Since I began working in the Whisky.Auction ‘cellar’ (it is a windowless room full of bottles, but it’s not subterranean), somewhere in the region of forty thousand bottles have passed my desk. We have seen it all, from the ubiquitous Bell’s decanters (very popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but judging by how many we receive, I don’t think anyone has ever opened one), to the ever collectable vintage Macallans, Bowmores, Karuizawas and the like.
The bulk of my work consists of assessing and cataloguing the bottles we receive, ensuring they are fit for sale (not open or leaky or, even worse, fake whisky), and creating a concise description to accompany the images. We always try to establish a bottling date for our lots, particularly the older bottles, as this can greatly impact the desirability (and hammer price) of a lot.
Dating a bottle, as with all kinds of dating, can be a difficult process, and often the precise information just isn’t available. But using our wealth of resources and the knowledge and experience of the team (some of the greatest minds in our particular corner of Park Royal), we can usually narrow it down to a small window of time.
The things people find gathering dust at the back of their cupboards never cease to amaze me, and sellers are often astounded to learn that the old bottle of rum Grandpa left behind is now worth enough for a whole Caribbean cruise, or at least a city break and a glass of rum. One seller was particularly surprised by the value of their Jamaican rum from the 1960s bottled by Berry Bros, a great rum with a deceptively understated label. Even more dramatic was when we received an old decanter of Johnnie Walker. The bottle was produced for the blender’s 150th anniversary in 1970. This bottle had been languishing in a closet ever since. Needless to say, the seller was extremely pleased with the £30K hammer price.