Do you prefer to buy vintage collectable whiskies from whisky shops or at auction? Hand in hand with the growth of whisky auctions, impressive ranges of old blends and rare single malts can be purchased directly from retailers. Just as some traditional whisky retailers have entered the auction business, so some businesses have used auctions to stock their shelves; Hedonism Wines in London has a jawdropping selection of single malt scotch whisky, Dekanta.com launched in June with hundreds of bottles of scarce Japanese whisky for sale, whilst Hard to Find Whisky in Birmingham have thousands of precious bottles on display. The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt offer enormous ranges of antique and retro bottlings, an old blend or a top class single malt, their websites will surely have something to offer.
Commercial buying at auction by retailers and investment schemes can produce spectacular results, as the need for good stock can mean prices escalate beyond what some collectors are prepared to spend. You will pay a higher price by buying rare bottles directly from a specialist retailer, but that additional outlay will save you time scouring the internet and help you secure the bottle you want instantly.
A frenetic calendar of June auctions gave way to a sleepy July, live auctioneers and collectors recognising that competition (therefore, prices) dip mid-summer and left the online auctions to provide the action.
Spink, China contributed the most value to the WMI in June with sales split evenly between Scotch whisky and single malt and blended Japanese whisky. It did not go unnoticed that Suntory’s Hibiki brand broke into the WMI top 25; some fine Hibiki decanters sold by Acker Merrall & Condit contributed to this achievement.
However, my pick of the auctions in June was not the one with the highest value bottle, nor the rarest stock.
It was the one that brought out a personal collection that concentrated heavily on local distilleries along the A98 road, clearly put together by a collector with great passion that featured during the return to the fray of Cluny Auctions in Banff.
Inchgower 22 Years Old 1974 Rare Malts Selection 55.7% made £130, a 2002 Old Malt Cask bottling of Inchgower 26 Years Old managed £90, the Inchgower 13 Years Old Manager’s Dram took £100, Inchgower 1965 38 Years Old Douglas Laing Platinum Selection ramped up to £210, with the top price going to a Cadenhead bottling of Inchgower 1959 17 Years Old that hit £340.
From Glenglassaugh, the Jim Cryle Manager’s Legacy distilled in 1974 rose to £220, the Dod Cameron Manager’s Legacy distilled in 1986 got £100, a Glenglassaugh 29 Years Old distilled 1976 and bottled for Milroys of Soho was sold for a cheeky £60, whilst a Glenglassaugh 1965 40 Years Old from Murray McDavid soared to £280.
Finally, there were a number of examples of MacDuff 5 Years Old 75 proof bottles, which sold for £65 – 70 and a MacDuff 1975 Connoisseur’s Choice from 1991 that changed hands for £60. The same local effect can be found at Taylor’s Auctions, Montrose which is excellent hunting ground for collectable editions from Lochside distillery, Fettercairn, and North Port distillery.
September should bring some interesting adjustments to the WMI, as Japanese whiskies dominate the August auctions in Hong Kong, and last September’s incredible sale of The Macallan Fine and Rare at Zachys, New York expires from the chart.
Karuizawa is eating into The Macallan’s lead month by month, but although the gap has never been closer, it’s going to be a tight race to the end of the year.
Did you know?
Whisky-Online Auctions managed to find a bottle of the Johnnie Walker Directors Blend 2013 edition for their July auction. Each of the six annual editions were expressly blended by Master Blender Jim Beveridge to highlight a different aspect of the signature Johnnie Walker flavour. They were created for ambassadors to open with friends and customers, using them astutely to promote the brand. Any employee caught selling one of these bottles for personal gain possibly risks dismissal from the company. Unsurprisingly, you can count the number of opportunities on one hand for collectors to buy a bottle on the open market. The entire set of six bottles sold in 2013 for £23,000, but this single bottle at Whisky Online Auctions closed at a tidy £1,450. Job done!