Tag Archives: Silent Stills

Rare Whisky Review – July 2016

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).

Macallan in Lalique 55
At £25,100 this is the most expensive Macallan to sell at auction in the UK

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.

Glenury Royal 50 Image and Investment Profile

Millburn 1966 20 yr old ConnoisseursThat 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.

Black Bowmore Index

 

Primary/Retail Releases.

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 –

Mac 18 1997

Becomes this –

Mac 18 2016

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.

Weekly Auction Watch – 12th May 2016

Sometimes packaging delights us; sometimes it turns us off; sometimes it sadly becomes more of a focus than the liquid it’s intended to position, enhance and display… Rarely does it confuse. But that’s where Gordon and MacPhail’s Mortlach 75 year old packaging has left me – utterly confused.

Mortlach 75
The oldest Scotch in the world

I’m not saying it’s bad per se, just a little left of field, a bit odd and probably not that sensible if the truth be told.

The recent Whisky Auctioneer whisky sale saw a bottle of the oldest Scotch in the world sell for the not insignificant sum of £17,800. Included in the sale was the leather travel/presentation bag. I have nothing against leather travel bags, I’ve owned one for many years and it’s been a welcome companion on many a trip… But would I stuff nearly twenty grands worth of Scotch and crystal decanter inside it and haul it over my shoulder? The concept seems about as sensible as popping into Lady Gaga’s meat dress and wandering round the Maasai Mara shouting “here Lion, Lion… here boy”. Maybe the inside of the bag has significant steel and Kevlar reinforcement? At least it’s different! Odd… granted, but different.

Mortlach bag
Makes traveling with you twenty grand bottle of Scotch a breeze!

Anyway, moving from packaging to prices as is more the focus here; there were some huge new records achieved at last week’s Whisky Auctioneer sale.

Macallan – A market divided.

Macallan 18 Year Old 1970's

As auction values for more modern releases and many Macallan ‘drinkers’ splutter and falter like an asthmatic steam train ascending Everest, many are becoming available at auction for significantly less that you’d pay at retail (Rare Cask for £135 at auction). On the flip side of this crumbling coin is the golden face of the ‘old’ bottles. The older vintage 18 and 25 year old’s are absolutely flying. Values are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The 18’s have already increased by 24.69% this year and the 25 year old’s have increased by 19.35%. April’s Rare Whisky 101 month-end charts were off the scale and that growth looks to be accelerating. As with the vast Karuizawa gains seen through early 2015, we’re wondering if the market is becoming overheated. Certainly, the pace of these increases cannot be maintained. Three of the 18 year olds sold at this auction achieved fresh new records – the 1970 hit £1,050, a bottle of 1974 sold for £975 and the 1978 made £825. All were selling for around a third of those prices as recently as 2013.

Islay continues to ride high.

Yet again, older rarer bottles from Islay made big money. I remember being sat in the auction room at Bonhams (Edinburgh) in 2010 and chatting in hushed tones to a friend as the auction moved along. Almost exactly when I’d finished talking, the hammer fell on a bottle I couldn’t believe I missed. £120 took a bottle of 1972 27 year old Bowmore… A snip… and I missed it because I was chewing the fat over Lyne arm angles, secondary fermentation or some other utterly geeky stuff. Like my old school reports – pay more attention! Especially noting that bottle sold for £858 at last week’s Whisky Auctioneer sale.

White Horse bottled Lagavulin seems to be in ever increasing demand. £230 took a bottle to nearly double its recent trading range… Maybe there’s panic in them there hills? Might 16 turn to eight then turns to NAS?! I suspect not to be fair, but who knows. A bottle of Murray McDavid bottled 1979 Lagavulin also shone through as a clear winner managing £1,000 for the first time. Until the end of 2013 this bottle had never sold for more than £200 at auction.

Bruichladdich saw a bottle of its 40 year old make the most expensive bottle of ‘Laddie at auction in the UK. A respect-worthy £1750 took it past a previous best of £1550.

From a silent stills perspective. The big movement was seen from independent bottlers. A brace of 1972 vintage Brora’s from Douglas Laing went expectedly berserk. The Old and Rare 29 year old managed £2,350, massively ahead of its previous UK sale price of £500 (that was expensive in 2010!) and the 30 year old bottled for The Whisky Shop hit £1,426, not a record but a superb price noting it was lacking its card tube.

