Weekly Auction Watch – 4th Jan 2015

Scotch Whisky Auctions opened 2016’s early auction scene with a bang yesterday. The bang was more of a resounding punch to the nose than a fizz-popping celebratory New Year firework – especially for famed north-east highland distillery, Dalmore.

2012 saw the release of the Dalmore Constellation Collection, a vertical vintage set of twenty-one bottles. Single casks, lavish (but not silly) packaging, in some cases ultra-limited numbers of bottles with many being among the very best quality drams one could ever have the pleasure of drinking.

Constellation Collection
A full 21 bottle salute

For the first time since their launch, a full set of Constellations hit the open market. It appears the original retail price of £158,000 was already deemed an improbable target by the seller whose reserve prices added up to £111,000 for the full set. Taking off 10% auctioneers commission and VAT would leave £97,680 for the vendor. That’s already a 38.18% loss over RRP.

A hypothetical buyers bargain? Surely all twenty-one bottles would be taken so set number 6 was kept in-tact? That was far from reality as Constellations became constipated and the nine most expensive bottles failed to move through the auction.

Just twelve bottles saw the hammer fall as the reserve was hit. They were also the lower value bottles and only yielded £27,200 in terms of total hammer price (£23,936 to the vendor after commission and VAT). The original RRP of these twelve bottles was £40,500 so that’s a loss of 40.90%.

Clearly we have no idea why the owner wanted to sell; these could have been an unwanted gift or a lavish celebratory dram for a wedding which never happened… or 1001 other reasons.

If… IF, these were bought as an investment, this has to be listed as the biggest whisky auctioneering failure since the Bowmore 1957 54 year old crashed and burned at Bonhams in 2012. Same as the Dalmore Paterson Collection (whatever happened to that?), the price of a Constellation set, even a bottle, removes most drinkers from the market and, from what we’ve seen here, also doesn’t look like an investment; that purely leaves the collectors. When a bottle/collection targets one buyer group and ignores the rest, it’s doomed to a fate like this when it finally sees the light of auction.

Imagine buying a theoretical set of bottles for £158,000 as an investment and selling what you could for just £27,200. Ouch doesn’t even come close.

Away from Constellations and Dalmore fared better. The first bottle of the 2015 release fifteen year old Custodians bottle achieved £350, way over its retail price of £100.

Balvenie DCS CompendiumStaying with the vintage vertical concept, Balvenie saw the youngest of its recent DCS Compendium collection sell for more than its original retail price. One of 218 bottles of the 9 year old sold for £520, some 30% ahead of its £400 original retail price.

History shows us, January’s not the best month to sell one’s crown jewels from a whisky perspective; interest and prices tend to be on the low side (even more unhelpful for the Constellation Collection). There were, however, some great results for certin rarities.Ardbeg 1972 c866

Ardbeg’s 1972 vintage (cask 866) fetched a record £1,450. Its previous best was £1,050 in 2014 and its low-point was just £300 in 2008.

Glenlivet 1955Older vintages continue to increase in both rarity and price. Gordon & MacPhail’s 2005 bottled 1955 vintage Glenlivet sold for £760, way surpassing it low of £300 in 2008 and its previous record of £600 in 2015.St Mag 1963 CC

Other than a St. Magdalene 1963 Connoisseurs Choice tipping the scales for a record £490, it was a relatively quiet start to 2016.

There’s the usual raft of auctions this month so it’ll be interesting to see if the bidding picks up as the festive fog of alcohol and food lifts.

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