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Japanese whisky sales surge at Bonhams

The London-based auction house has seen continued demand for The Macallan, and a surge in interest in rare Japanese whisky in 2014.

The Macallan Millennium Decanter-50 year old 1949 Bonhams' next whisky sale (March 11th)
The Macallan Millennium Decanter-50 year old 1949
Bonhams’ next whisky sale (March 11th)

Bonhams has just released details of its Scotch whisky sales for 2014 which Martin Green, the auction house’s resident whisky specialist, described as “a very strong year.”

The two Hong Kong sales raised HK$ 21,200,000 (£1,750,000) while the four in Edinburgh brought in £925,000. Tracking where the buyers came from for its Scottish sales revealed an equal split of 27.5% for the UK and South East Asia, following by the US on 22.5%.

“But in terms of the top lots they didn’t go to Asia, they actually went to America,” said Green. In Hong Kong, where Bonhams pioneered whisky auctions, it hosted the largest ever auction of Japanese whisky in August, where highlights included a decanter of Karuizawa 1965 21 year old. Andy Simpson of whisky consultants Rare Whisky 101 (RM101) confirmed that Karuizawa whiskies are hot right now. “They’re selling for incredible amounts of money.”

In terms of Scotch whisky at auction Macallan still rules with a 25% share of value, and Bonhams claims to sell more of it than its rivals. “The top-end products we’ve had coming up for sale from Macallan have performed very well – it’s still one of the most sought-after brands,” said Green, who has seen no decline in demand. This contrasts with RW101’s review of last year which tracked the price of all Scotch sold at auction. On its rare whisky investor’s index for 2014 Macallan slipped from first to seventh place thanks to poor performance from its more modern limited releases. “The Macallan Royal Marriage bottling was selling for £1,650 at its peak in October 2013,” said Simpson. “It has now settled at around £1000.”

A record number of collectible Scotch whisky bottles were sold at auction in the UK last year, and the market grew 69% by value to £7.65 million from figures released by RM101. However, according to Simpson a new breed of on-line whisky auction houses are taking a growing share of the market, not least because their buyer’s premium is 10% compared to 25% at traditional auction houses.

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