Weekly Auction Watch 17th June 2015

The very first distillery ‘rank’ for collectors/investors was the quarter one 2010 premier of the, as was, Whisky Highland Index. It looked like this – not great but it did the job!

The very first Whisky Highland Index - March 2010
The very first Whisky Highland Index – March 2010

The reason for sharing this utterly out of date data is not one of nostalgia, it’s all to do with Highland Park. The Orkney heavyweight was number three in the index, literally 0.05 of a point behind Ardbeg and yielding number one place to the might of The Macallan. At the time, massive demand was driving Highland Park to an impressive top three position.

When the final Whisky Highland Index was published (Before RW101 took the reins) exactly four years later, Highland Park had slumped to number 17. The top spot remained occupied by the same Spey-banker but positions two and three were now taken by silent icons Port Ellen and Brora. Time, trends and demand had changed, leaving Highland Park out in the cold.

With the recent separation of the distillery rankings into the RW101 collectors index and investors index (collectors index in effect measures overall volumes and the investors index measures value changes), Highland Park remains heavily traded sitting at number six in the collectors index. The Investors Index tells a different story as the brand languishes in 44th place, quite surprising for such an iconic distillery. Even more surprising is that Highland Park has slipped 11 places since the end of 2014 when they occupied 33rd position. There are various reasons for the significant changes, but now’s not the time to have that debate.

Why such HP sauce related detail?

They had an absolute belter of an auction at the recent Scotch Whisky Auctions (SWA) sale. Putting aside the usual massively traded bottles such as Freya and co, the vast majority of the rarer bottles performed exceptionally.

Older vintage Highland Park bottles excel.
Older vintage Highland Park bottles excel.

The 1967 vintage release fetched £500 for the first time ever, exceeding its previous record by £40. Two 1973 vintages hit new highs as the 30 year old (cask 11207) held £540, up from just £160 in 2010, and the Travel Retail 37 year old achieved £820.

From memory, when Highland Park released the final Ambassador’s Cask that was around the time I really stopped collecting the brand so it was great to see the first release perform so well. A bottle of the first Ambassador’s Cask sold for £620; more than doubling its previous result.

Another one of the lovely old single cask releases (cask #45, 528 bottles, 1984 vintage) achieved £440, massively outstripping its previous best of £185.

It wasn’t just OB’s which took the limelight, a bottle of the Dragon 1961 vintage sailed up to £1,000, the first time this bottle’s seen the heady heights of four figures.

Record price breaking Highland Park rarities
Record price breaking Highland Park rarities

The surprise low-point was a bottle of the ultra-rare (just 89 bottles) Queen of the South which sold for £280. This saw £410 last October and even £275 in 2008 just after its release.

On the other side of the coin, almost in rebellion to Highland Park’s frothy market antics, Balvenie had a relatively tough time. Over-supply didn’t appear to be to blame either; however, most bottles (especially the Tun 1401’s) were significantly off their recent pace… A sign of things to come? Is the worm turning for golden balls-venie?

Silent distilleries saw plenty of action with new record prices for many bottles sold.

Rosebank 25
Rosebank 25
PE Feis 2008
PE Feis 2008

The big-bottle was a Port Ellen 2008 Feis Ile which sailed through its previous best to finish on £3,300. Another official release record from drinks behemoth Diageo was the £580 paid (each) for brace of Rosebank 25 year olds. Great yields against an original retail price of £125.

In many cases Indie bottles from silent stills took recent good form to a new level. The Glenugie 1977 Oloroso cask from Signatory went for £300; an incredible £50 took this in 2011. Douglas Laing’s 1979 22 year old Lochside sold for £175, almost doubling its 2012 price of £90. Gordon and MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice bottles saw some good action when a 1969 Convalmore sold for £270 and a 1981 North Port achieved £165, both new all-time highs.

Independent bottles from  silent distilleries remain on form
Independent bottles from silent distilleries remain on form

Finishing this week back in the land of the living and Dalmore’s 1981 Matusalem Sherry Finesse sold for an amazing £1,350. That’s almost £1,000 ahead of its relatively recent prices. The infrequently mentioned Dalwhinnie saw the 1973 29 year old Special Release from 2003 sell for £270, a clear £200 (or 286%) ahead of its paltry 2009 price of just £70.

Impressive performances from older Dalmore and Dalwhinnie bottles
Impressive performances from older Dalmore and Dalwhinnie bottles

Buoyancy persists in general as we head into the traditionally more challenging peak summer months.

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

All images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

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