Category Archives: Weekly Auction Watch

Weekly Auction Watch – 12th May 2016

Sometimes packaging delights us; sometimes it turns us off; sometimes it sadly becomes more of a focus than the liquid it’s intended to position, enhance and display… Rarely does it confuse. But that’s where Gordon and MacPhail’s Mortlach 75 year old packaging has left me – utterly confused.

Mortlach 75
The oldest Scotch in the world

I’m not saying it’s bad per se, just a little left of field, a bit odd and probably not that sensible if the truth be told.

The recent Whisky Auctioneer whisky sale saw a bottle of the oldest Scotch in the world sell for the not insignificant sum of £17,800. Included in the sale was the leather travel/presentation bag. I have nothing against leather travel bags, I’ve owned one for many years and it’s been a welcome companion on many a trip… But would I stuff nearly twenty grands worth of Scotch and crystal decanter inside it and haul it over my shoulder? The concept seems about as sensible as popping into Lady Gaga’s meat dress and wandering round the Maasai Mara shouting “here Lion, Lion… here boy”. Maybe the inside of the bag has significant steel and Kevlar reinforcement? At least it’s different! Odd… granted, but different.

Mortlach bag
Makes traveling with you twenty grand bottle of Scotch a breeze!

Anyway, moving from packaging to prices as is more the focus here; there were some huge new records achieved at last week’s Whisky Auctioneer sale.

Macallan – A market divided.

Macallan 18 Year Old 1970's

As auction values for more modern releases and many Macallan ‘drinkers’ splutter and falter like an asthmatic steam train ascending Everest, many are becoming available at auction for significantly less that you’d pay at retail (Rare Cask for £135 at auction). On the flip side of this crumbling coin is the golden face of the ‘old’ bottles. The older vintage 18 and 25 year old’s are absolutely flying. Values are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The 18’s have already increased by 24.69% this year and the 25 year old’s have increased by 19.35%. April’s Rare Whisky 101 month-end charts were off the scale and that growth looks to be accelerating. As with the vast Karuizawa gains seen through early 2015, we’re wondering if the market is becoming overheated. Certainly, the pace of these increases cannot be maintained. Three of the 18 year olds sold at this auction achieved fresh new records – the 1970 hit £1,050, a bottle of 1974 sold for £975 and the 1978 made £825. All were selling for around a third of those prices as recently as 2013.

Islay continues to ride high.

Yet again, older rarer bottles from Islay made big money. I remember being sat in the auction room at Bonhams (Edinburgh) in 2010 and chatting in hushed tones to a friend as the auction moved along. Almost exactly when I’d finished talking, the hammer fell on a bottle I couldn’t believe I missed. £120 took a bottle of 1972 27 year old Bowmore… A snip… and I missed it because I was chewing the fat over Lyne arm angles, secondary fermentation or some other utterly geeky stuff. Like my old school reports – pay more attention! Especially noting that bottle sold for £858 at last week’s Whisky Auctioneer sale.

White Horse bottled Lagavulin seems to be in ever increasing demand. £230 took a bottle to nearly double its recent trading range… Maybe there’s panic in them there hills? Might 16 turn to eight then turns to NAS?! I suspect not to be fair, but who knows. A bottle of Murray McDavid bottled 1979 Lagavulin also shone through as a clear winner managing £1,000 for the first time. Until the end of 2013 this bottle had never sold for more than £200 at auction.

Bruichladdich saw a bottle of its 40 year old make the most expensive bottle of ‘Laddie at auction in the UK. A respect-worthy £1750 took it past a previous best of £1550.

From a silent stills perspective. The big movement was seen from independent bottlers. A brace of 1972 vintage Brora’s from Douglas Laing went expectedly berserk. The Old and Rare 29 year old managed £2,350, massively ahead of its previous UK sale price of £500 (that was expensive in 2010!) and the 30 year old bottled for The Whisky Shop hit £1,426, not a record but a superb price noting it was lacking its card tube.

Brora 1972's
A brace of big Brora ’72’s

Port Ellen had a noticeable lack of bottles at auction but a Connoisseurs Choice 1982/2007 stood out when it fetched £410.

All told, last week’s Whisky Auctioneer sale was as buoyant as they come. We’re just keeping a close eye on the rapidly heating vintage Macallan market. For those with a few stashed away, values are clearly increasing; however, I’m not so sure I’d be entering the market in a hurry right now. As always, time will tell.

 

Images courtesy of Whisky Auctioneer.

