Tag Archives: Glenfiddich

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 – 16th July 2015

Vintage Macallan Values Continue to Harden.

Building on last weeks positive outcome for Macallan, older vintage bottles appear to be shifting north; in some cases rapidly. It’s no secret secondary market values for Macallan had a relatively tough time throughout 2014. With a cross-brand all-bottle decline of 7.43%, the king of collectables took a relatively wide-reaching correction in investment terms.

Throughout 2015, certainly for discontinued older vintage bottles, things appear far more buoyant. A hardening in prices continued at the recent Whisky Auctioneer sale.

Four 25-year-old Anniversary Malt’s were sold with two achieving outright new records and the other two trading at the top end of recent prices.

Macallan Anniversary Malts continue upside
Macallan Anniversary Malts continue upside
  • The 1957/1983 vintage fetched a record £2,200; just £600 would have secured this bottle in 2010.
  • The 1968/1993 vintage fetched £1,300, not a record but way ahead of its previous most recent £950.
  • The 1971/1997 vintage fetched £1,200, again not a record but significantly above its recent £900 trading level.
  • The 1974/1999 vintage fetched £1,020, just £20 over its previous record price, but a record none the less.

On a more contemporary basis, while the ‘M’ decanter only managed £2,150, the Queens Diamond Jubilee cemented recent gains and settled around £1,120 per bottle – well up on the previous £750 – £850 prices achieved.

One for drinking
One for drinking

The Macallan ‘M’ decanter is an interesting concept. Unlike some bottles of Macallan, It wasn’t released with the collectors market in mind; it was released solely as a showcase for top of the range Macallan as a drink. I recently spoke to a business associate who asked my opinion on buying ‘M’ as an investment. My answer was to spend his money elsewhere and not to go near M as a collectable or investment… “Too late” came the unfortunate cry. It transpires he’s already bought four bottles! With a lot of patience it might claw back its losses… especially it it’s discontinued at some point in the future.

Away from Macallan…

Twice the price over just 12 months
Twice the price over just 12 months

Bottles from silent distilleries maintained their current positive price trajectory with Rosebank looking especially favourable. A bottle of 1967 vintage 26-year-old bottled by Signatory stormed in at £750; more than doubling its 2014 price of £350. The 1979 vintage 20-year-old Rosebank from The Rare Malts Selection range hit £450, not quite an absolute record (£660 was the ‘spiky’ price paid for a bottle in 2013) but way ahead of its £80 price tag in 2010.

Showing you don’t have to pay many hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of pounds to get on the silent stills ladder, a bottle of Inverleven (a distillery within a distillery) 1985/1999 by Gordon and MacPhail achieved £84; more than doubling its 2011 price of £40.

Glenlivet 1955
1955 Glenlivet

While many official bottles from Glenlivet continue to decline in value, the older vintage releases from Gordon and MacPhail are moving well. £675 took a 1955/2001 bottle, pushing it well ahead of its previous £450.

In my view, Glenlivet OB values will continue to fall. In terms of buying quality drinking stock on the secondary market, if the new Founders Reserve is anything to go by (tried it, left it, won’t return to it), we’ll see further polarisation between modern OB’s and discontinued IB’s.

Digressing slightly, the interesting conundrum for the Glenlivet Founders Reserve will be to see if it manages to recruit volumes of ‘new-to-category’ drinkers without turning away more seasoned whisky consumers. I fear the bigger challenge may be to get any new recruits to return for a second go…. who knows, I could be utterly wrong and it gets judged the best thing in the world at some award or another.

Back to the numbers and the current surge in Highland Park prices remains unchanged. Earl Haakon hit its highest price since November 2014 and a bottle of 1974 vintage (cask 11501, Viking Cinderella) sold for £750. £410 was the previous price paid for this bottle earlier in 2015.

