Earlier in August, Whisky-Online concluded their July auction recording some notable hammer prices in the process. With more and more investors and collectors turning to the secondary whisky market to buy and sell, auctions such as Whisky-Online provide the perfect platform for buyers and sellers to interact. Below Whisky-Online share some of the results from their recent July auction.
The last time we sold a Dalmore 50-year-old was in May 2017 when it fetched an impressive £18,600. Fifteen months later, last night, bottle number one finished up at £28,000 on the nose. At one time such a result would have been pretty staggering but it says a lot about the nature of today’s secondary market that these kinds of serious five-figure sums have become almost ubiquitous. Still, this is an impressive result no doubt and shows that whiskies of genuine and deserved legend such as the Dalmore 50 are going nowhere but up. There is in fact almost an argument that it always makes sense to buy them if you can because they will only ever be more expensive. Say this same whisky turns up again in five months time. Would it make sense to buy it for, say, £38,000 – 45,000? I would argue that it would because the year or two after you can most likely sell it for £60,000. It’s just a matter of cash flow really. Which brings us back to the reality that, at this level, whisky is very much a commodity and a rich person’s game.
Once again Macallan displayed impressive strength and consistency at the top level of the sale. £20,000 on the nose for the 1946 Fine & Rare, £4000 for the 1958 Anniversary Malt and – somewhat bewilderingly – £3600 for the Diamond Jubilee. This is the thing about Macallan, you can understand it when the whisky in question is of the stunning, old style sherried variety, it’s somewhat more bizarre when it is, essentially, a contemporary NAS single malt. Such is the power of the name.
In fact, save for two bottles, one of which was the Dalmore 50, Macallan dominated the entire top end of the sale all the way down to a Springbank 1964 Cadenhead 34-year-old at a healthy, and somewhat unsurprising, £2500. In between all that one of the most interesting, and telling, high results were for John Scott’s 1965 35-year-old Highland Park which finished up at £3300. I remember buying the 42-year-old in this series in London in 2008 for £180 and subsequently drinking it. Given the quality of the whisky in these John Scott Highland Park bottlings, it seems retrospectively obvious that they would end up at such prices.
It was good to see the Glenfarclas 105 40-year-old back, hitting a healthy £2150 after a reasonable period of absence. Similarly, the Mortlach 1936 45-year-old and MacPhail’s 1938 45-year-old both did well at £1950 and £1900 respectively.
Springbank 12-year-old 100 proof bottlings from the 1990s have sat around the £1000 mark for quite some time now, so it was interesting to see one last night finish up at £1850 – exactly the same as the 22-year-old Cadenhead dumpy Springbank. This looks like it could well represent a bump up to a new trading level for this bottle, something not underserved considering what a legendary whisky it is.
The Lagavulin Syndicate 38-year-old appears to be holding strong at £1600. Another of quite a few Springbanks in this sale, the 1969 Signatory 28-year-old, performed well at £1150. Similarly, independent Macallans are increasingly chasing their official siblings up the auction levels with three Douglas Laing 30-year-old single casks fetching £1100 and £1050 respectively.
The Ardbeg Mor 1st edition was back on strong form at £900. And the long-awaited inaugural bottling of Daftmill single malt looks like a strong future classic, trading as it is already at £625. The Ardbeg 1975 and 1977 official vintage releases at £600 and £575 respectively showed good solid growth for these old classic bottlings.
Other strong results were a 1947 White Horse for £490, although for the historic nature of this liquid this also still seems like a good price for a drinker as well. The Cragganmore 17-year-old Manager’s Dram and the Glen Elgin 16 Manager’s Dram both did well at £450 and £525 respectively. This whole series is on the upward move so it’s nice to see these two slightly underrated examples getting the attention they deserve.
Similarly, Glen Ord, another seriously underrated distillery, saw one of the best examples ever bottled fetch an impressive £410. Although, if you ask me, this still represents good value for the liquid. Old Balblairs are another area where plenty of examples were arguably too cheap for too long, it seems this is changing as well. The 1974 ‘Highland Selection’ Balblair fetched a solid £390.
Although, at the same price levels one of the bargains of the sale was the Strathisla 35-year-old Bicentenary for £390. Given this is known to be a 1947 Strathisla it’s a terrific price for a drinker. Similarly, the Ardbeg 1974 23 year old by Signatory for £360 was also something of a steal.
Looking further down the sale there is the usual mix of solid consistency, some bewildering results – I still don’t get why people are paying £280 for a litre of 1990s Scapa 10-year-old – and a tiny smattering of bargains. A Glenlochy 1980 27 year old by Part Des Anges looks good at £270 and a rare Laphroaig 10-year-old bottled for Japan around 1990 also looks good at £245.
Largely though, scrolling from around the £300 – £80 level of the sale, you’re mostly reminded of just how much has changed on the secondary market over the past two years. Bottles like litres of old 15-year-old Glendronach. The kind of thing you used to be able to pick up for £40-60 for so long, now trading at £130. While at the same time you can still get bottles like Tormore 1983 28 year old by the SMWS for £135. It’s a funny old whisky world. Thankfully it’s still also a lot of fun!