Weekly Auction Watch – 3rdMay 2016

It is with great sadness that we move into May’s round of whisky auctions. Scotch Whisky Auctions opened the new month’s bidding with nothing less than devastating news that Loch Dhu, Black Whisky, appears to have increased in value and moved to a new higher trading level.

Loch Dhu
It’s actually creosote. Not to be confused with Scotch on any level.

Sadness aside, sellers around the world are rejoicing at being able to find an alternative means of disposal for these dangerous bottles. SEWPA’s (Scottish Environment Whisky Protection Agency) recent ruling unilaterally banned Loch Dhu from being poured down the drain after it was found to be highly toxic to aquatic organisms… in fact any organisms. Until now, desperate whisky collectors had hidden the bottles away, afraid the very blackness of Loch Dhu’s foul soul would invade the rest of their collection. With bottles selling for £100 – £120 (up from previous trading range £65 – £80) collectors can now offload the pressure of ownership to those more interested in weapons of mass dhu-structiveness.

More sensibly, away from the black sludge, rare whisky prices advanced again, taking many bottles to new record highs.

Not the most obvious collector’s choice, Strathmill, saw a bottle of Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask 1962, 42 year old sell for £460. Its previous record was £360 in 2015 with a low point of £120 in 2010.

Having been lucky enough Lagavulin Jazz 2011to be able to visit Islay last week to celebrate Lagavulin’s 200th birthday, it seems only fitting to mention the new record prices paid for a 2011 Jazz Festival bottling. £600 was the winning bid, just exceeding a slightly lower priced bottle at £560. Impressive results for a bottle which originally retailed for £80.

Fellow, Islay distilleries Ardbeg and Bowmore also saw record results.

Ardbeg’s fourth release of the 1974 vintage Provenance breached the £2,000 mark for the first time when one sold for £2,100. Alongside the Provenance, a bottle of the mighty Ardbeg 1965 took £6,600, a comfortable new record.

Ardbeg Record Breakers

A bottle of the 1968 37 year old from Bowmore also sailed through £2,000 for the first time. £2,600 took the bottle on this occasion which is 465% ahead of its record low £460 in 2009.

Representation from silent stills was relatively thin on the ground but for those making it to auction, values looked buoyant. Port Ellen’s first release took £1,900, not an outright record but well ahead of recent sales. A bottle of 1982/2000 Connoisseurs Choice from Brora managed to add £20 onto its previous £310 record and a 2004 Diageo Special Release Linlithgow (St. Magdalene) 30 year old soared to £760.

Linlithgow 30

With a packed auction schedule in May, supply, again, looks high. At the moment, a certain element of positive momentum looks to be in control of the broader market… The first four months of the year have seen impressive results. If the rest of the year can keep pace, 2016 could well be a record breaker.

 

Images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

Weekly Auction Watch – 4th April 2016

Balvenie’s old golden-balls lost their lustre recently. We reported a steep decline in values across the board in our 2015 annual review. Two short years ago, it seemed the collector’s darling could do no wrong – Recently, the question I was asked “could Balvenie challenge the mighty Macallan for the collector’s crown?” rapidly became “When will Balvenie values stop falling?”

Balvenie Record Breakers
A whole Tun of Rosie

Before we move onto a broader review of Scotch Whisky Auctions recent offering, March’s Whisky Auctioneer sale saw a stunning collection of Balvenie single cask bottles. Proving there’s still a significant market for the right bottles from one of Dufftown’s leading distilleries, every single bottle took a new record… in some cases massively. So the oldest vintage single casks are still in heavy demand but are the ‘limited releases’ recovering? Scotch Whisky Auctions first sale of quarter two looked positive for Balvenie… Are those golden balls being polished again for another challenge to Macallan’s collector prowess?

The first release of Balvenie Rose managed to hammer home £1400. In 2009 a mere £126 took this bottle and as recently as 2012 one sold for £240. Following a fallow period, Tun 1401 batch 1 values moved up another gear when, for the first time ever, one managed to exceed £3,000, taking an impressive £3,200. It’s just staggering to think that these were selling at the distillery in 2010 for £150 per bottle.

To add balance, there always has to be a yin for one’s yang and that’s no different for Balvenie. Tun 1401’s replacement – Tun 1509 – still hasn’t captured the hearts and minds of the collectors. Batch #1 continues to sell at auction for less than it original retail price.

Why? Glendronach 1968 ANA Cask 13Too many bottles and too much money came the cry. Simple.

