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Issue 108 - Caveat Emptor

Whisky Magazine Issue 108
December 2012


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Caveat Emptor

My fear is that scandal will help to burst the bubble in today's whisky prices

That's Latin for “let the buyer beware”, and while Latin may be a dead language, the sentiment of this statement is very much alive; especially when it comes to whisky auctions and “investing” in “rare” whiskies.

Let me be clear up front: there are many honest people in the auction business. However, even the most honest people can be lead astray.

Last June, Bonhams had to pull a “Circa 1900” bottle of Ardbeg from a New York whisky auction after Adam Herz of the Los Angeles Whisky Society correctly pointed out a key flaw in the description. The bottle carried language required by a United States law that didn't exist until 1934 – making it impossible for the bottle to be “Circa 1900”.

The Society's blog post cited a Bonhams whisky specialist as having “spoken to the owner of the bottle, and he is adamant the bottle is dated properly.” Unfortunately, the lure of profiting from “investments” in whisky has caused many whisky lovers, as well as more than a few punters, to turn off their common sense.

I can understand the “Circa 1900” nonsense in an eBay auction, where nothing should be taken at face value. However, I expect more from professional auction houses employing whisky experts to assess the authenticity and provenance of so-called “rare” bottles that come to them for evaluation and sale. The web site for McTear's states: “As agents for the Seller, McTear's relies on information from the Seller concerning a Lot.” I'm not again...

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