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Rare whisky and Yquem 1975 lead Sotheby’s online auctions

Collectors have propelled strong online sales at Sotheby’s in recent weeks, buying up rare Scotch whisky, Yquem 1975 and a host of top Bordeaux and Burgundy from the 1990s and early 2000s.

A single bottle of ‘Macallan 56 Year Old 1945’ Scotch whisky fetched US$62,000 in a recent Sotheby’s online auction focusing on rare whisky.

The 1945 vintage-dated whisky was aged for 56 years before bottling and carried a pre-sale high estimate of $48,000.

In a separate fine wine auction, a 12-bottle cache of Château d’Yquem 1975 sold for $11,780, more than double its pre-sale high estimate. Decanter’s Jane Anson tasted the wine in 2015 and found it could ‘easily last another few decades’.

Sotheby’s was forced to switch the two auctions from New York live events to online-only due to coronavirus, but it said they still fetched a combined $2.3m.

It added that, across the business, ‘dedicated online sales have achieved $60m since March alone’.

Online-only wine and spirits sales have also attracted new bidders. ‘Nearly half of all buyers in our whisky sale were new to Sotheby’s,’ said Connor Kriegel, head of auction sales for Sotheby’s wine department in New York.

The whisky auction was dominated by rare Macallan bottlings previously owned by Los Angeles-based retailer Wing Hop Fung. Around 70% of lots sold went to Asia-based buyers.

In the fine wine auction, 70% of sold lots went to US-based buyers.

While the sale fetched $821,748 and beat its overall pre-auction estimate, some wines performed better than others.

Several top Burgundy wines from the early 2000s beat their estimates by a considerable margin, including two bottles of Armand Rousseau’s Chambertin-Clos de Bèze grand cru 2002, which sold for $7,440 (high estimate: $5,000).

Three bottles of Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair’s ‘Aux Reignots’ premier cru 2003 from Vosne Romanée fetched $3,472 (high estimate: $2,000).

Several lots of Bordeaux first growth wines from the 1990s also beat their high estimates.

Among them, 12-bottle cases of Château Latour and Château Margaux from the celebrated 1996 vintage on the Left Bank each fetched $8,060, versus high estimates of $6,500.

A 12-bottle case of Mouton Rothschild 1998 also fetched $5,580 (high estimate: $4,800).

Rival auction house Christie’s has also reported stronger online bidding interest in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, many auction houses, restaurants, retailers and wineries themselves have been holding sales online, some of which will see proceeds offered to charity in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

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