Last night’s auction kicked off with a couple of record results. Firstly for the Macallan 1948, which finished up at £15,100. It’s not a bottle we often see anymore so it wasn’t much of a surprise to see it climb to such heights. Similarly, the Bowmore 1955 40 year old is a stunning bottle which we haven’t seen at auction for a while. This bottle spent years hovering around the £4000 mark at auction and I remember speculating about when it would pick up the pace a little. With a record hammer price of £11,100, it seems that time is now. A legendary whisky which was under appreciated for many years.
Back to Macallan and it seems that being official is still what counts. The Speymalt 1945 Macallan finished up at £7600 and the 1955 at £4200. These seem comparatively cheap compared to many official bottlings. The 1945 in particular is a remarkable bottling, being not only the oldest Macallan ever bottled but one of the oldest whiskies ever bottled full stop.
The cask of 1993 Bruichladdich finished at £7100, not quite Macallan territory but natural market value for a mature, naturally low ABV bonded cask. If the strength had been higher I suspect the price for this one would have been quite different.
Some other strong results from Macallan with the Diamond Jubilee bottling hitting £3400, quite bizarre for what is essentially an NAS whisky, but this is the power of Macallan. The 1958 Anniversary Malt at £3500 looks like a good deal in comparison from a liquid quality perspective. It seems many old, official sherry bombs are doing well these days, as evidenced by the Glendronach 1968 25 year old single cask for ANA Nippon Airways which fetched £2600. These bottlings have long possessed a high reputation so it’s no surprise to see them climbing to these heights. I suspect they won’t stop here.
This sale featured a wonderful selection of old SMWS bottlings and it’s no surprise that many of them performed remarkably well. The last time a bottle of the 1966 Ardbeg 33.13 came to auction it was with us in 2016 when it fetched £1600. This time the price was £3100, almost double its previous best. Although, this is no great surprise considering how rare this bottle is. The fact that the 1974 Ardbeg 33.12 also hit £3000 is no great surprise either. These old Ardbegs from the 1970s and 60s are stunning, mythical whiskies, add to that the collectability of the old SMWS bottlings now and you have a recipe for serious value as evidenced here.
Other impressive SMWS results were the Brora 1977 61.3 at £1400, the Ardbeg 1977 33.15 for £1300 – a bottle that could be had for around £400-500 very recently – the Glen Garioch 1968 19.18 and the Clynelish 1976 26.25 for £975. The prices generally for all the SMWS bottlings in this sale were strong. Something which goes to show, if you have a big collection of SMWS rarities, it’s often better to sell them together in one auction and generate a kind of ‘feeding frenzy’ effect.
As we’ve noted in the previous two auctions, Macallan bottlings such as the Exceptional Casks series which were previously around the £300-500 price range have shot into the four figure stratosphere without warning. The same can be said of the Easter Elchies bottlings. Examples such as the 1990 15 year old Easter Elchies edition was still reasonably affordable up until quite recently. Last night the very same bottling fetched £2600, as did several other Easter Elchies bottlings. Once again, that name ‘Macallan’ only seems to be picking up more and more traction at auction.
Other notable examples were the Laphroaig 10 year old from the 1970s which fetched £2350. Even by these bottlings recent standards this is impressive and just goes to show the demand there is out there for this style of whisky which, for some ridiculous reason, no one makes any more. The same could be said of the Bowmore Sherriff’s ship label for £1850. And, while we’re on Laphroaig, it was nice to see the 1976 and 1977 official vintage bottlings back, they’re not seen very often these days and the price of £1550 apiece is understandable and well deserved.
In terms of bargains in this sale there were a few but not many – as is very much the norm these days. A litre of 12 year old Bowmore from the early 1980s was a snip at £235 and there were still some pretty tasty old examples in the First Cask series to be had for quite drinkable prices, key examples being 1970s Caol Ilas and Highland Parks. Although, even this series is starting, inevitably, to climb higher these days. It seems, as knowledge increasingly proliferates, there are fewer and fewer ‘gems’ to be discovered or snapped up for cheap. A sellers market indeed.
Even below the £200 mark there were some eye-popping prices. SMWS bottlings like the Springbank 1993 7 year old 27.45 for £180 or the Laphroaig 1990 8 year old 29.11 for £195 are in many ways even more illustrative of the power and collectability of SMWS whiskies these days. These seem crazy prices for what are good, but ultimately very young whiskies. A North Port 1981 and Tomatin 1976 can be had for the same price. These kinds of results demonstrate the polarisation of the secondary market for whisky and illustrate just how complex it is compared even to a few years ago. It’s not a bubble anymore, it’s bubbles within bubbles. How the market will continue to evolve over time remains to be seen. But, on the evidence of this auction, desire remains as strong as ever for all manner of whiskies and for all kinds of reasons. Healthy in other words.
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