Extreme break-outs of current trading levels weren’t the exclusive preserve of Balvenie at Scotch Whisky Auctions. Fellow Macallan-worrier, Glendronach, saw their most expensive sale at auction to date with a bottle from cask number 13 of the famed ANA 1968’s. The last time this sold at auction in the UK was for £1,550. In June 2012 one sold for a low-point of £320. £2,600 is the current price. Absolutely amazing gains.

Demonstrating the halo-effect perfectly, a bottle of Dalmore’s 1978 vintage, Sherry Finesse, sold for £1,550, a significant margin ahead of its last sale of £490 last year. The reason? The 1978 vintage Constellation sold for £3,800 earlier this year. Compare the two and, whether you see value in the Constellation collection or not, the earlier release looks like good value.

Dalmore 1978
A rising tide floats all 1978 vintage Dalmore’s

Lord of the IslesArdbeg’s Lord of the Isles was another standout performer with two bottles selling for £1,050 and two bottles selling for £1,100. Recent bottles have been selling for around the £550 – £600 mark so this is a significant Glenmo Cote de Nuitsremoval from the current pattern.

Following recent price advances, the tall-necks of Tain, Glenmorangie moved further up the value chain. The fabulous ice-cream accompanying Sonnalta PX saw £230 and £240 achieved. Not outright new records, but significantly above values for the past 12 months. Sonny PX might currently be a tad expensive to buy purely for your Mr Whippy, but (when it was cheap) this stuff really does go well poured on ice cream… as does PX itself. Another one of Glenmorangie’s finest bottles, the 1975 vintage Cote De Nuits took to new highs when two bottles sold for £740 and £820.

Amid an advancing market for Scotch, Karuizawa remains a significant risk to those who plan on buying for investment. Earlier this year, a bottle of the second release Ghost/Rouge cask series sold for £17,500. It’s about as rare as it gets with just 22 bottles, but £17,500 is a chunk of change to take from even the wealthiest of spare-change-spirit-slush-funds. Clearly too much for the market to repeat, a bottle sold for almost half that amount… £9,000 sealed the deal. Let’s be fair here, £9,000 is still a whopping price to pay/receive for this bottle, but vast elements of unpredictability and volatility continue to hound Karuizawa… Never catch a falling knife!

Karuizawa 1995 Ghost
To be known, from this day forth, as the falling knife of Karuizawa

In summary, SWA’s early April auction confirmed values are increasing. In some cases rapidly. In some cases too rapidly. If momentum continues over the next few months, maybe we’re moving through a period of market correction where values will progress to another level? But if demand slips, or market conditions change, some of these increases could simply be unwanted spikes. It’ll certainly be interesting to see if some of these prices can be maintained.

 

 

Images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

Weekly Auction Watch – 10th Mar 2016

2016 has already seen significant increases in price for certain bottles of Scotch. As we move towards the end of Q1, that up-trend shows no immediate signs of let-up.

Further buoyancy at Scotch Whisky Auctions recent sale served to cement the positive market sentiment.

Age, vintage and rarity continue to be driving forces behind the best performers.

Ardbeg’s ever increasingly scarce single casks remained under extreme pressure. One of 453 bottles released from cask 1378, a 1975 vintage released in 2006, fetched £1,150. Just £360 took this bottle in 2009. Younger single casks also shone with a bottle of the 2000 vintage from cask 368 taking a massive £700. With a previous record of £410 in 2015, this looks like a one off spike but is impressive none the less.

Ardbeg Single Cask Bottles

 

Adding at least some balance to proceedings, heading down in value was a bottle of Auriverdes ‘bloggers-bullion’ gold bottle. At £1,000 it’s now worth just less than 50% of its first recorded sale of £2,100. Losses aside, £1,000’s still not a drop in the ocean for a free press release bottle.

At 40 years old, the 1966 distilled Jura was limited to just 98 bottles and is rarely seen at auction. At this kind of age and with exceptional rarity it’s no surprise to see the bottle hit a new record. In 2008 a bottle sold for £700. In today’s market the value of this scarce bottle has increased by 257% to £2,500.

While many of the more familiar releases languished or slipped in value, top end Glenmorangie’s performed well. Throughout 2010 and 2011 Glenmorangie values crashed. We’ve spoken about this frequently as values literally halved over a period of just three short months. While prices have remained depressed for certain limited editions, the older aged/vintage releases have recovered and in some cases excelled.

