Big Expectations for Hart Davis Hart’s Upcoming Whisky Auction

UPDATE: Hart Davis Hart’s March 31st-April 1st Auction of Finest and Rarest Spirits achieved a total hammer price of $3,373,380 with 100% of the lots sold. The American whiskeys accounted for $2,643,850 of the total—more than double the hammer price at rival Sotheby’s recent auction of American whiskeys. Following the sale, Hart Davis Hart proclaimed it as the highest value sale of American whiskey on record. The five top hammer prices sold were: $26,000 for a decanter of  Old Rip Van Winkle 25 year old bourbon, $17,000 for Old Rip Van Winkle Family Selection 23 year old bourbon decanter, a bottle of  Twisted Spoke 16 year old sold for $17,000, $15,000 for Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Release #1, and $14,000 for a bottle of Macallan Fine & Rare 22 year old 1990.

Hart Davis Hart (HDH) is expecting its fifth annual spirits auction to reach the highest value yet for an American whiskey sale. The Chicago-based auctioneer has valued some 2,189 lots of American whiskey, to be auctioned on March 31st – April 1st, at $1.9 million–$3 million. Hart Davis Hart entered the wine auction business in 2005, and expanded into spirits sales in March 2019. Macallan 50 year old Anniversary Malt was HDH’s biggest-ticket item of 2021, hitting 13th place on our list of Auction Houses’ Most Expensive Whiskies of last year.

Contenders for the most expensive bottle in this auction include a Colonel E.H. Taylor Old Fashioned Sour Mash Bourbon signed by Buffalo Trace Distillery master distiller Harlen Wheatley (est. $12,000–$18,000), an Old Rip Van Winkle 25 year old decanter (est. $12,000–$18,000), and a Twisted Spoke 16 year old distilled at Stitzel-Weller Distillery (est. $7,000–$10,000). A bottle of Twisted Spoke attracted bids of over $18,000 in 2021, so it could still be a frontrunner despite the lower pre-sale estimates. Outside the American whiskey space, The Macallan Fine & Rare 22 year old 1990 (est. $9,000-$14,000) is priced in keeping with the $13,175 bid at Whisky Hammer in 2021, but is presented at a slightly lower estimate after Hart Davis Hart failed to attract a bidder for the same bottle in 2020.

If you’re in the market for 50 year old scotch, check out the Benromach 50 year old 1969 (est. $5,500–$8,500), one of only 125 bottles and priced below its original $10,000 retail price, or the The Last Drop 50 year old (95 points), or take a look at the Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Caol Ila 50 year old 1968 release (est. $4,200–$6,500). Aside from over 100 bottles of largely contemporary Macallan, the other choice scotch whiskies include Port Ellen 32 year old 1979 12th release (est. $2,400–$3,500), Glenfarclas 1962 Family Casks Release III bottled in 2008 (est. $2,200–$3,200), and a couple of bottles from closed distillery Convalmore. There are 10 Diageo Special Releases from Brora to buy, which you can track to see if they beat the prices in our What’s It Worth? series. Also on offer are several hidden gems from Compass Box, with some great value mixed lots, as well as stellar collectibles like the  Compass Box The General (est. $850–$1,300) (96 points) and the rarely seen Compass Box Lady Luck (est. $500–$750) (91 points).

To help achieve its multimillion-dollar sale ambitions, HDH has attracted bankable lots in large quantities, including 47 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 year old. Make sure to check which vintage you’re targeting as prices vary, but as a guide, $5,500 was the highest bid at the recent Sotheby’s auction. For vintage bourbon imbibers who enjoyed the history behind the Century of American Whiskey sale, HDH has an attractive selection of Very Old Fitzgerald, Old Forester, Old Taylor, and Old Grand-Dad bottlings from the 1950s and 1960s, and 11 bottles of A.H. Hirsch from 1974 for sale. Our recent What’s It Worth? series looked at the WhistlePig Boss Hog series, and this sale includes multiple opportunities to buy editions II–VIII to help complete your collection.

Bidding on this auction can be done through Hart Davis Hart’s online bidding system and app, which are both well designed and easy to use. The website includes condition reports and high quality photography that allows you to magnify the images to examine every detail on the labels. Live bidding opens at 9 a.m. ET on March 31st. Note that buyer’s premiums are 19.5% on top of the hammer price plus applicable taxes, and there are no delivery options—all purchases must be collected from Hart Davis Hart’s Illinois warehouse. That said, for the bourbon and rye drinker and collector, this annual extravaganza in Chicago has plenty to offer.

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