Auctions are a great place to secure older, rare and limited whisky bottlings that may otherwise be really difficult to find.  Often auction feature whiskies that are decades old and quite valuable. Although most of the auctions tend to be quite competitive you will find the opportunity to secure a bargain if you persevere. It’s quite easy to make mistakes in the heat of the moment so keep reading or some auction tips on how to keep safe and make the right decisions.


My humble beginnings….

Auctions became a reality for me after a recent trip to the Macallan Distillery where I picked up a Macallan Edition 5 limited edition bottle. At the time I purchased, these were limited to one per customer and retailed for £95. As with most limited edition Macallan series, it has become popular to collect and you will always see plenty of this series changing hands on the auction websites due to its affordability.

Macallan Edition Number 5

Tips for Whisky Auctions

I’m not going to cover how auction websites work in general, I’m sure many of you have been on eBay before but if not I’m sure you can track down a guide somewhere on the internet that will take you through the basics.

Registration Costs

The first thing you’ll notice is you can browse current and past auctions but you can’t place any bids until you’ve set up your account properly and paid the registration fee. I’ve joined a few sites recently and the registration fees average about £5 or $6.50 (at the current exchange rate in Feb 2020). This is to prevent spam accounts being set up that may mess with the bidding and provides an age check. It’s a bit annoying when you first join the websites but it’s worth it to ensure the auctions remain clean.

Auction Success Fees

You can expect to pay around 10% on top of the winning bid amount. It is really important to keep this in mind when bidding as shipping needs to be considered as well. Recently, I have seen plenty of people bidding around the retail price which simply means, once success fees and shipping have been factored in they could have bought it cheaper on Amazon or in a local supermarket! You don’t pay any VAT on your final bid amount but all the additional fees charged by the auction house will have VAT at 20% added on.

Shipping & Storage

Shipping varies depending on the service used. It’s vital a quality shipper is used with such a delicate cargo,  expect to pay around £10 or $13 for the first bottle with subsequent bottles slightly cheaper. I wanted to highlight this point as so you might consider buying a few bottles at auction to make it worthwhile or use a storage option. 

Some auction sites offer storage options that are either free or involve a low fee for a limited period to cover insurance. This allows a few bottles to be collected up and sent as one shipment which works out cheaper.

If you’re making a pure investment in Whisky then it might be worthwhile to consider the storage options the auction houses offer. Whisky can be stored safely under the correct light and temperature conditions over the long term. Normally insurance will be included to cover you for the hammer price you paid – this is probably a cheaper option than trying to insure your Whisky collection at home or in a storage unit.

For further storage and shipping information check out the table below.

Know your Whisky

Make sure you do some research before getting involved in any auction. It’s important to find background information to ascertain previous/current pricing, production numbers, and anything else that could help. Always check the packaging carefully by reviewing the supplied images on the listing page as any small damage, dents. label peel or scratches will likely reduce the value that should be paid for a particular bottle. The auction houses are trained to look for fakes, damaged seals and corks as well as fill levels but if any bottles slip through (often a particular auction lists 7-10k bottles) you don’t want to end up with them!

Bid with your Head!

Don’t get too attached to any single bottle. It’s tempting (I’ve done it!) to become attached to a bottle and end up overpaying as you get lost in the last few moments of the auction with a frenzy of activity. Make sure you note the maximum price you’re willing to pay before you get involved bidding, walk away if the price exceeds hits this level.

The auction ends when certain criteria are hit and this varies from site to site, make sure you familiarise yourself with this before you start bidding. One of the problems with all auctions is snipers, placing bets right at the end. To combat this, most auction sites stagger the conclusion of their auctions.  This could be allowing the software to choose a random end time (which can run 1-3 hours past the advertised end) or perhaps stopping the auction when no bids have been placed on any lots for the previous 5 minutes.

I put together a basic comparison table of some of the costs you would expect when using popular auction sites. I have chosen 3 of the main players in this market to compare.


Auction Fee Comparison Table


Success Fee




Shipping Rates

£10.80 per bottle  

£4.80 per additional bottle  

 £9.00 per bottle  

£2.00 per additional bottle  

£12.00 per bottle  

£2.00 per additional bottle  

Storage Options

12 Months Free

Insurance charged @ 3%

3 Months free

3 Months free

Selling Fee

 £5 per bottle 

 5% Hammer Price

£3 Per Lot

5% Hammer Price

£5 Per Bottle

Reserve Fee

£10 per bottle 

£4 per lot

£7.50 per bottle


A Bottle I Recently Won at Auction!

I recently won a Macallan Concept 2 on Scotch Whisky Auctions, this is a travel retail exclusive which you won’t be able to find in local retail stores. This bottle was exceptionally well packaged giving me the confidence to buy again in the future, have a look at the images and I’m sure you’ll agree. I bought the Concept 1 last year so it was a logical addition to my collection!

Stay Safe and Have Fun

I’m am hoping this guide has given you a few helpful hints to get started. Whisky auctions are lots of fun but make sure you’ve done your research and always keep your wits about you – oh, and one more thing, don’t get involved in auctions after a few drams!

If you have any interesting auction stories to share then please drop a comment in the box below.