Glenmorangie Trio

A bottle of 1981 Sauternes finish fetched a frighteningly low £120 in the depths of the ‘Morangie-massacre – Putting those fallow times well and truly behind it now, one sold for a record £720, a bottle of the duty free exclusive 1975/2002 ascended to £430 (Mid-crash this was sat at £122) and topping this heady trio was a bottle of Malaga finish 30 year old which managed £820 (again, just £120 took this bottle mid-crash). Hindsight is 20:20, Tamdhu 1957we all know that; BUT… but, if you’d bought these three bottles in 2011, right at the peak of ‘Morangie-misery, they would have cost £362. In today’s market they would be worth £1,970, a 444% increase.

Old vintages also continue to shine. With an all-time low of £150, a G&M bottled 1957 vintage Tamdhu sold for a record £640. The previous record for this bottle was a mere £260 in 2014.

With a notable absence of any sort of volume for older vintages, it was scant surprise to see a new record for a 1970/1988 Macallan 18 year old: £920 sealed the bidding, well ahead of its previous best £750. Showing a recovery and renewed demand for rarities, the first release Easter Elchies Cask Selection closed out at £1,100, not an outright record but good progress, especially considering its 2008 release price of £105.

Silent stills were, again, visible by their absence. Dipping numbers on the open market are pushing prices ever higher.

I remember being beaten at auction in 2011 for a bottle of Brora Silent Stills 1983 18 year Brora Silent Stillsold. The enemy (the other bidder) took the price up to £310… there were only two of us bidding by that point… I thought he’d leave at just over £300 so I pushed on to £320. The enemy’s hand went straight back in the air and I remember thinking this is going to go silly. So I let the enemy have it for £330. Maybe I should have taken it a little further as one sold for a mighty £920.

Of the few silent stills present, other record performances were seen for –

  • Glenugie 32 OB achieved £470, sneaking past a previous best of £450.
  • Glenury Royal 40 year old managed £780, comfortably past a previous best £600 in 2014 and a low of £340 in 2013.Rosebank 25
  • Killyloch’s 1967 OB hit £2,000 for the very first time. £1850 was its previous best. With £400 as its all-time low in 2012, that’s some major upside.
  • Port Ellen 9th made £1050, just squeezing ahead of its £1000 previous record.
  • Rosebank’s OB 25 year old Added £20 onto it’s previous best of £620, tipping the scales at £640.

In general, I don’t remember seeing such a buoyant start to the year as we’ve seen in 2016. There will be some spikes in-and-among the numbers and some bottles will naturally cool back down… That said, we do still see a continued hardening of prices for the oldest, rarest examples of the best whiskies. Get ‘em while you can?!

 

Photo’s courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

Weekly Auction Watch – 4th March 2016

Bulls ride the market through Bonhams as new record prices are set for many rare bottles of Scotch.

Over recent months, even years, traditional whisky auction houses have appeared to be gradually withering on the vine.

The onslaught of on-line auctioneers has managed to turn a small niche part of the broader whisky market into what’s now almost a replacement for the traditional rare whisky retailer. Bigger, better, faster, slicker, quicker (most of the time) on-line whisky auctions have been squeezing traditional auctioneers out of the market.

However; showing there’s still room in the market for all, Bonhams recent sale was an absolute belter.

Okay, so there weren’t thousands of bottles on offer, but what there was, was in some cases, quite incredible… and most bottles sold right at the top end of their recent trading range or set new records. Get the right bottles on the shelf and there’s still massive demand… even with 25% plus VAT buyer’s premium to pay.

Bonhams has traditionally been a hot-house for Macallan, so we’ll start with the king of collectables.

Macallan Records

The first of the Macallan replica series, the 1874, has fetched £470 previously. It’s never broken through £500, let alone the £600 it managed on the day. I find these bottles fascinating… Facsimile’s of fakes. Does that make them the whisky world’s first double fake? Or something…

Just about everything else from Macallan made a new record along the way. Modern Macallan’s have slumped in value over recent years, so it was impressive to see a Diamond Jubilee bottle make a record equalling £1,300 – A price unseen since August 2013.

Someone far wiser (or is that wizened?!.. probably both) than I recently said, over a rather good 1966 Glenugie, “1966 was a good year for eeeeeverything”. It certainly was for Macallan, whose 1966/1984 18 year old nudged through £1,000 to hit a record £1,100. Between 2008 – 2010 these were being scooped up for as little as £270 – £280.

Ardbeg Connoisseurs Choice RecordsSome Ardbeg 1970’s vintage Connoisseurs Choice bottles made impressive numbers. Twin lots of 1974/1992 took £350 and £400 per bottle, way past their 2009 record low of £160 and a brace of 1979/1991’s took a record £325 per bottle.Bruichladdich Centenary 15 yo

While it could still easily be a dead-cat-bounce, Bruichladdich’s recent improvement in form continued with a 15 year old Centenary decanter tipping the scales at £280. 2009 saw a record low of just £80.

