Category Archives: Weekly Auction Watch

Weekly Auction Watch – 2nd Nov 2015

October departed quicker than a bottle of Loch Dhu down a drain. An immensely busy month for RW101 saw our weekly updates turn monthly. There are huge levels of activity in many areas of the market right now, which in itself is exceptionally exciting… Volatility and extended losses for some and immense upwards pressure on values for others.

November’s first dedicated whisky sale saw a bumper 2,800 lots go under the e-hammer at Scotch Whisky Auctions. In last months SWA sale, fifteen out of the top twenty most expensive bottles were from Karuizawa; Scotch took just five. This month, Scotland gained a little ground holding onto seven out of the top twenty. That said, the price difference between the most expensive bottle of Karuizawa and the most expensive bottle of Scotch was vast: £9,000 took the first bottle (of just 50 released) on the open market from Karuizawa’s cask number 3557. Laphroaig’s 1960 vintage 40 year old was capable of just £4,000 – Incidentally, that’s the first time this bottle’s hit £4,000, having a previous record of £3,800.

Over £16,000 right here... Just these three!
Over £16,000 right here… Just these three!

The second most expensive bottle of Scotch was also a record breaker. One of the ultra-rare 1973 28 year old Talisker’s shot to a record £3,200, comfortably exceeding its previous best of £2,500.

Ardbeg demonstrated the ongoing trend of market polarisation as a bottle of the highly desirable Lord of the Isles took an all-time second best price of £820. Languishing at the other end of the spectrum, the Kildalton Project bottle struggled to fetch its original retail price of £120… After fees and taxes the result is clearly a steep net loss.

Clynelish 12
Just £120 in 2009

Featured in our previous auction update, “buyer beware at these heady prices” was our closing remark about Bowmore’s Mizunara cask finish when the first bottle to hit the market achieved £1,200. One short month later and we’re looking at a 25% auction-to-auction loss following a £900 sale. Still more than its original retail price but classic new-release-curve at play.

Further highlighting bottles released years/decades ago containing legacy-liquid are still hugely sought after, a bottle of early 1980’s bottled Clynelish 12 year old sold for a record £560. Way back in 2009, a paltry £120 would have secured one of these.

From a collector/investor perspective, Dalmore values continue to harden. As much as Dalmore has become famous (infamous) for their recent seemingly excessive pricing, their long extinct bottles and older vintages keep stepping up in value. A bottle of exceptionally rare 12-year-old from the 1970’s at 75 degrees proof achieved £640, way ahead of its £260 Low in 2010. Along with that, a wonderful old bottle of 20-year-old hit £740 – not an outright record (£785) but way ahead of the £450 paid in 2010.

Long extinct releases and older vintages underpin Dalmore as a collectable
Long extinct releases and older vintages underpin Dalmore as a collectable

While we didn’t run the numbers, anecdotally, there appeared to be a continuation in the trend for declining stock from silent distilleries. There just isn’t much floating around the auction-ether anymore.

Be it the above mentioned stress on supply or a renewed level of demand, following an extended period of volatility, Brora OB values seem to be settling towards the higher end of their trading range. No outright records were set but there was evident pressure on the prices paid.

Mirroring the above apparent stress in supply, one of just two bottles from silent lowlander, St Magdalene, (a 1965/1993 Connoisseurs Choice) fetched an almost inevitable new record £320. The other, a bottle of the 19-year-old Rare Malts Selection, fetched £520. Not a record but towards the top end of its trading range, especially noting the borderline fill level. In 2008 you’d have picked this bottle up for £100.

St Mag - Just two bottles out of over 2,800 at this auction
St Mag represented by Just two bottles at this auction

All-told, a buoyant start to what it traditionally the highest volume month of the year. Whether that trend continues is anybody’s guess…

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

All images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

Weekly Auction Watch – 12th Oct 2015

The increased (and massively premature when you have an excitable four year old) visibility of chocolate Santas, holly adorned tubes of sweets and various other absurdly early Christmas related merchandise means one certainty… We’re in the final quarter of the year. Q4’s typically the busiest time of the year from a volume-of-bottles perspective – It can also be a volatile period from a value-of-bottles perspective. Q4’s first Scotch Whisky Auctions sale showed little of that volatility; values look to be holding steady with continued upwards bias for many bottles.

Worthy of mention, fifteen of the top twenty most expensive bottles of the auction were from Karuizawa. Scotch did, however, punch a little above its weight from a value perspective with 26.6% of the value of the top 20 – slightly ahead of its 25% volume.

Scotch Whisky Auctions top 5 results by price
Scotch Whisky Auctions top 5 results by price

With rarity in part driving the price of the most expensive bottle; one of just 68 bottles from Karuizawa’s cask 8333 managed a staggering £9,000.

The most expensive bottle of Scotch at the auction is quite possibly one of the most hideously packaged ever. Awful/cronky packaging aside (irrespective of looks, try opening one of the bloody things!), the Glenfiddich 38 year old ‘Ultimate’ hit an impressive £5,200.

