Tag Archives: Springbank

Rare Whisky Review – Feb. 2017

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.

Positive’s first.

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.

black_bowmore_index_22022017

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.

colours-of-bowmore-collection
Clear some shelf space!

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.

capture16066a_b-2
My drinks cupboard looks nothing like this… nope, nothing at all… Sadly!

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.

glenmorangie-oloroso-30
Breaking £1000 for the first time.

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).

fake-mac-blue-label-30s
Challenges ahead for the market as fakes increase.

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.

Slainte,

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.

Monthly Market Watch – November 2016

Whisky Values Maintain Buoyancy as Port Ellen Leads the Pack in November.

Demand for rare whisky increases as November’s results show prices hardening amid an almost insatiable market.

Volumes were relatively stable at 5,352 compared to October’s 5,528 and average prices for Scotch look to be edging further north towards the end of the year. More on averages in the 2016 Investment Review released early 2017.

Other than the specific negative indices which track the worst performing bottles, every single key index finished the month in positive territory. As more confirmation certain brands/bottles continue to fall, the Negative100 index slid further into the red, losing 1.43%; its greatest single month dip since Mays -7.46% loss.

The basic principles of the current dynamic market remain broadly the same as they did five years ago with the most desirable bottles increasing and polarisation suppressing values for undesirables.

springbank-1963-cadenheadsBottle(s) of the Month

When gems from Springbank infrequently appear on the open market there’s usually a decent amount of activity. Over the past year or so, demand for some of these magnificent older examples has dialed up to eleven.

Born in 1963, this Cadenheads 31-year-old has only appeared on the market three times. Scant surprise then, when Whisky-Online Auctions unearthed one, it rapidly disappeared into the stratosphere from a pricing perspective.

springbank-1963-31-yr-old-valuation

From £320 in 2010 to its current price of £2,150 represents a 572% increase in value.

Rather more frequently seen on the open market, the blue label Macallan 30-year-old managed a new record of £3,500.

macallan-blue-label-30-yo-sherry-valuation

With a 2008 record low of £260, this bottle is one of the all-time best performers at auction yielding a 1,246% increase in value.

The Month in Summary

The key Rare Whisky 101 indices ranked in order of performance for November are –

Port Ellen (OB) Index:                    +16.46%

Macallan 18 y/o Index:                  +11.49%

Karuizawa Index:                              +9.93%

Brora (OB) Index:                            +7.14%

Macallan 25 y/o Index:                  +5.01%

Icon100 Index:                                 +5.00%

Apex1000 Index:                             +4.34%

Rare Malts Index:                            +3.40%

Vintage50 Index:                             +0.38%

Port Ellen (OB) prices continue along their unpredictable peak/trough sawblade-esque trajectory. Down 15.85% in October then bouncing back in November to increase 16.46%. A 2016 year to date result of +38.19% shows the general trend is still very much up.

As the third greatest gainer in November, Karuizawa appears back on the radar. Novembers increase takes Karuizawa out of the red for 2016 and gives a marginal year to date positive performance of 6.01%.

And then there was Macallan!

The current surge in values is so out of line with anything we’ve ever seen before. We still maintain this market is unsustainable. That said, every month we seem to keep witnessing further increases, especially to the vintage 18-year-old bottlings.

To illustrate how unique the current market is, if we forecast forward the average per-bottle price increases for both 18 and 25-year-old Macallan’s, we see the 18-year old’s becoming worth the same as the 25 year olds in just over one year, with an average per-bottle price of just under £4,000.

average-per-bottle-macallan-18-vs-25

 

Now, while the current increases look almost incredible, an average of £4,000 per bottle would be madness… but with the current trajectories, that’s how out of line the current market really is.

With one more month before the curtain is closed on 2016, it looks like this year will be a record breaker. While there’s still time to see a year-end dip similar to that of 2014, we would see it as unlikely any dip could/would be significantly material… more a pause for breath. The current market just looks too bullish at the moment with demand for rare whisky remaining nothing short of exceptional.

Weekly Auction Watch 26th Jan 2016

Bonhams – Hong Kong – had a massive 38.5% unsold lot rate at their recent whisky auction. Just 61.5% of lots sold on the day.

