When Highland Park released the first of the Valhalla collection it was greeted with wildly conflicting reactions. Many disliked the packaging… and the price… and even the whisky.
I remember my reaction when I first saw Thor in all its glory; I really REALLY disliked it. I also remember my wife’s reaction when she first saw it, she thought it was amazing, cool and contemporary. It got my wife talking about whisky… which was great as she hates the stuff (other than 1979 Balblair!), all I usually get is “not another bottle(s) of that stuff, how much have you spent now!”. Hat’s off to HP for getting a rare positive whisky-response from Mrs S!
From my perspective, as a long-standing Highland Park collector, it was ultimately the packaging which stopped me from opening my wallet to give the moths their annual dusting down. I wasn’t overly keen on the liquid either, but again that’s a purely personal thing, I know many who rate it highly.
Thor stayed on the shelves for some time and secondary market values moved lower than its original £120 retail price. For many months is was a complete flat-liner, dead as the proverbial Dodo.
Three years later and the series finale, Odin, is a resounding retail success selling out in record time in the UK (HP tell me it’s still to be released in certain markets). As a set, is it collectable and what’s happening to secondary market values now the primary market has been all but expunged of the Norse Gods and their ‘big’ packaging?
In terms of a starting point –
Thor = 23,000 bottles released and cost £120.
Loki = 21,000 bottles released and cost £120.
Freya = 19,000 bottles released and cost £140.
Odin = 17,000 bottles released and cost £180.
These are clearly limited but not that limited. If there had been 1,000 bottles it would have sold in a heartbeat. That said, at the other end of the scale, we should also not forget there were 60,000 Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix’s released and they’ve moved from a £50 retail price to £220 – £250 at auction.
The chart below shows the separate indexing of the first three releases.
Following Loki’s release, other than a spike and re-trace for Thor, there was still very little activity. Then the collection took off, or rather Thor did, with some exceptional spikes which defy rationality. Thor peaked at £600 in April 2014, some 400% over its retail price, it’s since settled down to around £310 (although the recent Scotch Whisky Auction saw c£370 per bottle). Unlike some collections/bottles which have a very uniform/smooth growth curve, the Valhalla collection is very spiky with huge peaks and correspondingly large troughs, which, over time should smooth out as supply hardens.
Taken as a pure figure against original RRP’s, the first three releases cost a combined £380. In todays market they’re worth £780, a 105.26% increase in value. With the first UK auction sale of Odin for £360 earlier this month, it looks like these bottles could have legs.
Looking at the first three releases as a combined index since May last year gives a little more indication as to the short term picture.
Cutting out Thor’s previous spikes, the trend-line looks relatively stable with more recent positive movement. I see this growth trend continuing for the set. The rate of growth should also increase as more bottles are consumed and fewer become traded.
The first three releases also haven’t had the classic ‘new release curve’ style volatility (where the first few bottles at auction achieve huge prices which quickly cool as more supply emerges). That suggests demand was far less frantic than for the likes of the Macallan Royal Marriage etc.
One of the reasons I see a continuing up-trend is that we are very definitely seeing classic new release curve action with Odin. The first UK sale achieved double its retail price. The next tranche of bottles on the open market are already at £250 – £270 (there are 14 of them at Just-Whisky right now). This shows demand for the ‘set-completing’ Odin is significantly greater than for the first three. Odin’s fewer bottles released will also contribute to this demand.
In the short term, for those wanting Odin on the secondary market, patience is usually rewarded. We could see huge numbers of bottles hitting auction over the coming months. That in turn should soften prices. A bottle of Thor sold for just £90 as recently as December 2013.
As the Valhalla series has drawn to a close the question becomes, what next? We’ve had the Magnus trilogy and the Valhalla collection. My well-travelled co-director David snapped this on his travels recently. Is this destined to be the next Highland Park trilogy?
I’m sure the marketing team at Edrington could have some fun creating Ymir’s Sweat…
Originally, following Thor’s release, I didn’t think the Valhalla collection would perform to any great degree on the secondary market. It appears this master-class in modern marketing has proved me wrong!