Teaninich 1957Rarely mentioned, Teaninich took a new record of £550 for a 1957 Cadenheads dumpy bottle. With spirit distilled pre the 1970 expansion being from the now demolished ‘old’ or ‘b’ side, this is in effect whisky from a silent distillery; one closed in the early/mid 1980’s slump alongside fellow highlander Brora.

From a low-performers perspective, a bottle of Fettercairn 40 year old sold for just £450, its lowest ever. Interestingly, and maybe part of the reason for its decline; I recall trying this dram but I can’t remember what it was like… A forgettable 40 year old?Fettercairn 40

The first of three big-guns rolled into town with a 50 year old Glenfiddich taking £12,000; not a record but £1,000 over its previous price of £11,000.

Bowmore Largiemeanoch 1967The second was a bottle of Bowmore 1967 Largiemeanoch, pronounced correctly in Gaelic is simply ‘L‘ (it is in these pages anyway!). The first time L sold on the open market it fetched an impressive £2,350. That gradually increased to a £3,200 record price paid in 2014. L’s absence on the open market clearly made the collectors hearts grow fonder as it took a weighty £5,500 at this auction.Glenrothes 1946

Finally, a hugely impressive 1946 20 year old Glenrothes fetched £4,800. It’s the first time we’ve seen this bottle at auction so it was great to see it sell for a significant amount.

With far more buoyancy than we’ve observed over recent sales, it was great to see Bonhams bring some stunning bottles to market in the UK… More please!

 

Images courtesy of Bonhams

Weekly Auction Watch 26th Jan 2016

Bonhams – Hong Kong – had a massive 38.5% unsold lot rate at their recent whisky auction. Just 61.5% of lots sold on the day.

Conversely, Whisky-Online Auctions has an unsold lot rate of 0%. Zero percent! They have a no-reserve policy; and in the current buoyant market, that seems good practice. If the market softens, that good old reserve-price comfort blanket may well get dusted off, but for now it’s almost surplus to requirement.

I’d view Bonhams 61.5% lot-sold-rate (LSR) as a pretty disappointing performance from arguably one of the world’s most significant whisky auctioneers. So what happened?

Before we get into some cold hard facts about the winners and the not-so-winners from a brand perspective; in our opinion we suspect part of that poor performance is that we’re seeing a gradual homogenisation of global market pricing. Estimates, in some instances, were massively over UK values. Many of these bottles failed to sell. The rough rule of thumb used to be that auction sales values in HK were roughly double what they were in the UK. That really no longer applies. In-fact some sales prices, even for the mighty Karuizawa, were actually lower than prices in the UK. As the burgeoning UK internet-auction scene has become a truly world wide web, are we now seeing the creation of a level playing field… from a pricing perspective at least?

From a regional secondary-market brand perspective, (putting aside pricing differences and over-estimation), there are some clear trends emerging for popular bottles/distilleries.

Port_Ellen
Any Port in a storm? Not this Port, not in Hong Kong anyway.

Taking 61.5% as the average LSR let’s take a look at which brands are like a summer in Hong Kong… That’ll be hot then!

The highest LSR was Glenmorangie with 100%. Good old Tain titans, the 16 men pull out a perfect score (when is a lady ever going to permeate that most elusive of men’s clubs!?!?!). A whole two out of two bottles sold… so from that basis the data set is hardly revealing. Conversely, Bruichladdich saw three bottles at auction and took a big fat ‘oh’. Zero percent sold… Great bottles too, shame. Overpriced. No demand?

The two big guns were clearly Karuizawa and Macallan. East versus west in a sherry bomb barrage of superb open-market liquid.

Karuizawa reigned supreme with a market leading 89.7% LSR as 52 out of 58 bottles hammered-out successfully. Craigellachies finest, Macallan, managed a LSR of just 51.2% as 21 out of 41 bottles hit reserve. While the LSR was impressive, many Karuizawa prices fell in HK as they have in the UK… apart from that bottle (the 1960 50 year old), which again highlighted the krazy world of the professional Karuizawa collector. I am minded to think of the Pepsi-Max in sunny Blackpool whenever I delve into Karuizawa prices!

Staying with the sherried theme, the increasingly in-demand Glendronach took an 80% LSR as 4 out of 5 bottles sold. Not a conclusive victory at these miniscule levels, but none-the-less an interesting fact.

