We’re moving all future blog posts to the RW101 website blog.
Early trade shows Port Ellen and Black Bowmore surging.
You can read RW101 Rare Whisky Analyst – Jamie Timoney’s – first post of 2018 here.
In our first rare whisky review of 2017, what we’re seeing is continuation.
That might sound a little dull… continuation suggests nothing’s changing, the status quo remains the same. To some degree that’s right, however, what we’re seeing in early 2017 is far from boring. Two things at this early stage of the year –
One – there looks to be little slowing in the increase in values for the right bottles.
Two – the number of fakes in the market is increasing.
Looking to Scotch Whisky Auctions, we saw a new record for the third release of Black Bowmore. £7,400 sealed the bidding at £400 ahead of Bonham’s previous December 2016 high. Looking back just under twelve months and the price was £5,150. Take it back to February 2014 and the price for this bottle was £3,500. Amazingly in 2008, these were selling for £1,400.
This buoyancy provided ample opportunity to re-run the Black Bowmore Index which we last published in August 2015; some eighteen months ago when the index stood at 294.25. That was impressive enough, however, we’ve seen a further 57.14% increase since then, with the index now standing at 462.39.
From a monetary perspective, the £ cost of the three first releases of Black Bowmore at the start of the index in 2008 was £4,520. That cost has now risen to £20,900. Last years release of the 50-year-old Black Bowmore completes an impressive five-bottle set. Values should remain buoyant for these in-demand rarities. Noting there can only ever be a maximum of 159 full sets of five bottles (159 bottles of the 50 were released), expect fireworks if all five ever make it to auction as a collection. The fourth Black Bowmore also set two record sales in February; Just-Whisky pipped Whisky-Online Auctions by a fractional £25 to take the highest price paid to £10,125.
Not wanting to leave White and Gold Bowmore’s out, Whisky-Online Auctions sold a bottle of each earlier this month for an equal £6,100 per bottle – both new record prices.
Assuming the full £16,000 retail price is paid for a 50-year-old Black Bowmore, all seven bottles of the-colours-of-Bowmore collection would cost £59,225. Bargain!!?
Another high value set/collection taking recent glory is Macallan’s Lalique decanter set. The sixth and final pillar, or decanter, was released last year. So, as with Black Bowmore, this particular collection of Macallan in Lalique is now consigned to history. For completeness, the list of the six pillars in Lalique are –
The Macallan in Lalique – Exceptional Oak Cask, 50 Years Old
The Macallan in Lalique – Natural Colour, 55 Years Old
The Macallan in Lalique – Finest Cut, 57 Years Old
The Macallan in Lalique – Curiously Small Stills, 60 Years Old
The Macallan in Lalique – Spiritual Home, 62 Years Old
The Macallan in Lalique – Peerless Spirit, 65 Years Old
Not content with selling the most expensive bottle of whisky sold at a UK auction last year, London-based Whisky.Auction now hold the title for selling the most expensive bottle of Macallan sold at auction in the UK. £41,000 was the magic number required to secure a second release Lalique decanter. Having been up close and personal to a few of these in my time, I might suggest that the postage would possibly cost as much as the bottle!
It’ll be fascinating to see what the full set of Lalique’s (pictured below) sell for on the 2nd of April at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. The set (in a Lalique made cabinet with some F&R mini’s for good luck) is the only one in the world released by the distillery, so with enough avid (should that be rabid!) Macallan collectors out there, I don’t think the HK$2,000,000 – HK$4,000,000 (£207k – £414k) estimate will be too much of a challenge. In fact, I’d be very surprised if the upper estimate isn’t burst by a significant margin.
Bowmore and Macallan had great months, but elsewhere some exceptional bottles sold for correspondingly exceptional prices –
Recently, Springbank seem to be getting the attention they rightly deserve for rarer examples. A long discontinued bottle of 12-year-old 100 proof managed a phenomenal £1,300 at Scotch Whisky Auctions – exactly ten times the £130 price-tag it was selling for in 2008.
Just-Whisky took a bottle of Glenmorangie 30-year-old Oloroso through £1,000 for the first time when one sold for £1,030. As recently as June 2012 these could still be picked up at auction for sub £200.
Moving onto the second issue, we’re still seeing an increase in fakes on the market. Our view is still very clear on this, as values remain so buoyant, we will see an increase in the number of fakes.
We were speaking to fellow fake-haters, Scotch Whisky Auctions, today as some fakes had slipped through their (very tight to be fair) fake-net. The two blue label Macallan 30’s were a point of discussion as one was 100% fake, the other we’re 99% sure is fake (that’s sometimes the issue with imagery, we’d need to see the bottle to be 100% sure).
