Category Archives: Weekly Auction Watch

Weekly Auction Watch.

19th November 2014

The recent Whisky-Online Auctions (W-OA) sale perfectly illustrated the polarisation of the rare whisky market right now. The hugely rare ‘centre-stage’ bottles bore witness to significant demand and in some cases equally significant increases in price.

For others the story is somewhat different…

Bruichladdich values slide further into the red
Bruichladdich values slide further into the red

The recent October Market-Watch highlighted Bruichladdich as experiencing a significant and protracted re-trace in values. That trend looks to be continuing and, if anything, accelerating as we start to see prices cooling rapidly. The show stopper from a % loss perspective was the single cask release ‘Wee Ruari’. At its UK auction premier, just over 12 months ago, this bottle achieved a huge £580; since then it’s seen value erosion like few others. At this months W-OA sale, Wee Ruari hit an all-time low of £165, yielding an exceptional 71.5% loss… in a little over a year.

Other significant falls were seen for Highland Park’s ‘Eunsons Legacy’ (sold for £210, down 50% from its 2010 peak of £420) and virtually everything from Knockando. Knockando have never been the most sought after of collectables, but a gradual appreciation (of values) has seen some of the older vintages become increasingly desirable. With so much supply on the open market, it was only really a matter of time until some of the second and third tier ‘collectables’ were cut loose in favour of others.

Ardbling values falter
Ardbling values falter

Ardbeg’s ‘bling’ press release bottle of Auriverdes sold for £2,590 at its peak in May this year. Six months later and a 59.5% drop left it languishing at £1,050. Loss aside, that’s still not a bad Christmas bonus for a free bottle.

From a positive perspective there were some exceptional results for many high end collectables and bottles from (again) silent stills.

Rare Bowmore values continued their bull-run: The second Black Bowmore release fetched £4,200. In 2008 these were selling for a little over £1,500 but a lack of current stock continues to propel prices higher. The 30 year old ceramic ‘Sea Dragon’ bottle breached the £1,000 mark for the second time ever as the hammer fell on a record £1,050.

Bowmore rarities see demand increase
Bowmore rarities see demand increase

In December 2012 Macallan’s 57 year old Lalique Decanter sold for £6,801 (again at W-OA), less than two years later and a record £15,100 was paid for a bottle. An increase in value of 122% gives clear evidence of continued strong demand for Macallan rarities.

Dalmore’s Candela sold for £10,600 showing a 51% increase in value over its June 2013 sale price of £7,000. Many lower value Dalmore bottles have shown diminishing prices recently with older vintages and high-end rarities leading what would otherwise be a stagnant auction performance.

Older Laphroaig bottles firmed up once more as one of the 1980 27 year old ‘Oloroso Cask Matured’ (972 bottles released) broke through £1,000 for the first time (£1,050). £775 was just £5 off the current record for a bottle of the 30 year old Cairdeas and £825 set a new benchmark sale price for the standard 30 year old.

Top performing Laphroaig trio.
Top performing Laphroaig trio

Virtually all the old Cadenheads dumpies have performed exceptionally well over recent years. Older vintages from silent stills remain among the most popular. A bottle of 1959 vintage Glenugie tipped the till at £700 showing huge upside against its 2010 price of £220. A bottle of 1964 vintage St Magdalene fetched £625, significantly outstripping its 2010 price of £380. Dallas Dhu’s 1962 vintage bottle sold for £450, more than doubling its 2009 price of £200.

All told, another well balanced auction from W-OA with plenty of good value drinkers at more than fair prices – but, yet again, the higher end was where the keenly fought action was.

Until next week.



All images courtesy of Whisky-Online Auctions

Weekly Auction Watch.

Early November and you can tell it’s the lead up to Christmas. Scotch Whisky Auctions, Whisky Auctioneer, Whisky-Online Auctions and McTears all had significant whisky auctions last week. That’s over 5,000 lots of your finest Whisky to choose from.

With their biggest selection yet, Scotch Whisky Auctions led the weeks bidding with their vast sale finishing on the second of November. Has this huge glut of supply taken its toll on values or is demand keeping up?