In our latest auction we saw what could be described as a curious mixture of solid consistency and the usual July quiet spell. Once again we had a couple of bonded casks of whisky at the top of the sale, this time a pair of delicious 1996 Ben Nevis butts. At £13,000 a piece this seems a more sensible, traditional market value result than some previous casks have fetched. Although still well above what you’d have paid from a broker until recently, this perhaps represents the big difference in cultural perception between Ben Nevis and the likes of Macallan or a closed distillery such as Littlemill.
Moving to the bottles and Macallan predictably had another good turn out with £4200 for the 1957 Anniversary Malt and £3900 for the 40 year old Gordon & MacPhail bottling for Italy from the 1970s. While impressive it seems as though it won’t be long until these early Anniversary Malts will be spiralling even higher towards a five figure sum. Let’s see what’s happening a year from now, in today’s market it’s getting harder and harder to be surprised by anything. We used to baulk at the likes of the Macallan Diamond Jubilee fetching north of £1200, and yet, here we are with last night’s example fetching £3600. Interesting times…
Other solidly performing Macallans were a pair of Private Eyes for £3300 apiece and a 1970 Anniversary Malt for £3000. It seems, despite constant supply, the market still has appetite for these kinds of bottlings.
It was good to see the Bowmore 1956 official distillery bottling return. Unsurprisingly it ended up at £4100, even at this price it seems good for such an incredible whisky. Interestingly the Brora 1972 Rare Malts 58.7% fetched £2800, down a little on previous results. Could this be the lower filling level, over-supply, or just summer doldrums? Time will tell, but I suspect whoever bought it nabbed themselves a wee bargain.
Other stunning whiskies in the upper ends of the sale included the Bowmore Bicentenary at £1750. This is another bottling that, despite ubiquity at auction, is going nowhere but up in price. When everyone wants to a bottling, for both collecting and drinking then value is pretty much bullet proof these days. Similarly, it was good to see the Highland Park Rebus 20 year old fetching £1650. This is a lesser known bottling, but those who have been lucky enough to taste it will understand the desirability.
Undeniably our favourite bottle this sale was the Ainslie Baillie & Cofrom the early 20th century. It’s so rare to find old genuine bottles like this in such stunning condition. This would have contained a significant proportion of Clynelish and I can only imagine what it must taste like. £1500 is a solid price.
Another interesting result was for the Lagavulin 12 year old White Horse 1970s bottling. This is a bottle that I’ve often mentioned in these reports, however, the fact it jumped right up to £1200 last night shows that it is likely entering a new trading level. It’s understandable when the quality of the whisky in these bottles has been lauded for years now and desirability is only going up and up.
Similarly the two old vintage dumpy Highland Park bottlings at £1150 a piece is also understandable, these bottlings are becoming more and more popular these days as knowledge about just how beautiful the whisky contained within is proliferates. Again, it will be very interesting to see where these bottlings are sitting at a year from now.
Other solid results were the Macallan Travel series for £1050, the Springbank 25 year old dumpy official bottling for £1050 and rather beautiful old official 1960s Rosebank for £975. Interestingly, an identical bottle sold for £575 as well. The only difference? Some splitting to the seal. It’s interesting to see how these kinds of wee details can make a different to collectors.
Midleton whiskies have long been collectable, however, in recent months we’ve noticed how prices across the board for their official releases have started to really skyrocket. For years you could pick up the 1990 Midleton release for around £160-220. Last night one fetched £825 and a 1997 release hit £650. With earlier releases in the series now consistently at four figures, how long before the 1990s releases all go the same way?
Another bottling which, conversely, seems like it’s taking its time to get above four figures is the Rare Malts Port Ellen releases. These bottlings have long sat around the £500-700 mark. Last night one fetched £825 which is a solid result. I suspect that one day these will jump above the £1000 mark and then it’ll be impossible to get one for less. Now might be a good time to snap one up if you’ve ever eyed one…
In terms of bargains this month there were perhaps one or two more than usual, although by old standards they are still thin on the ground and today’s definition of ‘bargain’ on the secondary market perhaps needs updating from what it meant in 2012-14. A 1968 Dalmore bottled in 1983 by Avery’s of Bristol seems like decent value at £575 for such a rare bottling. The Highland Park Ice at £105 also looks good compared to other recent sales.
Beyond that though, it’s rather slim pickings. As usual almost everything at the lower ends of the sale is really starting to hit or outstrip what might be considered its regular market value. Although, given the rapid and volatile nature of today’s secondary market, is there still really such a thing as ‘market value’? Probably not for an increasing number of whiskies I’d say…
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With whiskies from Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch to Highland Park, The Macallan and many many more, Whisky – Online really does offer a tremendous array of whisky sure to meet the needs of the whisky novice to the finest single malts connoisseur.
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