Brora 1972's
A brace of big Brora ’72’s

Port Ellen had a noticeable lack of bottles at auction but a Connoisseurs Choice 1982/2007 stood out when it fetched £410.

All told, last week’s Whisky Auctioneer sale was as buoyant as they come. We’re just keeping a close eye on the rapidly heating vintage Macallan market. For those with a few stashed away, values are clearly increasing; however, I’m not so sure I’d be entering the market in a hurry right now. As always, time will tell.

 

Images courtesy of Whisky Auctioneer.

Weekly Auction Watch – 3rdMay 2016

It is with great sadness that we move into May’s round of whisky auctions. Scotch Whisky Auctions opened the new month’s bidding with nothing less than devastating news that Loch Dhu, Black Whisky, appears to have increased in value and moved to a new higher trading level.

Loch Dhu
It’s actually creosote. Not to be confused with Scotch on any level.

Sadness aside, sellers around the world are rejoicing at being able to find an alternative means of disposal for these dangerous bottles. SEWPA’s (Scottish Environment Whisky Protection Agency) recent ruling unilaterally banned Loch Dhu from being poured down the drain after it was found to be highly toxic to aquatic organisms… in fact any organisms. Until now, desperate whisky collectors had hidden the bottles away, afraid the very blackness of Loch Dhu’s foul soul would invade the rest of their collection. With bottles selling for £100 – £120 (up from previous trading range £65 – £80) collectors can now offload the pressure of ownership to those more interested in weapons of mass dhu-structiveness.

More sensibly, away from the black sludge, rare whisky prices advanced again, taking many bottles to new record highs.

Not the most obvious collector’s choice, Strathmill, saw a bottle of Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask 1962, 42 year old sell for £460. Its previous record was £360 in 2015 with a low point of £120 in 2010.

Having been lucky enough Lagavulin Jazz 2011to be able to visit Islay last week to celebrate Lagavulin’s 200th birthday, it seems only fitting to mention the new record prices paid for a 2011 Jazz Festival bottling. £600 was the winning bid, just exceeding a slightly lower priced bottle at £560. Impressive results for a bottle which originally retailed for £80.

Fellow, Islay distilleries Ardbeg and Bowmore also saw record results.

Ardbeg’s fourth release of the 1974 vintage Provenance breached the £2,000 mark for the first time when one sold for £2,100. Alongside the Provenance, a bottle of the mighty Ardbeg 1965 took £6,600, a comfortable new record.

Ardbeg Record Breakers

A bottle of the 1968 37 year old from Bowmore also sailed through £2,000 for the first time. £2,600 took the bottle on this occasion which is 465% ahead of its record low £460 in 2009.

Representation from silent stills was relatively thin on the ground but for those making it to auction, values looked buoyant. Port Ellen’s first release took £1,900, not an outright record but well ahead of recent sales. A bottle of 1982/2000 Connoisseurs Choice from Brora managed to add £20 onto its previous £310 record and a 2004 Diageo Special Release Linlithgow (St. Magdalene) 30 year old soared to £760.

Linlithgow 30

With a packed auction schedule in May, supply, again, looks high. At the moment, a certain element of positive momentum looks to be in control of the broader market… The first four months of the year have seen impressive results. If the rest of the year can keep pace, 2016 could well be a record breaker.

 

Images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

Weekly Auction Watch – 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 – 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 – 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.

Weekly Auction Watch – 10th March 2015

Yes, I blinked and yes, February was over. I blinked again and we’re on the 10th of March… I started this auction watch on the 2nd!

February was a month which will be favoured as exceptional in terms of the gains in value for collectable Scotch (and Japanese) whisky. With all but one major index showing positive movement, in some cases significantly, can this month take over where the short-but-sweet February left off?

March’s first auction, from Glasgow based Scotch Whisky Auctions, ended on the first of March and brought with it some incredible results.

