It struck me as a touch unusual. There will have been plenty of whisky drinkers, both new and experienced, who enjoyed a well-made drink containing Haig Club over the holiday season. However, some genius soaked up all the advertising, hesitated with his fingers around the stopper, and thought, ‘Hang on, there’s money to be made here.’
Ignoring the ubiquity of this global product and with limitless optimism in their hearts, they trooped along to their local online auction office to offer their rare, collectable grain whisky up for sale. Whistling to themselves on the way home, they passed a bus shelter advert showing Beckham raising a toast, just opposite a bright shop window display crammed with pyramids of blue bottles. Banking that there would be some corner of the world where buying at auction would beat the reach of the Diageo distribution network, they sat with their arms folded and waited for the bids to flood in. Ten days later, at the final reckoning, the bottle sold for a deflating £35. That’s before seller’s premiums and tax were deducted. Admittedly, it’s a little short of the £6,200 grain whisky record price paid for a Kawasaki 1980 33 Years Old at Scotch Whisky Auctions last year. Please auction responsibly. Do drink your Haig Club, because there is plenty more where that came from.
The WMI smashed through the 1,000 barrier during December as collectors acquired new desirable whiskies at auction from all the key markets. Significantly, there were two new Japanese entries in the top 25 with Yamazaki and Hanyu. Vintage and aged editions of Yamazaki are performing well in China, whilst the UK online auctions are seeing heightened interest in the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 release taking the hammer price up to £1,000. Hanyu has been climbing up the rankings since August, and its top 25 listing was boosted by a couple of appearances of The Joker, the multi-vintage final bottle in Ichiro’s Card Series, the top price being HK$24,500/£2,000. Bonhams, Hong Kong sold the majority of the Hanyu, but we will need to wait and see if this translates into meaningful volumes of sales outside of Asia. Meanwhile, Japan’s star performer Karuizawa bit further into The Macallan’s lead in November. The gap should shrink further in January when the influence of the HK$4 million bottle of The Macallan ‘M’ decanter on the WMI expires.
The competition for top slots in the WMI is so fierce that even when a bottle of Glenfiddich 50 Years Old bottled in 1991 sold at Bonhams, Hong Kong for HK$130,000/£10,700 it failed to help the distillery gain a higher ranking. Glenfiddich, which ruled 2nd position from April 2012 – June 2013, now sits outside the top ten, at its lowest ranking position since the WMI data collection began in 2007. Similarly, Bruichladdich at 16th has never been lower, having lost ranking positions for four months
in a row.
UK auctions were busy with many holding their final sales of the year. Taylor’s Auctions in Montrose had some excellent vintage whiskies in their Saturday sale with the top price going to a Bunnahabhain 35 Years old 1965 for £380. A bottle of The Macallan 1950 fetched £1,500 at Tennant’s Auctioneers with a limited list of top names featured. A Signatory bottle of Ardbeg 30 Years Old 1967 made a worthwhile £1,500. Mulberry Bank ended a mixed year, their November sale concluding with a large number of unsold lots. That’s not to say that they didn’t manage to sell hundreds of bottles of whisky however; Glenmorangie 1963 took a jump to £1,200, a G&M Mortlach 50 Years Old 1936 Book of Kells achieved £1,350, and a rare Killyloch 1967 bottled in 2003 peaked at £1,100. McTear’s penultimate sale of 2014 perhaps lacked the wow factor, when compared with the quality of what they’ve delivered throughout the year. The rarities included some single cask 1960s Springbank bottled by SMWS in the 1990s, some Balvenie Vintage Casks, and a 1979 North Port Rare Malts Selection 19 Years Old.
Did you know?
One of the biggest quandaries for whisky collectors is predicting the gains of the more expensive luxury editions. Will they ever make money or not? Although sales of the Gordon & MacPhail Generations Glenlivet 70 Years Old have been recorded five times on the WMI, the sale of bottle no. 38 of the first release the Gordon & MacPhail Generations Mortlach 70 Years Old at Bonhams, Hong Kong, was the first live auction record. The original release price was £10,000 and the equivalent GBP hammer price in November was £12,345.