Tag Archives: Whisky Collecting

Rare Whisky Review – August 2016

When we finally close out August, we’ll have seen one of the largest (if not the single largest) open market volume months ever. Supply has been astounding, not just with three thousand bottles of whatever Ardbeg released on their last ‘day’, but with some massive malts; many of the kings of collectables emerged, and boy did they fly. We’re primarily going to focus on just two iconic collectors distilleries this month.

Bowmore and Macallan.

Starting with Bowmore; we’re witnessing some exceptional increases in value for certain bottles from this classic collectors distillery. Currency fluctuations can be held responsible for an element of these increases; however, before the significant weakening of Sterling, we had already witnessed exceptional buoyancy in the rare whisky market despite any forex related movement.

Whisky-Online Auctions (W-OA) started August with a record price for the 1955 40 year old. Always re-assuringly expensive, even as far back as 2008 these were selling for over £3,000. £6,200 took the bottle on this occasion. London based Whisky.Auction took a 30 year old ‘Sea Dragon’ ceramic to £1,550, just surpassing its previous best of £1,500. Crazy to think that even as recently as 2011 these sea dragon ceramics could be bought at auction for around £250.

Bowmore 1984Turning to Whisky Auctioneer and a bottle of White Bowmore managed a superb £5,100, way past its 2012 low-point of £1,700. Whisky Auctioneer also took a bottle of the 1965 vintage ‘Premier Range’ to £6,100; exactly £1,000 past its previous best of £5,100.

 

At the slightly less racy end of the market, also at Whisky Auctioneer, two bottles of the 1984 ‘Vintage Distillation’ sold for £312 (another sold for £271) a clear record for this bottle. This bottle was selling for £60 in 2012, therefore crystallising a four year gain of 420%.

Scotch Whisky Auctions August sale further illustrated the stiff demand for Bowmore. One of the 70cl variant bottles of the 1964 38 year old Bourbon Cask bottling achieved £4,300, comfortably exceeding a previous best of £3,600. The exceptionally rare Fecchio & Frassa Bicentenary bottle at 98.8 proof managed £2,800, £300 past its previous best.

As one of the classic-collectable distilleries, Bowmore rarities will inevitably remain sought after and August prices have confirmed that. But moving away from Islay and onto the mainland we find a distillery which is not just a ‘classic-collectable’ but arguably the king of collectables – Macallan had some stunning performances this month.

Scotch Whisky Auctions took a bottle of Private eye to £2,100.

Macallan Private Eye
£35 in 1996. £2,100 in 2016

I remember complaining bitterly at paying a hefty (it was then) £260 price-tag for a bottle some years ago but that seems almost a moot price-point now. I know I’ve mentioned this previously but I still find it incredible these originally retailed for £35 in 1996. The mini’s were even given away free with bottles of 10 year old at one point. Long gone are those days.

Virtually every vintage 18 year old bottling is now becoming a prize for the wealthy drinker/collector/investor. Prices are continuing to march north at a rapid pace. We do fear there will be a cooling at some point so unless these are being bought to drink, we urge extreme caution if buying at todays heated prices as an investment. Gap filling a collection? We completely understand that, but prices are looking ‘toppy’ right now.

Whisky Auctioneer sold a 1969 vintage 18 year old for £1,600 and the 1976’s are now around the £1,150 mark. For the first time, more than £1,000 was paid for the 1978 and 1979 vintages.

Just-Whisky brought some incredible bottles to market in their August sale. Little more than a week had passed since Whisky Auctioneer set a new £16,300 record for the 1949 vintage Millennium decanter when Just-whisky moved one for £17,675.

Macallan 1949 Millennium
Not to be confused with sherry…

When you next see my Co-Director, David, be sure and ask him about the time his very generous wife accidentally made what is possibly the worlds most expensive trifle with the Macallan Millennium liquid…

This month is to remain dominated by Bowmore and Macallan, however there are a couple of other record prices which can’t go without mention. Scotch Whisky Auctions £13,000 price for a bottle of Dalmore 1926 50 year old and what is surely the most expensive 20cl baby-bottle ever… A 20 cl variant Mortlach 70 year old by Gordon and MacPhail rocketed to £12,000…

Mortlach 1938 70 20 cl
The most expensive 20cl bottle ever.