The next release comes with a luxury shaving kit
The next release also comes with a luxury shaving kit

The fourth overall most expensive bottle and the second most expensive Scotch is the first record-breaker this week. The 1953 58 year old Glenfarclas fetched £5,200 comfortably moving past its previous £4,450 record.

Sold for £5,200, almost double its 2013 first UK auction price of £2,800
Sold for £5,200, almost double its 2013 first UK auction price of £2,800

Much comment and the expected cries of outlandish pricing accompanied the recent launch of Bowmore’s NAS Mizunara Cask Finish. As the first bottle hit the open market and managed £1,200 (almost double its £650 retail price), it looks like demand comfortably exceeded the price tag. That said, we could see classic new release curve at play (first sales go high then settle as supply increases over time) so buyer-beware at these heady prices. With 2,000 bottles released, many will be drawn into the secondary market over time. Patience, again, could well be rewarded as open market supply naturally increases.

Sold for £1,200. Almost double its original retail price
Sold for £1,200. Almost double its original retail price

This weeks final bottle from a currently producing distillery is the Rebus bottling from Highland Park. Values in general for Highland park remained static or slightly lower than recent highs. It was pleasing to see the Rebus bottle manage a record £2,600; more than three times its all-time low of £800.

Silent stills maintain buoyancy.

Dallas ‘Dhon’t’ put a lacklustre past performance well behind it and very much became ‘Dallas-don’t-mind-if-I-Dhu’ as new record prices were achieved for virtually every bottle sold. A brace of Signatory Cask Strength bottles on 1975 and 1979 vintages achieved £300 and £270 respectively (up from £210 and £160 respectively). A 1971 vintage Connoisseurs Choice edged up from its previous £150 to settle at £190.

Dallas please-Dhu
Dallas please-Dhu
Indie bottles from Silent stills perform well
Indie bottles from Silent stills perform well

Again, from Signatory, a bottle of Glenlochy 1980 30 year old hit £250 up from a previous sale of £190. Glenury Royal also had a good auction with the OB’s at the top of their current trading range and a Blackadder bottled 1973 34 year old taking £340; up from just £165 last year.

Port Ellen’s official bottles maintained their current up-trend with the first release making a record £2,200. The 2008 Feis Ile bottle hit a joint £3,400 high; an acceptable seven year increase from its original £100 selling price. That was one queue worth getting up at four o’clock in the morning for!

A £3,300 gain for one queue
A £3,300 gain for one queue

With a little over two months left until Christmas, it would be hard to second guess the market at the year end. Last year showed us November and December can be tough months if supply goes through the roof… Right now though, things continue to look very positive.

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

All images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions.

Weekly Auction Watch – 9th August 2015

“Where do I start?… How do I begin to build a whisky collection with one eye on it being an investment?” This is the single most frequent question we get asked. One day, maybe we’ll get the time to publish something a little more comprehensive for those new to the wonderful, delicious, often daunting world of the whisky collector.

Until then, taking a detailed look at one of the most buoyant auctions we’ve seen this year gives some clear direction of where target acquisitions should be focussed in the current market. Scotch Whisky Auctions September sale showed values for the right bottles are climbing… in some cases, rather rapidly.

So what are the themes and trends?

AGE MATTERS.

Forget ‘flavour led propositions’, ‘blank canvass allowing creativity’ and the rest of the NAS sales/marketing messages around old being UN-important. At the non-collectable end of the market, we get all that, the industry needs to continue and it can’t throw big ages around willy-nilly anymore. Elsewhere, age matters and it matters more than ever; so does vintage (date distilled) with older being better… From a collector/investor perspective these two dynamics are crucial. Some NAS bottles have been proved popular, and profitable, for collectors but their numbers are small.

Taking a look at some of the bottles from last weeks SWA, specifically from Gordon & MacPhail, and the results are impressive.

1950's vintages see increased pressure from buyers
1950’s vintages see increased pressure from buyers

Bottles distilled in 1954, 1955 and 1956 flew to new heights with a 1954/2003 Strathisla achieving £640 (£220 in 2010), the 1955/2005 Secret Stills Talisker topped £1,000 for the first time at £1,150 (again, just £220 in 2010) and the 1956/2006 Glen Grant nailed £600 up from an all-time low of £190 in 2013. At these prices for bottles at c48-50 years old, we still see legs in buying.

Older indie Springbanks also had a good auction with two notable bottles – The 1965 34 year old by Murray McDavid sold for £1,250, making its 2011 price of £300 look tiny. A Signatory bottled 1969, again 34 years old, made £620… With a 2011 price of £120, that’s some up-shift.

1960's vintage indie bottles of Springbank make impressive gains
1960’s vintage indie bottles of Springbank make impressive gains

For balance and showing every coin has a flip side, the big-fail with a big-age was the Glenfarclas 60-year-old which didn’t hit reserve. Expectations can sometimes become a little too stretching…

ICONIC COLLECTABLES FROM ICONIC DISTILLERIES.

