By Kristy Dorsey

Shareholders who backed a £200,000 crowdfunding campaign by Whisky Hammer have been bought out in a multi-million-pound deal that sees Hong Kong’s Rare Whisky Holdings take a 49 per cent stake in the Scottish online auction site.

According to Daniel Milne, who set up Whisky Hammer in 2016 with his brother Craig, the agreement creates a “clean” ownership structure going forward and paves the way for global expansion following revenue growth of 70% last year. Retail investors who participated in the 2019 Crowdcube fundraising – proceeds of which were used to help pay for a new purpose-built facility in Aberdeenshire – received a 2.6x return on their investment.

“This is a very exciting time for our business,” Mr Milne said.

“The transaction signifies an important bond with our new Asian partner that will rapidly bring the group to the next phase of growth, and we are incredibly excited about what lies ahead. In addition, we are delighted to have generated a substantial return for our crowdfunding investors that helped us build the business to where it is today.”

HeraldScotland:

The Rare Whisky Holdings investment group is the same management team behind the Platinum Whisky Investment Fund, the first private equity fund in the world to focus on rare single-malt whiskies. Launched in 2014, the fund raised an initial $12 million and is now in the final stage of winding down, exiting at more than $24m.

The fund has used the Whisky Hammer platform during the past several years to sell off its holdings. This led to initial meetings in December 2020 that culminated in the deal announced today.

Rare Whisky Holdings also owns the Glenor Cask Company, which holds 1,000 casks of maturing single malt, blended and grain whiskies. Registered members of Whisky Hammer and its sister business, Still Spirit, will receive access to these in the coming years.

“There are very, very clear synergies there that we can work on together in the future,” Mr Milne said. “The future potential is the bit that excites us the most.”

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Whisky Hammer runs monthly auctions for everyday drams to rarer, highly sought-after varieties. Each run for a nine-day period, from Friday to Sunday, allowing members around the world to log in and bid.

The lots are sold on behalf of private sellers such as whisky traders and those who have inherited collections. Whisky Hammer receives the goods at headquarters in Udny, Aberdeenshire, where it is valued, photographed and prepared for sale. The company then distributes the spirits to successful bidders, and transfers funds to the sellers.

The auctions are now selling more than £1m per month, and recently included the 31-year-old Black Bowmore “DB5” collaboration with Aston Martin, which was distilled in 1964 and sold for a hammer price of £81,000 in March.

Rickesh Kishnani, co-founder of Rare Whisky Holdings, welcomed the new partnership.

HeraldScotland: Li Hua Tan and Rickesh Kishnani, co-founders of Rare Whisky HoldingsLi Hua Tan and Rickesh Kishnani, co-founders of Rare Whisky Holdings

“Our investment group is proud to join the Milne family business and help with their expansion to Asia, where the demand for whisky continues to grow at a rapid pace,” he said. “We are also excited to use this new partnership to provide Whisky Hammer and Still Spirit members with exclusive access to our collection of aged casks.”

Neither of the Milne brothers come from a professional background in the whisky industry. Danial is a chartered accountant who worked in the oil and gas industry, while Craig is a former skipper of a North Sea trawler.

But having grown up in Macduff near the famous Speyside whisky region, both had accumulated their own collections prior to setting up Whisky Hammer. They were inspired to start the business after going online to value their collections and discovering other whisky auction sites, believing that they could do it “a little bit better”.

Legal support for the transaction was provided by Goodwin Proctor on behalf of Rare Whisky Holdings, and Brodies on behalf of Whisky Hammer.