Drop the Bottle: The Biggest Thing in Whiskey Auctions Is Now Buying an Entire Cask
A Macallan-1991 Cask just sold for a world record price at the Bonhams Fine and Rare Whisky Sale
Why buy one bottle of rare whiskey when you could have 202?
At the recent Bonhams Fine and Rare Whisky Sale, it was a Macallan-1991 Cask that caught the eyes of auction attendees, selling for a world-record HK$4,464,000 (that’s a bit over $573,000). As described by the auction house, the Macallan-1991 was distilled in December 1991 and re-racked in 2017 with sherry. The 51.5% ABV hooch will yield around 202 bottles.
“Cask collecting is fast growing as a trend and one which has become a Bonhams speciality,” says Daniel Lam, Bonhams Director of Wine and Spirits, Asia. “In 2019, we set a world record when we sold a Macallan 1989 cask for a per-bottle price of HK$17,103. The cask in this sale has achieved a per-bottle price of HK$22,099 — and a new world record — a very strong increase in just two years.”
Besides casks, Japanese whisky was a hot commodity; the Yamazaki and Karuizawa lots were 100% sold (overall, the auction had an 88% sell-through rate). The Karuizawa distillery has been closed since 2001; the final editions of their whisky will be released later this year and are fueling demand, according to Lam.
Whisky auctions don’t seem to be hitting a peak: Bonhams claims their 2021 sales have already surpassed their 2019 numbers by about HK$13.5 million.
While Bonhams calls whisky cask auctions a “specialty” of theirs, it’s not an uncommon concept: there are sites like Cask88 that focus on rare casks, albeit not at the same price range. And Rare Whisky 101, a data/insight service for whisky investors, has been offering a bespoke cask brokerage service since 2017 “to meet an increased demand we were experiencing from our current client base seeking rare whisky still held in wood.”
Besides developing a new market for whisky investors — albeit with greater risk due to the immense amount of maturation time and “angel’s share” loss of liquid involved — casks offer one huge advantage over individual bottles … as in, you’re getting 202 times the whisky to do with what you want.
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