How much would you pay for a 100-year-old whiskey?

By Mike Pomranz
Updated November 29, 2018
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Credit: GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

How much do you love whiskey? Would you say that you love it so much that, if you sensed the government was going to take it away from you, you would build a secret vault behind a bookcase in your house to make sure that no one could touch it for almost a century? That’s the extent to which businessman and banker Jean-Baptiste Leonis loved booze. But someone has finally found his beloved whiskies… Christie’s Auction House. And if you want a piece of Leonis's rare, pre-prohibition stash, you can bid on them next Friday.

Over 40 cases of unopened, bonded whiskey were contained in Leonis’s collection including "multiple cases of pint bottles of Hermitage whiskey distilled in 1914 and Old Crow distilled in 1912." Christie’s further explains, "Pre-Prohibition is arguably the area of the market that carries the highest level of interest for collectors. The importance of these pre-1920 bottles lies in the insight they offer into a unique time in American history and culture." And the story of how these ended up under the hammer is truly fascinating.

"Seeing the rise of prohibition, JB built hidden prohibition vault rooms into his two new residential properties," the Christie’s catalog explains. "The prohibition vault rooms were each constructed behind book cases which open to reveal a bank vault door and combination lock. JB could easily get the doors as a banker and sneak them into the final construction." The bottles were apparently discovered upon the death of Leonis’s grandson in 2017 "stored in a mercantile inventory style in each of the prohibition vault rooms." The auction house adds, "The pre-prohibition spirits lay untouched for over a century. The Leonis collection is a legacy of an American original."

As for how much you can expect to pay, most of the aforementioned Hermitage lots are expected to go for between $7,000 to $9,500. It sounds like a bargain when you keep in mind that a bottle of The Macallan Scotch whiskey from 1926 just sold at a Christie’s auction in London for over $1.5 million.