Not necessarily with vast old ages, or vintages stretching back to the 1950’s, iconic limited releases from the most iconic of distilleries offer serious targets for collectors and drinkers with deep pockets. Current less valuable releases from Ardbeg, while almost traded to death, show nothing like the gains of older discontinued bottles –

A bottle of single cask Ardbeg Feis 2010, 1995 vintage (cask 2761) sold for £490 up from its previous £430 sale. Moving the vintage further back, a bottle of 1976 Ardbeg (cask 2392) achieved £1,750 up from £1,400 in May. The now almost legendary Ardbeg 1974 Provenance (4th release) hit £1,650 up from £1,300. Showing the increasing importance and value placed on indie bottles, a Douglas Laing bottled 1973 29-year-old Ardbeg fetched a massive £1,700 up from £540 in April 2014.

Ardbeg single casks. Becoming very hard to find in a world of volume NAS releases
Ardbeg single casks/icons. Becoming very hard to find in a world of volume NAS releases

SILENCE PLEASE!

Following August’s 2.17% increase in the Port Ellen Index, the OB’s appear to be on the move again in September. The third release was the only OB to fetch a new record price when it burst through the £1,000 barrier and settled on £1,100. The rest of the pack performed towards the top end of their trading range further recouping losses after tumbling from 2014 highs.

Combining a massive age statement and a silent still was more than enough to propel the Glenury Royal 50-year-old through a previous best of £3,000 to settle on £3,300. £820 took this bottle at its lowest in 2012.

50 yeas old AND from a silent distillery... it's not going to do badly then!
50 yeas old AND from a silent distillery… it’s not going to do badly then!

Staying silent but changing continents, Karuizawa does look to be softening as previously reported, particularly for more frequently traded bottles. A bottle  of the 1983 30-year-old (cask 8606) sold for £1,750 down from £2,400, a Geisha label 1983 vintage (cask 2656) managed £2,400, easing down from £2,800 and a bottle of cask strength 3rd release came down from £450 to £410… Let’s be fair though, taken in perspective, it’s still no disaster!

Aside from the above softening, prices still remain generally high for Karuizawa. Certain rarer bottles did experience gains with some of the infrequently seen NOH and Samurai bottles leading any significant increases.

The whole secondary market remains exceptionally active. 2014 saw the last three months of the year flatten out. September doesn’t look like the beginning of an early year-end re-trace for 2015, far from it, values appear to be firming up. But as Q4 approaches should we be bracing for a dip?

All images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

Weekly Auction Watch – 12th Aug 2015

The 21st (really? Almost two years!) Whiskyauctioneer sale ended last week and brought with it a whole host of record prices, some were particularly strong. Amid solid demand, the secondary rare whisky market (for the right bottles), looked well and truly governed by the bulls.

The first-release phenomena stood out with the sale of a full set of An Cnoc Peter Arkle bottles. The first release (fourth bottle along in the image) achieved £138, it’s first time over £100 but the rest of the collection dipped.

Not necessarily the rarest bottles in the world but An Cnoc's Arkle first release performs well
Not necessarily the rarest bottles in the world but An Cnoc’s Arkle first release performs well

Tipped as ‘buys’ previously, many independently bottled Ardbeg values drifted further north. As LVMH continue their strict cask control regime (I’ve tried to buy some, it didn’t work out well!) the number of remaining casks in the market out-with LVMH control continues to wither on the vine. Diminishing supply and no let-up from an army of keen fans should see these bottles continue to perform.

Local (to RW101 anyway) hero Balblair's 1989 vintage
Local (to RW101 anyway) hero Balblair’s 1989 vintage

Our local distillery and frequent source of great juice, Balblair, saw the first release 1989 vintage peak at £127 (first release standing out again). Just £25 took this at auction in 2010.

Surfing on Atlantic wave sized peaks and troughs, as is now common with the distillery, Bruichladdich had an interesting set of results. The trilogy of Blacker Still, Redder Still and Golder Still saw Blacker selling for £370; way under its record £600. Redder sold for £350, just off its previous best £410 and Golder advanced significantly to sell for a heady £330. In 2011 Golder sold for a mere £78, well under its original retail price.

Blacker, Redder and Golder Still values yo-yo
Blacker, Redder and Golder Still values yo-yo
What goes up can also come down
What goes up can also come down

Previously one of the most sought after collectable Bruichladdich’s was ‘The Rocket’ or WMDI – Whisky of Mass Distinction (followed by the far more common WMDII – Yellow Submarine). As far back as 2008 WMDI was selling for £180 – £200; more recent sales have been as much as £270 and £310. In common with Bruichladdichs yo-yo-esque auction performance one sold for an all-time low of £175 (it also subsequently sold for less than that but more on that next week). Unless Bruichladdich is being bought as a drink or as a collectable, we’re advising to wait on the side-lines as an investment; certainly until values stabilise and this extreme volatility settles.

Silent Stills proved yet again they’re still attracting some serious competition.

