A Toast to New York: Christie’s New York Liquor Auction

Christie’s New York ushers in a new era as its first liquor auction in more than eight decades proves to be a smashing success.

By Philippa Ellis


Raise your glass to the future because 2007 ended with a new beginning for Christie’s New York. On December 8, the auction house swept away all lingering effects of prohibition by holding its first liquor auction since 1920, calling to mind images Gatsbyesque parties underneath the night sky.

Since the altering of the State of New York’s regulations regarding liquor auctions, Christie’s International Wine Department announced in mid-November its highly cultivated selection of more than 100 rare spirits, including vintage cognac, armagnac, whiskies, and other spirits from some of the best collections in America to be featured in this historic auction. Part of its Fine Wines and Spirits collection, the pronouncement undoubtedly caused a sensational murmur of excitement to circulate throughout the world of connoisseurs, collectors, and playboys who eagerly awaited New York’s midtown Rockefeller Galleries unveiling of highly sought-after impeccability such as 1811 Cognac, Courvoisier Ertè Collection cognac, Coeur de Lion Calvados, and Chartreuse.

In anticipation of this landmark event for Christie’s New York, the spirits were expected to gather up to $250,000, but in fact surpassed estimates, fetching a total of $304,800. Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council, who lobbied with his organization in support of the new law, was entirely impressed with both the items and the outcome of the auction, stating, “Christie’s put together an outstanding collection of rare distilled spirits for this historic auction.”

However, what else but the best would the famed auction house gather for such a monumental-first? Some of the bottled highlights included: A 1926 Macallan, bottled in 1986 after spending 60 years in a wood barrel, sold for $54,000, becoming the most expensive bottle of scotch ever sold by Christie’s anywhere in the world; A Scottish whisky Superlot, a one time offering of more than 700 individual bottlings of single malts, vatted and blended whiskies, sold for $102,000; and a bottle of straight rye whiskey made from George Washington’s recipe, produced at the George Washington Distillery in 2003 by some of America’s leading distillers, sold for $6,000, with the proceeds going to support the George Washington Orientation and Education Center at Historic Mount Vernon.

With such an impressive collection of spirits, some of the most sought-after bottles piqued the interest of a large audience of international collectors. Similar auctions have been held in Europe over the past decade, and Christie’s New York catapulted itself into a new sphere of sophistication, marking a new epoch for the city that never sleeps. “New York is the global trend-setter, and it’s entirely fitting that the law was changed to permit spirits auctions in the state,” said Cressy. And it appears, with the acution’s success, for Christie’s International Wine Department, the future is filled with a big glass of optimism.