Ardbeggeddon almost doubles in value
Ardbeggeddon almost doubles in value

Ardbeg’s current trend continued with rarer higher value bottles achieving new records. The Ardbeggeddon 1972 vintage set the pace when it sold for £1,550, hugely exceeding its 2014 price of £825. Another good result was seen by one of just 222 bottles from cask number 1924 (1999 vintage 10 year old) which sold for £430. These younger single cask offerings used to be available from the distillery but were sadly discontinued some years ago.

A set of Arran’s Icons achieved £600, nicely exceeding the £380 paid in 2013. For rarer bottles, Arran seems keen to continue its current bull-run.

Arran's Icons become the iconic Arran collectors set
Icons of Arran. Rapidly becoming an iconic collectors set too

While the bulk of their bottles remained depressed, Bruichladdich’s 1970 vintage (one of the first releases under the then new ownership in 2001) hit £560 way ahead of its 2010 low of £120.

Bunnahabhain’s 1968 vintage Auld Acquaintance peaked at a new record £800, £50 ahead of its previous best in January this year. In 2010 these were being picked up for £220; even further back and just £160 would have secured a bottle in 2008. Steep gains for this bottle are no real surprise… Probably Bunna’s finest?

Older vintages from Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain see upside
Older vintages from Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain see upside
Late 1970's bottled Dalmore
Late 1970’s bottled Dalmore

Dalmore’s older discontinued bottles and rarities performed admirably. A bottle of late 1970’s 12 year old (dumpy green bottle with ‘jigger’ cap, lacking its box) fetched £185, comfortably ahead of its 2013 previous best of £85. The 1985 vintage distillery exclusive sold for £360. In 2009 a bottle of this sold for just £55, with a previous record of £205 this is indeed significant movement.

£860 is almost double last years price for a bottle of 1972 39 year old Glendronach. A near doubling in value in just 12 months is incredible (£450 in March 2014). I suspect we’ll see a lot more Glendronach records over the coming months/years.

Older vintage Glenmorangie’s performed well with the (not that old to be fair) Margaux bottling in Perspex case selling for £420. In 2012 values for these had all but collapsed and bottles could be picked up for £90.

Lagavulin prices in general appeared buoyant. The first release 21 year old achieved £880, just slipping past its previous best of £840. A set of three older Lagavulins (the first release 21, the 25 and the 30) now costs a combined £2,500 at auction. With an original retail price of £430 for the three, their growth looks somewhat acceptable.

Lagavulin 21, 25 and 30 year old. 481.4% increase in value over retail prices
Lagavulin 21, 25 and 30 year old. 481.4% increase in value over retail prices

The blue box/label variant of Macallan’s 30 year old sailed up to a massive new record of £2,900. With a 2008 price of £260 this is now one of the few exclusive and illusive ‘ten-baggers’ ever seen on the open market. Conversely the Masters of Photography Leibovitz bottles (Skyline and Bar) hit their lowest prices to date. Skyline sold for £1,050 down from £1,550 in June last year and The Bar achieved £1,100 down from £1,300 in July.

A Macallan rose between two thorns... from a collectors perspective
A Macallan rose between two thorns… from a collectors perspective

Along with Diageo stablemate Lagavulin, Talisker had a great auction. A massive £380 sealed the bidding for the 2007 released distillery exclusive. I do see that as a spike, but an impressive one none the less. The 34 year old ‘in a boat’ achieved £1,650 up from £990 in 2012.

With simply too many other record prices to feature separately, many bottles from silent stills hit new highs. Lochside, Rosebank and St Magdalene all experienced increased demand, as did Port Ellen.

In December 2012 a full-set of Port Ellen official releases (1st release to 12th release incl.) would have cost £6,805 at auction. At this recent SWA sale, that price has risen to a heady £10,390, up 52.7% in a little over two years.

It would also be remiss of me to let this auction pass without mention of the mighty Japanese whisky-value-warlord, Karuizawa. I can’t reference every record but suffice to say virtually every bottle was a new high… Amazing results. I’m looking forward to seeing a 1964 or maybe even a 1960 hit the open market.

Finally, showing how important fill levels are to influencing values, a 1970’s bottled Tamdhu 8 year old with a good fill sold for £190. Exactly the same bottle but with a fill at upper mid shoulder achieved just £80.

