Although never our intention when we started this site roughly 3 and a half years ago, we've recently started covering the whisky auction scene a little - first with Bonhams' August 2015 Hong Kong whisky auction, and more recently with their January 2016 auction (not to mention the odd update on UK auctions via our Facebook page).
The former saw some incredibly high prices (especially for anything Japanese), whilst the latter saw prices for many lots cooling off a little (while the ultra, ultra rare bottlings still brought in lofty bids).
We were keen then to see how Dragon 8's inaugural Hong Kong Whisky auction would fair, held yesterday at the Grand Hyatt's stunning Pool House (also the venue for 2014's Highland Park "Freya" launch).
The format and approach taken by Dragon 8 was noticeably different to that of Bonham's (in our opinion, for the better). For a start, Dragon 8 clearly took a "quality over quantity" approach, with a smaller, but more focused high end selection of lots (approx 160 in total). Whisky auctions usually have one or two "highlight" lots, whereas this auction had several - four separate whole casks (The Macallan, Dalmore, Highland Park and Bowmore), an entire vertical of The Macallan 18yo from 1954 to 1985, The Macallan Lalique V 62yo, the 70yo 1940 Glenlivet "Generations" from Gordon & Macphail (AND the 75yo 1939 Mortlach under the same label), not to mention a several bottles from The Macallan Fine & Rare series.
Hanyu and Karuizawa also featured, but Scotch (especially Macallan) was the star. There were even a few interesting non-whisky lots, including a 58yo Long Pond rum, and a 30L bottle (Melchisedech) of Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades Champagne.
The other point of difference was the set up of the live auction - held in the more intimate surroundings of the Grand Hyatt Pool House, all guests were treated to a buffet lunch with a selection of Champagne, wine and truly fantastic drams on offer (including a few incredibly Rare Macallans, one dating back to 1938. We'll have tasting notes on that one up shortly). Dragon 8 founder Gil Lempert-Schwarz conducted the auction, and was vastly more entertaining than any other whisky auctioneer we've seen too.
So....how were the results? In summary, positive and realistic. There wasn't a huge amount of frenzied bidding, but almost every lot sold (unlike previous auctions in HK and UK where we've seen several lots passed in), and, as evidence that Dragon 8 had read the market well, most lots sold within, or very close to their estimate range.
The Macallan "Fine & Rare" bottlings performed very strongly, proving the demand for rare and aged Macallans is definitely still there. as did Springbanks, Bowmores, and the G&M "Generations" decanters to name a few.
Specific results of note were as follows (amounts exclude premiums):
- 75yo Mortlach 1939 "Generations" decanter by Gordon & Macphail: $180,000HKD
- 70yo The Glenlivet 1940 "Generations" decanter by Gordon & Macphail: $180,000HKD
- 27yo The Macallan bottled by Silver Seal (in a 2.75L decanter): $110,000HKD
- The Macallan Peter Blake Decades set: $70,000HKD
- 1986 cask of Dalmore: $1,000,000HKD
- 1988 cask of Highland Park: $900,000HKD
- The Macallan Lalique V 62yo: $260,000HKD
- Highland Park 40yo (Original Bottling): $18,000HKD
- Glenfiddich 50yo First Edition (bottled 1991): $140,000HKD
Strong bids against realistic estimates.
One thing we would have liked to see done differently (though it's a minor point), is splitting up of some of the multi-bottle lots. There were a few lots we would have bidded on if they were single bottles (like Longmorn 83 and a few Macallan 18s), but the 6 bottle lot prices were more than we were happy to part with. Still, it's a testament to the seller (and Dragon 8's) savvy that they were easily snapped up.
Dragon 8 plan to hold several wine and whisky auctions throughout the year, and we're already looking forward to the next one.