Auction Overview and Bottle Performances
I’ve often emphasised the importance of filling levels in older bottlings in relation to their price. While this is somewhat self evident it is also something that can have a surprising impact on certain bottles. Last month we sold a first edition Black Bowmore with a level around the base of the neck for £5100. Last night the same bottling with a level in the neck around 1.2cm higher sold for a record £7300. That is quite a difference in price between two bottles where the only real physical difference is the fill level.
This demonstrates a couple of things quite neatly. Firstly – and most importantly – the Black Bowmore series is sought after primarily for the quality of the liquid inside the bottle. Legendary is a term much overused in whisky these days but in the case of this series it really is justified. A bottle of first edition Black Bowmore with a fill level still in the neck is a real rarity these days and – as a guarantee of the preservation of the liquid inside – it is a powerful and desirable aspect for anyone seeking to buy one. The other notable thing it highlights is the crap corks that were used for these bottlings. That a bottle with a ‘normal’ fill level should command such a notable price speaks volumes about the low quality of the closures on this series and how – sadly – the days of this whisky may well be numbered more certainly than most. This is indeed lamentable but also adds a certain fragility to their legend and lends a little more beauty and poignancy to any chance you may have to taste one. If you ever do get such a chance, I’d say it is worth making the effort for, they really are quite remarkable and historic drams.
Overall this was a strong sale with some other notable prices. The Glenfarclas 1955 50 year old bottled to commemorate the centenary of John Grant’s birth has usually traded pretty much exactly on the £4000 mark for the past couple of years. Last night it jumped up to £5100; a new record and a sign of just how highly regarded this release is. Another slight surprise was the 1948 66 year old Glen Grant for Wealth Solutions, the three bottlings for this Polish company are all popular and quite mighty bottlings but I was surprised to see this one go so high. At risk of undermining everything I said in my first paragraph, I felt the low fill level in this decanter (something I wish G&M would take more care to avoid) would affect the price; it didn’t.
Other impressive results were the Laphroaig Cairdeas 30 year old, a bottle that was long in the distillery shop for around £460, which finished up at £800. The Bunnahabhain Auld Alliance – pretty much everyone’s favourite Bunny – got to a new high of £825 and the Brora 1975 Rare Malts 54.9% went up to £725. All going to show the resilient desirability of great malt whisky shouldn’t be underestimated.
Old Irish Whiskey continues to perform well with the two 1940s John Locke bottles fetching £825 and £775 respectively. Although it does still seem like something of a bargain when you consider what sort of price a bottle of whisky from the same era from a closed Scottish distillery might fetch?
Broadly speaking the values in this sale were healthy and fairly consistent with trends across the secondary market. There were a few disappointing results and the general trend of many of the larger modern releases continues to be stagnant or downward for the time being. This is little wonder though when you consider how many people are actually opening these bottles, for the moment they seem to be all supply and fluctuating demand. There must have been some frustration from all those who sought to make a quick buck on the recent Laphroaig 21 year olds as they didn’t even meet their initial retail prices. Interesting considering how high the initial demand was, but then again, a half bottle is a half bottle. It just goes to show the winning recipe of great liquid and genuine rarity is a tough one to beat.