£190 with a good fill level. Almost 60% less for a poor fill level
£190 with a good fill level. Almost 60% less for a poor fill level

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

Images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions.

Monthly Market Watch – February 2015

Values Harden amid Shortening Supply.

Following a plateau/slight re-trace in whisky values at the end of 2014, vast open market supply looks to have calmed to more manageable levels. That relative back-step in supply enabled rare whisky values to progress, in some cases significantly. The total number of bottles seen on the open market in February amounted to 2,690, still some 28.8% ahead of the 2,089 seen in February 2014. When 2014’s total growth of 68% is taken into account, 28.8% feels more ‘relaxed’.

Throughout the first two months of 2015 we’ve seen 6,029 bottles hit the open market, up 45.7% on the same time period in 2014. When February volumes are directly compared to Decembers record 4,153, (a 35.23% drop) volumes look to be cooling a little which should be positive for overall values.

The RW101 indices showed good growth through February with just one index moving into negative territory –

The indices for February ranked in order of increase are –

1 – RWPE Index – Port Ellen +29.06% (view Index)

2 – RWK Index – Karuizawa +9.47% (view Index)

3 – RWIcon100 – Icon 100 Index +5.89% (view Index)

4 – RWM18 Index – Macallan 18 +3.33% (view Index)

5 – RWB Index – Brora Index +2.27% (view Index)

6 – RWRMS Index – Rare Malts Selection Index +1.85% (view Index)

7 – RWVintage50 – Vintage 50 Index +0.05% (view Index)

8 – RWM25 Index – Macallan 25 -0.55% (view Index)

 

The significant jump in the Port Ellen Index was primarily due to the 4th release doubling in price, increasing a staggering 106.25% (£800 to £1,650). This coupled with a 23.34% gain for the 3rd release reversed the steep drop we saw at the end of 2014.

Port Ellen Index sees 2014 losses reversed
Port Ellen Index sees 2014 losses reversed

The benchmark RWIcon100 Index outperformed the general market, increasing by 5.89%. Yet again, bottles with older age statements and older vintages led the way. Good growth was seen for Dalmore’s 1973 30 year old (up 46.67% on Jan), Laphroaig’s 40 year old (up 26.53% on Jan) and Macallan’s 30 year old blue wood box variant (up 26.43% on Jan). The Glenlivet 1972 Cellar Collection was also up an impressive 25% on January.

Among the worst performers were Springbank’s 25 year old Frank McHardy bottle which lost 30.43% and Macallan’s 1971 25 year old Anniversary Malt which fell by 19.05% (in part resulting in the Macallan 25 year old Index staying in the red). Glenmorangie’s 1971 vintage Culloden bottle also moved down by 20%.

Over the past three months Karuizawa values have remained static, albeit static at all-time highs for the brand. February saw further increases in demand pushing prices to new records. The ever expanding desire for bottles of rare Karuizawa shows no immediate sign of calming amid relatively scant supply. Scant supply and the knowledge that any remaining casks will, at some point run out, should see values advance.

Demand shows no sign of slowing for heavily sought after bottles of Karuizawa
Demand shows no sign of slowing for heavily sought after bottles of Karuizawa

The Macallan 18 year old index bucked its 2014 trend and performed admirably, crystallising a 3.33% gain on January. Putting that into context, the Macallan 18 year old index increased by 3.57% over the whole of 2014. Are the 18’s due a more sustained increase?

The Apex Indices (the best performing 1,000, 250 and 100 bottles) also reversed their recent, but marginal, down-trend. All indices made good progress with the best performance seen at the top end of the market where the RWApex100 index moved up 6.79%. The RWApex250 increased by 3.50% and the RWApex1000 increased by 1.53%.

In stark contrast to the positivity of the main key performance indicators, the negative indices continued to fall (albeit slightly). The RWNeg100 fell 1.22%, the RWNeg250 fell 0.22% and the RWNeg1000 fell by just 0.02%.

As the oversupply of winter passes, the approaching onset of spring looks to be bringing more than just green shoots to the right bottles.

