Tag Archives: Ardbeg

Weekly Auction Watch – 10th Mar 2016

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

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

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

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

Ardbeg Single Cask Bottles

 

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

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

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

Glenmorangie Trio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo’s courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

Weekly Auction Watch – 4th March 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macallan Records

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Images courtesy of Bonhams

Weekly Auction Watch – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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.

Feis Ile Bottles – Collectable or not?

Like a swarm of wasps round a spilled Jack ‘n Coke on a hot day, the coming months are set to see the many whisky-auctioneers of the world flooded by limited bottles from this years Islay Festival. There’s almost an underground competition to see which auctioneer can get the first bottles onto the open market such is demand for these releases.

For those collectors who can’t attend the annual Feis Ile (or maybe just don’t do queues), auctions are a viable means of acquiring these desirable bottles.

But how do they perform as an investment?

Some of the older releases are collectable icons now, the 2008 Feis Ile Port Ellen sold for £100 to the lucky few who secured a bottle on the day. It now sells for around £3,000 at auction, a truly staggering result. Can the more recent, increasingly voluminous bottlings compete as a viable liquid commodity? Over the years I’ve spoken to many Feis-goers who would pay for their annual peat-land-pilgrimage by selling the bottled spoils of their trip after the event.

It’s one thing buying a bottle for £100 upon its release and selling for £3,000, but as an investment are these bottles worth buying on the secondary market? If so, which distilleries are the ones to go for?

The chart below shows the UK auction performance from the start of June 2012 to the end of May 2015 for ALL Feis Ile bottles sold. Such is the impact and value of the Port Ellen release we’ve included a separate line with that bottle removed from the index. Over the three year term measured, all Feis Ile bottles have increased by 45.27%; without the Port Ellen that’s reduced to 37.41%.

All Bottle Feis Ile Index

The current average price of all Feis Ile bottles is £304.40 which is taken back to £262.40 without the Port Ellen. As a full and expansive collection, it has to be said the Feis releases are not the best performing of bottles; however 45% over three years is still impressive and outperforms banks, Gold, wine and a host of other investments.

Feis Ile Bottles by Distillery.

In order to have some element of fairness around this we’ve taken four years releases, 2009 – 2012 inclusive, and measured these separately (noting Kilchoman released their first Feis bottle in 2010 we’re measuring three releases for them). This also gives a reasonably good period of time for measurement, if we took it right up to 2014, we’d only be looking at 12 months performance and as we all know, whisky should be viewed as a long term investment. We also created two separate indices for Bowmore, one measuring the lower priced more voluminous releases and another for the very rare more expensive editions.

We had an opinion about which distillery(ies) would be the best performers. Prior to running the numbers we were very much of the opinion we’d see Lagavulin/Bowmore right at the top and Kilchoman/Bruichladdich at the bottom. The actual numbers are rather less obvious and proved to be something of a surprise.

The chart below indexes the bottom four performing distilleries/bottle groups.

Worst Perfroming Feis Ile by Distillery

Bowmore Rarities = +13.68%

Kilchoman = -2.12%

Caol Ila = -13.31%

Bunnahabhain = -16.95%

Bunnahabhain has seen something of a rapid slide since last years Feis. In May 2014 Bunnahabhain Feis bottles were up some 19.55% (index 119.55). Over the past 12 months values have plummeted by more than 30% to their current level. The trigger point in time is very definite, it’s on-the-nose of last years Feis Ile, so what happened? Were 2014’s bottles just too expensive causing an element of collectors turning away from the brand? Did the quality of the liquid slip significantly? Whatever the reason, Bunnahabhain’s bottles have seen a step change shift into the red.

No Bruichladdich at the bottom then? Recent prices for virtually all bottles of Bruichladdich have slumped, with even the most sought after bottles tumbling in value. A good example is PC5 which used to sell for as much as £460 and now sells for £200 – £220 having lost over 50% from its peak price.

The chart below indexes the top five distilleries/bottle groups.

Top Performing Feil Ile by distillery

Bruichladdich = +53.67%

Laphroaig = +44.75%

Bowmore = +29.37%

Ardbeg = +28.86%

Lagavulin = +26.85%

In a quite unexpected final result, somewhat akin to the recent UK general election, Bruichladdich’s bottles have out-performed the rest by a significant margin.

Average UK Auction Prices.

Average prices per bottle per distillery/bottle group look more or less where expected. The rare Bowmore bottles take top spot with many other distilleries hovering around the £100 price point.

Average Feis Ile bottle price by distillery

The interesting thing this allows is a number of assumptions; the rare Bowmore’s use up a lot of capital for a relatively small return, or they have historically. Conversely Bruichladdich uses far less capital and is apparently making the greatest gains, although I would still urge huge caution here.

In reality, for those with a keen interest in the value of their collections from a keep or drink perspective, I’d be selecting some of the rarities and older single casks while they’re still appearing on the market reasonably frequently. This final chart shows the top 10 performing bottles from the various Feis Ile releases.

Top 10 Feis Ile Release Index

Now the Feis is a relatively large scale event, the volume of collectable bottles increases yearly. Where we might have previously seen a single cask from a distillery, in order to give as many folk as possible the chance to try the liquid, we now see thousands of bottles… which is a good thing.

Despite Diageo’s gift-at-the-Feis Lagavulin pricing, I still suspect these older, rarer releases will be where the future gains are seen.