The Whisky Magazine Index is celebrating 50 issues, having been launched as the first published whisky trading consumer index back in Whisky Magazine Issue 86. A decade ago, from new releases to feature articles, you might have formed the impression that all whisky was made to be consumed there and then. Whilst collectors might have been hoarding it away, they were a different kind of people, not straight up whisky drinkers like you or I. Clearly, whisky producers had a tacit understanding about collecting as it became more common to see luxury editions presented and price tags began to get bigger. The WMI ranked the brands for Whisky Magazine readers solely determined by the actions of buyers and sellers in live whisky auctions; the original distillers could not influence it. Great brands have risen and fallen in line with the appetite for vintage editions of their greatest releases. We’ve witnessed the rise of online whisky auctions, the arrival of whisky speculators flipping new releases, the upward trend of the prices collectors are willing to pay for what they desire, and the market growing to the extent that there is a specialist whisky auction running somewhere on any given day of the year. What will the scene be like after another 50 issues?
Dragon 8 in Hong Kong held their first whisky auction of the year at the end of February, and impressed all with the quality of stock they had on offer. Hong Kong is the current undisputed leader in live whisky auctions with Bonhams, PolyAuction, Sotheby’s, Spinks, Zachys, and Acker Merrall & Condit all competing for stock (which seems abundant) and buyers (of which there are no shortage).
Dragon 8 chose to concentrate on single malt Scotch whisky with a dominance of The Macallan. A 32 bottle vertical of The Macallan 18 Years Old with distillation dates running from 1954 – 1985 sold for HK$840,000/£78,000. A bottle of The Macallan 62 Years Old in Lalique fetched HK$312,000/£29,000.
Eight individual bottles of The Macallan Fine and Rare broke through £20,000; meaning that some of these sales may make it into the top ten bottles sold in 2016, though it’s still early days. Ardbeg Double Barrel achieved a new record of HK$156,000/£14,500, the same as the six bottle Springbank Millennium Collection. G&M bottlings excelled; Generations Glenlivet 70 Years Old HK$192,000/£17,800, Generations Mortlach 75 Years Old HK$216,000/£20,000 and G&M Private Collection Ultra set HK$264,000/£24,500.
Like last year, Dragon 8 sold casks of whisky for impressive sums; a first fill sherry hogshead of Macallan 1990 took HK$1.56million/£145,000, a refill sherry hogshead of Highland Park 1988 sold for HK$1.08 million/£100,000, a first fill Bourbon hogshead of Bowmore 1989 made HK$1.02 million/£95,000, and a sherry hogshead of Dalmore 1986 made HK$1.2million/£111,000.
In the UK, Taylor’s Auctions had a busy sale with a number of standout prices; Ardbeg Kildalton Project made £370, Highland Park One in a Million took £260, and a bottle of Clynelish Rare Malts Selection 1972 23 Years Old 57.1% peaked at £500. McTear’s, Glasgow managed £1,800 for a Brora Rare Malts Selection 1972 22 Years Old 61.1%, a Bowmore Bicentenary hit £1,100, and a Loch Lomond 1966 32 Years Old took £750.
Again, The Dalmore provided the top bottling of the day, with The Dalmore 60 Years Old making £7,500, just shy of its low estimate. This was a unique bottling presented to its long serving distillery manager Drew Sinclair to mark his 60th birthday.
Yet, there were still plenty of bargains to be had for those looking for a vintage tipple without breaking the bank. Aberfeldy 1980 Flora and Fauna Cask Strength sold for £110, a two bottle lot of Benromach 25 Years Old was yours for £130, Cragganmore 10 Years Old Natural Cask Strength 60.1% was a steal at £45, and a Glenturret 25 Years Old wade decanter went away for just £55. The bargains are still there if you look for them.
Did You Know?
Glenmorangie prices are on the march, as demonstrated by the recent 59th sale at Scotch Whisky Auctions. The Glenmorangie Oloroso Cask Finish 30 Years Old hit £760, Glenmorangie 1981 Sauternes Wood Finish managed £720 and the Margaux Cask Vintage 1987 took £460, all quite a lift from their prices only 1-2 years ago. The modern day collectables of Glenmorangie Private Edition series continue to perform well, with Artein hitting £220, Sonnalta managing £210, and Ealanta sticking at £190. The distillery has a deep connection with whisky lovers due to the variety of stock and the fascination for Dr. Bill Lumsden’s earliest experimental wood finishes, ideal for collectors and drinkers alike.
Forthcoming Auction Dates (Subject to Change)
27 April 2016
McTear’s Auctioneers, Scotland
Tel: +44 (0) 141 810 2880
12 May 2016
Zachys, New York
Tel: +1 914 448 3026
14 May 2016
Hart Davis Hart, Chicago
Tel: +1 312 482 9996
20 May 2016
Bonhams, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2918 4321
28 May 2016
Zachys, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2530 1971