Springbank_32_Shoulder
A spring in its step at Bonhams

Closest to Karuizawa and just above Glendronach, from a Scotch perspective, came Highland Park with an impressive 87.5% LSR: 7 out of 8 bottles found new homes. It has to be pointed out that the bottles were exceptional rarities so it was scant surprise competition was particularly stiff. Springbank then came in with a convincing 66.7% LSR as 8 out of 12 bottles sold.

From this we know that Karuizawa is as popular in HK as it is in the UK but irrespective of the number of bottles sold, prices still softened. In some cases we saw bottles sell for less than they do in the UK. Have Karuizawa prices paved the way for harmonisation of values world-wide?

Brora_32_and_35
Brora’s awful… Seriously bad stuff. Send all bottles back from Hong Kong to Scotland. We all hate it here and will dispose of it in a fitting manner… honest.

Particularly different to the UK, some of our silent stills appear like they have yet to appeal to the eastern hearts, minds and palates (or maybe they were simply too expensive?). Port Ellen had a good selection of 40 bottles at the auction but could manage a LSR of just 35% when 14 sold. Brora fared even worse with just 3 of 14 bottles taking flight, giving a 21.4% LSR. Rosebank, saw a little more action as 4 of 10 bottles moved. Whether estimates were simply too high (they were certainly eye watering from a UK viewpoint) or the frenzy for silent stills is yet to infect HK who knows?

A fascinating auction and one which suggests values are aligning globally. Worthy of note; just under a year ago, in the February 2015 HK Bonhams auction, Macallan had an 85.3% LSR when 29 out of 34 lots sold.

Changing trends ahead?

Or simply aligning prices?

Weekly Auction Watch – 15th Jan 2016

For the first time since its formation, Perthshire based Whisky Auctioneer had more lots for sale than Scotch Whisky Auctions. Glasgow’s Scotch Whisky Auctions had 1,940 lots in their January auction vs 2,170 from Perth’s Whisky Auctioneer. We all know volume is vanity and one Swallow makes a summer as much as a Bells decanter is good for anything other than being a door stopper, but this year might be the toughest yet for our increasing whisky auction industry. Saturation point will come eventually; followed by consolidation. Competition looks tough, as SWA announced their first ever auction with 0% sellers commission. Interesting times ahead especially noting we’ll see more auctioneers being established this year AND, we suspect, more going by the wayside as has already happened. This is, of course, great news for buyers and sellers as it adds further liquidity to the market.

Exclude Krazy Karuizawa and the average £ per ‘collectable’ bottle appearing at auction in the UK is in decline. Lots more lots of low value bottles like Ardbeg Auriverdes etc are hitting the market and far fewer (relatively) auction gems such as Black Bowmore.

Despite the big volume, Whisky Auctioneer secured some high-end bottles with correspondingly high-end prices.

PC6

 

The first thing which stuck out like a 1966 Macallan among a sea of Sienna was Bruichladdich. Recent soft prices have seen some of the most collectable bottles selling for all-time lows. A bottle of PC5 recently took just £160 which is the same price as they were selling for in 2010; in reality that’s five long years with zero growth. All of a sudden we see a bottle of the far more voluminous PC6 selling for £320! Coupled with a few other decent results and a record £410 for Legacy IV, begs the question are Bruichladdich values on the mend? I still suspect not, but it’s still a possibility.

Dalmore 1960 25 yr old

Putting last week’s Constellation auction Dal-zaster aside and older rarities from the Alness giant performed well. A bottle of the ‘distilled prior to 1960′ 25 year old Dalmore burst through £1,000 for the first time as the hammer fell at £1,050. Push back prices to 2010 as we did with PC5 and the Dalmore see’s a 338% increase from just £240. One of 1,000 bottles released of Dalmore’s 1966 vintage 40 year old fetched £3,000 for the first time. With a 2010 low-point of £600, this is among Dalmore’s finest performers.

Black Bowmore 42 yo 4th Release

Staying with ‘big bottles’ distilled in the 1960’s, the fourth release of Black Bowmore took a record £6,400, some £500 ahead of its previous record and streets apart from its £1,800 low. White Bowmore also fetched a record £4,100.

Laphroaig 1989 21 DL

Illustrating that half bottles are about as appealing to the broader rare whisky market as a big burst of butyric in your Balvenie, the recent 35cl tots of Laphroaig 21 year old are selling for almost 20% under their current (and still very much available) retail price of £99. On the ‘froaig-flipside of the coin, a bottle of Douglas Laing’s 1989 21 year old… a full sized bottle… hit a £360 record.

