March Auction Highlights 2018

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Back in the glory days not many distilleries had the facilities to bottle their own liquid and the likes of Macallan in particular would appoint independent companies such as Gordon & MacPhail with a licence to undertake what occasionally would be a laborious task. The perfect example can be seen with these two handwritten labels which were bottled in the early 1980s. These whiskies may appear the same but they tell two totally different stories. We have one example distilled before the War and another distilled some years after the War. However, what they do have in common is that they were both distilled when the distillery was still running with just two stills. The 1938 is considered one of the finest expressions from this time for its often unique peat flavours. Where the 1950 is equally impressive with more delicately oily and softer fruit complexities and metallic notes in place of the earlier phenolic styles. These older Macallan are not been produced anymore and as the years go by they seem to be getting thinner and thinner in auction.

Fast forward several decades and not only are Gordon & MacPhail still bottling Macallan, they’re also maturing their own stock. Over the years G&M have bottled some mind-blowing whiskies including examples under their Speymalt series which is solely dedicated for Macallan. This series has seriously been underestimated over the years. If you dig deep you will realise the majority of these whiskies are from single casks and are bottled at a significant age. In this sale you will find example from 1950 to 1991.

This months auction features two beautiful and remarkably crisp Bowmore’s. Both of them were distilled on 16th June 1973. The casks selected between both bottles are a run of continuous sherry casks (5173 & 51745175 & 5176) which are said to be the last remaining butts of the 1973 vintage. 1973 was the very start of a historical change in the style of Bowmore. Whisky produced was still of a high standard but was characterised by a noticeable taming of its previous qualities. As with all distilleries modernisation played a part but, crucially at Bowmore, it was the dramatic increase in production levels that would contribute to what some might argue was a compromise between quality and quantity. If you desire that pure immense tropical fruit character 1960s Bowmore has to offer, we have a rather tasty Sherriff’s.

A Highland Park that certainly doesn’t appear in auction regularly. A 1968 single cask bottled at 35 years of age. This is an official bottling produced for World Duty Free in 2003. Only 546 bottles were bottled at 51.2%. And a 1973 Dalmore finished in what they call the ”King of Grapes” Cabernet Sauvignon from the Chateau Haut-Marbuzet of Saint Estephe. This is a limited release of 1000 bottles.

The 1972 Brora has become a bit of a phenomena in the world of whisky and these examples under the Rare Malt’s label seem to rule them all. Like most whiskies today these are slowly drying up for two reasons. One is down to the fact many of these were consumed in the early days due to their crazy low retail prices and secondly both drinkers and collectors are becoming much more educated. This calibre of whisky deserves the status it has attained over the last 20+ years whereas the same can’t be said about many of the new hyped up releases we see being produced today.

We don’t generally mention modern releases such as this Glenmorangie, however, we’re partial to a bit of golf. And what’s more fitting than Glenmorangie & Dornoch. The whisky is a 16 year old from an ex Oloroso cask that has been specially commissioned by the distillery to celebrate 400 years of golf in Dornoch. Glenmorangie rarely produce single casks anymore so regardless of the occasion this is a great release.

All the best from all of us here at ​Whisky Online Auctions.

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February Auction Results 2018

It’s not often that the highest price item in the auction isn’t whisky but this month it was a pleasing variation to see the top spot taken by a Cognac. Not just any Cognac of course; Remy Martin’s Louis XIII Rare Cask 42.6, which finished up at a cool £7100. Not entirely surprising given how fanatical some collectors – and drinkers – are about the iconic Louis XIII bottlings. This was a rare chance to snap one up outside retail so, even without its original box, it still performed impressively.