Values for some bottles from certain distilleries were lower than they have been over the past six months. While there were exceptions as we’ll see, an umbrella of price stability overlaid the auction.

Ardbeg values didn’t advance much; however, they maintained their recent gains exceptionally well. Current trends continue with recent voluminous limited releases sitting at, or close to, retail prices. Ardbog in Particular is still trading at £80, while rarer single cask releases moved up.

Silent stills hit the home run again and outperformed the general market. Unrelenting pressure on increasingly sought after bottles saw some impressive results from many closed distilleries. Bottles from Banff are now experiencing serious upwards pressure. That was seen when a bottle of Duncan Taylor’s 1975 vintage sold for £310; its previous best was £180 in 2012. Port Ellen’s twelfth release achieved £1,200 and £1,300. With an original retail price of £600, a 100% gain in two years is admirable. Another Duncan Taylor bottling of 1969 vintage Kinclaith sold for £920, more than doubling its previous £450 sale in 2012. North Port (Brechin) bottles were in high demand with a Connoisseurs Choice 1968 hitting £270 (£95 low-point in 2008) and Duncan Taylors 1981 23 year old achieving £280.

Dalmore had an interesting auction with a bottle of the (relatively) recently released 25 year old making an appearance. Carrying a retail price of £600, it was no surprise to see the market reacting as it did with a final winning bid of just 68% of the RRP, or £410. With these bottles still being widely available on a retail basis the result is wholly understandable. Conversely, Dalmore’s vintage releases performed towards the top end of the market.

Karuizawa continued to show exceptional results. There were, however, some signs certain bottles may have been previously over-priced. A bottle from cask 6177, a 1970 vintage, achieved £1,750, some £550 down from its previous sale in September. Putting aside the small number of bottles which declined, the general trend is still very much up.

Karuizawa NOH Whisky
Demand continues for Karuizawa

Broadly speaking Balvenie’s performance was impressive with some standouts. Balvenie Rose second release spiked at £1,250. Recent values have been around £400 so I’m expecting prices to soften if we see more on the market. In the absence of a bottle of Tun 1401 batch #1 the action moved to batch #3. Heated bidding took the hammer to £880 and a significant new record.

Despite continued buoyancy in certain areas of the market others did not fare quite so well.

Pride did fall
Pride did fall

Before a fall? Glenmorangie’s first release of Pride achieved its lowest auction sale to date at £1,500. With an original retail price of £2,500 that’s a significant and widening loss. Twelve months ago Pride was selling for £1,800 at auction so a protracted decline is being seen. Diageo’s oldest Lagavulin, the 2013 special release 37 year old, sold for £1,600; again, well down on its retail price. Conversely the 2006 30 year old Lagavulin hit a new record of £1,550.

Glenlivet Atlantic Values Halved
Glenlivet Atlantic Values Halved

Glenlivet’s current poor form continued with a bottle of the 40 year old Atlantic falling below £900 for the first time. £860 took the bottle on this occasion slicing over 50% off its previous £1,750 best. Prices in general for Glenlivet single cask bottles were lower than of late.

The 2011 release of Loch Lomond 1966 stepped back from £425 in February to a more realistic £135. This is one for the collectors rather than the drinkers; a bottle I’d much rather keep on the shelf than open! it’s nowhere near Loch Dhu levels of badness but equally it’s not worth paying a premium to drink…. In my opinion of course.

To summarise, a mixed set of results with silent stills and real collectors items continuing to lead the way.

Until next week.



Images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions.

McTears Versus Bonhams…. Then Versus the Rest!

McTears Wages War on Bonhams… The Gavel is your Weapon of Choice Sir!

Not only did Bonhams and McTears hold their respective whisky auctions on the same day this month; they appear to have subsequently progressed from a bit of competition to all-out war through their respective marketing departments.

The question posed by McTears is “Why Sell Whisky Anywhere Else?”

The advert below was issued by McTears following their recent auction. I think it’s a great piece of marketing to be fair – Disruptive, factual and to the point. So could, or indeed would, Bonhams respond?

