Category Archives: Monthly Whisky Market Watch

Market Watch – Jan & Feb 2017

Macallan 18 Values Soften and Diageo Silent-Still Heavyweights Dip Amid a Mixed Start to the Year.

The first two months of 2017 have been something of a mixed bag for whisky values. There was always a certain air of inevitability around a re-trace of Macallan 18 year olds following 2016’s rapid gains. The vintage 18’s older Anniversary Malt siblings, however, continue to climb.

Following 2016’s emerging trend, the market seemingly continues to de-value the scarcity of silent stills – Values for both the Port Ellen Index and the Brora Index have fallen in February with significant volatility continuing, if not increasing across both indices. On a year to date basis, the Brora index is the worst performing of the key indices.

February was also the first month to see a year-on-year decline in the number of bottles hitting auction in the UK. February 2016 saw 5,360 bottles of Scotch sold at auction in the UK where February 2017 saw 4,980. Worthy of note is Scotch Whisky Auctions held their first 0% sellers commission auction back in Feb 2016, so there was a correspondingly huge increase in volumes from the Glasgow auctioneers.

Whereas year on year volumes declined by -7.09% it was a very different story for overall values. Again, comparing February 2016 to February 2017, the £ value hitting the open market increased by 31.06% from £1,131,512 to £1,482,991. This is to be fully expected noting the quantum shift in prices through 2016.

Index Performance.

The key Rare Whisky 101 indices ranked in order of performance for February and also year to date are –

index-ranks-feb-2017

The broadest measure of the market, the Apex1000 Index, highlights continued positivity with the holistic picture showing good upside… >2% gains have been experienced in both January and February. The Rare Malts Selection Index looks to be experiencing accelerating growth. The Rare Malts had a great 2016 with early 2017 results suggesting this cult collectible series has further to climb.

The Vintage 50 Index also highlights the growth in interest for significantly aged, vastly rare Scotch with it’s second highest monthly increase in over three years. This months result was only bettered by a 5.82% increase in September 2016.

Despite a softening of Macallan 18 values, the ‘M’ distillery still leads the pack with the vintage Anniversary Malts advancing. Looking at the indices side by side shows they’re almost on par again with the Macallan 18 index standing at 553.82 and the Macallan 25 index at 538.55.

macallan-18-vs-25

Port Ellen and Brora show exceptional peaks and troughs across both indices. This suggests both are being governed by the collectors market. We typically see a spike as a collector is missing one or two releases from a full ‘set’, thereafter the market returns to normality. Despite the inherent spiky nature of these indices, the general trend does still remain positive.

port-ellen-vs-brora

To some degree it will also be important to see what Diageo do with pricing for the 2017 release of Port Ellen and Brora (if, indeed there is one). On the secondary market, the trend seems to be the more retail prices are inflated, the more volatility creeps into the market. 2016’s Port Ellen Special Release saw relative retail price stability; so we find ourselves asking if the retail ask price is increased this year, how far will/can it go before the normal dynamics of the market simply snap and consumers walk away?

Elsewhere in the market, it’s fantastic to see London-based Whisky.Auction manage to bust a substantial haul of fake whisky. For those interested and/or invested in the secondary market for rare whisky this issue will become ever more prolific with prices at all-time highs. If there’s one person producing fakes in the UK, there’s a terrible certainty more will be doing the same.

In summary, for the early part of the year, from a collecting perspective, It’s fascinating to see silent stills moving out of the limelight in favour of producing distilleries. Will this trend continue or has the market simply paused for breath, thus providing a good time to acquire any remaining bottles from silent stills? Rarity certainly suggests buying up remaining bottles from silent stills, but, in some cases is liquid quality letting the team down? … A polarising start to the year.

Monthly Market Watch – November 2016

Whisky Values Maintain Buoyancy as Port Ellen Leads the Pack in November.

Demand for rare whisky increases as November’s results show prices hardening amid an almost insatiable market.

Volumes were relatively stable at 5,352 compared to October’s 5,528 and average prices for Scotch look to be edging further north towards the end of the year. More on averages in the 2016 Investment Review released early 2017.

Other than the specific negative indices which track the worst performing bottles, every single key index finished the month in positive territory. As more confirmation certain brands/bottles continue to fall, the Negative100 index slid further into the red, losing 1.43%; its greatest single month dip since Mays -7.46% loss.

The basic principles of the current dynamic market remain broadly the same as they did five years ago with the most desirable bottles increasing and polarisation suppressing values for undesirables.

springbank-1963-cadenheadsBottle(s) of the Month

When gems from Springbank infrequently appear on the open market there’s usually a decent amount of activity. Over the past year or so, demand for some of these magnificent older examples has dialed up to eleven.

Born in 1963, this Cadenheads 31-year-old has only appeared on the market three times. Scant surprise then, when Whisky-Online Auctions unearthed one, it rapidly disappeared into the stratosphere from a pricing perspective.

springbank-1963-31-yr-old-valuation

From £320 in 2010 to its current price of £2,150 represents a 572% increase in value.

Rather more frequently seen on the open market, the blue label Macallan 30-year-old managed a new record of £3,500.

macallan-blue-label-30-yo-sherry-valuation

With a 2008 record low of £260, this bottle is one of the all-time best performers at auction yielding a 1,246% increase in value.

