Tag Archives: Andy Simpson

Bespoke Batch Distilling

Your Mission – Create flavours never tasted before in Scotch….

Andy to David – “What would happen if we drew inspiration from the craft brewers and made spirits?”

David – “No, idea, let’s find out!”

Research – we both love Glenmorangie Signet (good research!) – a weird, flavoursome single malt, an alcohol infused tiramisu with espresso coffee notes….wow. Spoke to Dr Bill and we hatched a plan.

Met Simpsons malt and chewed an amazing range of “speciality malts” and could not believe the range of flavours and textures, so we set out to further understand the impact of speciality malt flavour on new make spirit.

The Controls – 100% Golden Promise, 4 yeasts – 2 brewers and 2 cultured.

The Wood – 12 amazing sherry butts from Tevasa Cooperage – the same supplier I used at Macallan back in the 1990s.

The Questions – where should we do this?

One obvious answer – with our mates at the Glasgow Distillery Company (GDC).

Glasgow Distillery - Our Test Lab
Glasgow Distillery – The perfect playground for grownups.

It boasts a perfectly formed small lauter tun, 4 easy to keep clean stainless steel fermenters and 2 magical copper pot stills.  A way to keep each and every mash separate from the next using a range of transit tanks, allowing us to collect low wines, foreshots, spirit and feints from every single mash and fill 1 cask from 1 mash.  Perfect control, perfectly discreet, perfectly simple.

But most importantly, a team of talented, helpful and innovative people – Liam, Dr Jack, Lok and Freddy.

The plan was hatched!

The Team
David, Andy and Dr Jack

The Recipes – what mix should we use?  Can we go 100% speciality malt?  Will it mash okay?  Will it ferment?  Will it distil?  Will it yield any alcohol?

Back to first principles – we worked with Tim McCreath at Simpsons Malt and did some lab scale analysis of various speciality malts recipes.

Lab PSY (predicted spirit yields) ranged from 7.3 litres of pure alcohol per tonne to 397.5.  Wow, what a massive spread!

Distillers today typically return a yield of 410-425 litres of alcohol per tonne….but are they creating flavour?

Costs – of course this needs to be factored in. The speciality malts are much more expensive that traditional distilling malts.  Plus, we were buying in tiny batches.  More cost!

Predicted Spirit Yeild Per TonneWriting up every aspect of recipe and distillation could take forever, so we will share information in general terms.  We bought crushed (already milled) malt from Simpsons and we paid anywhere from £600 to £750 per tonne.  Imagine paying £750 per tonne to yield 7 litres of alcohol!  A pretty expensive exercise….

How about recipe planning?  Again we sought a collaborative approach and organised a planning session (in the pub) with the Glasgow distillers and we each picked a recipe we felt would or could work to deliver relatively easy processing, reasonable yields and maximum flavour.

Malt Samples
A fun night drinking beer and chewing on all kinds of wonderful malt

The plan was hatched and agreed and we asked Simpsons to confirm the PSY by conducting lab scale mashing and analysis.

So, we had a plan and an indication of likely yields – ranging from a low of around 296 l/t to 397 l/t – a huge range in yield and hopefully a huge range in flavour impact.  Would inclusion of speciality malts deliver the flavour impact we craved?  Or would the fermenting and distilling process strip out and lose all the character we sought?

Mash Recipes
Malt recipes – proportion of specialist malt

Processing – we agreed to follow the classic 3 water mash.

Strike 68C to get 64C at the spout to activate enzymes and convert starches/large sugars to fermentable sugars.

Rest briefly, balance to underback, vorlauf (or recycle weak worts) and then pump to FVs and cool worts to 20C.

Add our 4 yeasts – 2 dried culture yeasts (AB Mauri Pinnacle and SAFWhiskyM1) and two fresh brewers yeasts (A top fermenter and a bottom fermenter) with the aim of creating true complexity!

And start the fermentation ASAP.

Sparge on the second water, drain, cool and collect in FV, sparge on the third water and collect in heating tank for next mash (although we didn’t do that for every mash!).

