Perfecting your Whisky Collection
For the attention of budding collectors, and deeply rooted ones, too: this is one to mark on your calendar if you hadn’t already. Whisky Auctioneer are setting up to hold a grand whisky auction in two parts in the early months of this new decade. February will hold part I, April will hold part II.
What is going to be auctioned? Why, only ‘The Perfect Collection’ of whisky. It’ll be a chance to pick up some legendary bottles, perhaps to perfect your own collection. Read on if your interest is piqued.
Almost 4,000 Whiskies
Mr. Richard Gooding was an enthusiast par excellence. A talented administrator and generous philanthropist, he oversaw the facility his Grandfather had founded in Colorado until 1988. But what do you do after you when you hand over the reigns to the mighty Pepsico bottling plant? Mr. Gooding had no hesitation about the answer to that – and over the next two decades he devoted himself to seeking out, tracking down and carrying off the finest bottles of whisky, to his collection that was quickly mounting in Colorado. The search for fine whisky can take a person all over the world, (and so it did) but more often than not, Mr. Gooding’s quest had him and his friend and pilot Kirk flying together over the Atlantic to Scotland and Ireland.
His single-minded devotion to the task at hand was awesome. Tirelessly travelling to distilleries, distributors and auction houses – eyes always open for the right bottles to send home. Small wonder that after those years of collecting, his collection has acquired the sobriquet ‘Perfect’. It was not the largest, or overall most valuable collection in the world – but it had the nature of the collector evident in every detail, and some sections had truly become perfect. It has one of the most complete lineups of classic Bowmore, Springbank and Macallan bottles (including the legendary 1926 Adami).
Mr Gooding sadly died in 2014 after an 11 year struggle with melanoma. The fate of his collection will now be decided in two auctions hosted by Whisky Auctioneer, on the 7th of February and the 10th of April this year.
The Perfect Collection consists of some 3,900 various bottles. A great many are Scotch whisky, but there is a good helping of Irish, American and Japanese as well. This will be the first time that such a marvellous and complete collection goes under the hammer – each bottle individually auctioned on its own merits. Some of these bottles could easily break price records previously set in whisky auctions – this really is a sale of exceptional provenance. Auctions are unpredictable, of course. With an offering of this size, there will be classic collectors’ bottles that might end up going for a more sensitive price.
The art of whisky collecting is self-perpetuating. As this family of bottles divides up and scatters around the globe, each bottle may become a fertile seed from which new collections are born. Honestly, sometimes you can find that a whisky collection has sprouted up in your house almost without warning. Don’t worry if this happens to you. Whisky collecting is a noble art, preserving some of the most beautiful bottles of one generation to be viewed, and maybe even drunk, by another. If you are a collector of whisky, let me take a few lines to assure you that you’re in illustrious company.
Other Notable Collections
The Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection (Edinburgh, UK) – Most Famous
One of the world’s most famous collections of Scotch Whisky, and certainly the most visited, Mr. Vidiz’s collection now resides in the heart of Edinburgh’s Scotch Whisky Experience, a living example of the Brazilian truism ‘The good son returns home’.
Starting in 1970, Mr. Vidiz collected like a man possessed – and as a result his collection is a wonderful slice through the state of the Scotch whisky industry in the late 20th century. Rare bottles, collectible bottles and off the shelf regular bottles all rub shoulders here, leaving no room for snobbery or elitism.
Mr. Vidiz knew he wouldn’t be able to take care of his collection forever, and he didn’t want it to be split apart, so in 2006 he sold the entire set to Diageo, on the agreement that the whiskies would return home to Scotland and that the sum of the transaction would not be disclosed. A fine example of collecting in its purest form. And a great gift that it can be visited by anyone with an hour to spare in Edinburgh.