The Month in Summary

The key Rare Whisky 101 indices ranked in order of performance for November are –

Port Ellen (OB) Index:                    +16.46%

Macallan 18 y/o Index:                  +11.49%

Karuizawa Index:                              +9.93%

Brora (OB) Index:                            +7.14%

Macallan 25 y/o Index:                  +5.01%

Icon100 Index:                                 +5.00%

Apex1000 Index:                             +4.34%

Rare Malts Index:                            +3.40%

Vintage50 Index:                             +0.38%

Port Ellen (OB) prices continue along their unpredictable peak/trough sawblade-esque trajectory. Down 15.85% in October then bouncing back in November to increase 16.46%. A 2016 year to date result of +38.19% shows the general trend is still very much up.

As the third greatest gainer in November, Karuizawa appears back on the radar. Novembers increase takes Karuizawa out of the red for 2016 and gives a marginal year to date positive performance of 6.01%.

And then there was Macallan!

The current surge in values is so out of line with anything we’ve ever seen before. We still maintain this market is unsustainable. That said, every month we seem to keep witnessing further increases, especially to the vintage 18-year-old bottlings.

To illustrate how unique the current market is, if we forecast forward the average per-bottle price increases for both 18 and 25-year-old Macallan’s, we see the 18-year old’s becoming worth the same as the 25 year olds in just over one year, with an average per-bottle price of just under £4,000.

average-per-bottle-macallan-18-vs-25

 

Now, while the current increases look almost incredible, an average of £4,000 per bottle would be madness… but with the current trajectories, that’s how out of line the current market really is.

With one more month before the curtain is closed on 2016, it looks like this year will be a record breaker. While there’s still time to see a year-end dip similar to that of 2014, we would see it as unlikely any dip could/would be significantly material… more a pause for breath. The current market just looks too bullish at the moment with demand for rare whisky remaining nothing short of exceptional.

October 2016 Market Watch

Calm After the Storm?

October saw the second highest month on record from a supply perspective with 5,528 bottles of Single Malt Scotch hitting the secondary market in the UK, slightly behind August’s all-time high of 5,707. It’s incredible to think the number of bottles sold in one single month is now regularly exceeding 2010’s full year supply of 5,431.

From a pure investment perspective, October looks to have finally flushed through any Brexit forex related gains. The broadest measuring index, the Apex1000, increased by 2.20% in October, cooling from September’s 5.30% and August’s heady 6.18%.

While there’s clearly been the expected positive correlation between Sterling’s drop and certain bottles increasing, the broad market has remained underpinned by the same tried and tested principles. The ‘right’ bottles are increasing and the ‘wrong’ bottles are still languishing in the doldrums. The impact of the crash in GBP has by no means positively affected all prices; the value of some bottles has continued to fall.

Bottle(s) of the Month

brora-1972-22-yr-oldOctober’s highlights have to include Scotch Whisky Auctions Rare Malts Selection Brora 1972 22 year old which, in-spite of massive increases already, pushed up from its previous £5,400 record to a massive £6,400. The profile of that little gem is below.

1972-22-yr-old-brora-values

1967-largiemeanochWhisky-Online Auctions took a bottle of the Largiemeanoch Bowmore 1967 from its previous best of £8,200 to £10,300. Demand for these amazing old rarities seemingly knows no bounds as the valuation history below shows.

1967-largiemeanoch-values

The Month in Summary

October proved to be a particularly sharp, double edged sword as Macallan continued to surge but both Brora and Port Ellen dipped dramatically. Both indices saw large peaks over earlier months which have now been erased.

brora-and-port-ellen-spikes

The monthly % changes of the indices are ranked below together with the respective 2016 year to date results-

Oct 2016             2016 YTD

Macallan 25 Index           9.51%                   53.53%

Macallan 18 Index           7.50%                   100.09%

Apex 1000 Index              2.20%                   28.87%

Icon 100 Index                  2.03%                   38.65%

Vintage 50 Index              0.40%                   21.40%

Rare Malts Index              -0.04%                 33.88%

Karuizawa Index               -2.94%                 -3.57%

Brora Index                        -9.08%                 14.41%

Port Ellen Index                -15.86%               18.66%

It’s the first time we’ve ever seen an index/collection double in value over the course of less than one year. The vintage Macallan 18 year olds have outstripped everything before them. Even the rapid ascent of Karuizawa prices in early / mid 2015 can’t hold a light to Macallan. As a word of caution, and as can be seen from the charts, these bottles have been through a protracted re-trace before. Whether we see any sort of cooling in rare Macallan prices is anyone’s guess; but we’re absolutely not expecting these gains to continue. They simply cannot.

While not included in the ranking above, the Negative1000 index crept slightly further into the red, cementing the risks involved in selecting the wrong bottles.

Port Ellen and Brora are also showing why Scotch should be viewed as a medium to long term investment. With peaks and troughs galore, as ever, timing is everything.

Monthly Market Watch – March 2016

Bull’s March through March in Whisky Fuelled Stampede

Following February’s gargantuan supply, the number of bottles sold on the open market in March cooled to a slightly less heady 4,798.

While volumes dipped, values did the opposite. March saw frankly incredible increases in some of the Rare Whisky indices. Increases which cannot be sustained in the medium to long term; none the less, if you’re a whisky collector with an eye on the value of your collection then this is one of the rosiest months/quarters on record.