There was also a really good (by that I mean hard to spot) fake Macallan 1979 Gran Reserva as well. Between the blue label 30 and the Gran Reserva’s (we’ve seen ALL vintages of these faked) these are among the most faked, high risk bottles out there… and they’re not cheap so we’re not expecting this flow of fakes to be stemmed anytime soon.
It’s great to see that Scotch Whisky Auctions are taking an even tougher stance on fakes and are now barring sellers who are repeat and deliberate offenders. Clearly Scotch Whisky Auctions have done/are doing the right thing for their buyers too by refunding payments and taking bottles back.
The interesting thing is that all these bottles sold for their current market value, so there’s a real education piece required to help buyers understand how to spot these things. But there-in lies the conundrum – if everyone knows how to spot fakes, fakers will correct these errors and get better.
That said, we’ll be doing a lot more on this with many others later in the year. More on that later.
In summary, fakes aside, the start to 2017 looks positive. We’re certainly not expecting a mirror image of the gains seen in 2016 but demand still seems to be vastly more than supply can provide for. Early days yet and there’s still plenty of time for the arrows to start pointing down but we’re not seeing significant stress in the market for now. Cautious optimism is the phrase of the month here.
Andy and David.
Bowmore imagery courtesy of Whisky-Online Auctions other than the 50 yr old.
Macallan Lalique set image courtesy of Macallan.
Glenmorangie image courtesy of Just-Whisky.
Blue label Macallan 30’s image courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions.
Secondary Market – July 2016
July saw Macallan’s 55 year old Lalique decanter set a new UK record price for the whole brand. Whisky-Online Auctions took a mighty £25,100 for this 55 year old ‘Macallan in Lalique’ second release. Back in 2010, the price of this was £5,400. As recently as 2012 one sold for £7,800. As the sixth and final Lalique decanter has now been announced and this series is complete, we should expect values to remain firm. This is also the most expensive bottle at auction in the UK since the £27,200 Springbank 1919 which sold in March 2015 (again by heavyweight price-busters Whisky-Online Auctions).
Laphroaig’s 30 year old Cairdeas managed £1,200, it’s first time through the £1,000 price point. With a 2010 record low of £345, this is further evidence that older age statements remain in exceptionally strong demand.
A few days earlier, Scotch Whisky Auctions took a bottle of 50 year old Glenury Royal to a new record of £4,300. Until as recently as 2012, this Diageo Special Release had failed to top £1,000; a seemingly distant price in light of the current market. The last twelve UK auction sales are listed under the image and, while somewhat spiky, the trend is very definitely going one way.
That up-trend continues across most silent stills with values towards the top end or above recent trade. While short term gains are imminently possible, especially in today’s market, we still maintain whisky should be viewed as a 10 to 20 year investment. Scotch Whisky Auctions £500 hammer price for a 1966 Connoisseurs Choice 20 year old showed that 100% gains are achievable in one year! May 2015 saw this bottle fetch £250, exactly half of its sale value earlier this month. Amazing.
Lagavulin’s first 21 year old 2007 Special Release managed to achieve a new record of £920. This could make the £800 ask for the new 25 year old, soon to be released, 200th anniversary bottle look like good value providing the liquid is exemplary. Just don’t expect overnight gains, it’s taken the 21 year old almost ten years to get to this level.
McTears haven’t featured heavily in these pages recently, but their July auction had one particular star performer. The second 1994 release (not the first release as originally mentioned) of the original Black Bowmore’s managed a tremendous £6,000 on the nose. Its previous best was £4,800 earlier this year and in 2010 it was still selling for £1,600. This highlights the almost mythical allure these bottles conjure among admirers. Charting the performance of the first three Black Bowmore releases over just the last three years shows a 97.7% increase in value.
Throughout the vast, frequently eclectic, world of whisky, there have been certain constants. Reminders that no-matter what else is going on there are some things you can turn to in wide eyed expectation and get a warm fuzzy feeling. Lagavulin 16 year old is one of those things, the consistently great Aberlour A’Bunadh is another and Macallan 18 year old carrying a vintage year of distillation is another.
Since the 1983 bottling of the 1965 vintage, the Macallan 18 year old was to become one of the most spectacularly sought after vintage vertical collections. Prior to the inception of the 18 year old as part of Macallan’s core offering, the often referred to ‘gold label’ bottles can be sourced all the way back to 1940’s vintages.
These vintages are one of the most extensive historical lenses to how a brand has changed in both its flavour and it image over the last fifty or so years. Birthday’s, death-day’s, weddings anniversaries and more special occasions than one can shake an Elchies Estate stick at have been marked by these iconic bottles.
… But no more.