Our Original Gravities (Ogs) ranged from 1047 to 1055 – low by many of today’s standards.

We fermented to achieve maximum conversion of sugars to alcohol and this ranged from 70 to 112 hours before sending to the wash still.

Our final gravities were hugely variable and a correlation (as expected) was found between mashes with no or low levels of speciality malts fermenting well versus high speciality malt inclusions fermenting less well.

Alcohol strengths at many large and efficient malt distilleries today can range from 8 to over 10%.  Our trials yielded a range of 5 to 8%!   Poor for yield efficiency, but hopefully great for flavour!

Flying Scotsman - David's Breakfast
A flying Scotsman for breakfast

Distilling – The alchemy bit!

We typically collected some 5,000 litres of worts per fermentation, fermented for around 4 days and then split the FV in half to give 2 wash still charges.

So, across the course of our 24 wash distillations our initial running strengths varied from the mid 40%s to the mid-60%s.

Our low wines average strengths ranged from 15.7% to 22% – again a huge range, which correlates perfectly with the mashing recipes we have used.  Most distillers today would have very consistent low wines abvs between 22 and 26%.  After all, they are looking for consistency of production and are aiming to make the same low wines and same spirit day in day out.  They are new-make factories.  We are not.  We celebrate diversity in the pursuit of a range of flavours.

By using Glasgow Distillery Company we were able to keep each run discreet and store them in 1T transit tanks.  This allowed us to control, manage and monitor each and every mash, and finally fill all the new make spirit (NMS) in a single butt from a single mash.

Each run (1/2 a mash) typically gave us around 130 Litres of Alcohol (LOA) to 180 LOA per run.  Our flow rates were deliberately very slow and ranged from 1.2 litre per min to 3.2 l/min!  This was collected and used to charge the spirit still.

As this was a discreet experiment, we did not want any recycled liquids from any previous GDC runs.  This meant we needed to ‘build up’ our foreshots and feints until we had a better ‘balanced’ system where our spirit still charges could become more consistent.

We needed to collect and build up our low wines, foreshots and feints to give enough charge liquid for our spirit still processing.  This is where it all started to get critical.  Could we recover the flavour created from our speciality malts?   Distillation is, by its very nature, a simple process to purify the feed stock material.  Collect what you want and throw away what you don’t.  After much time at Diageo and The Macallan I am a fan of small stills and slow distillation and a very narrow spirit cut to concentrate the fruity, estery notes – but would this work for rich, chocolate malty flavours?

Steam On
Steam on!

So, the detail of our spirit distillations – when we went on to spirit and then off spirit to collect the ‘heart of the run’.  This clearly shows the feints build up in our first 2 mashes and 4 spirit runs – 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b – until, we reached a ‘steady and balanced’ state.  The variation in ‘on spirit”’ from mashes 3 to 12 show the impact higher or weaker washes from fermentation can have.

Spirit Cut Points on-off

Focusing now on the average spirit strength we can again see the feints build up required until we got a more steady state and consistent spirit cut average around 72% abv +/- 1%.

Spirit Cut Average ABV

To illustrate the point more fully we have looked at the quantity of both the ‘litres of pure alcohol – or LPA’ – and the ‘bulk spirit’ created from each of the 24 spirit distillations.

LPA and Bulk from each Spirit run

And finally, the rate of distillation.  As discussed previously we wanted a very slow, even, gentle boil to ensure good reflux and a balanced recovery of the purest and most flavoursome characters from these experimental batches.  We believe this to be the slowest spirit cut in the Scotch whisky industry.

Spirit Cut Bulk Flow Rates L per Min

And so to wood.  What wood?  Well, given my experience and the richness of our expected new make spirit we opted for first fill Spanish oak ex Sherry butts from Tevasa cooperage, seasoned with wines from Gonzalez Byass in Jerez de la Frontera.

A full load of over 50 mighty 500 litres butts were sourced, delivered to Glasgow and nosed, with RW101 picking 12 for our bespoke distilling project.