I can’t help but wonder if the buyer in some way misread it and thought they were getting a full-sized bottle for a bargain.

Although in the current market, “a bargain” seems increasingly unlikely…

Until next time, slainte.

Andy and David.

Rare Whisky Review – 24th June 2016

As the rare whisky auction market in the UK has exploded over recent years, it’s become increasingly challenging to regularly feature coverage for each auction-house. We’ve taken the decision to produce a more holistic rare whisky review rather than a weekly auction watch featuring just one auction-house. While we plan on focussing on the secondary market, we’ll also feature important primary market releases and our opinion on pricing, value and market impact too.

We’ll ultimately be producing fewer reports but we hope our readers continue to enjoy our market commentary. We welcome feedback, suggestions and recommendations for future content.

Secondary Market – June 2016

Macallan are experiencing a sea-change in both demand and pricing for their, among others, classic 18 and 25 year olds. The increases through 2016 have been utterly mesmerising; almost unlike anything we’ve seen before. The 18 year olds have seen a 34.13% increase through 2016 and the 25 year olds by 26.14%.

Macallan Indices for 18 and 25 year olds

Scotch Whisky Auctions June sale pushed certain values further with a notable 1963 Macallan vintage (pre the more traditional 18 year olds) fetching a huge £2400. Buoyancy remained but looked to stabilise a little more for many other bottles of vintage 18’s as they continued to trade at the top of the market. The below Rare Whisky extract shows the volume and annual average value for the Macallan 1972 18 year old.

Macallan 18 1972 Volume vs Value

Bottles are vanishing from the market and values are soaring. A robust correlation?

Contemporary Macallan bottles continue to underperform the broader market.

William Grant’s highly collectable Hazelwood Reserve (the first of the five bottle set commemorating respective birthdays of Janet Sheed Roberts) has always been the most desirable of the set. This was last sold at auction in the UK for £420. That price seemed a distant memory as the current market fetched £2200.

The index below shows the combined performance of the five bottles.

Hazelwood Index Jun 2016

The impact of this recent sale is clearly evident but the remaining four bottles continue their negative trajectory. We suggest this particular bottle was bought by a collector looking to complete the set. As this is the most challenging bottle to acquire, for a completist collector price is often not the biggest barrier… simply finding one is!

Old 1980’s Lagavulin had more or less doubled in value over the last 3 years. £920 was paid for a poor fill level White Horse 1980’s bottle. These old gems are becoming less frequently seen in the market. Are the remaining bottles being hoarded or are they being drunk? The answer to that in some respects will define future values. These old, hard to find discontinued releases, look to provide further value to the collector and investor; but is there value to be had out of the current retail/primary market? We look at that a little later.

SWA High Performers
Stellar performers from the recent June Scotch Whisky Auction

Illustrating how influential and important the secondary market has become, some of the largest rare whisky retailers have now established auction based routes to market. The Whisky Exchange’s online auction – Whisky.Auction is one of those. Showing continued heightened demand for the rarest of examples, a bottle of Port Ellen 2008 Feis Ile sold for £3,700 in their June auction far exceeding its previous £3,400 record.

Bonhams June auction brought two notable rarities under the hammer. One of the 77 bottles of Dalmore Candela fetched a record £13,000, significantly up on its 2014 previous best of £10,600. The second bottle was interestingly a blend rather than a malt when an early 1900’s bottle of Johnnie Walker managed a very respectable £6000.

Whisky Auctioneer’s most recent auction ended on the 30th of May and was a generally buoyant affair. That said, a bottle of the 1953 Glenfarclas Wealth Solutions bottle came well down from its October 2015 high of £5,200. This bottle settled well below previous sales when it finally sold for £3,900 (broadly in line with its 2013 prices).