2015 saw the final ‘vintage’ Macallan 18. That was the 1997 (technically still not a single vintage but we’ll let that slide for posterity). From this year many will have already noticed a change. Date distilled now becomes year of release. This in effect leaves an 18 year gap where no special occasions can be referenced by date (1998 – 2015 inclusive). This subtle change sees the vintage-stated Macallan 18 year olds pass into history…
So this –
Becomes this –
Interestingly, the death of this longstanding vintage vertical brings with it certain opportunities for collectors. Firstly, make sure the final 1997 vintage is snapped up if a full collection is the aim. Secondly, now vintage bottles are dead, prices should start to move for the more recent purple box variants when stagnation has previously been the trend. Couple the cessation of one bottling type with the fact that 2016 is the first ‘Annual Release’ 18 year old and we all know what happens to first release prices. A real shame, and the end of an era on one hand, but an exciting annual release programme on the other.
Until next time, slainte.
Andy and David.
BOTTLED ICONS – BLACK BOWMORE
1 – THE LEGACY – GAVIN D SMITH
Every now and again a whisky is launched which becomes an almost instant classic. Mention the name alone and the eyes of investors and collectors light up with eager recognition. Such a whisky is Black Bowmore, initially marketed in 1993, with further releases following during the next two years.
Here we ask members of the Bowmore team to reveal some of the background to this epic bottling.
Who decided on the name?
The expression really named itself; being sherry matured and so unusually dark it was only natural that it should be called Black Bowmore.
Had Bowmore always been aware this was likely to be great whisky and earmarked these casks accordingly?
All the casks in Bowmore’s legendary No. 1 Vaults were, and continue to be, regularly checked. The Black Bowmore casks would have been selected for bottling accordingly, and although it is unlikely that anyone at the time could have predicted it would become so iconic, we knew that it was a truly great whisky.
So just what is it about the Black Bowmore that makes it such a classic?
What are the main influences on its character?
The main influences on the character of Black Bowmore are the new-make spirit matured in first-fill sherry casks and the maturation process in Bowmore’s legendary No.1 vaults. Being matured below sea level produces a perfect recipe of balance and richness, peat smoke and fruit.
Was there anything special about the casks used?
The casks used to produce Black Bowmore are perfect examples of the exceptional quality sherry casks selected by Bowmore to be ideally suited for long maturation.
Was the distillery using a lot of first-fill oloroso casks at the time, or would this have been really unusual?
Sherry filling was used in a higher proportion during the 1960s, and this was a style known to suit Bowmore, however Black Bowmore is proof of the quality of the wooden casks and conditions in our No.1 Vaults.
I understand you replace the wax capsule for buyers if it is cracked. How many times have you done that?
We don’t replace the wax, however we do re-seal with a spun capsule if the wax has broken off. We have probably replaced only two or three over the years.
Did Bowmore ever expect Black Bowmore to become so iconic and increase so dramatically in value and collectible status?
It was understood at the time of release that Black Bowmore was an exceptional whisky; however no one could have predicted such a stratospheric rise in collectability. Black Bowmore remains one of the most iconic expressions to come out of our distillery.
What were Bowmore’s original tasting notes?
Tasting notes on the back of the original Black Bowmore bottle read ‘Remarkably complex, yet mellow, Black Bowmore is a superb example of an Islay whisky matured in sherry butts.’
2 – THE INVESTMENT? – ANDY SIMPSON
I recall way back in 2011, I think… maybe 2012… I had what could be called an interesting conversation with Mark Gillespie from Whiskycast about the whole topic of investing in bottles of whisky.
Mark appeared to be strongly against whisky being used as an investment which is great; as always, whisky has the ability to generate passion among its fans and also healthy debate.
So why reference a conversation which happened some four years ago?
We had a very specific conversation about Black Bowmore and the relative price consistency the bottles had been achieving at auction. If something has a completely consistent price it’ll never make it as an investment and, almost like clockwork, the first three Black Bowmore’s had been selling for around £1,600 each. In-fact throughout the latter part of 2010 and into early 2011 the first three releases could be picked up for exactly that – £4,800 for the trilogy.
Wind the clock forward a few short years and let’s take a look the state of play now.
IF you’d bought these three icons of whisky at what appeared to be the capped max price of £4,800, would that price-ceiling turn out to be made of impermeable stuff or would it subsequently prove to be glass? Let’s not forget these bottles originally retailed for around £100 per bottle so the increase-over-retail price was already vast. Could these bottles physically extend further gains or were they already exhausted?
An understatement would be to say they’ve done okay! In-fact they’ve performed remarkably well. The chart below shows their performance since 2008. The early years of the chart clearly illustrate the lacklustre performance and near stagnation before we started to see positive momentum.
Rather than vast spikes in their performance, it’s encouraging to see the rate of more recent growth is relatively consistent. Natural peaks and troughs give way to a fairly regular pattern of increasing values.
While these are not the best performers in absolute terms, an almost tripling in price over the last four years from an index value of 106.19 at the end of May 2011 to 294.25 at present is clearly impressive.
