Thanks to a new law passed in Albany last August, NYWinesChristie's will conduct New York's first auction of fine and rare spirits since the enactment of Prohibition. The sale will be on Dec. 8 at the Manhattan galleries of Christie's. More than 100 lots of rare rye whiskey, single-malt Scotch, Calvados, vintage Armagnac and Cognac will be on the block, in conjunction with a year-end sale of fine and rare wine. The spirits selection is expected to fetch in the vicinity of $250,000. Individual estimates range from $300 to $100,000.
New York is the eighth state to legalize spirits auctions, after heavy lobbying. Wine auctions have been an economic boom for the state since their legalization in 1994, and spirits auctions are common in Europe. Christie's announced this sale before Governor Eliot Spitzer's signature had time to dry. No word yet on whether other New York auction houses will follow suit.
Highlights of the upcoming sale include a bottle of The Macallan Rare Reserve 1856, estimated at $16,000 to $24,000, a three-bottle lot of Fine de Bourgogne and Marc de Bourgogne brandies from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, at $1,200 to $1,800, and a bottle of George Washington Distillery Straight Rye Whiskey, at $10,000 to $20,000. A 729-bottle superlot of single-malt Scotch from the Lowlands, Highlands and islands is estimated at $70,000 to $100,000.
Rarity, rather than condition, is the prime criterion in evaluating the worth of a vintage spirit, according to Richard Brierley, head of wine sales at Christie's Americas. "Sometimes, only several hundred bottles of a specific brand were made," he said. "Because of their high alcohol content, spirits rarely run the risk of oxidization, unlike a still wine."
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