Glenfarclas 1953 Wealth Solns
Not a particularly good solution for one’s wealth if you bought at the peak

Tobermory isn’t necessarily the distillery most associated with collecting and investing, Tobermory 1972 33 year oldhowever, further cementing the underpinning of the whole market by liquid quality, a bottle of 1972 33 year old Tobermory sold for £735. We were fortunate enough to be able to sample this bottle on a recent treasure hunting trip and we were both bowled over by this exceptional spirit.

Final mention has to go to Whisky-online Auctions superb £8,200 result for a bottle of 1967 ‘Largiemeanoch’ – which is Gaelic for stunning sherry cask Bowmore! This bottle appeared expensive when it first sold in the UK for £2,350 in 2012, a price now dwarfed by recent market performance.

Old, rare and high quality whiskies continue to be the subject of desire to a growing international audience. This sustained demand is pushing prices ever higher. While demand remains as it is and supply (of the right bottles) is relatively low in the grand scheme of things, this continued buoyancy looks set to continue.

Some of the exceptional increases we’ve seen over recent months would appear to need to cool down a little. We can’t physically see the Macallan 18 year olds progress on the same trajectory. We envisage a cooling is required in certain areas of the market to restore balance; however, we don’t expect a significant re-trace… equally we never say never.

Primary Market/Retail Releases.

Continuing Lagavulin’s 200th birthday celebrations, a new 25 year old has been released. 8,000 bottles (slightly fewer than the 2002 release’s 9,000) wholly matured in sherry casks will cost £799 per bottle. Does that represent value to the collector and investor?

Lagavulin-whisky_Lagavulin-25-Year-1200x675

Firstly, the dedicated Lagavulin collector will undoubtedly need to buy this bottle but we see little immediate reward for the investor. The 2002 release 25 year old sells on the secondary market for around £500 – £600.

While, to some degree, we’re not speaking from a position of absolute knowledge as we haven’t yet tried the liquid (but we will be), we suspect a similar auction price-point could be achieved in the short to medium term e.g. a 20% loss over retail price. If the liquid is utterly stellar, secondary market prices could be a little higher.

From a pure pricing perspective, at £799, the Lagavulin has positioned itself above virtually every other 25 out there. The current 25 year old Macallan sherry oak can be found for the same price. Dalmore’s pricing was decreed as outrageous when their recent 25 year old hit the market for £600 (that now sells at auction for around £400).

Both Highland Park and Glendronach (Grandeur) can be found for around, or under, the £350 price point. Two worthy drams in anyone’s book.

Looking at some others – Glenmorangie can be found at £250, Glenfiddich is £299 and Diageo stablemate Talisker is a mere snip (it actually really is) at £230.

OR how about half a case of Glenfarclas 25 year old (£120 per bottle) for more or less the same price?

We’re not saying the pricing is wrong, bad, good, superb or indifferent, just interesting. Once we’ve tried the liquid we’ll be able to comment with absolute knowledge.

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 – 4th April 2016

Balvenie’s old golden-balls lost their lustre recently. We reported a steep decline in values across the board in our 2015 annual review. Two short years ago, it seemed the collector’s darling could do no wrong – Recently, the question I was asked “could Balvenie challenge the mighty Macallan for the collector’s crown?” rapidly became “When will Balvenie values stop falling?”

Balvenie Record Breakers
A whole Tun of Rosie

Before we move onto a broader review of Scotch Whisky Auctions recent offering, March’s Whisky Auctioneer sale saw a stunning collection of Balvenie single cask bottles. Proving there’s still a significant market for the right bottles from one of Dufftown’s leading distilleries, every single bottle took a new record… in some cases massively. So the oldest vintage single casks are still in heavy demand but are the ‘limited releases’ recovering? Scotch Whisky Auctions first sale of quarter two looked positive for Balvenie… Are those golden balls being polished again for another challenge to Macallan’s collector prowess?

