Bonhams first Edinburgh sale of the year may have been shorter than we are used to, but there was no shortage of quality on offer. The top bottle was the Glenfiddich 50 Years Old from 1991 that sold for £12,000, which helped Glenfiddich retain a top five spot in the WMI. Yet, this venerable release from 25 years ago has hit a bit of a lull as a collectible. Bonhams handled another one 12 months ago that sold for £2,000 more than this one, and in the summer of 2014, they achieved £16,000 for a bottle. Perhaps former buyers have spent the last two years buying Hanyu and Karuizawa rather than chasing Scotch whisky collectibles? Whilst I can vouch that the liquid from the 1930s inside the bottle is truly exceptional, the apparent shedding of a quarter of its value in under two years is concerning. That might make buyers hesitate before they lay out that kind of money for the next one that goes under the hammer. Yet, it offers a relative saving compared to the later Glenfiddich 50 Years Old Rare Collection. If you’re in the market, this lull might be just the opportunity you need to acquire a bottle at the lowest price you can hope for before prices inevitably climb again.
Sotheby’s, Hong Kong had an enticing sale from the private cellar of an international collector of rare wines and whiskies in early April. The whiskies turned out to be a handful of lots tucked away at the end of the sale, but fortunately, they consisted of top class Japanese rarities released in recent years. Ichiro’s Malt Card The Joker sold for HK$24,000 (colour label) and HK$65,000 (monochrome label), Karuizawa 30 Years Old Samurai Cask #3139 made HK$48,000, and Nikka Taketsuru 35 Years Old took HK$26,000.
Meanwhile in England, Tennant’s Auctioneers had a modest sale which favoured the buyers who took home offerings such as Ardbeg 17 Years Old for £170, Balblair 1975 for £220, Bunnahabhain 1968 The Family Silver for £200, and a cream label Lagavulin 12 Years Old from White Horse Distillers for £420. Tennant’s top WMI eligible bottle was a Springbank 35 Years Old Murray McDavid sherry cask bottling distilled in 1965, which still seemed a bargain at £650.
To Glasgow, for the March sale at McTear’s which included a bottle of The Macallan 1946 Select Reserve for £7,000, a new record price for the house. Bowmore Bicentenary hit £1,000 for the second time at McTear’s, Highland Park John Goodwin 35 Years Old rocketed away to £1,500, Springbank Local Barley 1966 beat its high estimate to reach £1,100, and £1,600 bought a bottle of Old Cro’ Liqueur Whisky bottled for J & J McConnell Ltd, Belfast.
Do you remember that trio of slim Linkwood 50cl bottles that Diageo released in 2008? These are very rarely presented for auction, which you could speculate is due to the mixed reviews for the contents and the previous auction performance falling short of the original retail price, and unfortunately, the Linkwood 26 Years Old red wine finish valued at £100–140 at McTear’s remained unsold. Instead, we turn for a look at the mixed lots for value (even though they are ineligible for the WMI). Despite Johnnie Walker Green Label remerging on to the UK markets where it had been withdrawn, a bid of £95 bought a bottle of Green Label, Red Label, and a pair of Black Label bottles.
Finally, just £45 bought a vintage bottle of Tormore 10 Years Old, Cardhu 12 Years Old, and a Black Watch tin of Glen Moray 12 Years Old. If you’re new to buying at whisky auctions, these are relatively low risk quarry and the warming taste of your success might spur you on to bid for some of the more competitive bottles on offer.
Forthcoming Auction Dates (Subject to change)
8 June 2016
Tel: +44 (0) 131 225 2266
8 June 2016
Tel: +44 (0) 1423 530 030
18 June 2016
Tennant’s Auctioneers, England
Tel: +44 (0) 1423 531 661
23 June 2016
Tel: +852 3952 3000
25 June 2016
Hart Davis Hart, Chicago
Tel: +1 312 482 9996
Did You Know?
Scotland probably doesn’t need another whisky auction start-up, but with thousands of bottles being traded each month, why not see if there is room at the table for one more? I like the look of Whisky Hammer with its high quality images and uncluttered web design. They are aiming to create a premium whisky auction site, with free valuations, quick payment for vendors, and a seller’s commission of just 5 per cent (10 per cent for buyers) at their monthly auctions. Their inaugural auction saw 208 lots sell for just over £28,000. Even though they are aiming to sell prestige bottles, it was noticeable that 66 per cent of the lots sold for £100 or less. Yet, by the time of their second auction, the volume and quality of whisky presented for sale had grown significantly.
How the Whisky Magazine Index works www.whiskymag.com/wmi/guide.php