Here are three examples of how online whisky auctions are continuing to push the boundaries and evolve year on year.
1) Scotch Whisky Auctions scrap seller’s fees: the biggest player in the auction market tore up the rulebook in July 2016 by radically changing its charging structure and abolishing the 10% seller’s commission. From the 64th auction onwards, sellers are being charged only £5 per lot (plus VAT where applicable) and £5 if they chose to set a reserve. Buyers continue to pay 10% commission on their winnings. This format was trialled for their 58th auction, which resulted in a 262% increase in the number of listed lots. After this announcement, there was a similar boost, with listings up by 147%, diminishing only slightly over the next two sales, though they still managed to attract well over 3,000 lots.
For sellers, they can collect the handsome rewards of their bottle’s true value. The top lot in the 64th auction was a bottle of Gordon & MacPhail Generations Mortlach 1939 75 Years Old that fetched £17,500. Without a reserve, the vendor will have pocketed £17,494, saving an extra £2,100 in the process compared with the result if a 10% seller’s fee had been levied. Some could argue it’s a race to the bottom, but with the significant clout of Scotch Whisky Auctions, it will certainly focus the minds of vendors, and send reverberations through their online and live auction competitors.
2) Strathearn distillery auction off first 100 bottles with Whisky Auctioneer
The inaugural release from a new distillery makes for a perfect whisky collectible, even if everyone is impatient to try the whisky. Hot on the heels of Wolfburn distillery, the tiny Perthshire Strathearn distillery is going down the auction route. Whisky Auctioneer will collect bids on the bottles between 23rd August and 1st December on a dedicated part of their website, the auction concluding at the three year threshold when the spirit can legally be called whisky. The whisky will be matured in an octave cask, and bottles should be available by the end of the year. Ambitiously, they have promised to hand deliver bottle #1 to the winning bidder. Expect this one to get seriously competitive as the winter nights draw in. You can keep track on the latest bids or add your own bid on the Whisky Auctioneer website.
3) Cask ends. Are they a thing now?
Whiskiana, as Michael Jackson used to call it, covered the broad range of artefacts and ephemera associated with whisky: water jugs, books, bar display stands etc The latest trend seems to be the stencilled cask end, the perfect wall hanging for your home bar or whisky club. This has a slight whiff of the Beastie Boys’ penchant for Volkswagen car badges in the late 1980s, which led to the craze for jimmying them off the VW grills to make trophy jewellery, much to the chagrin of the vehicle’s owner. Do you believe these cask ends are being sold by cash-strapped cooperage owners upcycling their waste timber, or are these being ‘liberated’ from retired casks stacked outside cooperages, distilleries, and bottling halls?
Even for a cask end, brand and age are all important with a pecking order quickly establishing itself as buyers start paying three figure sums for a cask end in good condition. Try looking at Whisky Online Auctions, Just Whisky, and Scotch Whisky Auctions for the best examples. The quality of the stencil is important, though buyers still appreciate a patina of distressed wood and some flaky coloured paintwork. The final flourish is the historic company names: White Horse Distillers and Lagavulin, Bulloch Lade & Co. and Caol Ila, Ainslie & Heibron and Clynelish etc. How long before the auction houses are demanding provenance on each cask end and having to sift out more and more home made fakes?
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