Last night ended one of the more interesting auctions we’ve had for a while which highlighted a few notable trends on the current secondary market.

Firstly at the top end of the sale Karuizawa prices seem to be settling a little – still undoubtedly crazy – but settling. The Macallan 40 year old is evidently still very hard to find that even one without its original box will still fetch £5500 – an impressive new record eclipsing the one in our previous auction at the start of this year of £5100, and that one had a box! This is a pretty rare bottling and an important one as it represents the only official, non-vintage, age-stated 40 year old Macallan have ever released – which is quite an oddity when you consider their stock of high end expressions over the years.

Auction Highlights

Those initial observations aside though the really interesting bottles in this sale however were undoubtedly the Laphroaig 14 year olds. Several months ago a vendor in America contacted us with images of these bottles, the long and short of it is that he had discovered a full, sealed wooden case of them in the crawl space of his grandfather’s attic. Obviously we were pretty excited, official Islay single malts bottled in the 1950s come along very rarely, how often do you get a chance to taste Laphroaig distilled in the 1930s?

Laphroaig 14 Year Old

The only really disappointing aspect of these bottles was the filling levels, after storage for so many decades lying down in a horizontal packing crate they had all suffered a degree of evaporation. However, the liquids were still perfectly clear and the original bottling strengths were good – 45.7% in today’s money. Once they arrived we thought long and hard about the best way to sell them – we decided it might be a better approach to have a kind of ‘event’ sale where all ten bottles were sold at once. The result – quite satisfyingly – was a king of ‘feeding frenzy’ of bidding. This goes to show that despite low levels there are some whiskies people just crave to possess and will bid for accordingly. Also, a larger parcel of bottles seems to bring all the bidders to the yard and makes for quite an impressive resulting fight. Thirdly, imagine what the prices would have been like if the levels had all still been in the neck… ?

Aside from these beautiful Laphroaigs there were other interesting results. Johnnie Walker Director’s Blends – which seem to have been showing up more frequently across the secondary market recently, which I believe is probably little more than co-incidence – and aged official Bowmores continue to perform well. Even certain old independent releases from Bowmore can be surprising, the 1971 Sestante 18 year old hit an impressive £1450. Another rather curious result was the 1977 Highland Park from the Hart Brother’s Legends series, it sold for £1250 which was unexpected to say the least.

Auction Results

Overall though what struck most about this sale was that there were few surprises. Almost everything traded at a healthy and consistent level in keeping with the current secondary market trends. Of the lesser prices in this sale it was the newer releases that seemed to retract further, the Highland Park Freya sold for just £160 and the new Ardbeg Supernovas all finished up around the £150 mark. This is probably indicative of the fact that more and more buyers are realising there is just no point paying over the top prices for these new Ardbeg releases when the market will be flooded with them in due course and the prices will inevitably retract to near original retail price.

Elsewhere in the sale someone paid £155 for a bundle of old Malt Project DVDs – we didn’t see that one coming. People are apparently still willing to pay £60 for a bottle of Loch Dhu and Tony Blair’s signature has a market value of £62.50. The mysteries of whisky auctioneering continue unabated. Overall this was a fun, interesting and generally consistent sale with some terrific bottles, very good returns for seller’s in general and a few real steals for buyers.


The Whisky-Online Auctions Team

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