 

Elsewhere in the auction, Douglas Laing’s 1975 27 year old Rosebank sold for £385 (£211 previous record), a bottle of St. Magdalene 1965/2001 Connoisseurs Choice nailed £380 (£310 previous record) and a 40 year old G&M Strathisla took £525 (£310 previous record).

All in all, a good set of results with some surprise action showing Bruichladdich still has a pulse at auction.

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.

Weekly Auction Watch – 7th December 2015

We often talk about price and value as being very separate animals.

Price is whatever anyone wants to ask for a ‘thing’. An asking price can be as wholly realistic or as flamboyantly outlandish as the seller of that particular thing decides. If the price is right, the thing sells – if the price is low, the thing sells fast – but if the price is too high, the poor thing sits on a shelf gathering dust. Value, on the other hand, is what the thing is actually worth.

That’s part of the beauty of the secondary (auction) market; it highlights true value and provides an open market test of worth.

Mortlach 25 yo

Take, for instance, the relatively recent release of the revised Mortlach range. A controversial 50cl bottle size and ambitious pricing raised eyebrows. The 25 year old range topper costs £600 per bottle, or £840 per 70cl equivalent. For a new-start luxury malt brand to position itself above the combined prowess of the mighty Macallan (£680 per 70cl 25 yr old) and Dalmore (£600 per 70cl 25 yr old) takes some confidence.

It was interesting to see where the open market priced the Mortlach in the recent Whisky Auctioneer sale. Its retail price might be viewed as a little ‘toppy’, so how does its true open market value compare to the 25 year old Macallan and Dalmore?

The Macallan 25 sells for £600 per bottle at auction.

The Dalmore 25 sells for £410 per bottle at auction.

The Mortlach achieved £275 (£385 per 70cl equivalent).

From a sellers perspective, that places the Mortlach 25 into a very rare group of bottles indeed. Those who lose >50% in value when switched from the primary to the secondary market. We highlighted a recent Glenturret which saw a massive loss too, the Mortlach is almost on the same level. Taking into account sellers fees and VAT yields a 59.7% primary-to-secondary market loss. Not one for the collector/investors. That said, we do still see older OB and IB Mortlach performing exceptionally well. A trend we expect to continue if not accelerate.

Loss making primary market bottles aside; the recent Whisky Auctioneer sale would be best described as a continuation of a (mainly) very positive theme. In many cases demand for the usual suspects took to new highs while other bottles continued to fall.

Port_Ellen_OBs
Rapid increases in value for Port Ellen OB’s

The Port Ellen official releases performed amazingly well with new records for the 5th, 6th and 8th releases. £950, £1,150 and £945 (respectively) took these bottles soaring past respective low values of £150, £140 and £170 in 2009. While average Indie per-bottle prices are still some way under the OB’s, massive demand took many IB’s to new heights. Both the Signatory port wood finishes hit new records with the first edition hitting £480 (£90 low point in 2008) and the second edition taking £575 (£80 low point in 2008).

Millburn

Bottles from silent siblings Millburn and Glen Glenflagler Sig 1970Flagler also fetched impressive numbers. A Douglas Laing bottled 1969 36 year old Millburn achieved £425 and a 1974 31 year old from Cadenheads took £345. Signatory’s 1970 23 year old Glen Flagler made £600, up from a previous £420 best.

Continuing a different theme; Karuizawa values softened further. Good examples of this swift descent from previous peaks as high as Mount Asama itself were –

1977 (from cask 7026) sold for £2,100 down from a June peak of £2,900.

1981 (from cask 8461) ‘en soi’ sold for £2,000 down from a £2,600 peak in April.

1981 (from cask 152) sold for £1,800 down from its £2,400 peak in September.

Again, taken from their original retail prices, these sale values are far from catastrophic; however, bottles purchased at auction earlier this year look like losses will be further extended.

Our final distillery this week is Glenfarclas. Producers of some of the best spirit on earth; ‘probably Speysides finest’ as they have been known (who the hell am I to disagree to be fair) look like a long due upshift in values is on the cards. More recent contemporary releases are remaining relatively stable, however, values for older vintages are hardening. A bottle of Signatory bottled 40 year old from 1958 achieved £1,260 up significantly on its 2014 high of £800. A bottle of the OB 1959 vintage fetched £850, again, a significant uplift on its previous £600 record.

Glenfarclas_Old_Vintages
Are Glenfarclas values set to increase?

