Smart Shopper/Dumb Shopper

I saw a funny thing the other day. Or perhaps it was a scary thing: the Bonham’s auction results. I’m not going to beat up on Bonham’s this time, but the high bidders are going to take a hit. Scotch, and more recently, American whiskey prices are climbing for some reasons that are legitimate, and others that involve speculation and idiocy. I see a lot of bottles sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars and prices from store to store vary a lot. Now if you can save five bucks on Jack Daniel’s by driving 10 miles, you probably won’t bother; but if you’re searching for a 1955 Glen Ambrosia , then perhaps you should sniff the air before dropping your money like a teenager in Tijuana.
I’ve collected some pretty bad rookie mistakes from the recent Bonham’s, New York auction. Keep in mind that auction or private sale prices should always be less than retail. Note: European VAT removed.
Macallan Anniversary 25 year old

Retail: $1099 – Holiday Wine Cellar
Bonhams: $1428
Balvenie 1971- 33 year old

Retail: $720 –
Bonhams: $833
Macallan Select Reserve
1946- 52 year old

Retail: $4016 – Lion’s Whisky
Bonham’s: $7735
Glen Grant 1958- 49 year old

Retail: $435 – Arkwrights
Bonhams: $773
Springbank 25 yr- Millennium

Retail: $1002 –  The Whisky Exchange
Bonham’s: $1011
Bowmore Bicentenary 1964
Retail: $1596 – John Gordons Wine
Bonham’s: $3094
Mind you it did not take me long to find the retail prices.  The internet is a marvelous thing.  The world is interconnected, so use it.  I’m not sure how many specialized drink “searchers” there are out there, but my friends and I use, and spring for the Pro version.  Search anywhere in the world immediately.  Cripes, this sounds like an ad but it’s not.  If you buy whisky and value your money, use it or something like it.
• For Americans, some of the big shops like The Whisky Exchange, Royal Mile, Master of Malt, and WhiskyBase will remove the 17% VAT and ship overseas.  Some smaller shops won’t remove VAT or won’t accept credit cards.  Also, bottles are 50mL smaller in Europe than the US.  It’s a 7% penalty but often worth it.
• Don’t assume that a shop with traditionally bad prices won’t have good deals.  The whisky shop near my home has some prices that make me laugh, except when finds a bottle that’s the best price in the world.  That makes me happy.
• If an online shop lists in checkout that they are out of stock and can restock in 3 days, then forget about it.  They’ll never get that Laphroaig 40 in stock again, no matter what they say.
• The best gauge in the world for current whisky prices is  Their “past auctions” search is difficult to use but the data is golden.
Please, please, please don’t be an idiot and drive up prices; unless of course it’s with a bottle I’m trying to sell myself.  In fact I think I might auction off that Macallan 1946 I’ve been sitting on for a long time.  I just hope that Lion’s Whisky can ship it to Bonham’s before the next auction starts.

2 thoughts on “Smart Shopper/Dumb Shopper”

  1. Your reporting is quite inaccurate yet you speak with such authority. Have you checked every site you claim offers the prices so much cheaper than auction to verify the info you claim wine-search gives you???
    You haven’t. I have. Your info is wrong. Be honest and write a corrected version and actually do the research and not just write #’s some site is giving you without confirming first. Some places you claim the bottles don’t even sell them.
    I’m all for bashing high auction prices but in this instance your research is wrong.

  2. Custard,

    Every site, yes. The locations were all verified before print except for The Whisky Exchange whose inventory is incredibly trustworthy. I do believe that you have done your research too, but just a bit too late. Many of these were likely purchased since I did the research and posted to the world items that already had high search visibility thanks to Bonham’s. Lucky them. I briefly toyed with buying a few myself, but alas, Mrs. Smith suggested less malty purposes for our non-expendable income. There were even more verified bottles that weren’t printed because I had enough to make a point, that being that uniformed bidders are buying without doing their homework.

    If it’s any consolation to the bidding community, the winner of the old dumpy Glendronach got a great deal.

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