When money is no object, what objets are the deep-pocketed acquiring? Enter the latest fetish for the wealthy: a limited-edition liquor bottle that can cost between $150,000 to $3.5 million a pop — C2H5OH not included.
As with, say, a Basquiat, these rarefied decanters come with their own coterie of special dealers, who tend the coveted vessels to discerning collectors demanding the best while maintaining personal anonymity. Among the quarry: a 2010 seashell-inspired “Pasión Azteca” bottle by Tequila Ley, a platinum and white gold bottle adorned with 6,400 diamonds tagged for $3.5 million that just might contain four-year-old añejo tequila; or Yayoi Kusama’s resin-and-copper floral sculpture that cloaks a magnum of Veuve Clicquot’s “La Grande Dame.” The latter, issued in a limited edition of 100, sold out in minutes in 2020, offered through Moët Hennessy’s private sales division. Since then, editioned Kusama bottles have been popping up at galleries and auction houses carrying estimates ranging from $300,000 to $500,000, despite being drained of their original bubbly. Over the past decade, the secondary market has become quite spirited when it comes to such collectibles, as evidenced by a Macallan “M” single malt six-liter Imperiale whiskey, housed in a 28-inch-tall Lalique crystal decanter — the largest Lalique has ever made. Offered in an edition of four, the bottle commanded $628,000 on the block at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong in 2014.
Among the most recent covetables to be offered is the “Bäumer” from Hennessy’s “Editions Rares” collection. The carafe — designed by Place Vendôme jeweler Lorenz Bäumer in collaboration with Baccarat — has been issued in an edition of 75 in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the NBA. The 1.75-liter spherical decanter, topped up with Hennessy Paradis cognac, comes tucked inside an orange leather case embellished with gold markings that evince the lines on a basketball. The hand-faceted bottle comes with two balloon glasses, an arced fusil, and a golden key that opens both the carafe and the coffret, further enhancing its jewel-box design. “Creating a piece on such a large scale increases all the difficulties tenfold,” Bäumer tells Avenue. “Our quest for excellence sometimes has us destroy works that don’t live up to our expectations. I became very excited with using all the knowledge that I gained by cutting precious gems to maximize the play of light within the Baccarat crystal and the cognac — cognac that becomes a precious gem set in crystal.”
As part of its marketing scheme for the basketball-inspired bottles, Hennessy lured a group of private clients who jetted in from New York, San Francisco, Miami, and Europe for the unveiling of the “Bäumer” collectors’ edition at a private dinner at the Amangiri resort in Utah. Within minutes, five of the $150,000 limited-edition bottles were sold, followed by a very expensive toast. Talk about a slam dunk.