But before we head to the indices –

Bottle(s) of the Month

March’s big bottle of Scotch was brought to market by Blackpool based auctioneer, Whisky-Online Auctions. Their record setting Port Ellen Queens Visit 12 year old set a new record for the most expensive bottle from the deceased Islay distillery when it fetched £12,100.

Port Ellen Queens Visit

£12,100 is no drop in the ocean for one single solitary bottle of Scotch, however, it was a Karui 4 decades ghostbottle of Japanese whisky which made the months most expensive bottle. Dunfermline based auction house Just-Whisky managed to bring one of only 24 bottles of the Karuizawa 5th Ghost to auction which made an exceptional £15,025. The 1964 Wealth Solutions bottle came a close second place at £14,000, albeit significantly down from its £19,000 high in September last year.

The Month/Quarter in Focus

Following the arrival of spring (someone please tell that to whoever’s in charge of the weather in Scotland), the closing out of March also signalled the end of quarter one. A quarter which has seen the continuation of recent increases in value for old/rare/collectable bottles of Scotch.

Ranked in order of year to date performance and with Q1 2015’s results as a comparison, the indices are as follows –

Respective Quarter-    Q1 2016              Q1 2015

Macallan 25 Index          18.30%                -0.50%

Macallan 18 Index          18.28%               -0.16%

Rare Malts Index            12.76%               4.99%

Icon 100 Index                11.60%               7.24%

Apex 1000 Index             5.13%                 4.36%

Brora Index                     3.65%                 -2.76%

Vintage 50 Index             1.33%                 -2.04%

Karuizawa Index             -1.28%                21.00%

Port Ellen Index               -6.66%                5.58%

The two benchmark indices, the Apex1000 (tracks the best performing 1000 bottles of Scotch) and the Icon100 (tracks a fixed basket of regularly traded collectables) have made good progress. Both indices are ahead of 2015’s performance over the same period.

RWIcon100_Index_Mar2016
Icon100 Index hits new all-time high

Macallan and Karuizawa almost completely traded places with the immensely collectable vintage Macallan 18 and 25 year olds almost neck and neck leading the performance tables.

RWPortEllen_Index_Mar2016
More spiky than a grumpy hedgehog

Karuizawa has further stabilised as would be expected following recent meteoric rises.

Amid continued descent, the Port Ellen index remains the sick parrot in intensive care. Bottles of 1st release were, at one time, regularly managing £1,800 – £1,900, a figure which is now more like £1,500 – £1,600. Have the official releases become an icon for overly rapid retail price hikes resulting in brand aversion? We will inevitably see a bottom for what was 2015’s key performer, that’s a certainty. But when it hits, the question becomes will it recover or will it see the ‘flat-line of Karuizawa’? There will always be value in Port Ellen and we’ve seen many Rapid recoveries over the years but the fact remains, Islay’s best loved pile of rubble wants to stay in the red.

As to Macallans recent surge for older, rarer collectable bottles; to some degree increasing scarcity of supply is at work. Throughout quarter one 2015, there were a total of 9,378 bottles of Scotch sold on the open market. In 2016 that figure has soared to 14,033, an increase of 49.64% year on year. Over the same time-frame, there were 47 bottles of 1960’s and 1970’s vintage Macallan 18 year olds sold in 2015. In 2016, that’s reduced to 41, a 12.77% decline.

In common with a whole host of bottles showing the most significant increases, general supply’s up but rarities and ultra-desirables are disappearing. A trend we expect to continue.

 

Bottle images courtesy of Whisky-Online Auctions and Just-Whisky

 

Monthly Market Watch – Feb 2016

What a month February turned out to be!

5,467 bottles (full sized bottles, single lots of single malt) were sold at auction in the UK, that’s the highest volume of bottles seen on the open market in one month. Monthly volumes have never quite managed to break through the 5,000 bottle barrier… as an indication of how vast last month was, February 2015 saw 2,690 bottles sold. To a large degree, this supply-glut was down to Scotch Whisky Auctions zero seller’s commission offer which gave a boost to the figures. Include memorabilia, blends, bundled lots, grains, mini’s and everything else sold through whisky auctioneers in the UK and, in total, there were 9,587 separate lots to bid on!

Bottle of the Month…

…Goes to McTears Auctioneers in Glasgow for bringing to market the only bottle ever produced of a 60 year old Dalmore for Drew Sinclair’s 60th birthday. A 1939 60 year old and just one bottle in existence… it doesn’t get much more desirable than that. Interesting to see a top end Dalmore in a little more sedate packaging too. At £7,500 it’s not the most expensive Dalmore ever, and while it’s a rather odd thing to say at this price point, it actually looks like good value for whoever bought it.

Dalmore Drew Sinclair 60
Image Copyright McTears Auctioneers Glasgow

The Month in Focus

Scotch is an interesting investment proposition. It’s beautifully simple in its supply/demand driven environment.

Supply goes up – Demand stays the same or falls = Values soften.

Supply goes down – Demand stays the same or increases = Values harden.

Following January’s rather buoyant start to the year, in light of February’s massive increase in supply, we were bracing for an almost unilateral dip in values.

With the exception of one major index (Port Ellen) we witnessed some of the single largest ‘in-month’ increases we’ve ever seen.

