Was Bonhams Plagued by Fake Macallan? Weekly Auction Watch – 25th March 2015

Over the years, I’ve been stopped by the police and breathalysed… maybe twice. Had I failed to give a sample of breath at the roadside, I would have committed an offence. I would have been banned from driving and no doubt given a hefty financial penalty too… The assumption of non-compliance is clearly guilt. I agree with this stance.

Working within an industry where a ‘normal’ day could be sampling up to 200 separate single casks of Scotch, I ensure whenever I get in a car, I’m in no way impinged by what I do for a living… AND before Mrs S. asks… No. I do not drink for a living!

So by virtue of non-compliance, guilt is assumed.

Bonhams recent whisky auction had a multitude of rare and old vintage Macallan in it. I had more than one tip-off that many of these were potentially fake.

Would they be auctioned? Would some of these potential fakes come to market from one of the most respected whisky auction houses?

Pleasingly, but equally concerning, on the day of the auction, many of these lots were withdrawn from sale……

Some of the many withdrawn lots
Are all these fake? Some of the many withdrawn lots

I wrote to Martin Green (Bonhams whisky specialist) who put me straight in touch with Bonhams PR department. The initial response received was “If questions are raised about any lot – for whatever reason – we always withdraw it as a matter of course for further investigation. That is what we did in this case”.

It appears there was just cause for concern and there were so many bottles withdrawn.

After further email correspondence with Bonhams, the quote – “We have conducted further investigations and as a result will not be offering the bottles in a future sale” seems to confirm, something was wrong. While there was no 100% concrete “these are fakes” quoted by Bonhams, by way of in effect not giving a sample of breath, does one assume guilt. By guilt, I mean do we assume these are fake? The non-inclusion of these bottles in future auctions shows Bonhams are clearly concerned about the provenance of these old Macallan’s.

What we also don’t know is if these bottles have been returned to the vendor? Will they see the light of auction again? Sent to a less thorough/less well known auction-house to be sold to unsuspecting buyers? Who knows but one thing’s certain, extreme vigilance is needed at the moment, especially when buying old Macallan bottles.

Putting the possible fake Macallan’s aside, Bonhams did have some great bottles feature in their recent sale.

19th century Linkwood
19th century Linkwood

The very first lot was an impressive old 1898 Linkwood. Selling for £2,000 it looked like good value for the buyer being such an ancient relic of a bottle.

A bottle of Rare Malts Selection Blair Athol hit a record £300, way past its 2008 price of just £80 and almost double its recent trading range of £150 – £160.

Dalmore’s recent good form continued with £600 being the new record for a bottle of 30 year old Stillman’s Dram. A previous high-price of £280 shows this as a significant new peak.

Much interest was seen at the top end of the market where a bottle of 50 year old Macallan Lalique sold for £17,000. The last time this sold in the UK (in 2010) it fetched £6,200. Five years later and it’s pushing almost three times that.

50 year old Macallan Lalique decanter (this one was real!)
50 year old Macallan Lalique decanter (this one was real!)

1968 appears to have been a good year for Balvenie. Two bottles of that vintage from cask number 7296 sold for £1,300 each. Back in 2008, these were selling for £260 per bottle.

Further cementing the collectors credentials of independently bottled silent stills, a Millburn Signatory ‘Silent Stills’ fetched £420, way over its previous best £280. Completing the trio of closed Inverness distilleries; bottles (again Signatory Silent Stills) from Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn both sold for £380 each. Not quite records for either bottle but right at the top of their current trading range.

Silent Stills Inverness trilogy. Glen Albyn, Glen Mhor and Millburn
Silent Stills Inverness trilogy. Glen Albyn, Glen Mhor and Millburn

These pages are usually the preserve of some of the rarest bottles of single malt, however, a real showstopper of a blend sold for an incredible £5,500. The early 20th century Johnnie Walker ‘Old Highland Whisky’ is a true piece of history and well deserving of its impressive selling price.

Early 20th century Johnnie Walker. A true piece of Scotch history
Early 20th century Johnnie Walker. A true piece of Scotch history

Again, the best performances were seen by the oldest bottles or bottles from silent distilleries… and as for those potentially fake Macallan’s I think vigilance is key.

Who knows if/when they will emerge on the open market again….

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

All images courtesy of Bonhams

3 thoughts on “Was Bonhams Plagued by Fake Macallan? Weekly Auction Watch – 25th March 2015”

  1. Why do Bonhams and McTears have issues with fake Macallans on a semi-regular (?) basis? Is their whisky department overworked, or not that good at their job?

  2. Good evening Andy,

    This is the second time that you have ‘discovered’ fake Macallans on auction sites in the last few months, and this has actually stopped my bidding for such bottles, lest I pick up a ‘dud’.

    Prior to that, in the latter part of 2014, I purchased various Macallans at auction, being…….

    Macallan Over 25 year old Anniversary Malt – 1958 Macallan Over 25 year old Anniversary Malt – no date Macallan Diamond Jubilee Macallan Coronation Macallan Royal Marriage

    How on earth can I be sure that these are all genuine, and not forgeries?

    I also bought various other brands of old age statement whisky – how can I also be sure that these fairly expensive purchases are genuine?

    Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Best regards,

    Roger E. Cooper

  3. Good afternoon Andy,

    I seem to be missing a reply to my email below, dated 25 March.

    I realise that you are a very busy guy, but would very much appreciate your advice on this rather vexed subject.

    Best regards,

    Roger E. Cooper

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