all the bottles in The Macallan Red Collection, sold for a million plus dollars at Sotheby's
The Macallan Red Collection, which sold at Sotheby's for nearly a million dollars in 2020.

At Sotheby’s, Rare Whisky Is Taking Over the Auction Block

The auction house's 2020 Market Report shows exponential growth for spirits

Pandemic be damned, spirits auctions had a record year in 2020. Leading the way? Wine and, increasingly, whisky.

According to the recently released 2020 Wine & Spirits Market Report by Sotheby’s, spirits now account for 19% of the auction house’s sale share across Auction and Retail. Four years ago, that figure was 1%.

Some other key findings:

  • Auction sales of The Macallan tallied 7% of all wine and spirits sales at $6.4 million
  • For one producer the numbers were better for wine: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti accounted for 20% of all wine and spirits sales at $19.4 million
  • The average bottle price for spirits at auction is now over 10x the value of the average bottle price for wine ($7,058 for spirits, $686 for wine)
  • There were a couple of world records in whisky last year: A bottle of Karuizawa 52 Year Old Zodiac Rat Cask 51.8 abv 1960 sold in London for $435,273, while bottles of The Dalmore: 62 Year Old The Mackenzie and The Cromarty 40.0 abv. NV, each sold in London for $324,445

In general, wine and spirits auctions are skewing younger: 75% of new buyers at Sotheby’s are under 50, 43% are under 40 and 12% aged under 30, with over a third of that money ($35 million) now coming in online sales. The number of online auctions also jumped from six to 20 last year; as well, over $60 million of wine and spirits were sold to online bidders in 2020 versus $28 million in 2019.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.