RW_Apex_index_feb16
An exceptional month for Scotch

The broadest measure of how Scotch is performing on the open market is the Apex1000 index.

December 2015 saw the index step back ‘in-month’ at the year-end by -0.02%; we know a massive supply month can directly impact value growth, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen this. While -0.02% is no crash, it’s still not the right direction for values.

Contrary to expectations, the Apex1000 increased by a significant 1.73% in February. It would seem that while supply is increasing it’s being continually outpaced by demand. Looking at a year on year comparison, February 2015 saw the Apex1000 increase by 1.53%… but with fewer than half the number of bottles on the market.RW_neg_index_feb16

 

Conversely, the Negative1000 index, which tracks the 1,000 worst performing bottles, continued to fall, losing 0.68% in the month to rest at a record low 53.81 (the index started at 100 in 2008).

Ranked in order of performance, February’s indices look like this –

(1) Rare Malts Selection Index: +6.27%

(2) Brora Official Bottle Index: +5.81%

(3) Macallan 25 yr old Index: +4.97%

(4) Macallan 18 yr old Index: +3.70%

(5) Icon 100 Index: +2.59%

(6) Apex 1000: +1.73%

(7) Karuizawa Index: +0.40%

(8) Vintage 50 Index: -0.44%

(9) Port Ellen OB Index: -5.27%

Historically, rather more sedate than other indices, the Rare Malts Selection Index took the reins with a 6.27% increase. Impressive, but we’re not convinced these gains will be cemented. Late 2015’s December-dip saw 2.34% wiped off a full collection of Rare Malts, so we could be seeing a natural correction.

Below is an extract from our 2014 full year investment report talking about Macallan’s 25 year old Anniversary Malts and the earlier release 18 year olds. Respectively, these indices moved up by 3.77% and 3.57% throughout the whole of 2014.

Mac 18 and 25 extract

Current sentiment would appear far more positive for these stunning older bottles as they took to incredible gains last month. Increases throughout February alone out-stripped performances for the whole of 2014.

Karuizawa values stabilised during February as the index increased by a fractional 0.40%. Have we reached an equilibrium for Karuizawa values? We’re not so sure…

Then there was poor old Port Ellen!

RW_portellen_index_feb16A far cry away from the Port Ellen Index’s Feb 2015 all-time high closing position of 456.77 points; twelve months later and we see almost 12% wiped off the value of a collection of Port Ellen OB’s (releases 1 – 8 incl). Values moved north throughout the whole of 2015 by over 23% but, even removing some of the price spikes, like the one in Feb 2015 (full collections being completed maybe?) and the chart suggests we might have reached the top of the current cycle. Could values plateau or even cool a little for the most iconic of silent distilleries?

Aside from Port Ellen’s erratic behaviour and a lacklustre performance by the Vintage 50 index, general values advanced impressively amid the challenges of our largest volume month on record and continued turmoil in other markets.

 

 

Karuizawa Values Falter

We’ve said it before and we still maintain – we don’t believe in bubbles. Not with a physical asset anyway. The reason we don’t believe in bubbles is they burst instantly and leave absolutely nothing… With a bubble, everything is gone in an instant.

Could that happen with whisky?

No, you’ll always have a bottle… More importantly (unless the broader economy implodes and we all go back to cooking on an open fire), do we see Port Ellen 1st release ever settling back to £100 a bottle or a Connoisseurs Choice Kinclaith 1966 ever being sold for its original retail price of £19.74? Again, simply no – no we do not.

BUT… do we believe in overheated markets being the subject of a significant correction, protracted slump or even a crash? Absolutely, we have to. Glenmorangie values almost halved within three months through late 2010/early 2011. Their values have now just clawed back their losses to reach pre-crash levels; it’s taken five years for a full recovery.

Over recent months, Karuizawa values have increased at a rate the broader whisky market has never seen. The Rare Whisky 101 Kauizawa Index was established on the first of July 2013, so it’s our most recent index. Exactly one year later, the index had increased from its base of 100.00 points to 146.83. That 46.83% increase outstripped Scotch, nothing could compete; but equally that would pale into insignificance compared to the gains we would see over the subsequent 12 months. 146.83 points on the first of July 2014 became a staggering 384.61 twelve months later on the first of July 2015. That’s a 161.94% increase. The index peaked at 399.32 at the end of July this year.

RW101_Karuizawa_Index_31082015

From a broader pure cost perspective, two years ago, the single cask 1980’s vintages were selling for between £600 and £800 per bottle (We’re not going to look at original retail prices because, quite frankly, it all gets a bit silly). In many cases these prices are now in the region of £2,500.

All this comes at a time when a bottle of 1960 vintage Karuizawa takes the record for the most expensive bottle of Japanese whisky ever sold (Bonhams Hong Kong £77,000). We would like to see a bottle sold at auction in the UK to see how values compare… But even in Hong Kong, hammer prices for certain bottles eased back from previous highs. The 1967 (cask 6426) sold for c£15,000 in May and made c£12,000 at the August sale.

£77,000. The most expensive bottle of Japanese whisky
£77,000. The most expensive bottle of Japanese whisky

The market looks overheated. £2,500 for a bottle of ANYTHING is a massive price to pay. Bottles of 1950 vintage Macallan can still be obtained on the open market for that amount. Karuizawa almost defies logic in terms of the prices being paid.

