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New business aims to offer cash alternative to whisky auctions

Published: May 17, 2017
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With the recent surge of interest in whisky, it’s no surprise that the secondary market has also exploded, with people taking to auction sites to buy and sell whisky in their ­thousands.

One company hoping to offer ­something a little different is a ­Glasgow-based start up run by ­businessman John McIlvogue, which buys whisky collections for cash.

He said: “It’s kind of like We Buy Any Car, except for whisky. It’s called Whisky Buyers but we very nearly called it We Buy Any Dram.”

The brainchild of McIlvogue, the company was launched in September last year when he realised there wasn’t really anything else like it on the market, he said: “We began offering a ­service whereby we would buy ­anything from a single bottle to a life-time’s collection of whisky, ­giving people instant cash.

"So rather than having to wait and go through ­auctions, they can come to us and we will offer them a good price and pay them straight away.”

A collector of Springbank himself, McIlvogue said the idea came to him after he found himself waiting for money to come back from a few sales he’d recently made at auction.

John's own collection of rare Sprinbank whiskies. Picture: SM

He said: “I’d tried to sell a couple of whiskies and the time between the bottles going into the auction and the time of the money getting paid out was quite significant, it was anything up to six or seven weeks.

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“It got me thinking that there must be people sitting there with ­collections of whisky, maybe people who have never been to an auction before and don’t know the auction process, and they just want to turn it into ­money right away.

“My theory was that if you are ­sitting with something that should be an appreciating asset and you want to sell it, then you probably need the money, and having that access to instant cash would be quite appealing to a lot of people. That’s proven true.”

The entrepreneur says he’s been bowled over by the popularity of the new company, with more than 2000 bottles bought.

McIlvogue said that the quirky ­bottles interest him, rather than the obviously expensive ones.

He said: “The stuff that I find most interesting is the kind of random things like a single malt bottled for Alex Ferguson winning a certain amount of league games and ­another one for Rangers, that’s been bottled for them winning 50 league titles.

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“It’s this kind of stuff that catches the eye, especially as some of these feats will never be repeated.”

One such bottle which hit the ­headlines earlier this year was a 26-year-old Glendronach, signed by Donald Trump, for the launch of his golf course in Aberdeen, which ­McIlvogue sold at McTear’s Auctioneers in Glasgow.

He said: “We bought the bottle for about £1500. Before we sold ours, there had been a couple of bottles put through some auction houses but I think the timing was perfect for us (with Trump’s presidential race).

“We put it in to McTears and they had a lot of press. Subsequently it sold for £6000, which was a record-breaking amount of money for that bottle.”

The Glasgow-based businessman said that the firm’s website, www.whiskybuyers.co.uk, is easy to understand – anyone can submit anything from a single bottle to a huge collection for appraisal, he added: “All you do is submit a picture of the bottle or the collections that you’ve got, you type in a description or name and we come back to you with an offer.”

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McIlvogue said that the final figure is calculated using previous auction results, the rarity of the bottle, and its future value, meaning the customer usually gets the price they would at auction, minus the fees and, he added, “the risk of not getting what they hope for at auction”.

John McIlvogue with part of the collection he has amassed since starting Whisky Buyers

Glasgow-based company Whisky Buyers offers instant cash alternative to selling rare bottles at auction, finds Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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