McTears Ad

Fair play to them, they did. With this –

Bonhams Ad

Glenfiddich 50

The first thing we need to do is compare apples with apples. Bonhams always quote their achieved sale prices including 25% buyers premium. The £20,000 quoted for the above 50 year old Glenfiiddich would have actually been  a hammer price of £16,000 less fees and commission to the seller. McTears haven’t done this; they have, far more fairly in my view, purely reported the hammer price.

I also think it’s a bit like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face by purposely holding significant whisky auctions on the same day. Commission bids aside, surely both auctioneers want the biggest captive audience possible. Maybe a truce not war on this occasion could have yielded better results for both respective auctions?

By comparing apples with apples we can actually see which is the ‘best’ auction-house for sellers; which one obtains the highest hammer price with the lowest sellers commission. In todays auction-rich environment it would be unfair to exclude on-line auctioneers from this exercise. So let’s compare some numbers from Bonhams, McTears, Scotch Whisky Auctions, Whisky-Online Auctions and relative newcomer Whisky Auctioneer.

Let’s take a look at a small parcel of regularly traded but heavily desirable bottles to see which auctioneer obtains the highest hammer price and the highest net gain to a seller. I’ve used the most recent sales result from each auctioneer for – Port Ellen 1st Release, Macallan Private Eye, Ardbeg Lord of the Isles, Bunnahabhain Auld Acquaintance, Highland Park Bicentenary and Glenmorangie Culloden.

In doing this, I’ve assumed Bonhams (as they don’t publish the information) sellers commission at 15% plus VAT plus their 1.5% (plus VAT again) loss and damage warranty fee, so a gross deduction of 19.8%. For McTears it’s 15% plus VAT, for Scotch Whisky Auctions and Whisky-Online Auctions it’s 10% plus VAT and for Whisky Auctioneer it’s 5% plus VAT. I’ve excluded any listing fees or reserve fees which are around £3 – £4 each per bottle depending on the auctioneer but they make little difference to the end result.

Whisky Auction Comparison

Whisky Auction Comparison Data

The results speak for themselves.

Bonhams performs the worst on both a hammer price and a net proceeds basis with McTears very slightly ahead on both. Then the digital auctioneers show how an online offering with reduced costs can really benefit customers.

The difference between the top result from Whisky Auctioneer and the worst result from Bonhams is a staggering £1,779. There’s a £1,697 difference between the best performer and McTears.

Clearly this isn’t the full picture. Certain auctioneers sometimes get the best prices for slightly different bottles. Bonhams has obtained great results for top end Macallan and some exceptionally rare old indie bottles. McTears has the current record for Black Bowmore and does very well with their multitude of bundled lots (granted more from a buyers perspective). Whisky-Online Auctions specialise in the old and very rare for which they get exceptional prices (you just don’t see these rarities sold at other auction houses to get a direct comparison). Scotch Whisky Auctions regularly obtain the best prices in the market for a huge variety of bottles. If Whisky Auctioneer have a desire to become bigger, which we have to assume they do, that will come with additional cost (people, premises, rent, rates and the cost of bottle acquisition don’t come cheap). Can current commission rates be maintained? Having asked this question directly to Whisky Auctioneer, the desire, certainly for the foreseeable future, is to maintain the current commission structure.

So back to the question McTears ask us on their marketing material – “Why Sell Whisky Anywhere Else?”

I for one can think of 1,697 reasons as highlighted above!

Until next week.



Weekly Auction Watch 17.10.14

Andy Simpson


Patience is usually rewarded… One of the main rules of buying (and selling) rare whisky as a collectable or an investment is patience. When a new release hits the market and sells out in double quick time we usually see what’s called the new release curve. This shows how the first one or two bottles of a new release usually achieve eye watering prices then gradually settle back to a more balanced level for that particular bottle. From a sellers perspective, getting that first bottle away can be lucrative, from a buyers perspective it’s usually far from it.

The recent Ardbeg Kildalton Project bottling demonstrates this trend/model perfectly. The chart below shows average values for the bottle on a week by week basis.

Kildalton Project Chart

The results speak for themselves.