Scant surprise, one may argue, that we’ve now seen a drop in value through just one month by an eye-watering 7.41%. That brings the Karuizawa Index down from its peak 399.32 at the end of July to 369.73 on the 31st of August.

It doesn’t look like over-supply’s the culprit – The last six months have seen the number of bottles sold at auction in the UK remain relatively low and August even took a notable step back from July’s high (number of bottles sold – March 70, April 70, May 50, June 41, July 87, August 57).

7.41% is a steep drop in one month, so should we be worried? In our opinion we should realistically expect to see a continued short-term decline in values (at best a period of stability). We’re not expecting anything like the sort of 50% losses Glenmorangie suffered in 2010, however, we do see the current market as being in need of a natural correction before a more uniform pattern of growth is established. As a positive counterbalance to that, we need not forget that Karuizawa is almost gone from the cask and much of the (earlier releases anyway) bottled stock has been drunk.

Rarity and quality will absolutely continue to play a vital role in values – and Karuizawa has both in spades.

While it’s clearly impossible to know exactly how this will play out in the long run, we would certainly advise caution for those buying at the moment (particularly as an investment).


As Karuizawa experiences its most significant drop to date, how has the rest of the market performed?

The August Rare Whisky 101 indices ranked in order of increase/decrease are –

1 – RWRMS Index: Rare Malts Selection Index UP 2.66%

2 – RWPE Index: Port Ellen UP 2.17%

3 – Apex1000: Best performing 1000 bottles UP 1.66%

4 – RWIcon100: Icon 100 Index UP 1.47%

5 – Apex 100: Best performing 100 bottles UP 1.09%

6 – Apex 250: Best performing 250 bottles UP 1.04%

7 – RWVintage50: Vintage 50 Index UP 0.54%

8 – RWM18 Index: Macallan 18 EVEN 0.00%

9 – RWM25 Index: Macallan 25 DOWN 1.67%

10 – RWB Index: Brora Index DOWN 6.04%

11 – RWK Index: Karuizawa DOWN 7.41%

Without exception The Negative indices continued to slide, further polarising the market. The Neg1000 moved down 0.68%, the Neg250 retraced 0.83% and the Neg100 hit a new low of just 31.98 points as it fell 0.56%.

The other notable performance was the official Brora index which fell 6.04% through August. The Brora index peaked at 396.63 points in February 2014 and currently stands at 332.15, yielding a peak-to-present-day loss of 16.26%.

The Macallan 25-year-old Anniversary Malts took a slight decline through August with the 18-year-old’s remaining flat at zero growth. The remaining indices look relatively stable. Encouragingly, the benchmark Icon100 increased 1.47% and the Apex 1000 moved up by 1.66%.

As we move rapidly towards the early winter months of 2015, we head into what is traditionally the busiest time of the year. Supply usually peaks in October/November and with more bottles sure to go under the hammer than ever before, we find ourselves asking what might happen if there’s a Karuizawa late-year sell-off? Can demand keep pace if volumes do rapidly increase or will we see extended losses? We can’t forecast the answer but we will certainly report the results.

Monthly Market Watch – May 2015

Growing Volatility for Officially Bottled Port Ellen.

Following April’s record month for the highest number of bottles sold on the open market (4,309), May cooled significantly at 3,304. That’s still a 6.37% year-on-year increase but 27.92% less than last months performance.

Strong demand and further hardening of values in certain areas of the market was ever more apparent throughout May. Conversely, ever increasing polarisation forced other brands/bottles deeper into negative territory.

Particularly striking was the extreme volatility currently being experienced in the Port Ellen Index. The Rare Whisky Port Ellen Index (RWPEI – covering releases 1 to 8 inclusive) re-traced by -0.94% during May. Not in itself a disaster; however, three month yields for this index currently stand at -20.33%.

Does this signify a marked change in the market for Port Ellen? Increasing volatility and a three month loss of 20%+ warranted further research.

The chart below shows the (OB) Port Ellen Index alongside a selection of independent bottles (20 bottles were randomly selected which have regular sales on the open market).

Smooth growth for IB Port Ellen. OB's are now experiencing significant volatility.
Smooth growth for IB Port Ellen. OB’s are now experiencing significant volatility.

Taken over three months, the official bottles have moved from an index score of 456.77 to 363.90. The independent bottles have moved from 288.71 to 313.59.

Official Bottles DOWN 20.33%

Independent Bottles UP 8.62%

There are a number of reasons for this stark contrast. As we’ve highlighted in previous updates, the most prominent reason is the erosion of perceived primary market value for the official releases. Secondary market buyers are turning away from the OB’s to pursue better value among the IB’s. The average price of the OB’s remains significantly higher at £809.70 versus £302.50 for the IB’s.

To a lesser degree, Brora mirrors this trend. The Brora OB Index was the worst performing Rare Whisky index throughout May losing 2.89% (three month numbers see an increase of 2.15%).