Released in 2003, the Glen Flagler / Killyloch pairing performed impresively. As the only official bottling from Killyloch, this 1967 vintage sailed through its previous £1,550 record and sold for £1,850. While the Glen Flagler failed to achieve an outright new record, (£1,150 was bid in September 2013) it out-performed its current £550 – £750 trading range and set a second best price of £1,000.

Glen Flagler/Killyloch pair see surge in demand
Glen Flagler/Killyloch pair see surge in demand

Other record silent still sales were achieved by –

Cadenheads 1978 vintage Coleburn which sold for £305 (£75 low-point in 2011).

Cadenheads 1977 vintage Pittyvaich which sold for £450 (£220 low-point in 2013).

Signatory 1990 vintage Rosebank which sold for £260 (£125 low-point in 2014).

Against The Grain 1982 vintage Glen Mhor sold for £133 (£52 low-point in 2009).

Many silent stills bottles lead the market
Many silent stills bottles lead the market

Featured almost every week now, recent increased demand for Highland Park saw one of the Bicentenary Repatriation bottles achieve £799, sailing past current trading range of £350 – £450. A very respectable gain over its £250 original retail price.

Legendary Laga shines
Legendary Laga shines

Lagavulin’s 2007 released 21-year-old just pipped its previous best of £880 when one sold for £893.

While the volume end of the market continues to falter (but provides opportunities for missed bottles to be picked up at fair prices) the rarer end of the market maintains its buoyancy.

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

All images courtesy of Whisky Auctioneer

Weekly Auction Watch – 3rd August 2015

The first whisky auction of August (Scotch Whisky Auctions) highlighted the continuing demand for Japanese whisky, predominantly Karuizawa.

Most expensive bottle of the auction
Most expensive bottle of the auction

Fifteen of the twenty most expensive lots were from this now legendary, closed Japanese distillery with Scotch accounting for just five. In value terms the top twenty lots fetched £66,400, of which £51,900 was from Karuizawa – 78% of the top 20 by value was Karuizawa… Demand is clearly vast. The most expensive bottle of the whole auction was a 1995 vintage 18 year old Karuizawa. Just 22 bottles kicks the rarity ball right out of the park with this one…. But £11,000! Incredible.

In more general terms, while there were a number of new record prices these were for exceptional rarities; more current voluminous releases under-performed.

47 bottles at one auction
47 bottles at one auction

The above image was used in one of our previous posts, however, to be perpetually traded is certainly correct in this case with a staggering 47 bottles of Ardbeg Perpetuum Distillery release making it to auction. Again, showing patience is key when buying a relatively high volume limited release, the first three bottles to hit auction in the UK (at the same time) sold for £400, £410 and £490; an average of £433. With a current average of c£155, that’s an auction to auction loss of 64.2% since launch. Will this bottle ever recover to previous levels? Not for a long time, if ever.

Value halved in two months
Value halved in two months

Macallan’s Folio 1, Archival Series pared back its recent performance as two bottles sold for £210 each. With a high of £425 just two months ago, this is another clear reason not to get carried away with bidding on the first bottles to hit auction. More positively, three Burns decanters all sold for prices far in excess of recent sales – £2,000 to £2,300 took the bottles way ahead of the previous £1,200 – £1,500 trading range.

Mortlach’s G&M bottled 1957 50 year old (514 bottles – first fill sherry) last sold for £320 in 2013. Almost three times that was paid when £900 sealed the bidding here.

Staying with sherried Scotch, the current go-to provider of sherry-bombs, Glendronach, had an impressive set of results. The highly regarded 1968 25 year old achieved a record £760. In 2009/10 these were selling for £150 – £180. Batch two of Grandeur, a 31 year old, fetched £600 far surpassing its previous £410 record.

Exceptional performance from sherry masters Glendronach
Exceptional performance from sherry masters Glendronach

Silent Distilleries.

Both Port Ellen and Brora performed broadly in line with current values. No record prices were achieved; if anything Brora prices stepped back a little. The most significant increases are currently being seen for both distilleries through indie bottles rather than the official bottles. There were, however, some signs of upwards pressure on OB Port Ellen’s, a signal of another up-shift ahead?

With just 54 bottles released, it was little surprise to see the Douglas Laing bottled 1968 34 year old Glenury Royal achieve a record £660. £490 was the previous high for this bottle.

Also bottled by Doulas Laing, a bottle of Millburn 1976 25 year old achieved £230 comfortably exceeding its previous 2014 price of £175.

A bottle of Rare Malts Selection 19 year old St. Magdalene fetched a record £620. In 2008 this was selling for just £100. The previous record for this bottle was £520.

High demand for rarities from silent stills
High demand for rarities from silent stills

We’ve previously advised collectors keen on selling not to do so in the summer months. History shows us summer month sales can take a dip in hammer price terms. Whether that had anything to do with the distinctly average performance of many bottles can be debated; however, the more voluminous releases took a clear dip… But with 47 bottles of the same thing in one auction we should really expect nothing else.

