On the final day of last year, Diageo released a single cask Lagavulin 1991 24 Years Old yielding 522 bottles, and announced a ballot to sell the majority of the bottles for the benefit of Islay charities. Thousands entered for the chance to buy the final bottling from the Bicentenary year for £1,494. For Lagavulin collectors, knowing that this was the first proprietary single cask bottling of Lagavulin since the Jazz Festival 2012 bottling heightened the excitement. Over the past five years, the annual Fèis Ìle bottlings, the Jazz Festival releases, and Diageo Special Releases such as 2013’s Lagavulin 1976 37 Years Old, have all been released in larger volumes for good reason; Lagavulin has a huge number of followers!
Whisky.Auction auctioned bottle No 1 during March, achieving a distillery record hammer price of £7,300. Collectively, the single cask bottling is expected to raise over £500,000 for the Islay heritage charities; with the buyer’s premiums topping up the donation, bottle No 1 made a welcome contribution of £8,395.
If that’s a little out of your price range, why not a bottle of Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2015 instead? While not a single cask release, this 24 Years Old dram of Lagavulin also distilled in 1991, was trading at £350 a bottle in March.
The Ellon Times newspaper reported that a local Aberdeenshire business owner had been elected as President of the United States in November, so (red) hats off to them for their scoop. A Glendronach 1985 26 Years Old single cask was bottled in 2012 for Trump International Golf Links and had mostly traded for £300–£400 per bottle. Following the election result and the inauguration of Donald J Trump as the 45th US President, signed bottles have been commanding huge sums at auction. The best prices by auction house include: McTear’s (£6,000), Whisky.Auction (£4,200), Whisky Auctioneer (£3,100), Whisky Hammer (£2,500), Scotch Whisky Auctions (£1,950), and Whisky Online Auctions (£1,800).
Bonhams, Edinburgh had a reserve of £4,000 on another bottle but it failed to attract a buyer in March. There are variations in the angle, signatures, and pen colour between some bottles but with only 504 bottles produced, it is difficult to know how many signed bottles there could be in existence (though it is reportedly around 50). In the last few months, there have been 18 bottles auctioned with a Donald J Trump signature on the box. Locals, golfers, and hotel workers may all have purchased bottles but I expect that the period between election and inauguration will have been the optimum moment to sell, though only time will tell.
The Macallan has been dominating the online auction listings, with a number of Fine and Rare bottlings going under the digital hammer. Whisky Online Auctions handled a number of 2002 bottlings including The Macallan Fine & Rare 1965 36 Years Old at £10,700, The Macallan Fine & Rare 1969 32 Years Old at £9,500, and The Macallan Fine & Rare 1971 30 Years Old at £8,200. Scotch Whisky Auctions brought out The Macallan Fine & Rare 1939 40 Years Old, which topped the auction at £20,000. As Scotch Whisky Auctions have only sold one of the 50 plus aged Macallan in Lalique bottlings, this pre-war Fine & Rare edition set a new auction house record as their most expensive bottle of The Macallan ever (and still a pretty smart investment).
Returning to where we began, there is one other Lagavulin 1991 bottling that you may have tucked away in a cupboard. The Lagavulin 21 Years Old was released as part of the Diageo Special Releases in 2012 and was one of the highlights of that year’s collection. Costing £350 on release, recent performances at auction have seen prices rise as high as £1,150 on Scotch Whisky Auctions. Can that persuade you to part with your bottle?
Did You Know?
The Whisky Shop’s W Club is opening its own members only online auction service in the UK, joining other online businesses as ventures linked to a whisky retail operation. Any new addition to the competitive whisky auction market needs noting, especially when they promise to bring rare, collectible bottles such as the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 Edition to kick start their first auction. One of the factors delivering high prices for vendors at whisky auctions has been a website’s ability to attract a huge potential online global audience to compete for bottles. By restricting entrance through a membership scheme predominantly used by UK whisky shoppers, I think that the smaller audience will make this a more attractive option to buy, rather than sell, your whisky.