The first release of Balvenie Rose managed to hammer home £1400. In 2009 a mere £126 took this bottle and as recently as 2012 one sold for £240. Following a fallow period, Tun 1401 batch 1 values moved up another gear when, for the first time ever, one managed to exceed £3,000, taking an impressive £3,200. It’s just staggering to think that these were selling at the distillery in 2010 for £150 per bottle.

To add balance, there always has to be a yin for one’s yang and that’s no different for Balvenie. Tun 1401’s replacement – Tun 1509 – still hasn’t captured the hearts and minds of the collectors. Batch #1 continues to sell at auction for less than it original retail price.

Why? Glendronach 1968 ANA Cask 13Too many bottles and too much money came the cry. Simple.

Extreme break-outs of current trading levels weren’t the exclusive preserve of Balvenie at Scotch Whisky Auctions. Fellow Macallan-worrier, Glendronach, saw their most expensive sale at auction to date with a bottle from cask number 13 of the famed ANA 1968’s. The last time this sold at auction in the UK was for £1,550. In June 2012 one sold for a low-point of £320. £2,600 is the current price. Absolutely amazing gains.

Demonstrating the halo-effect perfectly, a bottle of Dalmore’s 1978 vintage, Sherry Finesse, sold for £1,550, a significant margin ahead of its last sale of £490 last year. The reason? The 1978 vintage Constellation sold for £3,800 earlier this year. Compare the two and, whether you see value in the Constellation collection or not, the earlier release looks like good value.

Dalmore 1978
A rising tide floats all 1978 vintage Dalmore’s

Lord of the IslesArdbeg’s Lord of the Isles was another standout performer with two bottles selling for £1,050 and two bottles selling for £1,100. Recent bottles have been selling for around the £550 – £600 mark so this is a significant Glenmo Cote de Nuitsremoval from the current pattern.

Following recent price advances, the tall-necks of Tain, Glenmorangie moved further up the value chain. The fabulous ice-cream accompanying Sonnalta PX saw £230 and £240 achieved. Not outright new records, but significantly above values for the past 12 months. Sonny PX might currently be a tad expensive to buy purely for your Mr Whippy, but (when it was cheap) this stuff really does go well poured on ice cream… as does PX itself. Another one of Glenmorangie’s finest bottles, the 1975 vintage Cote De Nuits took to new highs when two bottles sold for £740 and £820.

Amid an advancing market for Scotch, Karuizawa remains a significant risk to those who plan on buying for investment. Earlier this year, a bottle of the second release Ghost/Rouge cask series sold for £17,500. It’s about as rare as it gets with just 22 bottles, but £17,500 is a chunk of change to take from even the wealthiest of spare-change-spirit-slush-funds. Clearly too much for the market to repeat, a bottle sold for almost half that amount… £9,000 sealed the deal. Let’s be fair here, £9,000 is still a whopping price to pay/receive for this bottle, but vast elements of unpredictability and volatility continue to hound Karuizawa… Never catch a falling knife!

Karuizawa 1995 Ghost
To be known, from this day forth, as the falling knife of Karuizawa

In summary, SWA’s early April auction confirmed values are increasing. In some cases rapidly. In some cases too rapidly. If momentum continues over the next few months, maybe we’re moving through a period of market correction where values will progress to another level? But if demand slips, or market conditions change, some of these increases could simply be unwanted spikes. It’ll certainly be interesting to see if some of these prices can be maintained.

 

 

Images courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions

Monthly Market Watch – March 2016

Bull’s March through March in Whisky Fuelled Stampede

Following February’s gargantuan supply, the number of bottles sold on the open market in March cooled to a slightly less heady 4,798.

While volumes dipped, values did the opposite. March saw frankly incredible increases in some of the Rare Whisky indices. Increases which cannot be sustained in the medium to long term; none the less, if you’re a whisky collector with an eye on the value of your collection then this is one of the rosiest months/quarters on record.

But before we head to the indices –

Bottle(s) of the Month

March’s big bottle of Scotch was brought to market by Blackpool based auctioneer, Whisky-Online Auctions. Their record setting Port Ellen Queens Visit 12 year old set a new record for the most expensive bottle from the deceased Islay distillery when it fetched £12,100.

