Soaring auction prices for Pappy Van Winkle aged bourbons have elevated the brand into the WMI top ten, a first for an American whiskey. Over the past two years, shortages of Pappy on the shelves, the popularity for spirit produced at the Stitzel-Weller distillery, and a resurgent fan base have combined to make it a hot prospect at auction. Van Winkle brands are currently out-trading Scottish distilleries including Glenfiddich, Port Ellen and Highland Park on the WMI.
In September, Hart Davis Hart in Chicago offered the largest collection witnessed this year; a decanter of Old Rip Van Winkle 23 Years Old Family Selection Bourbon made $3,800 (£2,325), and a 2011 bottling of Pappy Van Winkle 20 Years Old Straight Bourbon Whiskey made $1,000 (£600). Wally’s Auctions in New York achieved $2,800 (£1,740) for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Years Old Kentucky Bourbon in October. In Boston, Skinner, Inc sold another Glencairn decanter of Old Rip Van Winkle Family Selection 23 Years Old, although this one topped the Hart Davis Hart price, making $4,500 (£2,800). Prices are higher in U.S. salerooms where competition is tougher than the scene in Europe, though America remains the best place to find a bottle of your own.
The Macallan may be feeling the heat as Karuizawa leapfrogged Bowmore into second place in the WMI rankings. However, it still has a comfortable lead at the top with a regular supply of top-end aged examples coming to auction. Around the world in September, we watched a bottle of The Macallan 1955 distilled by Roderick Kemp fetch HK$44,000/£3,500 (Zachys, Hong Kong), The Macallan Vintage 1961 sell for £6,600 (Tennant’s, England), The Macallan 50 Years Old Millennium make $14,000/£8,500 (Hart Davis Hart, Chicago), a Silver Seal decanter of The Macallan 1977 33 Years Old gathered SG$5,200/£2,500 (Spink, Singapore), a rare bottle of The Macallan in Lalique 50 Years Old go for $40,000/£24,300 (Zachys, New York, as part of a staggering collection of The Macallan Fine and Rare), and a bottle of Macallan-Glenlivet 30 Years Old earn £4,300 (Mulberry Bank Auctions, Glasgow). In October, the quality remained extremely high; a rare bottle of The Macallan 50 Years Old Anniversary Malt took £20,000 (McTear’s, Glasgow), The Macallan Fine & Rare 53 Years Old from 1949 hit £6,500 (Bonhams, Edinburgh), The Macallan 25 Years Old Silver Jubilee magnum took £2,600 (Christies, London), The Macallan 50 Years Old Millennium jumped to $16,000/£10,000 (Skinner Inc, Boston), and the top price of the month went to a second bottle of The Macallan in Lalique 50 Years Old which peaked at $34,000/£21,100 (Wally’s Auction, New York).
Isle of Arran was a new entry this month, making the top 25 for the first time in over five years mainly due to an increase in the number of Isle of Arran Founder’s Reserve bottles coming to auction. McTear’s, Glasgow were selling Isle of Arran First Production limited edition cask strength 3 Years Old single malt whisky for £260 in their October sale, and Isle of Arran 10th Anniversary 10 Years Old for £120. Sets of chapter I-III of Isle of Arran Devil’s Punch Bowl, their popular multi-vintage editions named after the hollow scoured out of the rock by glacial action, are fetching up to £450 in the online auctions, though selling the individual bottles may prove to be more lucrative for vendors. As anyone who has visited the distillery at Lochranza will know, Isle of Arran have excelled at producing eye catching collectible whiskies such as their Icons series, single cask releases for the Arran Malt and Music Festival, and distillery exclusive bottlings. Arran's Quarter Cask from this year's festival was matured in bourbon barrels and finished in bourbon wood quarter casks. It has fetched £175, though prices quickly settled down to £65-70. As the newest built distillery in the WMI top 25, the question is, how long can they hold on to their position?
Did you know?
Glengoyne have made significant gains up the WMI rankings in the past four months, gaining ten ranking places since August. Glengoyne last appeared in the WMI top flight in January 2013, though their highest ranking was 16th in December 2009. The distillery has clinched 26th in the rankings with steady sales of vintage releases from the 1960s, single cask releases, and a few ultra-premium rarities. The top bids have bought the Glengoyne 40 Years Old for $3,200/£1,950 (Zachys, New York). Can it continue to climb?