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Sotheby’s Set a New Report in Wine and Spirits Gross sales Final 12 months

Sotheby’s Set a New Report in Wine and Spirits Gross sales Final 12 months

Sotheby’s recently announced that 2023 was a banner year for the storied auction house, with a record $159 million in sales that capped off three consecutive years of growth. Last year’s number was buttressed by a single week in which sales reached $50 million, exceeding the amount ever sold by an auction house. But the future might not be all roses, as indicated by recent news that overall whisky auction sales are on the decline.

The Sotheby’s market report for 2023 lays out some pretty impressive details about what led to that being a record year. The record November week mentioned before was due in part to the sale of the Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami label, which set a new record when it sold for $2.7 million. Overall, more than 21,000 lots were sold across 70 Sotheby’s auctions in six countries. In the spirits category, more than half of the bidders were from Asia, with Hong Kong ($6 million) and Singapore ($5 million) leading the way. Percentage-wise, the Americas only had about a third of the buyers, but the United States took the lead for sales for a single country with a total of $10 million.

A few other Macallan expressions made the top 10 list of spirits sold at auction, which should come as no surprise, including The Reach 81 Year Old and The Macallan In Lalique Six Pillars, and a few other bottles that sold for upwards of $500,000 were Bowmore STAC 55-year-old and Yamazaki 50 first edition. In London, Kodawari “The Greatest Japanese Whisky Collection” sold for $2.2 million, setting a record for a collection of Japanese whisky. And on the wine side, The Epicurean’s Atlas: The Encyclopaedic Cellar went for whopping $16.8 million in Hong Kong.

These are all impressive figures, but a recent story in Scottish Financial News cited a Whiskystats report that the number of whisky bottles available at auction actually decreased by 5 percent and cumulative hammer prices decreased by nearly 20 percent. But the report also said that retail prices have increased by up to 75 percent, making whisky auctions actually seem like a good value. The biggest decrease in value was in Japanese whisky, with Chichibu, Karuizawa, and Yamazaki all losing about 30 to 40 percent in value. Johannes Moosbrugger, founder of Whiskystats, spoke to the Scottish Financial News about these numbers. “Data shows that the whisky market is shifting,” he said. “Buyers’ willingness to purchase whisky at listed retail prices has dropped significantly. And even for whiskies that eventually sell, bottles tend to remain on shelves far longer than in the recent past. What we’re seeing in the auction market data is clear: prices are no longer reaching the peak prices of the Covid era, and there are some great bottles for sale at the lowest prices in years.”

By its very nature, whisky is a gamble and an investment in the future—you have to wait years for it to mature in a barrel, and it’s impossible to tell what consumers will really want a decade from now. Despite the highs and lows mentioned in these reports, the market for top-shelf, vintage whisky from Scotland and Japan seems to continue to show strength, although perhaps we have reached a peak in prices… that is, until the Macallan eventually releases a 100-year-old single malt.

Source: Robb Report

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