The Rare Whisky 101 composite index May changes ranked in order of increase/decrease are –

1 – RWK Index – Karuizawa +11.45%

2 – RWRMS Index – Rare Malts Selection Index +5.53%

3 – RWM25 Index – Macallan 25 +2.79%

4 – RWM18 Index – Macallan 18 +0.63%

5 – RWVintage50 – Vintage 50 Index +0.53%

6 – RWIcon100 – Icon 100 Index -0.49%

7 – RWPE Index – Port Ellen -0.94%

8 – RWB Index – Brora Index -2.89%

 

Japan remains an almost permanent fixture at number one. Following April’s 26% increase for the Karuizawa Index, a rather more sedate but still impressive 11% uplift was observed in May. We sit on the fence in terms of future gains for Karuizawa. Such rapid increases generally suggest there will be an equally rapid re-trace (or at best a period of stability); however, the lack of available product and ever increasing demand could equally mean continued upside.

The benchmark Icon100 index showed a small loss for the month, closing down 0.49%. A decline in through-the-month sales for many of the bottles resulted in this relative stagnation. 14/100 bottles increased in value, 74/100 bottles remained static and 12/100 bottles decreased.

The Rare Malts Selection Index took a marked 5.53% uplift. Very positive in isolation, this should be viewed as something of a spike driven by a small number of rarities which sold for huge record amounts. That said ‘a rising tide floats all boats’ and we’re starting to see some of the less desirable bottles in the series move up alongside the ‘big’ bottles. The average per-bottle price of a full-house of the RMS series at the end of 2014 was £375.80; that now stands at £417.10.

Solid growth for the Rare Malts Selection bottles. Are May's increases a spike?
Solid growth for the Rare Malts Selection bottles. Are May’s increases a spike?

In common with previous months, Macallan 18 and 25 year olds saw values harden. In contrast to this performance, we’re seeing increasing stress for recent releases. The separation in performance for older discontinued Macallan bottles bearing an age statement/vintage, (hypothetically) appears to be a driving force in the ever widening divide with the poor performing non-aged contemporary releases. Further detailed analysis is required to prove/disprove the collectability of aged/vintaged Macallan vs non-aged. Perception as to the quality of the liquid, however personal and ambiguous, also has to be a factor. We plan to fully review this later in the year.

Is older aged Macallan rapidly separating from more recent NAS releases?
In performance terms, older ‘aged’ Macallan is rapidly separating from more recent NAS releases

Aside from the composite indices above, the rare whisky market in general appeared positive. The Apex1000, Apex250 and Apex100 indices were up 1.50%, 2.40% and 0.86% respectively. The negative indices continued to remain at all-time lows.

Negative Indices continue   to be ruled by bears.
Negative Indices continue to be governed by bears.

As we move to the half year review stage at the end of June, the sheer number of auctions selling rare whisky throughout the month is vast; we’re expecting record/near-record volumes to be seen. These volumes could have a marked effect on the perceived value (or lack of it) for certain brands and certain bottles.

We look forward to sharing the results in due course.

Monthly Market Watch – April 2015

Values for high end collectables continue to increase as polarisation widens the gap between good and bad.

April set a new record for the highest number of collectable bottles traded on the open market. The previous record in December 2014 was 4,153. Last month’s 4,309 exceeded April 2014’s volume by an impressive 55.84% (2,765 bottles sold in April 2014). Year to date, one third of the way through 2015, the total number of bottles traded stands at 13,857, some 51.54% ahead of the 9,144 bottles sold in same period last year.

November and December 2014’s significant supply pushed values down, suggesting demand had finally succumbed to huge supply. The same expectation could be assumed with April’s record volumes; however, this couldn’t be further from the reality. Impressively, the vast majority of key indices moved up, in some cases significantly. On the flip-side of the value coin, less desirable bottles shifted further into red territory with record losses taking the negative indices to all-time lows.

The composite index April changes ranked in order of increase/decrease are –

1 – RWK Index – Karuizawa +26.26%

2 – RWB Index – Brora Index +8.05%

3 – RWM18 Index – Macallan 18 +3.80%

4 – RWM25 Index – Macallan 25 +2.55%

5 – RWVintage50 – Vintage 50 Index +2.32%

6 – RWIcon100 – Icon 100 Index +0.68%

7 – RWRMS Index – Rare Malts Selection Index +0.64%

8 – RWPE Index – Port Ellen 0.00%

Karuizawa Index buoyed by staggering increases
Karuizawa Index buoyed by vast increases for virtually all bottles

Staggering demand for Karuizawa yielded a record monthly increase of 26.26% with virtually every bottle sold on the open market hitting new record highs. In some cases the increases were vast. ‘Pourquoi fait il’, a 1980 vintage was previously selling for £1,350; one sold in April for £3,200. The sheer pace of these increases doesn’t feel sustainable, however, there would appear to be continued upside potential for those with a stake in this silent Japanese distillery.

The Brora index was buoyed by increases from the 2006 30 year old release and the 2008 25 year old. The 25 year old moved from a March value of £400 to £720 in April, an 80% jump. Virtually all other bottles remained static. The chart below shows the average price of a bottle of Brora from 2010 to the end of April 2015 (releases 1 – 7). 2014 saw the most significant movement in average prices with a 58.48% increase over 2013.

Average Brora prices 2010 - 2015 (releases 1 - 7)
Average Brora prices 2010 – 2015 (releases 1 – 7)

If we then take a look at the volume of Brora traded at auction, 2014 shows a clear dip in supply.

Volume of Brora traded at auction (releases 1 - 7)
Volume of Brora traded at auction (releases 1 – 7)

The first four months of 2015 suggests we’ll see roughly 45 bottles sold this year. This might also suggest a slower rate of pure value growth noting volume at that level would be a new record. If supply declines, we would expect to see a steeper increase in prices throughout the later months of 2015.