Compare values for similar old vintages from other well-known distilleries and it’s not difficult to see why interest is now shifting to Glenfarclas. Prices in the current market look very favourable from a quality and age perspective.


December promises the highest ever number of bottles to hit the open market. As widely discussed, the end of 2014 had a supply led slowdown in values. Right now, this year looks to be bucking the trend.

In what is set to be the biggest whisky auctioneering month on record, can demand continue to outpace supply?

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

All images courtesy of Whisky Auctioneer

Weekly Auction Watch – 16th Nov 2015

November’s early momentum in the rare whisky market looks set to continue.

Whisky Auctioneer’s recent sale was their largest yet with c1,800 lots covering everything from the heady prices of Karuizawa through to rather less racy drinking drams.

Showing you don’t need to spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds to get bitten by the collecting bug, Aberlour A’Bunadh’s carefully controlled batch releases have been garnering a huge following. By virtue of their great bang for buck liquid, we’re now seeing prices harden for earlier releases. We must be at (or near) batch number sixty by now, so there’s a hefty back catalogue for collectors and investors.

The chart below shows the last three years performance for the first twenty batches.

Aberlour_ABunadh_Index_Oct2015

Very respectable performance. Doubling in value over the course of three years is impressive by anyone’s standards.

Away from Scotch, we’re seeing significant stress in the rare Karuizawa market. October saw values of the Karuizawa index down 2.45%. Running a November halfway point index shows values coming down by a further 2.50%… A 5% dip in one and a half months suggests descent from an overheated market with further turbulence ahead. Some bottles are coming down significantly and at a rapid pace –

A steep and rapid decline in values but where's the bottom?
A steep and rapid decline in values but where’s the bottom?

Cask 136 (1981 vintage) peaked at £2,300 in May this year; it now rests at £1,650.

Cask 8529 (1982 vintage) peaked at £1,950 in March this year; it now sits at £1,550.

Cask 8497 (1982 vintage) peaked at £2,200 in June this year; it now costs £1,400.

Cask 7802 (1984 vintage) peaked at £2,200 in May this year; get it now for £1,500.

To a degree, some of the exceptional rarities are more protected and we’re seeing polarisation at play. The more readily available (if there is such a thing!) bottles seem to be cooling but demand for ultra-rarities remains strong. This suggests the market is, at present, controlled by the collectors – when a number of ‘completionist’ collectors stop bidding, having completed their collection (as far as is possible at the time), values naturally dip. Investors typically keep going and purchase multiples of the same bottle where they see future value and the whole thing is underpinned by drinkers who gradually remove supply. These dynamics appear to have become seriously skewed at current prices, Karuizawa’s just too expensive for volumes of fans to drink, and investors have spotted the peak in the market.

We’ve declined to broker no less than five (separately owned) bottles of the 1964 Wealth Solutions bottle in literally as many days. We remain nervous enough to sit this one out and watch from the side-lines.

Let’s not get all doom-and-gloom about it though… bottles presently selling for many hundreds or thousands of pounds cost a tiny fraction of that a couple of years ago. We’re also not saying we don’t see value in Karuizawa bottles, we see plenty of value in them: The market got ahead of itself and needs natural correction.  When prices re-trace into drinking territory more familiar supply/demand forces will apply as a greater diversity of buyers re-enter the market.

Sticking with silent distilleries but moving back to Scotch, Pittyvaich’s official Flora and Fauna release took to a new £130 record. In ‘08/’09, these were a little over £30 per bottle with a record low of just £26 in early 2009.

Rosebank_CC_1988

Rosebank has been a regular tip or ours for some time (it still is), but prices look to be undergoing something of a sea-change. Bottles are becoming less prolific on the open market and values are increasing. In 2009 a bottle of Connoisseurs Choice 1988/1997 fetched £45 – At the recent Whisky-Auctioneer sale the winning number had more than quadrupled at £216.

A brace of bottles from Glenesk (aka Hillside) both hit new record highs. A Signatory 26-year-old on a 1974 vintage took £210 and a 30-year-old bottling by Douglas Laing fetched £285.

Special mention for the final bottle this week goes to the new Glenmorangie release – A Midwinter Night’s Dram – Three bottles sold for £195, £200 and £210.

A Midwinter nights bid too far?
A midwinter night’s bid too far?

As it’s still readily available for £40, one can only assume the vast price paid was a little bit of new-release-curve frenzy and regional supply differences. We’re not expecting that type of crazy price to hold fast!

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

All bottle images courtesy of Whisky Auctioneer