Weekly Whisky Auction Watch – 17th Feb 2015

Weekly Whisky Auction Watch

17.02.15

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the recent Whisky-Online Auctions sale demonstrated extreme polarisation in Macallan values. On the rise, we saw a bottle of the Cask 888 decanter hit a record £4,500 and the Robert Burns decanter achieve £2,350. Highly desirable limited editions still look impressive from a performance perspective. Both the ‘M’ Decanter and the recent Reflexions decanter fell to their lowest recorded prices of £2,500 and £725 respectively.

High performing Macallan decanters. 888 hit £4,500 and the Burns decanter achieved £2,350
High performing Macallan decanters. 888 hit £4,500 and the Burns decanter achieved £2,350

Showing age absolutely matters from a collectors perspective, both the 30 and 40 year old Laphroaig’s sold for record prices. The 30 year old sold for £1,150 and the 40 year old (non-vintage variant) hit £3,100. As recently as 2012 the 40 year old was still selling for £1,500 and the 30 year old was snapped up for just £320; impressive gains for both these old aged bottles.

Top performing trio of Laphroaig.
Top performing trio of Laphroaig.

Showing rarity also yields interesting results as well as age, a bottle of 13 year old Laphroaig, Feis Ile 2005, sold for £525 having a previous all-time high of £410 in 2013.

Auchentoshan are rarely mentioned in these pages so it was pleasing to see a bottle from cask number 793, a 1973 vintage 29 year old, peak at £380. In 2008 these bottles were selling for as little as £85. Morrison Bowmore stablemate, Glen Garioch, had an exceptional result when a bottle of 1968 vintage 34 year old from cask number 17 sold for £1,000. At its previous auction outing in 2013 it achieved £500.

Auchen-Garioch brothers. Morrison Bowmore distilleries continue to show upside.
Auchen-Garioch brothers. Morrison Bowmore distilleries continue to show upside.

Another infrequently mentioned distillery, Dalwhinnie, saw a bottle of Cadenheads (dumpy green bottle) 1966 vintage 18 year old achieve £320. In 2009 prices were pegged down at £160 for this rarity.

Signatory bottled Brora 22 year old.
Signatory bottled Brora 22 year old.
SMWS Brora.
SMWS Brora.

Brora had another good auction with two independently bottled variants achieving new records. A bottle of SMWS (61.12) 1977 25 year old sold for £440, way exceeding its £280 high in 2013. With a previous best of £165, again in 2013, a bottle of Signatory 1981 vintage 22 year old advanced to sell at £310.

Managers Drams have had a somewhat lumpy ride over recent years. Current movement suggests they may be due a more holistic ‘collection-wide’ increase in value; however, Talisker’s Managers Dram seems to have stepped back significantly. Two bottles sold for £270 and £260. £260 is the joint lowest price paid at auction in the UK with the highest being £550 in late 2013. Conversely, a bottle of Talisker 8 year old bottled in the 1970’s sold for £525 setting a new record for this variant. The 1970’s bottle has yielded a 64% increase over its 2012 price of £320 whereas the Managers Dram has lost 53% of its value in less than two years.

1970's Talisker 8 year old up 64%. Talisker Managers Dram down 53%.
1970’s Talisker 8 year old up 64%. Talisker Managers Dram down 53%.

With just nine bottles of Highland Park at this auction it was encouraging to see two of them achieve new high-points. The 1973 Dragon sold for £650, some 51% ahead of its previous price of £430 in 2014. A bottle of 1986 vintage from cask number 2794 hit £320 which was 19% better than its 2014 price of £270… In June 2012 just £110 would have bought a bottle.

In terms of general values, February looks to have got off to something of an exceptional start with many bottles in the Rare Whisky Icon 100 Index (RWIcon100) moving north. Running the numbers for the RWIcon100 index at the February mid-month point shows a 6.08% increase over January. February has a way to go yet before the final numbers are published so anything could happen. It’s still the older rarer bottles from iconic distilleries or silent stills which are showing the growth. Other areas of the market are almost withering on the vine giving great opportunities to snap up quality drinkers at minimal cost.

If the aforementioned increases can be sustained throughout 2015 we could be looking at a particularly good year for whisky as an investment.

Until next time.

Slainte,

Andy

Images courtesy of Whisky-Online Auctions