Port Ellen Queens Visit

£12,100 is no drop in the ocean for one single solitary bottle of Scotch, however, it was a Karui 4 decades ghostbottle of Japanese whisky which made the months most expensive bottle. Dunfermline based auction house Just-Whisky managed to bring one of only 24 bottles of the Karuizawa 5th Ghost to auction which made an exceptional £15,025. The 1964 Wealth Solutions bottle came a close second place at £14,000, albeit significantly down from its £19,000 high in September last year.

The Month/Quarter in Focus

Following the arrival of spring (someone please tell that to whoever’s in charge of the weather in Scotland), the closing out of March also signalled the end of quarter one. A quarter which has seen the continuation of recent increases in value for old/rare/collectable bottles of Scotch.

Ranked in order of year to date performance and with Q1 2015’s results as a comparison, the indices are as follows –

Respective Quarter-    Q1 2016              Q1 2015

Macallan 25 Index          18.30%                -0.50%

Macallan 18 Index          18.28%               -0.16%

Rare Malts Index            12.76%               4.99%

Icon 100 Index                11.60%               7.24%

Apex 1000 Index             5.13%                 4.36%

Brora Index                     3.65%                 -2.76%

Vintage 50 Index             1.33%                 -2.04%

Karuizawa Index             -1.28%                21.00%

Port Ellen Index               -6.66%                5.58%

The two benchmark indices, the Apex1000 (tracks the best performing 1000 bottles of Scotch) and the Icon100 (tracks a fixed basket of regularly traded collectables) have made good progress. Both indices are ahead of 2015’s performance over the same period.

RWIcon100_Index_Mar2016
Icon100 Index hits new all-time high

Macallan and Karuizawa almost completely traded places with the immensely collectable vintage Macallan 18 and 25 year olds almost neck and neck leading the performance tables.

RWPortEllen_Index_Mar2016
More spiky than a grumpy hedgehog

Karuizawa has further stabilised as would be expected following recent meteoric rises.

Amid continued descent, the Port Ellen index remains the sick parrot in intensive care. Bottles of 1st release were, at one time, regularly managing £1,800 – £1,900, a figure which is now more like £1,500 – £1,600. Have the official releases become an icon for overly rapid retail price hikes resulting in brand aversion? We will inevitably see a bottom for what was 2015’s key performer, that’s a certainty. But when it hits, the question becomes will it recover or will it see the ‘flat-line of Karuizawa’? There will always be value in Port Ellen and we’ve seen many Rapid recoveries over the years but the fact remains, Islay’s best loved pile of rubble wants to stay in the red.

As to Macallans recent surge for older, rarer collectable bottles; to some degree increasing scarcity of supply is at work. Throughout quarter one 2015, there were a total of 9,378 bottles of Scotch sold on the open market. In 2016 that figure has soared to 14,033, an increase of 49.64% year on year. Over the same time-frame, there were 47 bottles of 1960’s and 1970’s vintage Macallan 18 year olds sold in 2015. In 2016, that’s reduced to 41, a 12.77% decline.

In common with a whole host of bottles showing the most significant increases, general supply’s up but rarities and ultra-desirables are disappearing. A trend we expect to continue.

 

Bottle images courtesy of Whisky-Online Auctions and Just-Whisky

 

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 – 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

Monthly Market Watch – Feb 2016

What a month February turned out to be!

5,467 bottles (full sized bottles, single lots of single malt) were sold at auction in the UK, that’s the highest volume of bottles seen on the open market in one month. Monthly volumes have never quite managed to break through the 5,000 bottle barrier… as an indication of how vast last month was, February 2015 saw 2,690 bottles sold. To a large degree, this supply-glut was down to Scotch Whisky Auctions zero seller’s commission offer which gave a boost to the figures. Include memorabilia, blends, bundled lots, grains, mini’s and everything else sold through whisky auctioneers in the UK and, in total, there were 9,587 separate lots to bid on!