We were looking for select casks that offered up aromas of rich dried fruits, spicy tannins (clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger), orange zest and toffee sweetness.

Flavours and Aromas

But back to the spirit, the essence of what we were after.  What was it like?

Tasting Notes

Clearly we have recovered a range of amazing characters in our spirit.  We have the classic fruity notes as would be expected from 100% distilling malt – fruits, apples, pears, maltiness and nutty.

But even more exciting we have captured notes of chocolate, biscuity, toffee, nutty, golden syrup, roasted coffee, honey.

So, what happens next?  We wait….and wait.  And draw samples every 6 months to assess progress.  Will we lose the speciality malt characters we have worked so hard to preserve?  Will the wood dominate and hide those flavours?  Will there be a symbiotic relationship and the wood and chocolatey notes support and enhance each other?  Will things change to create new flavours?  Will we lose fruit and gain spice?  Will we create the world’s first ‘chocolate orange’ single malt?  Only time will tell!  We will report back soon…..

Cheers,

David & Andy

Chocolate Orange

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

Monthly Market Watch – Feb 2016

What a month February turned out to be!

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

Bottle of the Month…

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

Dalmore Drew Sinclair 60
Image Copyright McTears Auctioneers Glasgow

The Month in Focus

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

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

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

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

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

RW_Apex_index_feb16
An exceptional month for Scotch

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

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

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

 

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

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

(1) Rare Malts Selection Index: +6.27%

(2) Brora Official Bottle Index: +5.81%

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

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

(5) Icon 100 Index: +2.59%

(6) Apex 1000: +1.73%

(7) Karuizawa Index: +0.40%

(8) Vintage 50 Index: -0.44%

(9) Port Ellen OB Index: -5.27%

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

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

Mac 18 and 25 extract

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

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

Then there was poor old Port Ellen!

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

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

 

 

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 – 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

Diageo 2015 Special Releases – Drink, Collect or Invest?

2015 SR

The challenge on Tuesday night (and early Wednesday morning if we’re being totally honest) was to wear this year’s Diageo Special releases…

Attack of the Special Releases
Attack of the Special Releases

For next year’s challenge I apparently have to abseil down Drummuir Castle while nosing the samples!?!? Thanks must go to Eli Larson from Diageo for that gem, thanks very much pal!

Anyway, daft stuff aside (and there was plenty), we got to test-drive this years bottles at Drummuir Castle (Diageo’s impressive fortress of solitude… or maybe Greyskull others may pose?) in the heart of Speyside. There are plenty of other articles out there now about detailed liquid profiles, so we’re looking at reviewing them with collecting/investing in mind.

That said, it would be plain rude not to at least briefly mention the liquid – That is what it’s all about of course. So, in order of preference and scored out of 10, they’re listed below. The way we (granted very rarely) score is that 5 is in the middle, therefore that’s a perfectly drinkable malt. These bottles should not feel offended by being a 5, that’s a good enough score for a good enough whisky. Most of your decent common-or-garden house malts are in and around the 5 mark from our perspective. 1 is undrinkable and 10 is the best thing we’ve ever nosed/tasted. Separately, I nosed a 22-year-old single sherry cask from Speyside Distillery on the way to the Diageo event… it got 1! It’s the first whisky this year to make me physically jerk my nose away from the glass… think molasses sweetened liquified rubber bands. Anyway; the legendary lowest score of 0.0 is solely reserved for Loch Dhu… it just has to be. Fact. Full-stop. The end.

Pittyvaich 25 yr old: Scores 4 – Actually below par for this one. It’s closed and un-revealing. You want it to give more but it doesn’t. A chastity belt of a whisky!!

Dalwhinnie 25 yr old: Scores 5 – My notes just say “is okay” … and it is.

Caol Ila 17 yr old: Scores 5 – Not blown away, but fine – average. Probably just prefer this to the Dalwhinnie but it’s close.

Cally (the) 40 yr old Grain: Scores 6 – You’d certainly not kick it out of the drinks cupboard but it’s really bourbon style sweet.