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy.

All images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

Weekly Auction Watch – 16th July 2015

Vintage Macallan Values Continue to Harden.

Building on last weeks positive outcome for Macallan, older vintage bottles appear to be shifting north; in some cases rapidly. It’s no secret secondary market values for Macallan had a relatively tough time throughout 2014. With a cross-brand all-bottle decline of 7.43%, the king of collectables took a relatively wide-reaching correction in investment terms.

Throughout 2015, certainly for discontinued older vintage bottles, things appear far more buoyant. A hardening in prices continued at the recent Whisky Auctioneer sale.

Four 25-year-old Anniversary Malt’s were sold with two achieving outright new records and the other two trading at the top end of recent prices.

Macallan Anniversary Malts continue upside
Macallan Anniversary Malts continue upside
  • The 1957/1983 vintage fetched a record £2,200; just £600 would have secured this bottle in 2010.
  • The 1968/1993 vintage fetched £1,300, not a record but way ahead of its previous most recent £950.
  • The 1971/1997 vintage fetched £1,200, again not a record but significantly above its recent £900 trading level.
  • The 1974/1999 vintage fetched £1,020, just £20 over its previous record price, but a record none the less.

On a more contemporary basis, while the ‘M’ decanter only managed £2,150, the Queens Diamond Jubilee cemented recent gains and settled around £1,120 per bottle – well up on the previous £750 – £850 prices achieved.

One for drinking
One for drinking

The Macallan ‘M’ decanter is an interesting concept. Unlike some bottles of Macallan, It wasn’t released with the collectors market in mind; it was released solely as a showcase for top of the range Macallan as a drink. I recently spoke to a business associate who asked my opinion on buying ‘M’ as an investment. My answer was to spend his money elsewhere and not to go near M as a collectable or investment… “Too late” came the unfortunate cry. It transpires he’s already bought four bottles! With a lot of patience it might claw back its losses… especially it it’s discontinued at some point in the future.

Away from Macallan…

Twice the price over just 12 months
Twice the price over just 12 months

Bottles from silent distilleries maintained their current positive price trajectory with Rosebank looking especially favourable. A bottle of 1967 vintage 26-year-old bottled by Signatory stormed in at £750; more than doubling its 2014 price of £350. The 1979 vintage 20-year-old Rosebank from The Rare Malts Selection range hit £450, not quite an absolute record (£660 was the ‘spiky’ price paid for a bottle in 2013) but way ahead of its £80 price tag in 2010.

Showing you don’t have to pay many hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of pounds to get on the silent stills ladder, a bottle of Inverleven (a distillery within a distillery) 1985/1999 by Gordon and MacPhail achieved £84; more than doubling its 2011 price of £40.

Glenlivet 1955
1955 Glenlivet

While many official bottles from Glenlivet continue to decline in value, the older vintage releases from Gordon and MacPhail are moving well. £675 took a 1955/2001 bottle, pushing it well ahead of its previous £450.

In my view, Glenlivet OB values will continue to fall. In terms of buying quality drinking stock on the secondary market, if the new Founders Reserve is anything to go by (tried it, left it, won’t return to it), we’ll see further polarisation between modern OB’s and discontinued IB’s.

Digressing slightly, the interesting conundrum for the Glenlivet Founders Reserve will be to see if it manages to recruit volumes of ‘new-to-category’ drinkers without turning away more seasoned whisky consumers. I fear the bigger challenge may be to get any new recruits to return for a second go…. who knows, I could be utterly wrong and it gets judged the best thing in the world at some award or another.

Back to the numbers and the current surge in Highland Park prices remains unchanged. Earl Haakon hit its highest price since November 2014 and a bottle of 1974 vintage (cask 11501, Viking Cinderella) sold for £750. £410 was the previous price paid for this bottle earlier in 2015.

Highland Park 1974 and Earl Haakon
Highland Park 1974 and Earl Haakon

Showing how rarities often make huge step-change leaps in value when they are rarely seen on the market, a bottle of Connoisseurs Choice 1957 Longmorn 25-year-old sold for £525. That was merely its second time at auction in the UK, on its first outing in 2008 it made £220.

Finally this week, it almost looks like Glenfiddich is giving its gilt-edged sibling Balvenie a bloody nose in the collectors stakes. The Glenfiddich 1958 sold for £4,400, way ahead of its previous £2,350 and even way ahead of the £2,750 it costs in travel retail.

Glenfiddich 1958 and 1972
Glenfiddich 1958 and 1972
Glenfiddich 1958 current retail price. Cheaper than buying at auction
Glenfiddich 1958 current retail price. Cheaper than buying at auction

At these prices it might not remain in travel retail for much longer. A bottle of 1972 vintage (from cask 16032) managed to take £900 on the nose, almost doubling its 2013 price of £460.

All in all, a good auction with some very impressive results.

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

Images courtesy of Whiskyauctioneer.com

Weekly Auction Watch – 7th July 2015

Are Bottles from Silent Stills Vanishing?