Putting aside the current static market for many more contemporary bottles of Macallan, both the 18 year olds and the 25 year olds made good progress with 3.80% and 2.55% increases respectively. With 2014 annual growth rates of 3.57% for the 18’s and 3.77% for the 25’s, April’s performance is rather more encouraging.

The benchmark Icon100 index just managed to post a gain for the month, closing up 0.68%. 27/100 bottles increased in value, 52/100 bottles remained static and 21/100 bottles decreased.

The best three performers in the month were the aforementioned Brora OB 25 year old (up 80%) followed by Macallan 1979 Gran Reserva (up 62.50%) and the Glenmorangie Culloden bottle (up 54.29%).

RWIcon100 Index top three performers April 2015
RWIcon100 Index top three performers April 2015

April’s worst performing three bottles in the Icon100 were the Family Silver from Glenglassaugh (down 29.41%), the 200th Anniversary Oban Managers Dram (down 35%) and the Dalmore 1985 vintage Distillery Exclusive (down 52.78%).

RWIcon100 Index worst three performers April 2015
RWIcon100 Index worst three performers April 2015

The negative indices all moved significantly further into the deep-south. The Neg1000, Neg250 and Neg100 indices tumbled by 2.05%, 3.80% and 2.57% respectively. These are among the most significant falls ever witnessed and take all three indices to new all-time lows. Polarisation and a steady decline in certain mass-volume brands are taking the brunt of the falls. Bruichladdich’s continuing broad-based slide in values marks them as the only distillery with two bottles in the bottom 10.

Record breaking falls and all-time lows for the negative indices
Record breaking falls and all-time lows for the negative indices

Rapid and continued polarisation aside, April should be viewed in particularly positive light. Record breaking supply has the very real potential to cool the market as was seen in the latter months of 2014.

It seems for now at least, for the right bottles, demand is set to out-pace whatever the market throws at it.

Bottle images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions and Whiskyauctioneer.

Monthly Market Watch – February 2015

Values Harden amid Shortening Supply.

Following a plateau/slight re-trace in whisky values at the end of 2014, vast open market supply looks to have calmed to more manageable levels. That relative back-step in supply enabled rare whisky values to progress, in some cases significantly. The total number of bottles seen on the open market in February amounted to 2,690, still some 28.8% ahead of the 2,089 seen in February 2014. When 2014’s total growth of 68% is taken into account, 28.8% feels more ‘relaxed’.

Throughout the first two months of 2015 we’ve seen 6,029 bottles hit the open market, up 45.7% on the same time period in 2014. When February volumes are directly compared to Decembers record 4,153, (a 35.23% drop) volumes look to be cooling a little which should be positive for overall values.

The RW101 indices showed good growth through February with just one index moving into negative territory –

The indices for February ranked in order of increase are –

1 – RWPE Index – Port Ellen +29.06% (view Index)

2 – RWK Index – Karuizawa +9.47% (view Index)

3 – RWIcon100 – Icon 100 Index +5.89% (view Index)

4 – RWM18 Index – Macallan 18 +3.33% (view Index)

5 – RWB Index – Brora Index +2.27% (view Index)

6 – RWRMS Index – Rare Malts Selection Index +1.85% (view Index)

7 – RWVintage50 – Vintage 50 Index +0.05% (view Index)

8 – RWM25 Index – Macallan 25 -0.55% (view Index)

 

The significant jump in the Port Ellen Index was primarily due to the 4th release doubling in price, increasing a staggering 106.25% (£800 to £1,650). This coupled with a 23.34% gain for the 3rd release reversed the steep drop we saw at the end of 2014.

Port Ellen Index sees 2014 losses reversed
Port Ellen Index sees 2014 losses reversed

The benchmark RWIcon100 Index outperformed the general market, increasing by 5.89%. Yet again, bottles with older age statements and older vintages led the way. Good growth was seen for Dalmore’s 1973 30 year old (up 46.67% on Jan), Laphroaig’s 40 year old (up 26.53% on Jan) and Macallan’s 30 year old blue wood box variant (up 26.43% on Jan). The Glenlivet 1972 Cellar Collection was also up an impressive 25% on January.

Among the worst performers were Springbank’s 25 year old Frank McHardy bottle which lost 30.43% and Macallan’s 1971 25 year old Anniversary Malt which fell by 19.05% (in part resulting in the Macallan 25 year old Index staying in the red). Glenmorangie’s 1971 vintage Culloden bottle also moved down by 20%.

Over the past three months Karuizawa values have remained static, albeit static at all-time highs for the brand. February saw further increases in demand pushing prices to new records. The ever expanding desire for bottles of rare Karuizawa shows no immediate sign of calming amid relatively scant supply. Scant supply and the knowledge that any remaining casks will, at some point run out, should see values advance.

Demand shows no sign of slowing for heavily sought after bottles of Karuizawa
Demand shows no sign of slowing for heavily sought after bottles of Karuizawa

The Macallan 18 year old index bucked its 2014 trend and performed admirably, crystallising a 3.33% gain on January. Putting that into context, the Macallan 18 year old index increased by 3.57% over the whole of 2014. Are the 18’s due a more sustained increase?

