Christie’s, New York will auction 74 bottles of rare whisky valued at $250,000-$350,000 on June 7. While primarily a fine wine sale, the whisky selections are significant and can be summed up in four words: all killer, no filler. If you’re a collector of classic bottlings of scotch distilled in the mid-to-late 20th century, then this one’s for you.
The biggest highlight is the full Springbank Millennium Set with miniatures (Lot 432), a rare offering at the best of times, but it’s particularly exciting to see one going under the hammer at a U.S. auction house. The set contains bottles of Springbank bottled in 5-year age brackets from 25 to 50 years old. The late whisky writer Michael Jackson bestowed some of his highest-ever scores on these 25, 30, and 35 year old Campbeltown whiskies when first released. Christie’s has only ever previously sold one full set in London in 2018, though a new record price was recently set at Bonhams auction in Hong Kong in May. Back in 2010, the highest hammer price paid was $5,500, but this set has climbed steeply in the last 2-3 years and is now valued at $26,000-$35,000.
Unsurprisingly, Macallan is the most represented Scotch in the sale. My first pick is the Macallan Select Reserve 1948 (lot 400, est. $15,000-$20,000). This peated, smoky Macallan spent 51 years in sherry wood, and each bottle was filled on different day of the year in 2009 (this lot is the March 1 bottle). This makes it much scarcer than the Macallan Select Reserve 1946, which had a bottling run of many thousands. My second Macallan pick is the four bottles of Macallan Gran Reserva from 1979-1982 (Lot 407, est. $10,000-$15,000), which have performed solidly over the years and have potential for further gains. The discerning collectors who consigned these bottles had a good eye for Bowmore (Lot 394), Laphroaig (Lot 393), and early examples of cask finishing from Glenmorangie (Lot 430), although there is a notable dearth of releases from Diageo other than a solitary bottle of Lagavulin (Lot 425).
If looking for whiskies from closed distilleries, the options are limited: two bottles of Ladyburn (lot 418 and 424), the short-lived malt distillery built by William Grant & Sons at Girvan in the 1960s, and two bottles of Karuizawa from the 1980s (Lot 401 and 402). Prices remain high for the cult Japanese distillery, although the rapid growth in value appears to be over as far as investment-oriented collectors are concerned. Options for Irish whiskey collectors are confined to 1951 Knappogue Castle 36 year old (Lot 414, est. $1,000-$1,500), while American whiskey fans could try picking up a bottle of George T Stagg 2002 release (Lots 434-436, Est. $2,000-$3,000), the bottle of 1955 Very Old Fitzgerald 8 year old (Lot 441, est. $1,600-$2,400), or a demijohn of Hannis Rye Whiskey from 1915 (Lot 440, est. $5,000-$7,000), which has an interesting backstory.
While this auction has quite a different feel from last December’s sale of Pre-Prohibition Bottles at Christies, it represents an assembly of high-quality whiskies gathered from several different private collections. Viewing is daily from May 31 (you can see the full catalogue online).