Highland Park 1974 and Earl Haakon
Highland Park 1974 and Earl Haakon

Showing how rarities often make huge step-change leaps in value when they are rarely seen on the market, a bottle of Connoisseurs Choice 1957 Longmorn 25-year-old sold for £525. That was merely its second time at auction in the UK, on its first outing in 2008 it made £220.

Finally this week, it almost looks like Glenfiddich is giving its gilt-edged sibling Balvenie a bloody nose in the collectors stakes. The Glenfiddich 1958 sold for £4,400, way ahead of its previous £2,350 and even way ahead of the £2,750 it costs in travel retail.

Glenfiddich 1958 and 1972
Glenfiddich 1958 and 1972
Glenfiddich 1958 current retail price. Cheaper than buying at auction
Glenfiddich 1958 current retail price. Cheaper than buying at auction

At these prices it might not remain in travel retail for much longer. A bottle of 1972 vintage (from cask 16032) managed to take £900 on the nose, almost doubling its 2013 price of £460.

All in all, a good auction with some very impressive results.

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

Images courtesy of Whiskyauctioneer.com

Glenfiddich Gallery – Is it Selling?

“Rarely am I utterly blown away by a new release these days; however, the Rare Whiskies Gallery from Glenfiddich has done just that… This is stunning.”

They were the exact words I used on the 21st of November last year to describe my initial view of the Glenfiddich Gallery collection. I still stand by that, clearly opinions are personal; however, Wm. Grant’s have done a great job on the visuals and the concept.

You can go have a play with a basic flavour profiler and get some good visuals.

Great visual results from the basic online flavour profile tool
Great visual results from the basic online flavour profile tool

You can personalise your own packaging to create separate identities for a bottle(s) should you decide to do so.

Glenfiddich Gallery Bespoke Packaging buy me

I had the utter privilege of blending some whisky with Brian Kinsman recently and there’s no way on God’s earth I would be able to do 1% of what Brian can do from an alchemistic flavour perspective. I would hand on heart believe these casks to be exceptional… Quality will not be a problem with this collection then, one would assume.

Digitally, it’s quick, slick, pretty, contemporary and cool. The liquid should be superb and this is an amazing collection from a true icon of Scotch… the distillery which started it all from a single malt perspective.

Why such low sales?

For a multitude of reasons (which we’ll come onto in a minute), on the face of it, sales of bottles from The Gallery look to have stalled. Stalled, then pretty much completely stopped.

I’m not just saying that because it’s an opinion; we’ve kept an almost monthly record of the volume and value of Gallery bottles being sold. The chart below shows the total number of bottles available across all 36 single cask variants (‘kind-of-single-cask’… but we’ll also come onto that) and what’s cumulatively sold so far, seven months after launch.

Glenfiddich Gallery Volume Sales Chart

A total of 1722 bottles are/were available throughout the whole gallery. The two months between the end of December 2014 and the end of February this year saw a bit of a rush with an average of just over 50 bottles sold per month. March and April saw just 15 bottles over that two month period. Since then, 3 bottles sold in May and 5 bottles have sold so far this month. Sales are slowing – not growing.

As a % of the available pool of stock, just 7.72% of the number of bottles available have sold. If the current trend of around 5 sales per month continues, the remaining bottles will have finally sold out in just short of 318 months, or 26 and ½ years-time. That’s longer than the typical UK mortgage term.

From a value perspective, while there’s no chart on this one, only 4.81% of the total £ value of all bottles has been sold to date.

So we have an iconic distillery (After running some early index numbers for the half year, Glenfiddich look to have moved significantly up the charts) with existing rare bottles in high demand, releasing a great collection of immensely limited numbers of single cask bottlings in pretty cool packaging…. And it’s just not selling.

Why?

Back to opinions again, but here are some of our thoughts –

  1. Consumer Engagement.
  2. Pricing.
  3. Transparency of offer and the DCI model.

Consumer Engagement –

If I’m going to spend £100k on a bottle of whisky, no matter what the Platinum offer is, I’m not going to do it on-line. I’m just not. The expectation of a prospective purchaser creating their own label (the same as for the rest of the vintages/bottles) on a bottle which looks the same as everything else but costs many multiples more seems a little incongruous to other luxury offers.

