Here’s a look at our highlights from this month’s whisky and spirits auction:
Up for auction this month was a stunning collection of the Hanyu Ichiro’s Malt Card Series. The complete Hanyu Card Series has previously sold for $1.5 million and we had no less than 15 bottles from this ultimate collector’s series. Each of the whiskies in the Card Series was chosen from Hanyu stock by Ichiro Akuto, grandson of the distillery’s founder, and released between 2005 and 2014.
What is it about these bottles that makes them so desirable? Well they tick several boxes: Hanyu distillery ceased production in 2000 so they were bottled from finite stocks. Many of these bottles were released at well under £100 and were immediately snapped up and consumed. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they were released over the space of almost a decade as a collectable series in varying limited numbers. The genius of this series is that it plays to the collector’s desire to own a complete series and collect the full deck, a much more expensive venture in this case than my childhood Panini football sticker albums, but the same idea. Top trumps went to the Hanyu Ace of Spades with a hammer price of £28,000 but the longest bidding battle was over the Hanyu Jack of Clubs which eventually ended at £19,000.
Japanese whisky may have dominated the top spots but there was still plenty of premium Scotch not far behind. Perennial favourites from Macallan, Glenlivet and Bowmore were joined by gems from many more revered distilleries. Top Scotch honours went to Macallan 1971 30 Year Old Fine & Rare, which, after a competitive end to the auction, sold for £16,500.
Other notable results for Macallan included a record price of £1,850 for Macallan 12 Year Old Reawakening limited edition bottled to celebrate the reopening of Macallan’s second stillhouse in 2008 and the continued interest in the Ralph Steadman designed Macallan Private Eye which once again reached an impressive £5,400.
Glenlivet 1948 50 Year Old Book of Kells decanter from Gordon and MacPhail attracted plenty of interest and the winning bid was £2,300. The top Islay lot was Bowmore 1956 Sherry Casks with a lowish level which sold for £5,600. Perhaps even more impressive was the Bowmore Bicentenary, which continued strong recent showings for this bottle at auction with a hammer price of £3,100.
This month saw an impressive 143 Cognacs and smart buyers were able to pick up the complete Courvoisier Erte collection, premium decanters from Martell, Hardy, Hennessy and Remy Martin and some vintage distillates dating back as far as the mid-19th century. Plenty of Cognac enthusiasts spotted the 1848 Grande Champagne des Heritiers bottled in 1950 for Berry Bros and Rudd that in the end sold for £950 but the most hotly contested Cognac was the rarely seen Courvoisier Collection Erte Inedit, number 8 which sold for £1,500. To our surprise though, the bottle that lead the way among all the French brandies was a Richard Hennessy crystal decanter which finished the auction with a winning bid of £1,900.
Top tip for buyers looking to taste astonishingly old and rare French brandy is to routinely search vintage Armagnacs – do it now before everyone else catches on.
Among the 155 vintage liqueurs on offer were seven bottles representing a century of Chartreuse. Of particular interest was a one litre bottle of Yellow Chartreuse that was bottled between 1878 and 1903 at Fourvoirie in France. It eventually fetched £2,200 after a flurry of last minute bids, but it was the fascinating story of how it was passed through generations of one family before it ended up in our February auction that made this one so special. We look forward to hearing news about the next chapter in its ongoing journey.