Scotch whisky made substantial gains this month thanks to the addition of the online auction results from Whisky Auctioneer and Whisky Hammer. Posting a new record high, certain brands such as Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Highland Park, and The GlenDronach benefitted from greater activity online after being less visible from traditional auction houses for some time. The Dalmore and Brora both leapt up eight places. The sale of a bottle of The Dalmore Candela 50 Years Old at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong for HK$480,000/£49,235 is approximately three times the hammer price it previously traded for last year. Brora benefitted from strong trading in Diageo Special Releases from across the years, and was boosted by rarities such as The Whisky Shop bottling of Brora 1972 30 Years Old, not to mention the one-off bottle of Brora 1972 extracted from cask #4817 and sold at Bonhams, Hong Kong for a hammer price of HK$120,000/£11,850, a new distillery record. More than ever, brands are choosing to sell high value exclusive bottlings to collectors and investors directly through auctions, bypassing the whisky retail sector. Remember when Bowmore failed to auction a bottle of Bowmore 1957 for £100,000 twice in 2012, first in Edinburgh, and then New York? Perhaps they were just ahead of their time.
We begin with a focus on trading in Chichibu, starting with Bonhams, Hong Kong. A single cask Bourbon bottling of Chichibu 2009 for Sushi & Soul, Munich took HK$5,000/£500. At the same auction, a bottling of oloroso sherry finished Chichibu 2010 Cask 2642 made the same price, and in Scotland, the same bottle made £460 at Whisky Auctioneer. More single casks were bringing in the bids at Scotch Whisky Auctions, such as La Maison du Whisky’s Night Owl bottling from 2014, a first-fill Bourbon cask 651 which flew away for £410. Collectors love young distilleries for the profusion of single cask expressions that they release in the first five years after their spirit is ready. Chichibu’s reputation is attracting increasing numbers of collectors, drawn in by traditional approach at the distillery, and Ichiro Akuto’s reputation and distilling heritage.
Those who have been purchasing Port Ellen Special Releases from the beginning, or those who have backfilled their collection at auctions, will have been heartened to see a full set of Port Ellen 1st-16th release sold as a single lot at Bonhams, Hong Kong. The winning bid of HK$250,000/£25,000 bought enough for 448 Port Ellen 25ml pours at a price of around £56 a dram, a small price to pay for just over 11 litres of Islay history.
Bloomsbury, London had gathered a solid catalogue of old whiskies for their sale in late April. Early Signatory Vintage bottlings commanded high prices, notably two Clynelish bottlings from the 1960s. Collectors will have been well aware that these related to the old distillery dated 1819, better known as Brora these days. Both bottles came from cask 667, which were filled on 19 February 1963 and matured in a sherry butt for 29 years. The unboxed example sold for £1,600, while the companion bottle in its original case made £2,200, both sound purchases. An Ardbeg 1967 matured for 29 years in a pale Oloroso butt took £1,400 in the same sale. Side by side, numerous Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask bottlings released around 2007 -2008 were auctioned. A 41-year-old heavily sherried whisky distilled in 1966, from what Douglas Laing was contractually obliged to call ‘Probably Speyside’s Finest Distillery’, sold for £420, a considerable saving on what a 1960s Family Cask release might cost. Similarly, bottles of Old Malt Cask Springbank 18 Years Old distilled in 1989 were going for just £90, and Old Malt Cask Glen Keith 33 Years Old distilled in 1973 were yours for just £170. There are bargains galore out there, go get yourself something.
Did you know?
Whisky Auctioneer sold the transfer of ownership of a Callejo hogshead of 6-year-old Bruichladdich filled in 2010 for £8,100. Cask sales in whisky auctions have been a hit and miss affair for a few years, but this is the first time I can recall a cask of young whisky being auctioned during the initial 10 years of ownership. The new owner will be able to enjoy all the pleasures of sampling the cask as it continues to mature, and take full control for the bottling, labelling, duty, taxes, and delivery. Under Rémy Cointreau ownership, Bruichladdich Distillery no longer offers cask sales to the general public. For those who prefer the cachet of the Bruichladdich name on the barrel end to a cask from a new distillery start-up, whisky auctions may fill a niche in the market.