Bottle of the Month…

…Goes to McTears Auctioneers in Glasgow for bringing to market the only bottle ever produced of a 60 year old Dalmore for Drew Sinclair’s 60th birthday. A 1939 60 year old and just one bottle in existence… it doesn’t get much more desirable than that. Interesting to see a top end Dalmore in a little more sedate packaging too. At £7,500 it’s not the most expensive Dalmore ever, and while it’s a rather odd thing to say at this price point, it actually looks like good value for whoever bought it.

Dalmore Drew Sinclair 60
Image Copyright McTears Auctioneers Glasgow

The Month in Focus

Scotch is an interesting investment proposition. It’s beautifully simple in its supply/demand driven environment.

Supply goes up – Demand stays the same or falls = Values soften.

Supply goes down – Demand stays the same or increases = Values harden.

Following January’s rather buoyant start to the year, in light of February’s massive increase in supply, we were bracing for an almost unilateral dip in values.

With the exception of one major index (Port Ellen) we witnessed some of the single largest ‘in-month’ increases we’ve ever seen.

RW_Apex_index_feb16
An exceptional month for Scotch

The broadest measure of how Scotch is performing on the open market is the Apex1000 index.

December 2015 saw the index step back ‘in-month’ at the year-end by -0.02%; we know a massive supply month can directly impact value growth, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen this. While -0.02% is no crash, it’s still not the right direction for values.

Contrary to expectations, the Apex1000 increased by a significant 1.73% in February. It would seem that while supply is increasing it’s being continually outpaced by demand. Looking at a year on year comparison, February 2015 saw the Apex1000 increase by 1.53%… but with fewer than half the number of bottles on the market.RW_neg_index_feb16

 

Conversely, the Negative1000 index, which tracks the 1,000 worst performing bottles, continued to fall, losing 0.68% in the month to rest at a record low 53.81 (the index started at 100 in 2008).

Ranked in order of performance, February’s indices look like this –

(1) Rare Malts Selection Index: +6.27%

(2) Brora Official Bottle Index: +5.81%

(3) Macallan 25 yr old Index: +4.97%

(4) Macallan 18 yr old Index: +3.70%

(5) Icon 100 Index: +2.59%

(6) Apex 1000: +1.73%

(7) Karuizawa Index: +0.40%

(8) Vintage 50 Index: -0.44%

(9) Port Ellen OB Index: -5.27%

Historically, rather more sedate than other indices, the Rare Malts Selection Index took the reins with a 6.27% increase. Impressive, but we’re not convinced these gains will be cemented. Late 2015’s December-dip saw 2.34% wiped off a full collection of Rare Malts, so we could be seeing a natural correction.

Below is an extract from our 2014 full year investment report talking about Macallan’s 25 year old Anniversary Malts and the earlier release 18 year olds. Respectively, these indices moved up by 3.77% and 3.57% throughout the whole of 2014.

Mac 18 and 25 extract

Current sentiment would appear far more positive for these stunning older bottles as they took to incredible gains last month. Increases throughout February alone out-stripped performances for the whole of 2014.

Karuizawa values stabilised during February as the index increased by a fractional 0.40%. Have we reached an equilibrium for Karuizawa values? We’re not so sure…

Then there was poor old Port Ellen!

RW_portellen_index_feb16A far cry away from the Port Ellen Index’s Feb 2015 all-time high closing position of 456.77 points; twelve months later and we see almost 12% wiped off the value of a collection of Port Ellen OB’s (releases 1 – 8 incl). Values moved north throughout the whole of 2015 by over 23% but, even removing some of the price spikes, like the one in Feb 2015 (full collections being completed maybe?) and the chart suggests we might have reached the top of the current cycle. Could values plateau or even cool a little for the most iconic of silent distilleries?

Aside from Port Ellen’s erratic behaviour and a lacklustre performance by the Vintage 50 index, general values advanced impressively amid the challenges of our largest volume month on record and continued turmoil in other markets.