For an older bottle with leakage potential, we would recommend the use of parafilm to secure the seal. The bottle and container, if present, should be separated when possible. Ensure there is at least an inch of packing material around every part of the bottle. If the container is sturdy, wrap it in a large amount of packing material to stop damage to it or the bottle. If the container is a thin cardboard box, then try to flat-pack it, provided you can do this without damaging it.

“Place both in a sturdy shipping box – the thicker the cardboard, the better. Ensure your whisky is upright in the box and pack out any excess space with extra packing material to ensure there is no movement in transit, then make clear on the outside of the shipping box which way up it should be kept in transit.” As far as insurance goes, she adds, “Some couriers will insure your shipment, and if the cost of insurance isn’t prohibitive, it doesn’t hurt to have it in place.”

Macallan rules the roost at auctions

Whisky, Macallan, Karuizawa

Macallan 1940

“Macallan continues to perform extremely well month after month,” notes MacLaren. “We are constantly achieving record auction prices with these bottles. Japanese whisky is also highly sought after at the moment, especially the closed distilleries. In fact, closed distilleries in general – whether Japanese or Scottish –have been seeing continued growth in value.”

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