Our latest auction featured some results which were, in turn, impressive, some eye-watering, some illuminating and some unusual. However, the overall impression was yet another one of stable upwards trajectory in prices across the board.
The top pair of this month’s auction was a Macallan 1938 handwritten label which fetched a healthy £12,800. And a Bowmore 1967 Largiemeanoch which fetched a new record of £12,300. Impressive in some ways but, given the thirst, there is for these old sherried and peated legendary drams, also understandable. I suspect this is one those whiskies which we’re unlikely to see below five figures ever again.
Other top end prices look broadly consistent and firm. £3300 for the Caol Ila’s Manager’s Dram is in keeping with that bottles continued a steady climb. Even at this price, I suspect this one still has a fair way to go and may well be a good one to try and nab before it gets, inevitably, into the £5000-7000 range. Similarly, a Brora 1972 30 year old for the Whisky Shop also looks good at £2600. There seems to have been a slight slump in Brora prices across the whole market this month, whether that’s a blip or a downward trend remains to be seen.
It was nice to see an old 1940s Glenfiddich bottling doing well at £2800. These are beautiful and historic official bottlings and it’s always a pleasure to see one in such good condition turn up at auction. The Port Ellen 21-year-old Maltings Anniversary bottling doesn’t show up too often these days so it was interesting to see that it’s still sitting at the £2500 mark, roughly where it has been for quite some time. No doubt this is another bottling which will jump up sooner or later.
Amidst a broad range of old Macallan bottlings all fetch pretty much exactly what you’d expect there are other interesting results such as the 12-year-old dark sherry Springbank from the 1980s at £2200. It seems like, increasingly, any great old Springbank will set you back at least four figures. And understandably so given the immense quality of the liquid.
The same story for older highly regarded Cadenhead Dumpy bottlings such as the Jura 1966 18-year-old at £2200 and the Glenrothes 1957 22-year-old at £1550. When these whiskies turn up with good filling levels in good condition, they can really fly in today’s secondary market. Especially for buyers who are bidding specifically with great whisky and a long term drinking prospect in mind. These old bottlings with levels still in the neck now after 30-40 years will almost certainly retain those filling levels well into the 2050s and possibly beyond. These are definitely smart buys.
The Manager’s Dram Glen Elgin 15-year-old is another of these whiskies which sat fairly priced for years considering the immense quality of the liquid, so it’s hardly surprising to see it start to soar consistently from auction to auction these days. This latest example finished up at £2150, and I’ve no doubt it won’t stop there. Similarly, it was good to see the Bunnahabhain 1963 40-year-old hitting £1550, another long underappreciated dram starting to get some well-earned recognition. Likewise the 1966 35-year-old for £1000.
In terms of bargains at this kind of price level, it really depends what you define as a ‘bargain’. Comparatively, I would say the Bowmore 1971 sherry cask for Oddbins at £1200 was a pretty good buy. As was its sibling bottling the 1973 for £1150. It’s rare to see any Bowmores from this legendary era fetching these kinds of prices anymore. I suspect this was a blip.
Dipping below the £1000 mark there was almost wall to wall strong results, especially for older SMWS bottlings, old Cadenhead dumpies and various other indy bottlings like the Syndicate 1988 30-year-old Laphroaigs for £850 apiece. It seems that people’s attention is increasingly turning towards the gems to be found under the independent labels at auction these days. As more buyers gain increasing knowledge of these whiskies it is only to be expected.
In some ways, as with Brora, the Port Ellen values also seem a tad flat/static. Bottlings such as the official 2nd release Port Ellen fetching £825 seems a bit low. Could this be the effect of the distilleries re-starting production. Most likely, I expect it’s just a blip on the secondary market landscape. These are, after all, historic and pretty much unrepeatable liquids.
Elsewhere in the auction, a Caol Ila 1977 26-year-old Douglas Laing bottling looks pretty good at £675, a strong result for a Caol Ila of this vintage and age. Likewise, a scarcely seen Glenfarclas 1980 under the White Label series for Oddbins by Cadenhead did well at £625. All the while closed and scarcely seen or tasted names such as Glen Flagler and Ben Wyvis sit, seemingly forever, at £625 and £725 respectively. The thing is, very few of these bottles ever get opened and the liquids within, while generally well received by the few who have tasted them, haven’t garnered thrilling reputations. So it’s not surprising that they’ve been sat at these price levels for so long.
All in all, it was a sale in which there were many lovely bottles. Too many to go into detail on with one report. But overall the prices were notably strong this month. A few dips and blips here and there can’t disguise the fact that these older and rarer malt whiskies have well and truly entered a new era.