Joe Wilson had his first taste of whisky when he was 11. His parents had brought him to a New Year’s Eve party and while they weren’t looking, he snuck a taste of the Laphroaig 10 Year Old. “That first nose of medicinal peat smoke is something that has always stayed with me and piqued my fascination in the years to come,” Wilson recalls.

A couple of decades later, Wilson would come full circle. As the head of auction content at Whisky Auctioneer, Wilson works with a plethora of rare whiskies, piecing together the disparate stories and epic tales that accompany a bottle to create a collectible guide.

And rare whisky is a growing business. Whisky Auctioneer sees over 100,000 bids a month and reports an annual turnover of nearly £40m, a growth of 300 per cent in three years. Unsurprisingly, Asia is the next big frontier. “We’ve seen a 787 per cent increase in volume and over 1,760 per cent increase in value from our Asia-based customers,” says Wilson. “According to the 2021 Knight Frank Wealth Report, rare whisky has seen an increase in value of almost 500 per cent in the last decade, often outperforming the value of classic cars and fine art.”

It’s apt then that Whisky Auctioneer’s latest auction – starting today and ending on 21 June – is from Emmanuel Dron’s collection. Dron is the co-owner of The Auld Alliance, a whisky bar at Rendezvous Hotel, Bras Basah Road that probably has the largest collection of whiskies in South-east Asia. A whisky collector himself, Dron is putting up for auction a selection of 60 whiskies, many of which might be unmatched in provenance and rarity.

“For my personal whisky collection, I have been piecing together old and rare independent bottlings for the last 25 years. These legendary bottles from Silvano Samaroli and the Corti Brothers are definitely one of my proudest achievements,” Dron shares.

We speak with Wilson about this auction and the makings of a collectible whisky.

(Related: New Zealand distillery Auld Whisky is offering a seed-to-sip dram)

Joe Wilson with the signed Samaroli 1966 Bowmore Bouquet.
Joe Wilson with the signed Samaroli 1966 Bowmore Bouquet.

How much are you expecting Emmanuel Dron’s collection to go for in the auction?

Over recent years we have seen a significant increase in demand and value for these iconic Samaroli and Corti bottlings from collectors all over the world. For example, the volume of Samaroli bottles that we’ve encountered has soared by 90 per cent and their hammer price has increased by 75 per cent.

Many of the expressions in Emmanuel Dron’s collection have rarely been seen on the secondary market and have incredible provenance, so we anticipate that they will be in very high demand.

Estimated hammer prices for Samaroli bottle highlights:

  • 1966 Bowmore Bouquet £40,000 – £50,000 hammer price
  • 1967 Laphroaig £30,000 – £50,000 hammer price
  • 1970 Laphroaig £12,000 – £18,000 hammer price
  • 1951 Glen Cawdor (Springbank) £6,000 – £10,000 hammer price
  • 1967 Strathisla £4,000 – £6,000 hammer price

Estimated hammer price for Corti Brothers highlights:

  • 1965 Clynelish £7,000 – £11,000 hammer price

What are some whiskies and distilleries to watch out for that you feel might become highly sought after in the future?

There are multiple bottle traits that tend to give a good indication of collectibility. These include rarity, quality, provenance, limited editions and unusual features, such as a unique label design. Age is traditionally something that collectors look out for, as the older a whisky is the less of it there tends to be.

However, passionate whisky lovers are doing a lot more research and broadening their horizons far beyond age statements when seeking out exceptional whiskies. This is why we take our lot descriptions and other content seriously. We pride ourselves in our significantly more detailed and well-researched descriptions compared to other auctions. Our content experts truly delve into learning about the whiskies so we can share information and interest to customers through informative and engaging videos, articles and dedicated brand collectible guides. All of these are unique to Whisky Auctioneer.

(Related: The Distillers Library is an invite-only space showcasing very rare whiskies)

The Auld Alliance co-owner Emmanuel Dron (left) with Silvano Samaroli.
The Auld Alliance co-owner Emmanuel Dron (left) with Silvano Samaroli.

How do you decide what whiskies go up for auction?

Generally the decision is not in our hands. It depends on the whiskies that our sellers choose to consign with us each month. We have buyers looking to acquire whisky at every price point, so it is only on rare occasions that we decide not to sell something. Having said that, as the business has grown, we are increasingly in a favourable position where we can stage exclusive auctions like Dron’s. These allow us to place a spotlight on specific themes within the industry and its history, and curate the sale around them. One of the joys of whisky is the stories and heritage that accompany each bottle, and being able to tailor an auction in order to communicate these adds a deeper level of engagement that we believe our clients both enjoy and benefit from.

I want to auction my whiskies on Whisky Auctioneer!

We host a variety of different auctions. We have a monthly auction, and also host spotlight and exclusive auctions that tend to be dedicated to a particular distillery or one private collector.

Those looking to sell their whiskies on our platform should get in touch through our website. Sellers will initially be asked to register an account with us, then they will be offered a free valuation of their bottles by one of our experts who will guide them through the process from there. The process is simple and transparent, and Whisky Auctioneer takes a small percentage in commission (5 per cent of the hammer price).

(Related: Rare bottle of scotch whisky fetches record price – S$1.5 million)