Scotch Whisky Auctions (SWA) first sale of quarter three 2015 highlighted a particularly revealing trend. For some time now we’ve had it in mind that the number of bottles appearing at auction from silent distilleries is in decline. Until now It’s been more of an anecdotal thought; as usual, we’ve tried to put some numbers behind the hypothesis. Individual bottle values seem to be increasing for most, if not all, silent distilleries. So before we come onto the usual winners and not-so-winners from the recent SWA we take a look at open market supply for silent stills.

The charts below illustrate some single month analysis over the last three years for the number of bottles from silent stills hitting the hammer. This is purely from Scotch Whisky Auctions and shows full-sized bottles (and 50cl) only, so excludes 20cl and miniatures.

Are bottles from silent distilleries set to become extinct?
Are bottles from silent distilleries set to become extinct?

We suspected a decline would be evident; however, we had no idea it would be so severe. Over a two-year period the % of bottles from silent stills compared to ‘all lots sold’ has fallen from almost 5.8% in July 2013 to almost 3.7% in July 2015. I find that quite staggering… more than 1% per year. In part, this goes some way to highlighting why bottles from silent stills feature record prices so frequently.

The question is – Are they being kept/collected or are they being consumed?

If they are being preserved to be re-sold in future months/years, once prices reach a certain level, we may see this trend reverse (at least stabilise). If they’re being drunk, effectively reducing the target pool of available stock, values should continue to increase… in some cases that increase could be somewhat rapid.

Demand continues at all-time highs, so with stock levels exiting the market at this rate, now might just be the time to buy those missing bottles from one’s collection. Official Port Ellen and Brora prices have remained relatively static for some time and have re-traced from previous high points… but for how long?

Silence, it appears, is indeed golden!

The recent SWA sale had many new records for bottles from both open and closed distilleries.

The recent up-trend for older discontinued bottles of Macallan accelerated as we saw a bottle of 1968 vintage 18-year-old break £1,000 for the first time. £1,150 took the bottle past its previous high of £950 and left its 2008 low-point of £240 way in the distance. The red-label US export Cask Strength bottling managed to squeeze £400 for the first time, some £60 over its previous high and a highland-mile away from its £120 low in 2010.

Older collectable Macallan maintains collectors credentials
Older collectable Macallan maintains collectors credentials

There was no let-up in demand for Macallan’s halo bottles as the 1951 (one of 632 bottles released – NOT the Fine and Rare bottle it’s frequently confused with) fetched £8,600. While this is an equal record, the bottle hasn’t seen that kind of price since February 2014. With a 2011 all-time low of £1,600, a clear £7000 increase in value is somewhat impressive.  The 1961 (again NOT the Fine and Rare bottle it’s frequently confused with) managed £7,000, its second best ever.

More modern contemporary Macallan saw some small but none the less important rises with the 2011 Royal Marriage taking £1,100 – £1,200 and the Coronation twin set managing £780 – Have we now tested the bottom for the Royal trilogy? Unfortunately, other limited editions fared less favourably with both Ghillies Dram and the Burns decanter selling well under recent trading levels.

Rarities took some of the limelight with older aged/vintage bottles remaining gilt-edged. Dalmore’s 45 year old Aurora achieved a new record £3,900. If this was bought as a ‘drinker’ it’s utterly sublime; one of the few whiskies which is scorched into my memory…. At £3,900 it’s not cheap… and nor should it be!

Older vintages, older age statements and true rarities flourish
Older vintages, older age statements and true rarities flourish

Ardbeg’s 1975 single cask (1375) sold for £1,250 and £1,150, both new record prices. £400 would have taken this bottle at its lowest price way back in 2008.

Often overlooked, this bottle of GT doubles in value
Often overlooked, this bottle of GT doubles in value

The often overlooked Glenturret saw a doubling in value for its 1980’s bottled 21-year-old crystal decanter. A little over a year ago it sold for £200 which now looks good value next to the £400 it fetched here.

Circling back to silent stills, a bottle of Banff 1976/2008 Connoisseurs Choice fetched £220 which is more than three times its 2010 price of £60. Again, from Gordon and MacPhail, a bottle of 1968/2006 Glenlochy hit £320, £100 ahead of its last UK sale price in 2013.

Declining supply pushes prices north
Declining supply pushes prices north

Not everything flew to heady new heights.

£250 ask. £75 paid!
£250 ask. £75 paid!

It’s always interesting when a completely new bottle hits the market, especially one with no obvious previous retail price history (gifts etc). A bottle of Hazelburn ‘Warehouse Dinner’ 17 yr old sat resolute with a stiff reserve of £250… There it sat for the duration…and remained unsold. I would imagine the reason for that is one sold a few days earlier for a scant £75, clearly setting pricing well below that required from the vendor.

Some of the well known past collectables seemed to languish further. Relatively recently, the Royal Lochnagar Roseisle Maltings bottle could command as much as £400 at auction. Recent years have seen the value of this bottle continually erode .

