In Conversation With ROBERT SLEIGH

The Macallan M: a unique masterpiece created from the collaboration between three astounding masters of their crafts; Fabien Baron, Founder and iconic Creative Director of Baron & Baron, Bob Dalgarno, Whisky Maker at The Macallan, and Silvio Denz, President and CEO of Lalique.  With one purpose in mind, the partnership brings about arguably the world’s most sophisticated single malt whisky, contained in a beautifully designed and meticulously crafted crystal decanter going for a Sotheby’s Auction on 18 January 2014. Robert Sleigh, Senior Director, Head of Sotheby's Wine Department in Asia told mylifestylenews the expectation for this unique auction......

What does it take to become a professional Auctioneer?
To be a good auctioneer an in-depth knowledge of what you are selling is essential as well as a good grasp of numbers. The ability to “read” people so you can anticipate what might happen is important. There is an aspect of performance to live auctions which adds to the experience and a sense of timing adds to that.

What are the evolution/changes in wine and spirit auction in Asia since you came on board in 2010?
The market has become more sophisticated since we started wine auction here in 2009. Collectors understand more about wine, what it is worth and how to trade it. The market is also slowly diversifying its taste as it becomes more knowledgeable.

As Senior Director Head of Sotheby’s Wine Department in Asia, is there a difference between European buyers and Asia buyers in term of price bidding? How so?
All top collectors are looking for the best wines at the best prices but European and American buyers have more experience with the wine market pre 2008 when many of the top wines were at a lower level and therefore there is more price resistance in the traditional markets. That said the market if fairly global at this point.

Do buyers usually prefer to be anonymous?
Usually, yes. In some rare cases the buyer may make it public such as a casino or restaurant that might like the publicity.

Sotheby’s usually gives us a strong impression with wine auction.  What spurs your interest this time to engage with a high profile spirit auction?
We are delighted to be working with The Macallan on the project. Our clients are looking for the rarest and best quality bottles and so The Macallan M Decanter certainly fits that mould. We are always looking for the opportunity to offer our clients the finest and the rarest.

The historic global launch for M was held earlier last year in Hong Kong on 30 May, during a spectacular 800-person Gala that featured a riveting performance from the famed Hong Kong Sinfonietta. To mark the conception of this pinnacle expression of The Macallan and in celebration of this unique decanter where the peerless spirit is held, four 6-litre imperiale format decanters were unprecedentedly crafted by Lalique for The Macallan. The 6 litre Macallan M decanter is the largest decanter ever made by Lalique.  The making of this decanter posed a major technical challenge for Lalique at their works in Wingen-sur-Moder, Alsace, due to its size. Carrying and hand-blowing this weight of crystal took the decanter to the limit of its breaking point.  Forty decanters were created and destroyed due to imperfections before this flawless decanter was completed.  Each decanter took 17 craftsmen, including two with the prestigious title, “Meilleur Ouvrier de France”, over 50 hours to complete.

Any expectation with this forthcoming auction of The Macallan M-Decanter Constantine?
We expect competitive bidding from a host of collectors around the world. There will be some very late nights and early mornings for some bidders who wish to participate by bidding over the phone or internet.

What are the criteria that determine The Macallan M pre-sale estimate?
Estimating unique items is always the hardest by definition, however in this case we looked at the production costs of the decanter and the value of the whisky. This is combined with the rarity of the opportunity where we need to gauge the demand amongst collectors. Hopefully the charitable element will help bidders dig a little deeper too.

What are the distinctive points of view on the significance of this auction?
This is potentially the most valuable Whisky ever to be sold. In November 2010 Sotheby’s had the honour of auctioning the Cire Perdue Lalique decanter (created to celebrate 150 years of Lalique) which raised USD 460,000 for charity. This is the current world record which could be broken by the Imperiale M Decanter.

Why is this auction important to the entire industry?
When you have an item of this significance, the industry is interested to measure the success which provides a spotlight for the category of Single Malt Whisky as a whole as well

What are the excitements in an auction should be remained in order to stir-up the bidding atmosphere?
For a highly anticipated and unique item such as this we expect enthusiastic bidding form around the world. When you have competing bidders participating live in the auction room against a bank of phone bidders and also bids coming in through the internet you can feel the excitement and anticipation build.

Of the four, one was made for the global launch, archived by The Macallan library and kept in Hong Kong. The second was made for the US introduction and is archived by The Macallan library and kept in Scotland.  The third is committed to a private collection in Asia. The fourth, Constantine, is unique among the 4 imperiales created (all named after Roman Emperors - the others are Caesar, Augustus and Justinian); this is the only one with the autographs of the 3 principals - Lalique, Fabien Baron and Bob Dalgarno - responsible for this extraordinary creation, and will be offered at Sotheby’s auction of Finest and Rarest Wines and The Macallan on Saturday, 18 January 2014 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery at the 5/F of One Pacific Place.

The weight of the decanter is 11.3kg with a height of 700mm. With six litres of Macallan at 5.5kg, the total weight of the decanter with whisky would be 16.8kg. Buyer’s Premium: The standard 22.5% buyer’s premium will be applied to the hammer price, a portion of which, Sotheby’s will donate to the Hong Kong charities benefitting from the sale of this lot. This Property will be offered for sale without reserve. Pre-sale estimates: HK$2,000,000 -HK$4,000,000. All proceeds from the auction will be donated to a host of Hong Kong charities.

How would you describe this unique Imperiale Edition of “M” decanter collaboration?
This collaboration is brought to conception by Creative Director Fabien Baron; brought to life by Lalique’s mastery of crystal; and brought to purpose by The Macallan’s sublime whisky, M is the ultimate reward for the most discerning of whisky connoisseurs. Auction participants will not only be bidding for a good cause, but to partake in an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire among their collection a part of the history of Lalique and The Macallan; to own a truly peerless spirit, held in a priceless imperiale M Decanter that is the result of a unique collaboration of our times.

How would you like to enjoy your whisky and your best whisky moments?
Before dinner 50 / 50 with water or after dinner neat. The best whisky I have ever enjoyed was The Macallan 1945 with a friend who was given it as a gift in the mid-1990s and generously shared it with me over a period before either of us realized the value!

mylifestylenews @ Robert Sleigh

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