Had the set of three bottles been purchased in 2011 for £4,800 they would now be worth £13,300. That’s £8,500 ahead of their 2011 auction price and an almost unbelievable £13,000 increase in value from their original retail price.
With this level of increase over recent years, is there any scope for future growth? That’s clearly impossible to answer; however, the current high demand for Black Bowmore doesn’t look like it will abate any-time soon. In fact general Bowmore values have been hardening rapidly over recent months meaning the likelihood of plummeting values for these three icons looks slim (never say never though).
We frequently talk of the right and wrong bottles from a collectors/investors perspective; in our view the first three Black Bowmore’s don’t get much more right! Pure bottled icons.
Our hearty thanks go to Morrison Bowmore Distillers for their contribution, their images … and of course for releasing such exceptional Scotch!
An £11,400 loss on the sale of one bottle of whisky.
Take into account 10% plus VAT sellers commission and the retail to auction crystallised loss is £13,212, or -49.86%.
That was the state of play at the recent Whisky-Online Auctions sale for a bottle of the 2014 release Balvenie 50 year old. The retail price for one of 128 bottles from cask number 4570 is £26,500… the hammer fell at just £15,100.
Why sell such a recently released high end rarity at auction? There’s probably a whole host of reasons from a sellers perspective and one could speculate all day; unwanted gift? Just need the cash? Whatever. Speculation aside, one of the great things about an auction is it shows the true market value for something. I’ve been asked many times if I think the new Balvenie 50’s are a good investment, my answer’s always been no. Certainly not in the short to medium term; long term, possibly; with the lack of old stock at the moment anything’s a definite maybe. A collectors piece? Absolutely… This is without question a halo bottle in any Balvenie collection. If you must have every bottle of Balvenie then you have to get one of these. I hope there’s a very happy Balvenie collector out there… or maybe a happy Balvenie drinker?!
So the Balvenie sold for 56.98% of its current retail price (hammer price compared to VAT inclusive retail price). In a very different area of the market, lower down the value chain, we saw a bottle sell for 600% more than its current retail price.
Whisky-Online Auctions brought the first bottles of Ardbeg Perpetuum to market.
These first three bottles sold for £490, £410 and £400 per bottle. With a current retail price of £70 (and only available from the distillery), I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – patience is key when buying if you have future gains at all in mind.
As an example, listed among the first few sales of last years (£120 per bottle) Ardbeg Kildalton, highs of £470, £460 and £450 were observed. Currently, the bottle’s selling for around £125 – £140 at auction.
With 12,000 bottles of Perpetuum for sale, rest assured the auction market will be flooded after this years Feis Ile. If you can’t get one on Islay in person, give it six or twelve months, let the dust to settle, and pick one up at a slightly less aggressive price.
Among the highs and the lows, the usual mix of rarities, collectors bottles and good old drinkers prevailed throughout one of Whisky-Online Auctions usual high quality sales.
In what looks to be a run-up to the aforementioned Feis Ile 2015, Islay in general had a great auction.
Laphroaig are moving through a real sea-change in prices for their older discontinued bottles. With its 2009 – £400 low-point long in the past, a bottle of 1980 27 year old (Oloroso) managed a huge new record of £1,450. The 2006 Feis Ile bottle settled on a record £400, more than doubling its 2013 low of £165.
Bowmore saw its 4th release of Black Bowmore fetch £5,900. With a previous auction sale price of £2,700 in 2013 ‘big’ Bowmore’s still pull the crowds. The original Black Bormore first release sold for £4,600, some £400 off its current record but way ahead of its 2010 low of £1,600. Bowmore’s 1972 27 year old also hit a new high when it achieved £700. The most recent price for the 1972 27 year old was £480 and its all-time low was just £120 in 2010.
As a collection, many bottles from the Rare Malts Selection have shown signs of values moving north.
The standout at this auction was a bottle of 1972 23 year old Clynelish which sold for an amazing £825; more than double its previous auction price of £350.
Fellow northern highlander, Glenmorangie, saw a bottle of ‘Traditional’ sell for £135… in 2011 one sold for just £30. Showing how polarised the market is right now, a bottle of Glenmorangie Grand Slam Dram sold for £32.50, its lowest price on record.
With so much chaff and distraction in the market from a new release perspective it was pleasing to see continued buoyancy on the secondary market. Full details will be published in our Monthly Market Watch, however, the first quarter of 2015 looks to have been a success for whisky as an alternative investment. The two core indices for rare whisky, the Rare Whisky Icon100 index and the Rare Whisky Apex1000 index, are both meaningfully up by 7.24% and 4.36% respectively.
One shouldn’t count one’s early Easter chickens just yet but the entry into 2015 has been far more positive than the exit from 2014.
Until next time.
Images courtesy of Whisky-Online Auctions