Glenfiddich has staked its claim as one of the world’s top collectible whisky brands. Whilst other Scotch whisky brands have succumbed to the popularity of Japanese whiskies at auction, the family-owned distillery opened by William Grant in Dufftown has proved to be an enduring spirit.
Lindsay Burns & Co, Perth brought an unprecedented parcel of 1950s Glenfiddich special pure malt Scotch whisky bottles to the saleroom, many still wrapped in William Grant & Sons tissue paper. These attracted prices of up to £1,500 per bottle, which delighted vendor, auctioneer and buyer alike.
The Chinese and western wines by Poly Auction, Hong Kong was the largest live whisky sale in April by far. A 2006 bottling of a Glenfiddich 1955 Private Vintage from Cask 4221 made HK$120,000/£10,345, followed by a Glenfiddich 1961 Rare Collection, which sold for HK$65,000/£5,600, one of only 56 bottles of this 47 Years Old single malt.
There were two Glenfiddich 50 Years Old, the more modern packaging earning HK$120,000/£10,345 with the older wooden boxed 1991 edition taking HK$150,000/£12,930. The Glenfiddich 1937 64 Years Old was given a top estimate of HK$¾ million but failed to find a buyer.
Which other brands benefitted from the massive Poly Auction sale? The third bottle of The Dalmore Candela to be sold in a year fetched HK$150,000/£12,930 whilst a bottle of The Balvenie 1937 50 Years Old set a new WMI live auction record price of HK$140,000/£12,070. Swelling the WMI by nearly half a million pounds, The Macallan and Karuizawa dazzled again, with spending on eligible bottles of the latter almost double that of The Macallan, despite a second appearance of The Macallan in Lalique 62 this year making HK$240,000/£20,690. With an impeccable sell through rate, Karuizawa was crowned the winner taking the most expensive live auction bottle of the year to date with the exquisite Karuizawa 50 Years Old 1963 selling for HK$280,000/£24,140.
Spink, China had one of its best ever sales by lot, showing how they’ve built up a following for their whisky sales. Split evenly between Japanese whiskies (mainly Hibiki ceramics and commemorative Suntory decanters), and Scotch whisky where The Dalmore and The Macallan performed well. The Dalmore Ceti 30 Years Old was hitting HK$10-11,000/£860 – £950, and a bottle of The Dalmore Astrum 40 Years Old lit up HK$17,000/£1,460.
Back in Great Britain, Tennant’s Auctioneers sold a bottle of Glenfarclas 40 Years Old Scottish Classic. This particular bottle, securely housed in its personal tantalus, featured the Rob Roy illustration. This series has a chequered history at auction, with many bottles sticking around retail price and sometimes failing to meet reserve, though I’ve always found these attractive Glenfarclas labels to be one of the more memorable releases celebrating the millennium.
In New York, Wally’s Auction had a modest parcel of Pappy Van Winkle with several bottles of the 23 Years Old, though the limelight was somewhat stolen by The Macallan 50 Years Old in Lalique US$30,000/£20,080. There were no takers for the 19th Century whiskies offered: a bottle of Highland Park 1877 and a bottle of Linkwood-Glenlivet 1898 from the estate of H. E. Manville.
The month closed with McTear’s fourth whisky sale of the year. The highlight was bottle no. 48 of Benromach 55 Years Old, encased in its copper tube, which made £3,500 (McTear’s previously auctioned bottle no. 20 for £3,000 in July 2013). A tidy £1,000 bought a golden bottle of The Glenrothes 1967 bottled in 2002, which preceded a hefty sale of SMWS bottlings.
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With seven of the nine distilleries in the top 25, Islay delivers like no other whisky region. Fèis ìle 2015 has just concluded and tired festival goers will be lugging their festival bottlings either home or to the auction house. Kilchoman and Bunnahabhain are the two WMI outsiders. Currently WMI ranked 151st, Kilchoman is more readily acquired from online auctions than live sales. Bidders seek out the early editions, single cask releases, and popular word of mouth bottlings like last year’s Port Cask Matured 2011. Mulberry Bank sold a bottle from the first SMWS cask of Kilchoman 129.1 for £180 in March. Bunnahabhain dropped to 42nd in May with this year’s top live auction sale being a Bunnahabhain 1965 for £440. The official vintages distilled in the 1960s still command the highest prices.