Could you be toasting auction success? Fine wine and whisky in hot demand

Posted on 22/09/2020 in Press Coverage

What’s gathering dust in your cellar – or that old drinks cabinet for that matter? We ask because fine wine, whisky and other spirits are a booming auction market – so much so Hansons is hosting Derbyshire and Staffordshire Cellar Auctions this autumn.

You just might be popping a cork to toast sales success in the run-up to Christmas, and a man who can tell you if it’s time to celebrate is Hansons’ new wine and whisky consultant Benjamin Browning. On Tuesday, October 6 he will be offering free valuations at Etwall Auction Centre, near Derby, from 10am-12.30pm, and Bishton Hall in Staffordshire from 2-5pm.

Benjamin started reading about wine at school rather than studying for his O-levels. He found Hugh Johnson’s Wine Atlas of the World more interesting than Shakespeare. He has continued learning about wine ever since and travelled far and wide to gain knowledge including Tokaji in Hungary and Mostar in Yugoslavia.

He looks forward to seeing what people have tucked away - often not realising the potential value they have. His particular favourites are PX sherry and big Italian reds. He likes to try new wine regions not widely known and his celebration drink of choice is champagne - the original and best.

Benjamin can tell you if that bottle of whisky, fine port or case of red could get bids flying in, and it’s worth delving into your cupboards because auction prices for whisky in particular have reached unimaginable highs..

In 2019, a bottle The Macallan Fine & Rare 60 Year Old 1926 whisky sold for $1.9 million - around £1.5 million. This price smashed auction records.

The Macallan Fine & Rare bottle (42.6% ABV) was offered for auction by a private American collector with a guide price of £350,000-£450,000 but sold for four times its top estimate.

The bottle was the first to appear from the Fine and Rare series in more than a decade. A previous world record for the most expensive whisky was set by the only bottle of the 1926 Macallan featuring a hand-painted design by Irish artist Michael Dillon. The bottle went under the hammer at Christie’s in London and sold for £1.2m.

The Macallan is one of the most highly revered whisky brands in the world. It is the third largest selling single malt whisky globally and the second largest by value.

Its distillery in Craigellachie, Moray, in the Highlands of Scotland, was founded in 1824 by Alexander Reid and is renowned for quality. Its whisky is matured in exceptional oak casks as the quality of the drink is largely dependent on cask quality.

Rarity also enhances desirability and price. Distilled in 1926, the highly-coveted bottle came from cask number 263. Of the 40 bottles drawn from the cask, only 14 were given the Fine and Rare Label.

The Macallan know how to gain sales success. They commissioned two leading pop artists, Valerio Adami and Peter Blake, to design labels for just 24 bottles, equally split between the pair. A bottle of The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 60-year-old Scotch whisky once held the world record for most expensive whisky sold at auction after fetching £848,750.

In 2018 Hansons sold a special addition bottle of The Macallan whisky, below left, bottled in 1996 to mark the 35th anniversary of famous satirical magazine Private Eye.

The vatting produced 5,000 bottles and included one cask from 1961. This special edition was enhanced further by a screen-printed label by legendary illustrator Ralph Steadman. It sold for £3,100.

Hansons has also sold a bottle of The Macallan 18 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, distilled in 1966, for £2,200, and a Macallan Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, 10 years old, for £380.

But it’s not all about whisky. Five Hennessy bottles Cognac made £480; a bottle of vintage Tanqueray gin made £290 and a wine lot featuring Chateau Canon, St Emilion 1967, Chateau Latour a Pomerol 1959 and Clets des Legats, Chateau neuf du Pape 1991 was contested to £430.

Port is also popular. We’ve sold a case of Dow’s 1980 port for £640 and nine bottles of mixed vintage Port reached £450. Plus, in 2017 two bottles of vintage port dating back to 1871 sold for £370 and £400 respectively. Their original estimate was £70-£100 per bottle, above right.

Investors see fine wine and whisky as a sound investment, even more so now. In unstable economic times people prefer to put their money into tangible assets.

Hansons is inviting entries until October 31 for its Derbyshire Cellar Wine and Whisky Auction on November 17. Regular Staffordshire Cellar Auctions are also held at Bishton Hall, the next one being on October 14.

Free valuations of wine, whisky and spirits

Consultant wine and whisky valuer Benjamin Browning will be at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, on October 6, November 3 and December 8, 10am-12.30pm. On the same dates he will be at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffs, ST17 0XN, 2-5pm. To arrange a home visit or virtual valuation, please email [email protected].

Hansons’ Etwall Auction Centre offers free and safe valuations in a marquee with all Covid regulations in place on weekdays, 10am-4pm, Wednesdays, 5-7.30pm and Saturdays, 9am-noon.