Auction Watch – 15th January 2015

Kicking off January’s whisky sales, Scotch Whisky Auctions saw a buoyant start to 2015 for many bottles.

As was common for many distilleries, Ardbeg values faltered at the end of 2014 amid ever increasing supply. It was pleasing to see something of a return to form for many of the relatively voluminous limited releases. New records were established for Alligator Committee at £250, ‘Almost There’ at £150 and Supernova Stellar at £270.

Record Values for Ardbeg
Record Values for Ardbeg

Again, following a fairly flat trading period, Brora values started to pick up yet again. The 2008 release 25 year old achieved a new record £680 and the 2010 30 year old release hit £700. The interesting thing to note about bottles from Brora is theBrora 2008 25 yo Brora 2010 30 year oldnumber of bottles being sold on the open market is declining in relation to the broader market increases…. Are they being hoarded or are they being drunk? If they’re being hoarded there’s always a risk that the market becomes flooded in the future pushing prices back.

Managers Drams in general had a good auction with many seeing new record prices – £340 took the Aberfeldy and £155 took the Mannochmore (with a good fill level). An index showing the value of a full set of managers Drams peaked at 157.14 in June 2013 (Index start was 100 on the 31st Dec 2008). Latterly the set declined 23.46% to a 3 year low of 120.27 in October 2014 before recovering slightly to see a current value of 126.78.

A wide variety of Silent Stills showed good momentum – Many bottles achieved record prices.

Ignoring bottles from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for a moment, Gordon and MacPhail led the way from an independent bottlers perspective. Many Connoisseurs Choice bottles attracted stiff competition. Millburn 1976/2004 sold for £175 up from its previous best of £140 in September 2014. Rosebank 1983/1995 sold for £170 up from £130 in July 2014. St Magdalene 1981/1997 achieved £200 up from £110 in May 2014. The same vintage St Magdalene but bottled in 1999 achieved £180 up from £155 in September 2014. Staying with Gordon and MacPhail but moving to the Rare & Old series rather than Connoisseurs Choice, a 1975/2008 Convalmore hit £310 up from £230 in November 2013.

Impressive Silent Stills records from other bottlers included – Douglas Laings Rosebank Old Malt Cask 1974 30 year old hit an impressive £490, up from £280 in June 2014. A Duncan Taylor bottled 1981 26 year old Glenesk achieved £390 more than doubling its previous sale of £140 in 2012. Murray McDavids St Magdalene 1982 24 year old sold for £190 just passing its previous best of £180 in September 2014 and significantly ahead of it £65 low in 2011.

Moving back to the aforementioned Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) bottles – SMWS have seen something of a momentous change in their frequency of appearance at auction.

The chart below shows the number of bottles sold at auction in the UK over a 5 year period from 2010 to 2014. By means of comparison, Gordon and Macphail have also been included. While the overall number of bottles seen from Gordon and MacPhail remains significantly ahead of SMWS (1515 bottles sold in 2014 compared to 782 from SMWS), the rate of increase from SMWS is staggering at 1,121.88% compared to just 448.91% from G&M. As bottles from SMWS become more widely recognised could now be the time to pick up any remaining bargains from certain distilleries?

SMWS vs G&M Volume Analysis
SMWS vs G&M Volume Analysis

More research is needed to see which indie bottler has shown the most rapid growth from a volume perspective… and also crucially from a value perspective. There’ll be another time for that.

Back to some of the SMWS star performers – Rosebank was popular with a bottle from cask 25.69 (1991 23 year old yielding just 35 bottles) hitting £350. A bottle of Bowmore from cask 3.222 (a 13 year old) achieved a new high of £110.

Rosebank SMWS 25.69. Just 35 Bottles Released
Rosebank SMWS 25.69. Just 35 Bottles Released

A bottle of 33.64 (a 9 year old Ardbeg) sold for £165 showing that relative youngsters should not be discounted. Two bottles from cask 99.8 (Glenugie 24 year old) hit £400 (these were just £95 in 2010). Along with a good array from open distilleries there was strong representation from many silent stills with St Magdalene, Millburn, Convalmore and Glen Albyn in the mix.

With too many other records to mention, the continuation of another key trend was prominent – Older vintages remain hugely sought after, almost irrespective of distillery. A bottle of Linkwood 1946 by G&M sold for £500, way ahead of its £280 low in 2010.

While the auction was generally buoyant, polarisation continued with less sought after collectables almost disappearing into a mire of cast aside liquid and crystallised losses. One of the best examples was a Signatory bottled Glenkinchie 1978 19 year old which sold for £80. Its previous sale was £200 just last year. Polarisation in Extremes.

Following a more general stabilisation (or a fall in many cases for many distilleries) towards the last quarter of 2014, early 2015 signs look positive.

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy.

Andy

Photo’s courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

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