Topping out at a heady weekly average of £460 soon after release, the bottle has now more than halved in value as supply escalates pushing prices back to just over £200. The curve looks to be easing in its decline which suggests we may be near the bottom of the curve. Should Ardbeg more generally release this bottle (as was suggested in the original press release) rather than have it as a distillery exclusive we may see further falls before any recovery.

The reason for featuring this bottle is that the lowest price seen to date was achieved at the recent Scotch Whisky Auction sale. As is usually the case, it wasn’t doom and gloom for many values… far from it.

Karuizawa prices must be mentioned first. I’m not going to run through the new records (pretty much every bottle sold was a new high) individually but I would expect to see a significant increase in the Rare Whisky Karuizawa Index (RWKI) at the end of the month.

Other highlights included –

The first release of Balvenie Rose performed exceptionally well when it sold for £1,050. In 2012 this sold for £240 and its low-point was just £126 in 2009.

William Grants stable-mate, Glenfiddich saw the 1974 vintage ‘Rare Collection’ break the £1,000 barrier for the first time when the hammer finally fell on £1,450.

Highland Park saw a good result with its bi-centenary ‘Repatriation’ which sold for £440.

Yet again, the limelight belonged to bottles from silent stills.

In 2011 just £80 was paid for a Duncan Taylor bottled, 1981 22 year old Brora. £380 was the new record for this bottle.

Not quite the same level of increase as Brora but Glen Albyn values are pushing north at an accelerating pace. A bottle of Connoisseurs Choice 1974 vintage sold for £165. £85 was the 2011 price for this bottle.

St Magdalene had a solid set of results for the small number of bottles to feature. A bottle of the 1975 vintage (dumpy bottle) Connoisseurs Choice went for £330 and a bottle of ‘Rare & Old’, also on a ’75 vintage and also by Gordon & MacPhail hit £440. The Royal Mile Whiskies exclusive dumpy Connoisseurs Choice bottle was selling for £80 in 2009.

Until recently, Littlemill values have been almost static. As they say, a rising tide floats all boats and prices are now starting to move up for this previously overlooked silent distillery. A bottle of the 1964 vintage (dumpy green bottle) sold for £470. £170 was its lowest all-time value.

As we rapidly move through the final quarter of 2014 whisky values still look relatively buoyant. It will be interesting to see if some of the recent significant increases can be cemented in these final months of the year.

Until next week.



Bloodbath at Bonhams as Bears Take Control.

Weekly Auction Watch

9th October 2014

Bloodbath at Bonhams

Bonhams recent whisky auction on the 1st of October marked the start of a months lead up to Halloween. Some of the sales results were indeed the preserve of nightmares as the festival of Samhain got well underway in Edinburgh.

The leading bottles of the sale in the publicity material focussed on two veritable heavyweights – The Macallan 62 year old Lalique and the 70 year old Mortlach. If your publicity is directed at two big bottles like this, it’s always a good thing to see them hit the reserve and fly out of the door…. Neither of these did.

The horrors persisted as even the hardiest of bears moved aside to let the ghouls and demons take control of murdering the market –

A bottle of Ardbeg 1976 (cask 2390) sold for £920. Its previous sale was £1,750 yielding a 47% drop in value.

A 1954 Glenfarclas Family Casks bottle (cask 1260) achieved just £700 at Bonhams while later in the day one sold for £1,850 at Whisky-Online Auctions. I guess that’s good from a Bonhams buyers perspective, not so good if you’re the seller.

The gavel, or rusted blood stained axe in this case, hit just £950 for a bottle of 40 year old Glenlivet Atlantic. Its previous sale was £1,750 in August of this year – A 46% step-down in value with one slash of the axe…

On the flip side of this bed of nails, it wasn’t all gore and misery. There were some good results for certain bottles. Some of the bundled lots went for sky-high prices, in many cases far exceeding the value of the constituent bottles. A brace of Bruichladdich Valinches were good examples – A bottle each of the 2009 and 2010 Feis Ile releases sold for an exceptional £420. The most recent single sale values of these are £71 and £65 respectively.