Conversely, Whisky-Online Auctions has an unsold lot rate of 0%. Zero percent! They have a no-reserve policy; and in the current buoyant market, that seems good practice. If the market softens, that good old reserve-price comfort blanket may well get dusted off, but for now it’s almost surplus to requirement.

I’d view Bonhams 61.5% lot-sold-rate (LSR) as a pretty disappointing performance from arguably one of the world’s most significant whisky auctioneers. So what happened?

Before we get into some cold hard facts about the winners and the not-so-winners from a brand perspective; in our opinion we suspect part of that poor performance is that we’re seeing a gradual homogenisation of global market pricing. Estimates, in some instances, were massively over UK values. Many of these bottles failed to sell. The rough rule of thumb used to be that auction sales values in HK were roughly double what they were in the UK. That really no longer applies. In-fact some sales prices, even for the mighty Karuizawa, were actually lower than prices in the UK. As the burgeoning UK internet-auction scene has become a truly world wide web, are we now seeing the creation of a level playing field… from a pricing perspective at least?

From a regional secondary-market brand perspective, (putting aside pricing differences and over-estimation), there are some clear trends emerging for popular bottles/distilleries.

Port_Ellen
Any Port in a storm? Not this Port, not in Hong Kong anyway.

Taking 61.5% as the average LSR let’s take a look at which brands are like a summer in Hong Kong… That’ll be hot then!

The highest LSR was Glenmorangie with 100%. Good old Tain titans, the 16 men pull out a perfect score (when is a lady ever going to permeate that most elusive of men’s clubs!?!?!). A whole two out of two bottles sold… so from that basis the data set is hardly revealing. Conversely, Bruichladdich saw three bottles at auction and took a big fat ‘oh’. Zero percent sold… Great bottles too, shame. Overpriced. No demand?

The two big guns were clearly Karuizawa and Macallan. East versus west in a sherry bomb barrage of superb open-market liquid.

Karuizawa reigned supreme with a market leading 89.7% LSR as 52 out of 58 bottles hammered-out successfully. Craigellachies finest, Macallan, managed a LSR of just 51.2% as 21 out of 41 bottles hit reserve. While the LSR was impressive, many Karuizawa prices fell in HK as they have in the UK… apart from that bottle (the 1960 50 year old), which again highlighted the krazy world of the professional Karuizawa collector. I am minded to think of the Pepsi-Max in sunny Blackpool whenever I delve into Karuizawa prices!

Staying with the sherried theme, the increasingly in-demand Glendronach took an 80% LSR as 4 out of 5 bottles sold. Not a conclusive victory at these miniscule levels, but none-the-less an interesting fact.

Springbank_32_Shoulder
A spring in its step at Bonhams

Closest to Karuizawa and just above Glendronach, from a Scotch perspective, came Highland Park with an impressive 87.5% LSR: 7 out of 8 bottles found new homes. It has to be pointed out that the bottles were exceptional rarities so it was scant surprise competition was particularly stiff. Springbank then came in with a convincing 66.7% LSR as 8 out of 12 bottles sold.

From this we know that Karuizawa is as popular in HK as it is in the UK but irrespective of the number of bottles sold, prices still softened. In some cases we saw bottles sell for less than they do in the UK. Have Karuizawa prices paved the way for harmonisation of values world-wide?

Brora_32_and_35
Brora’s awful… Seriously bad stuff. Send all bottles back from Hong Kong to Scotland. We all hate it here and will dispose of it in a fitting manner… honest.

Particularly different to the UK, some of our silent stills appear like they have yet to appeal to the eastern hearts, minds and palates (or maybe they were simply too expensive?). Port Ellen had a good selection of 40 bottles at the auction but could manage a LSR of just 35% when 14 sold. Brora fared even worse with just 3 of 14 bottles taking flight, giving a 21.4% LSR. Rosebank, saw a little more action as 4 of 10 bottles moved. Whether estimates were simply too high (they were certainly eye watering from a UK viewpoint) or the frenzy for silent stills is yet to infect HK who knows?

A fascinating auction and one which suggests values are aligning globally. Worthy of note; just under a year ago, in the February 2015 HK Bonhams auction, Macallan had an 85.3% LSR when 29 out of 34 lots sold.

Changing trends ahead?

Or simply aligning prices?