Lagavulin 12 yr old: Scores 7 – Nice juice. You know what to expect. You pretty much get what you expect.

Brora 37 yr old: Scores 8 – A mighty fine dram. Not the winner. Very much lighter, almost fresher than some of the previous 30 year olds. Amazing none the less.

Port Ellen 32 yr old: Scores 8 – Another top drawer contender from the Port. Really quite coal-smoky/tarry, especially with water.

Dailuaine 34 yr old: Scores 8 – Happily sit and drink this until the cows come home. Just lovely. Best of the 8’s, just edges it on the Brora and Port Ellen.

Clynelish Select Reserve: Scores 8.5 – My personal favourite. Loved it. Complex and multidimensional.

That’s the liquid – Least best was the Pittyvaich, best best was the Clyne-hellishly-good. It’s all personal though, I know others who really liked the Caol Ila and weren’t so keen on the Clynelish.

From a collector/investor perspective, we need to factor in some other variables. Some may be familiar with the Rare Whisky 101 DCI (Drink/Collect/Invest) model published in our 2014 annual review. This will evolve over time, but we’re going to start scoring bottles based upon those three criteria.

DCI Model RW101

To explain – Take the Dalwhinnie 25-year-old – From a ‘D’ perspective, it’s already been given a 5 out of 10. The ‘C’ element is going to take into account its appeal to a broad collector base… is the distillery desirable, is the bottling limited, if so how limited, etc. We’ll award the Dalwhinnie a 3 out of 10 for that. It is limited, it’s a mid-old-ager but it has limited appeal to Dalwhinnie 25collectors. Finally, the ‘I’ investor dynamic takes into account the most important investment principles – point of entry and point of exit. Is it expensive for what it is? If it is, it scores low, if not it scores higher. And does it have the potential to increase in value over time? The Dalwhinnie will score a 2 out of 10 here. Historically, Dalwhinnie has been a poor performer at auction with values frequently falling significantly lower than RRP’s. Our Dalwhinnie 25-year-old therefore scores a total of 10 out of 30 represented by (D:5/C:3/I:2). If you want to buy it, it’s a clear drinker, not one for a hold. Not really even a long-term hold as there are far better things out there from a collector/investor perspective for £250.

It’s a little ambiguous but then so it scoring a whisky on its flavours and aromas. What we’re trying to do is answer one of our most frequently asked questions of “what should I be collecting?”

The other 8 bottles look like this –


DCI RATED IN ASCENDING ORDER – 


The Cally 4040 yr old Grain – The Cally: (D:6  C:1  I:1) = 8/30

£750 per bottle. 5,060 bottles.

I really think this will struggle to sell. The price is just too high for a single grain. The whole single grain category has failed to capture the collectors market. Drink it, fair enough if it’s your style but don’t expect this to do anything other than bomb from a secondary market perspective. If you want to spend £750 on a bottle of Scotch for investment, go buy 5 or 6 bottles of Rosebank at auction. Don’t give this a second glance unless you’re simply admiring the packaging… which is actually very cool. 


Caol Ila 17Caol Ila 17: (D:5  C:3  I:1) = 9/30

£90 per bottle. Limited release.

Highland style Caol Ila has not fared well at auction to date. It does have a fan-base as a liquid; however, all but the rarest of Caol Ila bottles do little from an investor’s perspective. Low interest for collectors but good pricing will, to some degree, appeal to generalist bottle collectors.


Clynelish Select ResClynelish Select Reserve: 8.5 – (D:8.5  C:4  I:1) = 13.5

£550 per bottle. 2,946 bottles.

VERY good liquid. VERY high price. NAS. Last years release has appeared at auction and sells for c£300 per bottle. Expect the same losses to be crystallised from this years. Take advantage of that, buy this at auction and just drink it. The limited nature of the bottle at less than 3,000 means it has some appeal to a collector but anyone wanting to tuck this away expecting future gains should be prepared to hand it to their grand-children in 50 years.


