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Issue 2 - Hammer of the Scots

Whisky Magazine Issue 2
March 1999


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Hammer of the Scots

If you want to spend thousands on a bottle of whisky, head for an auction. Jonathon Goodall looks at what to collect, and how to finance some luxurious drinking.

Christie's in Glasgow provides a valuable, indeed unique, service to whisky enthusiasts the world over. Twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn, it assembles a cornucopia of bottles, then throws open its doors, telephone and fax lines for some keenly contested bidding. Surprisingly, Christie's is the only auction house to devote sales to whisky, and Bath Street in Glasgow is its only salesroom to do so. On November 18 1998 Christie's staged its largest whisky auction yet, of bourbons and oddities like Italian whisky as well as Scotch, selling 507 lots for a total of £194,874 (US$325440). The highest price of £5,000 (US$8,350) was paid by a private collector for a single bottle of Macallan 50 Year Old.

These whisky-dedicated auctions are a surprisingly recent phenomenon that have grown out of public demand. Martin Green, Christie's resident whisky specialist, says it all began with Antiques Roadshow-style enquiries from people wanting to know how much their old bottles were worth. The first sale featuring whisky took place on
June 17 1986 when 40 lots were tagged on to a fine wine auction. The first ever sale devoted entirely to whisky was held on December 4 1989, and made £52,493 (US$87,660).

What seems to make Scotch whisky in particular so collectable, other than its inherent quality, is that the number of distilleries has steadily diminished since the 18th century, meaning that certain brands have simply ceased to be made. This makes for tangible excitemen...

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