January 18, 2014

The most expensive whisky in the world

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The wine auction circuit started again today, with 3 auction houses holding simultaneous auctions in Hong Kong.  These days I've stopped going to the Acker and Zachys auctions, and I dutifully showed up at Sotheby's bright and early.  I was pretty surprised to find the room very full at just a quarter past 10 a.m., as I had expected the other auctions to be busier.

The auction started with some "leftover" lots from some of the auctions last year... especially those which were ex-château.  The largest consignor today offered a good collection of 1982 Bordeaux... notable for both its breadth and depth.  It seemed that any '82s - even those from Fifth Growth or unclassified châteaux - found ready buyers.  Quite a few wines had parcels of 10 cases or more.  And there were plenty of other older vintages on offer, and all of them were snapped up.

But the highlight of the day was one special lot - the Macallan M Decanter - Constantine.  The whisky is a blend of "a handful of casks dating from the 1940s to the early 1990s", which is kinda vague as far as descriptions go.  The selling point here is that it is housed in a 6-liter imperial decanter created by Lalique, and is one of only four in the world.  All four are apparently named after Roman Emperors - with Caesar, Justinian and Augustus being the other three.

This was a charity lot, with 100% of the hammer price going to local charities in Hong Kong.  Sotheby's is also donating part of the buyer's premium to the same charities.

With no reserve and an estimate indicated at between HKD 2 to 4 million dollars, the eyes of the world were on this lot.  Shortly before the action started, I noticed a few of my friends popping in from the auction next door.  Then I noticed Jeff Zacharia from Zachys was standing by the entrance as he, too, wanted to witness the bidding for this lot.

A few weeks ago the Specialist was fretting about whether people would actually bid for this lot.  Sure it's pretty rare, but it was also gonna be one incrediby expensive bottle.  The pressure was on.

But she need not have worried.  Absentee bids meant the bidding actually started at HKD 2 million, and the action turned out to be between two guys in the room.  As the auctioneer, Bob gave each bidder ample time to decide whether or not to go to the next increment, as each increment was a whopping USD 25,000 equivalent.  Eventually the hammer fell at HKD 4 million, which made the total purchase price HKD 4.9 million inclusive of buyer's premium.  That's more than USD 628,000, and set a new world record for a single bottle of whisky.

The rest of the auction went without incident, and I ended up picking up several cases of aged Burgundy for my friends and I.  A few of the MNSC boys realized at the tasting yesterday that I would be here today, and asked me to bid on a few lots on their behalf...  Auction duty today...

This time there were a larger number of wines served at auction:

2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin - yeasty, a little toasty, with lemon citrus.

1982 Pichon Baron en double magnum - smoky, earthy, lead pencil and some fruit.

1982 Pichon Lalande - very lovely.  Smoky, earthy with tea leaves, cedar and woody notes.

1982 Vieux Château Certan - savory, soy sauce, smooth and velvety on the palate.  Very nice.

1986 Climens - lots of plastic, honey, dates, orange blossom water, apricot on the nose.  Sweet but slightly bitter finish.  Beautiful.

1981 Beaucastel - very smoky, burnt rubber, manure, brett.

2000 Beaucastel - minty, forest, berries, jammy, with a hint of sharpness.  Good concentration and there are still tannins here.

2005 Clos des Papes - really sweet and jammy, with lots of forest, pine needle and cedar.  Syrupy.  Opened up nicely.

After the auction, I attended a birthday celebration dinner of a friend at the Hong Kong Club.  The birthday girl was kind enough to serve us something from her vintage.  Not quite the Macallan M perhaps, but very small nonetheless.

1974 The Clan Denny Cameronbridge 38 Year Old - initially this was like paint thinner, but also heavy with sweet vanilla, some marmalade and a hint of smokiness.

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