The Apex Indices (the best performing 1,000, 250 and 100 bottles) also reversed their recent, but marginal, down-trend. All indices made good progress with the best performance seen at the top end of the market where the RWApex100 index moved up 6.79%. The RWApex250 increased by 3.50% and the RWApex1000 increased by 1.53%.

In stark contrast to the positivity of the main key performance indicators, the negative indices continued to fall (albeit slightly). The RWNeg100 fell 1.22%, the RWNeg250 fell 0.22% and the RWNeg1000 fell by just 0.02%.

As the oversupply of winter passes, the approaching onset of spring looks to be bringing more than just green shoots to the right bottles.

Monthly Market Watch – November 2014

Vast Supply Stresses the Market.

My closing remark from last months update was “I remain cautiously optimistic for November but not quite as bullish as earlier in the year”. That rang very true throughout the month and while I still remain cautiously optimistic, with record breaking volumes, November passed as a month of further polarisation and stability/low growth at best.

Early in 2014 our forecast for the number of bottles sold at auction in the UK was 29,500. November saw that figure breached as 3,715 bottles took the total to 29,845 year to date (full sealed bottles of Single Malt Scotch excluding bundled lots). As a year on year comparison, there were 2,023 bottles sold at auction in the UK during November 2013 – November 2014 showed volume growth of 84%. With a further 3,500 bottles expected to be sold in December, the closing year-end figure will look more like 33,500; some 66% above 2013’s 20,211.

This remarkable continued growth and vast supply is having an impact on many values. Some of the recent volume-based limited releases are experiencing an accelerated ‘New Release Curve’ where the first few bottles sell for unsustainable amounts followed by an almost cliff-like drop. Ardbeg Kildalton Project peaked at £285 in August and now sits at around £160.

The composite index November changes ranked in order of increase/decrease are –

1 – RWVintage50 – Vintage 50 Index +0.75%

2 – RWB Index – Brora Index +0.52%

3 – RWIcon100 – Icon 100 Index +0.03%

4 – RWRMS Index – Rare Malts Selection Index -0.61

5 – RWK Index – Karuizawa -1.54%

6 – RWM25 Index – Macallan 25 -1.70%

7 – RWM18 Index – Macallan 18 -5.15%

8 – RWPE Index – Port Ellen -12.42%

 

While three of the eight composite indices showed growth, none were exceptional. The significant fall in the RWPE Port Ellen Index was primarily due to the first release coming back from a £2,100 October peak and settling back down to £1,300 (equalling Septembers value). Early signs in December show this down-spike should be reversed, at least to some degree.

The benchmark RWIcon100 Index remained flat at +0.03%. Twenty six bottles lost value in the month (28 in October), fifty bottles remained the same (43 in October) and twenty four bottles increased (29 in October).

The three worst performing bottles in the RWIcon100 Index were –

Novembers worst performer.
Novembers worst performer.

#3 – Port Ellen Rare Malts Selection 20 yr old (-39.29%)

#2 – Highland Park Eunsons Legacy (-40.00%)

#1 – Talisker 20 year old 1st release (-40.51%)

A Rose among thorns from a performance perspective.
A Rose among thorns from a performance perspective.

The top three performers were –

#3 – Ardbeg Provenance 1st release (+57.59%)

#2 – Lagavulin OB 30 year old (+93.75%)

#1 – Balvenie Rose 2nd Release (+220.51%)

Following Karuizawa’s ‘project Everest’ like growth over the last 6 months it was unsurprising to see some sort of pause for breath. That said, it is encouraging that prices remained broadly in line with previous highs.

Both Macallan indices are expected to soften further through December and, for the moment at least, we look to be at the top of values for the 25 year old Anniversary Malts. The 18 year olds have already seen a significant correction (Q1 this year) before rapidly regaining value so it appears Macallan 18’s are set for a bit of a lumpy ride.

The Apex Indices (the best performing 1,000, 250 and 100 bottles) remained flat through November with the Apex1000 down -0.19%, the Apex250 up 0.46% and the Apex100 down -1.27%.

Apex Nov 2014

The Negative Indices, without exception, reached new lows. The Negative 1000 index breached 60 points for the first time, settling at 59.48, some 2.75% lower than October.

Negative Nov 14

As referenced in last months update, Bruichladdich values stepped back even further, cementing what appears to be a significant re-trace. From a holistic distillery perspective (including all OB’s and IB’s), Bruichladdich values declined by a staggering 13.44%. The following index shows the performance of a collection of sought after OB rarities (including PC5, Octomore 01.1, all Legacy bottles, the 1970 and 1973 vintages plus others).

Bruichladdich values tumble.
Bruichladdich values tumble.

November saw the index open at 196.74 and close at 180.73 – down 8.14%. At its peak in June this year the index reached 215.20 – From peak to trough that represents a loss of 16.02%.

Price differentiation and Instability.

There’s clearly a leaning towards oversupply at the moment which is affecting certain high volume brands; however, we are seeing further significant differences in hammer price depending on where a bottle is physically sold. The main low-points (eg the Port Ellen 1st Release selling for £1,300) are being achieved at traditional auction houses rather than on-line. Lower prices and typically higher sellers fees asks the question (again) of the long term viability of traditional auctioneers selling whisky.

With less than one month to go until we close the book on 2014 it appears an element of instability has crept into the market.

December will be a crucial month…