Nguyen Dinh Tuan Viet’s Collection – Most Valuable
Some collections go for scale, and some decide to trim away all the extraneous bits and focus on prestige above all. Mr. Nguyen Dinh Tuan Viet of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has a comparatively petite collection of 535 bottles, but each bottle had to fight for its position in there. He’s been collecting for 20 years, spending his free moments finding the very best bottles the world has to offer. As a result, Mr Viet’s collection has (as of November 2019) claimed the Guinness world record for being the most valuable collection of whisky / whiskey anywhere: an estimated value of just over £10m, without including auction houses’ buyers premiums.
But this collection won’t be seen in auction rooms anytime soon. Mr Viet is proud of his achievement and intends to continue adding to his collection. One might expect him to put in a bid for the Macallan 1926 that’s to be auctioned in February, but then again; he might not. After all, he’s already got three.
Zagatti Collection 2014 bought by SWI – Most Diverse
Valentino Zagatti needed something to distract him from his cravings when he quit smoking in 1960 – and collecting the most diverse set of alcoholic spirits in the world became his new driving obsession. This naturally morphed into a particular fondness for collecting whisky, of all kinds. Almost 3,000 bottles were in his collection in 2014, 97% of which were Scotch, and about 84% of THOSE were single malts. The collection includes high-status bottles, bottles produced during the second world war, 4 bottles from the almost mythical Parkmore distillery (rumoured to have produced awful whisky), and what may be the oldest bottle of Scotch in the world. The handwritten label hasn’t survived well, and the identity of the oldest whisky is a complete mystery – all that is known is that it was bottled in 1843, and that it was a wedding gift from father to daughter a long, long time ago.
Mr Zagatti is no longer the owner of this collection – he sold his passion project of 60 years to Scotch Whisky International, a group of investors in the Netherlands. Part of the agreement was that the collection would be properly exhibited for at least 10 years – and so it has been. You can visit the collection, just outside of Amsterdam.
As for Mr Zagatti: what is he going to do now that his collection has been sold? The 85 year old has gone straight back to collecting, and the bottles are already piling up again. You can’t break the habit of 6 decades so easily.
Alfredo Gonçalves ‘Whisky & Co’ collection – World’s Largest
On a quieter corner near Lisbon’s old Entrecampos station, there is the unassuming little shop front of ‘Whisky and Co’, owned and run by Mr. Alfredo Gonçalves. Hidden here, though, is one of the wonders of the whisky world: the world’s largest collection, hands down. The previous entries have all been VERY large collections. 4,000 bottles of whisky is a huge number by anyone’s standards, but it can’t hold a candle to what’s hiding in the back section of Whisky & Co.
The record-breaking number of bottles officially stands at 10,500, but here’s the thing; Guinness haven’t updated this record since 2005. A whisky collector like Mr. Gonçalves isn’t going to stop collecting just because you give him an award that proves he has more than anyone else in the world. Nor did he. Though it’s not reflected in Guiness’ records, Whisky & Co now shelters over 13,000 bottles – a frankly astonishing number. They’re also rather beautiful when they all get together.
The whisky collection was seeded by the 1,000 or so bottles that Mr. Gonçalves was able to repatriate to Portugal after the de-colonisation of Angola in 1975. He’d started collecting in 1950, however, so a good number were lost at that time. Now 89, Mr. Gonçalves has handed over care for his shop and his whisky to his enthusiastic children, but he still visits regularly. For this family, these whiskies are a generational affair.
A Collection of Collections
Collecting is one of those innate drives that can give so much pleasure. Nobody knows when the trigger will be switched on, when the desire to acquire something new multiplies and becomes the desire to acquire every possible instance of that thing. The thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of exhibiting your quarry is more intoxicating than the liquid in the bottle. It’s a pleasure that has no end, either – there will always be bottles to collect and gaps to fill.
The collectors you read about today took joy from what they have or had accomplished, and their collections have gone on to inspire new collectors to do the same.
If you love whisky, but are new to collecting – maybe take a look at what some of these auctions have to offer. What is our planet if not a magnificent collection of collections? There’s still space for a few more awe-inspiring collections in the world.