A stunning example of an old 75 proof, lever cap Lagavulin made a heady £2,500, exceeding its previous best of £1,900 in 2011. As I was told just the other night ‘There ain’t no foolin’ with the Lagavoolin’.

Cask number 26.1 by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society sold for £1,800. Distillery number 26 is Clynelish, so why so much for a Clynelish? Because it’s ‘old’ Clynelish distilled in 1965 before the current distillery had been established…. That makes it Brora as we now know and love. The previous record for this bottle was £1,550.

The vast majority of Macallan values were either around current market values or slightly lower (lower mainly for the 18 year olds). That said, a bottle of 1974 Speymalt by Gordon & MacPhail showed impressive growth when it sold for £390. The low point for this bottle was £123 in 2011.

Older Laphroaig continued to see huge demand as a bottle of the 1980 27 year old Oloroso matured (972 bottles) sold for £850, more than doubling its 2009 hammer price of £400.

So like the gore soaked blade of Jason’s Machete there were many up’s and down’s…. some blood was spilled but there were some hero’s too. Interesting times for whisky values….

Until next week.



Weekly Auction Watch 1st Oct 2014

This week marks the end of another whisky auctioneer, this time it’s the relative newcomer The UK franchise of longstanding has closed its doors for good.


Simply put, it has to be price. Price and, I suspect, an element of overcrowding in the online auctioneer market.

Take a look at the pricing for Whisky Auctioneer and it’s great news from a buyers perspective; like a British entrant in Eurovision it’s nil points… or nil pounds in this case. But it’s not so great if you’re a seller and right now it’s a sellers’ market.

If you look at an average priced bottle of say £200; charges 20.89% commission – Net £158.22 to the seller. Then take a look at, just 30 miles up the road and it looks far more attractive. 5% sellers fee, £3 listing fee and £1.80 reserve fee (assuming a reserve of 10% under the hammer price at 1% of the reserve price). In this instance the seller would receive £185.20…. some £30, or 15%, more than Whiskyauction.

Are the hammer prices for these two neighbouring auctioneers vastly different (ie does Whisky auction justify the additional fees because it gets 15% more on the hammer price)? No, not really. Whisky auction have indeed had some strong results but Whiskyauctioneer hold the UK record for Port Ellen 1st release among others. So buyers are not paying significantly more at just because there are no fees.

It may be significantly different with parent company, however, in the UK there’s just too much competition… in this case virtually next door.

So while this may be the end of for the foreseeable future they certainly went out on a high with their best auction to date closing on the 20th of September.

The main highlight was a superb and extensive collection of the old Silent Stills bottles from Signatory. Just by the virtue of the name – Silent Stills – it looked like there would be some fierce bidding from the start.

I remember bidding a bottle of the 18 year old Silent Stills Brora up to £320 at a smaller independent auction in 2011. I then quit and lost the bottle for £330 (my rival bidder had a look of pure madness in his eyes so I politely ‘allowed’ him the bottle…. But kept my life!). It looks like my lost bottle would have been a good investment as one sold at Whiskyauction for £615.

Until relatively recently Banff has been something of a silent under-dog with the main interest going to Port Ellen and Brora. Current demand for anything from a closed distillery saw the 1966 34 year old sell for £515 significantly outpacing its last UK auction sale of £320 in 2013.

The Coleburn 16 year old took £380, a clear £200 ahead of its all-time low of £180 in 2012.

Lochside’s 31 year old on a 1966 vintage achieved £460, more than doubling its 2008 low of £200.

As expected The Silent Stills Port Ellen bottles also achieved new record prices. Three separate bottlings; an 18 year old, a 22 year old and a 23 year old sold for £555, £610 and £610 respectively.

Other than the silent stills bottles achieving great prices across the board everything else sold for what would be expected.

Another thing this auction highlighted is the importance of keeping all original packaging complete with a bottle. The unboxed variants of the Silent Stills bottles (lacking the box, the miniature and the cask piece) sold, in most cases, for 40% – 50% less than the boxed variants.

So we bid farewell to another whisky auctioneer…. Will there be others?

Until next week.