Pittyvaich 25Pittyvaich: (D:4  C:6  I:5) = 15

£250 per bottle. 5,922 bottles.

A relatively voluminous release but very keenly priced. The first rule of investing in whisky is that the whisky should be superb quality. That falls down here. That said, there is a certain appeal noting what you’re getting is a relatively old whisky from a silent distillery. At this price, that can’t be overlooked. There are utterly miserable bottles of Port Ellen out there from indie bottlers which still fetch the same market value as good-un’s.


Laga 1212 yr old Lagavulin: (D:7  C:7  I:5) = 19/30

£80 per bottle. Limited release.

Accessible pricing and high demand will see this suited to many Islay / Lagavulin collectors. Early releases of the 12-year-old cask strength are performing reasonably well at auction but a lengthy wait is required. Don’t expect instant gains but a solid bet at the price. There are many Lagavulin collectors who will ‘need’ this to maintain the completeness of a collection so expect demand to be strong.


Dailuaine 3434 yr old Dailuaine: (D:8  C:6  I:7) = 21/30

£380 per bottle. 2,952 bottles.

Above average prospects for this relatively unknown brand. Attractive pricing and the high quality of liquid make it a compelling proposition to all three buyer-types. Depending what Diageo do with the brand moving forward will have an effect on values. £380 for ANY 34-year-old in this day is great value. One I’ll personally be buying to open and enjoy… If I can find one! It’s just one point short of pipping the Port Ellen but we actually see this as a stronger pure investment than the Port Ellen becasue the price is excellent for the quality and age of the liquid.


Port Ellen 32Port Ellen: (D:8  C:9  I:5) = 22/30

£2,400 per bottle. 2,964 bottles.

The last two years have seen these iconic bottles fail to sell out in their usual record time. £2,400 is a massive amount of money for a 70cl bottle of drink which is what it is when all’s said and done. To counter that, we’ve said it before, but the annual PE releases were vastly under-priced until recently. There needed to be an element of correction from a retail / primary market perspective. The rate of acceleration of those increases has been the main shock to the system. Still one of the most collected distilleries, but pricing has massively pared back these bottles as an investment. Are they going to be worth £5,000 in two or three or even 10 years? We think not but we’ve been wrong before. The key risk at this price is that many will be used to keep a complete collection complete, few will be buying two to drink one/keep one so supply won’t necessarily be taken out of the market.


Brora 37Brora: (D:8  C:8  I:8) = 24/30

£1,300 per bottle. 2,976 bottles.

Recent price increases (which were needed, it was far too cheap a few years ago) have prevented this being an outright 10 from a collector/investor perspective. But it’s Brora, stocks are thin on the ground, time is running out for the highland heavyweight collectable. Full set collectors will need this. From an investment perspective, don’t expect instant gains, the pricing has removed any likelihood of that. But, given time, we still see this as the pick of this years bottles. We could actually argue it’s still under-priced for what it is.


From a pricing perspective, there are bottles here which represent true value, there are bottles we think are particularly good value (the Brora, the Dailuaine and the Pittyvaich) and also bottles we see as poor value (mainly the Cally). We have to also take a view on the rest of the market. The recent release of 25-year-old Littlemill for £2,000 moves the phrase ‘aggressively priced’ to ‘we actually don’t want to sell this to anyone with a modicum of common sense’. The price for the Littlemill is perceived as so immensely high that I’m hearing of retailers refusing to stock it. If customers pro-actively request a bottle then one can be sourced, but they won’t physically stock it or actively market it… when retailers show a new product the door, you know there’s a problem.

I absolutely must thank Diageo for their amazing hospitality on the evening, it would be utterly rude not to do so; it’s amazing to be able to try all the special releases in one fell swoop. However, this isn’t meant to advertise or promote these bottles, merely assist in answering a question we get asked many, many times.

Interestingly, the Dailuaine is the one to sell out in record time this year, it’s disappeared from a number of retailers already. The big guns are still on the shelves demonstrating the need for a careful balance of price, quality and age/NAS. I wonder how many bottles of Littlemill 25 have sold?