Maybe Glenfiddich will ‘hand-sell’ these to select customers and, if they sell – they haven’t yet – they will be uniquely packaged with an amazing customer experience. That said, they’re still on-line so we must assume that’s not the way things are to be done.

If I wanted to buy a car for £100,000 would I buy it on-line with no test drive and no personal involvement? Nope. No way.

These bottles are clearly designed for the gifting market but in an unproven world as we have here, they’re dangerously expensive gifts. My family/friends gave up trying to buy me whisky as a gift many, many years ago because they have no idea what I really want, and that’s great, I no longer have to look Grandma in the eye and, with seriously gritted teeth, thank her for the bottle of Whyte & MacKay Special she’s just given me.

Pricing –

Odd one. In the current market, some of the Gallery bottles seem reasonable. But with Wm. Grant’s I’m not sure what ‘reasonable’ is anymore? The 22 year old Glenfiddich single cask at the Whisky Shop is £1,200 per bottle, way more than a 22(ish) year old bottle at the Gallery. But then there’s the Glenfiddich Spirit of Speyside bottlings; older whisky at very small prices… busily undermining the value of other limited editions (but great from an auction perspective).

Then there’s sibling distillery Balvenie…. Under £75 for a bottle of single sherry cask 15 year old. Surely this is price undermining on a ‘fracking’ scale.

I’m not disputing the pricing policy of Wm Grants, all I’m saying is that I don’t understand it… As a consumer i’m completely confused, I really am… And I work with whisky pricing on a daily basis so lord knows how a less experienced buyer would know if they are getting value or not?

Transparency of Offer and the Drink/Collect/Invest Model–

For me this is the killer as I’ve mentioned elsewhere previously.

The Gallery bottles are bottles taken from single casks; they don’t appear to be single cask bottlings. If a cask from 1987 were to actually yield just 6 bottles it would be sludge from a leaky cask; it would be splinter-sauce, probably under-proof and pretty much unquestionably undrinkable. What it wouldn’t be is a commercially viable Sherry Butt at 55.3%. So these appear to be ‘bottles from a single cask’ rather than ‘single cask bottlings’.

At a relatively high price-point, I want to know how many bottles there are, especially if I’m a collector rather than a gifter. Hypothetically, there are just three full sets of every bottle from the Gallery available. Each full set costs £200,030 for all 36 bottles. There’s absolutely no way I’d accept the risk of buying these without understanding if another 3, or 4, or 34 or however-many sets could be released at a future date.

All 36 bottles also span just 15 vintage years. If I bought all 36 current releases, would 36 more be released later? What does the future of the collection hold? The whole offer appears somewhat opaque. Who’s the key target customer? The Rare Whisky DCI (Drink/Collect/Invest) model shows what a bottle needs to do to hit the sweet spot as below.

RW101 DCI Model

To appeal to all three buyer types at this premium level, there needs to be absolute clarity. As a drinker, if I buy one of three bottles, I want that ultra exclusivity. As a collector/investor, I want to make sure my limited release is as limited as I thought it was. The recent Springbank 21 year old releases are a classic example – The first release absolutely flew off the shelves and also performed exceptionally at auction. Once the market realised all future releases were virtually identical, this in effect homogenised all releases. This in turn has crashed secondary market values which now sit well below retail prices.

I’d love to physically see a full set of Gallery bottles together; that would surely look amazing. The squat contemporised version of the classic Glenfiddich triangular bottle is one of whisky’s modern triumphs of identity. One which I’m sure would suit a collection like this exceptionally.

Unfortunately with so many variables, unknowns and pricing anomalies, I’m almost 100% certain I’ll never have that pleasure.

I find myself wondering how these will sell without significant change…