AUCTIONS Whisky Connoisseur


Written by Ritenis Aksel



London – On 28 and 29 November 2018, Christie’s Finest & Rarest Wines & Spirits auction in London will be led by the most collectable single malt produced in the 20th century; The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old presented in a unique bottle painted by the Irish artist Michael Dillon (estimate on request, illustrated right and top left on page two). The Macallan distillery located near the river Spey in North East Scotland was founded in 1824 and produces stunning examples of cask-matured single malts, particularly their highly prized and exceedingly rare single-cask, limited edition bottlings and Fine & Rare Collection. The Macallan 60-Year-Old 1926 takes this rarity to new heights for collectors of Macallan whisky and is the only bottle of this ultra-rare elixir to be hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon. Considered the ‘Holy Grail’ for collectors, it is poised to set a new world auction record for a bottle of whisky. Furthermore, the auction will feature a selection of The Macallan whiskies direct from the distillery, alongside a number of other fine and rare whiskies. This is the largest offering of spirits, with a focus on whisky, that has ever been offered in a London sale at Christie’s.

Tim Triptree MW, Christie’s International Director of Wine: “Over the past five
years we have seen sell-through rates for whisky offerings increase by over 20% and in recent years, along with the consistent interest from US and European collectors, clients from Asia have been highly active in the whisky market. The November auction will mark one of the strongest offerings of whiskies ever presented by Christie’s, including a rare 1919 vintage Springbank, and one of the oldest bottles of single malt scotch whisky we’ve ever offered, The Highland Park Reserve 1902. The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old will highlight the sale. The Macallan were unsure that this bottle still existed — it was last seen at Fortnum & Mason in London in 1999, and we look forward to presenting this unique bottle to our international collectors and to an exciting moment in whisky auction history.”

Peter Blake, the renowned artist responsible for the album cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Valerio Adami were each asked to design a label for this special 1926 Macallan 60-Year-Old malt, and 12 individually numbered bottles from each artist were released after the whisky had spent 60 years maturing in ex-sherry casks prior to bottling in 1986. Less well- known was that one bottle from this rare cask was commissioned

and hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon and offered for sale at Fortnum & Mason in London in 1999. Christie’s is delighted to bring this unique bottle to market, presenting collectors with the opportunity to acquire a truly one-of-a-kind whisky from arguably the finest cask ever matured.

The sale will also present another example from this exceptional distillery, The Macallan Lalique 50-Year- Old (estimate: £60,000 – 80,000 per lot), the first Macallan to be released in a Lalique crystal bottle specially designed by the legendary French house. The 50-Year-Old was released in 2006 as an edition of only 470 bottles and today is the most collectable and rare of this singular series. The age statement on the whisky is fifty years of age, but many of the whiskies in the blend may be significantly older than that. As demand for this masterpiece has increased prices continue to rise.

The Macallan produce exceptional whisky and factors behind this success include their obsession with quality, and their “Curiously Small Stills”, amongst the smallest stills on Speyside. It is their unique size and shape that gives the spirit maximum contact with the copper, helping to concentrate the ‘new make’ spirit providing the base for the rich, fruity, full-bodied flavours characteristic of The Macallan. The Macallan is also known for their use of sherry-casks – they have a “The Macallan Master of Wood” in order to control production of the casks and even select particular oak trees before they are felled. 90% of their casks are from Spain and seasoned with oloroso sherry. The long ageing in oak casks provide all the colour to their whisky as the ‘new make’ spirit is water white when it comes out of the still.

The Yamazaki 50-Year-Old 1st Edition (estimate: £150,000 – 200,000 per lot) is an additional leading lot of the sale. Released in 2005, the Yamazaki 50-Year-Old 1st Edition is one of the rarest Japanese whisky in existence, with only 50 bottles produced. This exceptional whisky was matured in casks made from Mizunara (Japanese white oak), and is thought to be the oldest Yamazaki on the market. The Yamazaki Distillery is Japan’s oldest whisky distillery and was founded in 1923.

Further highlights of the auction include a 1919 vintage Springbank (estimate £100,000 – 150,000, illustrated right) and an incredibly rare and very old relic from another era, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Highland Park Reserve 1902 (estimate: £4,000 – 5,000 per bottle). Only 24 bottles from the 1919 vintage were bottled at the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown in 1970. This extremely rare whisky once held the Guinness world record for the most expensive whisky in the world and was ahead of its time in terms of super-premium whisky releases. The lot includes a certificate of authenticity from J & A Mitchell & Company stating this bottle was the fourth bottle of Springbank 1919 released onto the market in 1989 and subsequently sold by Fortnum & Mason prior to purchase by the current owner in May 1997. Springbank was established in 1828 and the current Chairman, Hedley G. Wright, is the fifth generation of the Mitchell family to own and manage Springbank. The Highland Park Reserve 1902 was distilled at the very start of the 20th century and bottled by Berry Brothers in the 1950s. The ornate label refers to the late King George VI and shows the whisky was a special bottling for Berry Brothers and Rudd. This is one of the oldest bottles of single malt scotch whisky Christie’s has ever offered.

About Christie’s

Christie’s, the world’s leading art business, had global auction, private and digital sales in the first half of 2018 that totalled £2.97 billion / $4.04 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie’s also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.

Alongside regular sales online, Christie’s has a global presence in 46 countries, with 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

*Please note when quoting estimates above that other fees will apply in addition to the hammer price – see Section D of the Conditions of Sale at the back of the sale catalogue.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are reported net of applicable fees.

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Ritenis Aksel

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