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Battle of the Brands

Second round to Karuizawa
Karuizawa has taken a convincing and significant step towards WMI victory over The Macallan in the epic battle of the brands. Eligible Karuizawa sales at live auction in February reached £200,000 whereas The Macallan achieved only £125,000. Taking 2015 as a whole, Karuizawa have outperformed The Macallan with more eligible bottles selling for a higher total sum. Of course, 12 month period so although the gap has narrowed, Karuizawa will need to keep this level up, month after month, if it is ever to achieve that number one ranking. The Macallan doesn’t suffer from scarcity like Karuizawa, and despite this head start, I would predict that The Macallan will be the top brand sold in March.

In the WMI top ten, Port Ellen bucked the trend as other Scotch brands tumbled down the rankings. This trading activity predominantly took place at Bonhams, Hong Kong, where numerous examples by independent bottlers appeared including Douglas Laing and Silver Seal. I spied an Editor’s Choice bottling of Port Ellen 1982 bottled for Whisky Magazine in 2006 at Bonhams which sold for HK$7,000. Port Ellen remains the third most traded Islay malt, now just two ranking positions behind Bowmore.



Auction Watch



The biggest live auction sales of February were all at Bonhams, Hong Kong. The Macallan 55 Years Old in Lalique and The Macallan 62 Years Old both made HK$260,000, while a Karuizawa 1963 50 Years Old took HK$200,000. Ichiro’s Malt Card Series sales elevated Hanyu to a new record ranking position, a staggering 100 ranking places above where it stood in August 2014. Lot 110 was the lucky draw, dealing the player a hand containing the Ace of Clubs, Spades, Diamonds and Hearts for a winning bid of HK$160,000. Yamazaki overtook brands like Glenfarclas and Glen Grant with a strong showing in Hong Kong (the average prices falling as more and more bottles go under the hammer, although few are as spectacular as the Yamazaki 50 Years Olds auctioned last year). The top Yamazaki price was HK$75,000 for the Yamazaki 35 Years Old from 2006, drawn from 90L second fill Spanish oak sherry butts containing whisky distilled between 1966 and 1970.

Pappy Van Winkle dominated the American auctions in February from Hart David Hart, Chicago, to Wally’s Auctions and Acker Merrall & Condit in New York. Prices, passions and competition were as strong as ever. Non-Scotch whisky brands now make up two per cent of the WMI top 25 brands, showing the changing trends among collectors across the globe.

So with Scotch brands under pressure, what was happening at auction houses in Scotland? McTear’s offered a high quality live auction that majored on Springbank, Glenmorangie and SMWS bottles. Six bottles of Springbank 30 Years Old The Milroy Selection fetched £1,700, the Prestonfield Springbank Selection 1967 took a comfortable £1,000 and 1960s Springbank distillates bottled by SMWS included Cask 27.6 (distilled 1965; £750), Cask 27.11 (distilled 1967; £450), Cask 27.39 (distilled 1964; £750) and Cask 27.40 (distilled 1964; £750). Glenmorangie were represented by a 1987 Margaux Cask Finish (£340), 30 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish (£480) and an SMWS Cask 125.1 (£240). McTear’s first bottle of Black Bowmore this year sold for £3,400, a second edition from 1994. Lagavulin were boosted by sales of the 30 Years Old from 2006 (£1,000), 21 Years Old from 2007 (£700) and 25 Years Old from 2002 (£550). Vintage Casks by The Balvenie continued to perform well – a 1966 cask bottled 1998 made £1,100 while a 1966 cask bottled 1997 hit £1,200. A bottling of Strathisla 35 Years Old cleared £320. There are still great classics at good prices.



Did you know?



McTear’s Glasgow sold 50 single malt whisky bottles of SMWS cask No. 1 in February. Although several hundred bottles of each were released, these days new distilleries to SMWS sell out on release like hot cakes. The earlier editions from classic distilleries are incredibly rare and can fetch eye-popping prices. In February, they sold SMWS cask No. 1 bottlings from The Glenlivet (2.1, distilled 1974; £520), Bowmore (3.1, distilled 1976; £700), Highland Park (4.1, distilled 1974; £700), Auchentoshan (5.1, distilled 1975; £360), Bunnahabhain (10.1, distilled 1974; £340), The Dalmore (13.1, distilled 1965; £360), Talisker (14.1, distilled 1976; £460), Glenfiddich (15.1, distilled 1976; £460), Bruichladdich (23.1, distilled 1970; £340) and The Macallan (24.1, distilled 1974; £420).

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