Roseisle Maltings Royal Lochnagar loses 66% of value
Roseisle Maltings Royal Lochnagar loses 66% of value

While the most recent bottle at this SWA sale had someones signature on it, it still only managed £135. That’s a 66% drop in value since 2011.

From our perspective, this clearly shows new and existing buyers are focused on different types of collectables.

Polarisation of the market continues…

All bottle images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions.

Weekly Auction Watch 17th June 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Why such HP sauce related detail?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosebank 25
Rosebank 25
PE Feis 2008
PE Feis 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

All images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

Weekly Auction Watch 28th May 2015

The divide between online whisky auctioneers and traditional auction houses became increasingly apparent at the recent Mulberry Bank auction in Glasgow.

As the ever growing number of lots appearing through online re-sellers continues to thrive with, in some cases 100% lot-sold rates, Mulberry Bank looked to be somewhat incongruously out on a limb.

The chart below shows some basic analysis of the lot-sold ratio for this weeks auction at Mulberry Bank.

Unsold Lot Rate Mulberry Bank 26th May 2015

Previous unsold lot rates have been sat around 50%, however, 62% looks to be almost terminal. I haven’t done the research but I’d maybe wager proper cash (possibly even as much as a whole ten pounds!) that this is the largest unsold lot rate for any dedicated whisky auction. I’m no KPMG business analyst but this looks unsustainable in its current guise. I doff my hat off to Mulberry’s recent reduction in premiums for whisky sales. On the face of it though, this looks to have had little or no effect.

Of the 137 lots actually sold, did we see significant volumes of new records? Did whatever sold set the world on fire?

No. Sadly not.

The chart below highlights some analysis of the sold lots in terms of how they performed to their estimates. These are grouped into five broad categories: Sold under lower estimate, sold at exactly lower estimate, sold between lower and higher estimate, sold at exactly higher estimate and sold over higher estimate.

Sold Lot Analysis Mulberry Bank 26th May 2015

Of all sold lots, almost two thirds went for their low estimate or below. Just 36% of all sold lots fetched an amount over the low estimate. Slightly separately, but interesting none the less, many of the 14 lots which sold for over their higher estimate were old Rum’s… Does this hail The Rum Investor!? Not for my palate but then that’s a purely personal thing.

As is usual here, when we see something out of the ordinary, the next question simply becomes – why?

From my perspective, and straying away from pure numbers and fact into the grey world of opinion, there were two main reasons.

Firstly, I don’t believe in estimates in the current market. If you want to sell with an overly ambitious estimate then don’t sell. I believe estimates allow auctioneers to push a vendor over the line who doesn’t really, really want to sell (saying that, for certain bottles, the right estimates can protect unique rarities for being under-sold). In todays buoyant global market, the main reasons something doesn’t achieve its true open market value are that –

(a) It’s Fake (or perceived to be)

(b) It’s over estimated/aggressively reserved

(c) It’s being sold by an auctioneer who doesn’t specialise in whisky (which doesn’t apply to Mulberry).

Other than that, with the odd slightly outlandish peak or trough, bottles tend to sell for what would be expected. At the moment I see more unexpected peaks than troughs… the market is demand led and demand is high.

In my opinion this recent auction started to blur the line between auction and retail. It you ask a firm price for something it’s surely not a true open market? If an auctioneer has confidence in the provenance and rarity of their bottles, sellers should be equally confident in them achieving todays open market value.

Following on from that, some of the bottles simply were over-estimated and therefore destined not to sell from the word go. A small sample of (over)estimated prices vs most recent auction sales is as follows –


Glendronach 1989 22 yr old 600 bottles cask 5475 – Mulberry Bank est £230 – £300.

– Sold for £110 Jun 2014.


Ben Wyvis Final Resurrection 27 year old – Mulberry Bank est £650 – £850

– Sold for £510 Apr 2015 and £500 Dec 2014.


Ardbeg Kildalton 2014 – Mulberry Bank est £200 – £250.

– Selling for £130 – £160 in the current market.


Ardbeg Galileo – Mulberry Bank est £150 – £200

– Selling for around £120 in the current market.


Bowmore Legend Donnachie Mhor  – Mulberry Bank est £80 – £120

– Currently sells for £40 – £60.


Highland Park 2000’s discontinued bottle – Mulberry Bank est £100 – £140

– Sells for around £40.


Secondly, and while I appreciate a host of people at Mulberry will have worked massively hard to land this auction, there just wasn’t much there of interest. One significant new record was achieved which I’ll mention later; however, other than providing for those with a rum-sweet tooth, there really wasn’t a great deal to float ones whisky boat. The mainstay of the Macallan’s either had poor fill levels or damaged/stained labels and most everything else was just pretty standard. The lack of rarities will, in my opinion, significantly reduce demand… a vicious circle.

Nothing of interest = No demand.

No demand = Nothing of interest coming through.

