Tag Archives: Clynelish

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?

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 Whisky Auction Watch – 19th May 2015

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

One of the best known casualties was Port Ellen.

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

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

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

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

Laphroaig 12 Cad c1970Ardbeg 10 late 1970's

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

Bowmore 1957

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

50% loss
50% loss

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

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

Images courtesy of Whisky-Online Auctions.

Weekly Auction Watch – 7th April 2015

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.

How to lose over £10,000 in one trade for one bottle.
How to lose over £10,000 in one trade for one bottle.

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.

Ardbeg's Marketing team rejected this bottle label as it may have just been a little too obvious.
Ardbeg’s Marketing team rejected this bottle label as it may have just been a little too obvious.

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.

Laphhroaig collectible pace-setters
Collectible pace-setters from Laphroaig

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.

A brace of Bowmore's Black
A brace of Bowmore’s Black

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.

Clynelish Rare Malt outperforms the market

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.

Slainte,

Andy

Images courtesy of Whisky-Online Auctions