I maintain my stance that on-line is the way forward for whisky auctions (easier, faster, quicker, slicker, cheaper etc). To that degree I also find myself asking why Mulberry have a ‘real’ auction at all as anything unsold goes into an online auction anyway.

Why not just have an online auction in the first place?… But then it’s with The Saleroom.com so an additional 3% in fees are payable for winning bids. Circles are not just vicious but also frequently hard to break.

Finishing on a high note though, lot number one, a bottle of highly desirable and very limited Highland Park 27 year old sold for £1,800. The last time this sold at auction in the UK it achieved £650, so in common with these uber-collectables a significant premium was realised.

…if only Mulberry could secure more bottles like that!

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

Weekly Whisky Auction Watch – 19th May 2015

The early 1980’s… Average UK house prices were around £25,000, Macallan’s 1928 Anniversary Malt was retailing for £50 per bottle and the Scotch whisky industry was heading for meltdown. Over-production followed by severe global recession brought with it the rationalisation of an industry we know and love today.

One of the best known casualties was Port Ellen.

The early 1980’s… Relative unknown indie bottler James MacArthur released an innocuous, plain and inconspicuous bottle of 12 year old whisky from Port Ellen. The cost of which would have been infinitesimally small in todays world. Port Ellen was blend fodder, not the iconic collectable and (at risk of being hung, drawn, quartered, minced and fed to voracious red bellied Piranha by the anti-whisky-investment-league) valuable commodity it is today.

Port Ellen James MacArthur's 12 year old
£8,200 on the hammer

Assume a cost of £30 per bottle (it was probably far less) and push forward the clock to now. That £30 bottle has increased by a quite frankly ridiculous 27,000% to its current value of £8,200. That was the price paid for one of these rarities at the recent Whisky-Online Auctions (W-OA) sale which makes it both the most expensive bottle of Port Ellen and the most expensive bottle of 12 year old Scotch ever sold at auction.

Why? Clearly rarity plays a factor as does the distillery of origin but overarchingly it’s reputedly amazing whisky… No bullshit, just great Scotch (now there’s a marketing strapline I’d like to see!).

Laphroaig 12 Cad c1970Ardbeg 10 late 1970's

Port Ellen wasn’t the only Islay show stopper at the recent W-OA sale. A late 1970’s bottled Ardbeg 10 year old achieved £1,550 and an exceptional old Cadeneheads 12 year old Laphroaig fetched £3,600. Bowmore’s 1957 38 year old achieved £4,100 leaving its 2010 price of £1,000 as a distant memory.

Bowmore 1957

One of the other highlights of the auction was a very well kept collection of older Connoisseurs Choice bottles (cream and brown labels). While the fill levels were expectedly variable, the general condition of the bottles was excellent. Many sold for record prices including –

Ardbeg 1974 13 year old – £430, up from £380 in 2012

Dallas Dhu 1968 14 year old – £280, up from £95 in 2009

Glenkinchie 1964 19 year old – £260, up from £127 in 2012

Glenlossie 1968 14 year old – £250, up from £100 in 2013

Imperial 1969 14 year old – £160, up from £100 in 2013

Brackla 1969 14 year old – £160, up from £90 in 2009

Increasingly collectable. 1980's bottled Connoisseurs Choice
Increasingly collectable. 1980’s bottled Connoisseurs Choice

Couple the north highland seaside town of Brora with the Rare Malts Selection series and you’re almost guaranteed exceptional results. An incredibly rare 60.02% ABV variant of the legendary Brora 1972 22 year old fetched £3,200, doubling its 2012 price of £1,600. A bottle of 1975 20 year old Brora achieved £650, more than doubling its last UK auction outing of £300. Cross the road, literally, to the very much alive and kicking Clynelish and the ultra rare 1972 22 year old bottled at 58.64% sold for £825, way up from the £323 paid in 2011… 1972 was a good vintage in Brora!

Significant growth for Rare Malts Brora and Clynelish
Significant growth for Rare Malts Brora and Clynelish

Moving back down to the eastern flanks of Speyside and Ardmore’s highly sought after ‘Pure Malt Whisky’ 15 year old Ardmore 15 year oldpushed through £1,000 for the first time when the hammer fell at £1,050. In 2011 just £550 would have taken the bottle.

Having looked at some of the positives, we should always look at the not-so-positives. Someone recently asked me “Andy, just between us, what’s the worst whisky you’ve ever tried?” The answer galvanised me to mention this weeks final bottle. While in my opinion it’s not the worst ever, so far this year I’d have to say my least favourite dram is Inchmurrin 12 year old. Clearly taste is completely subjective but I couldn’t finish a glass of it recently. From the same distillery and showing not every bottle distilled in the 1960’s will increase in value, a bottle of Inchmurrin 1966 sold for £110; exactly half its previous UK auction price of £220 (2013).

50% loss
50% loss

While the weather in the Highlands has been far from spring-like with four degrees centigrade and sleet at the weekend, the rare whisky market continues with a warm glow. Let’s hope it doesn’t become too overheated come summer.

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

Images courtesy of Whisky-Online Auctions.