Hard on its heels was the Glenury Royal 1953 50 year old from the 2003 Special Releases which finished up at £5800. An impressive price but down from its previous best with us last October when it fetched £8100. Is this a sign of the market cooling off for these higher end bottlings, or simply that this particular bottling has increased in supply on the secondary market over the past few months. One thing is for sure, it’s a good lesson in being smart with your timing of when you buy – especially if it can mean the difference of a few thousand pounds. Also of note was that there were two of these bottles in this sale and the one with the low level hit £4100 – still an impressive price considering there had been quite some evaporation but consistent with how filling levels determine a bottle’s value.

The noise and heat around Karuizawa seems to have eased off a little in recent months but the two Emerald Geisha bottlings were a timely reminder of the desire that still exists amongst collectors. Cask 8518 and 8908 finished up at £5050 and £5100 respectively, a strong performance for both.

The Highland Park 1958 40 year old continued to perform well with this latest bottle hitting £4200. It seems like not so long ago that these could be snapped up for £1500, I fully expect this bottling to only increase further in price over the next few years. As knowledge about the quality of the liquid proliferates these kinds of older Highland Parks will only gain in value.

Speaking of gaining in value… perhaps the standout examples were the two Laphroaig 10 year olds from the 1970s. These kinds of old style tropical fruit driven Islay whiskies (primarily Laphroaig and Bowmore) are getting more and more attention these days. The Mario Rossi import is a rare one but given the lower fill level and the label condition, the fact it sold for £2600 is rather jaw dropping. The 1970s UK version at £2350 was similarly impressive. These sorts of results just emphasise once again how quality of liquid from certain distilleries is become such a potent driving force of price on the secondary market. People know now that these sorts of flavours just aren’t produced anymore. How long before some distiller decides to actually do the smart thing and spend a bit of time, effort and money making this style of whisky again…? Looking at these bottle prices I know what I’d be doing if I had a distillery…

Other interesting higher end results were the Glen Garioch 1972 for Oddbins hitting £1750, an amazing whisky and not a big surprise. Neither were the two official 1968 single casks selling for £1450 each. These older Glen Garioch’s, again, are all about this lost, incredible peaty style of distillate. A similarly illuminating result was an extremely rare sherried Glenugie 12 year old bottled for R & I Neish of Peterhead at £1700. These kinds of bottles turn up once in a blue moon and the fact it’s from such a cult distillery as Glenugie means there is inevitably a fight when they do.

The 2005 Brora 30 performed well at £1050. I suspect these older releases of Brora will continue their slow and steady march onwards in price over the coming year. It’s also interesting looking at this point in the auction as Lagavulin 1985 21 year old, Springbank 1965 Everest and Glenfarclas 1954-2000 all hit £1050. A kind of emblematic, four figure price point for three rather disparate but brilliant whiskies that gives a further sense of how quality is what is valued, no matter the actual style of flavour profile.

Moving down the auction some solid results for interesting bottles can be seen. £825 for an old 1970s 100 proof Clynelish; £925 for an OB Macallan 10 year old 100 proof; an impressive £725 for a Dailuaine Flora & Fauna cask strength; and £775 for a 1966 25 year old decanter bottling of Ben Nevis. The Highland Park 1973 cask 11167 for Oddbins was up at £725 – a sign these bottles are steadily rising as well. The same with the Balblair 1966 at £700, a deservedly legendary dram which will probably be hitting four figures quite soon.

Perhaps an inverse surprise was the Ardbeg Special Air service bottle. This is the sort of thing which would normally send collectors into a bit of a spin, but £625 does seem slightly  on the low side for such a bottling.

Going further down there were some good results for more recent bottlings. The Laphroaig 1987 30 year old by Douglas Laing and the Longmorn 1987 17 year old cask strength edition both hit a very healthy £410.

In terms of bargains they were, once again, a little thin on the ground unsurprisingly. Although overall prices were perhaps showing signs of softening a little after some eye-watering high results over recent months. Good buys were the Glenlivet 21 year old official decanter bottling for the USA at £270. A 1952 – 1977 Hine Cognac for £235. Also, a Gordon & MacPhail 1966 Balblair and a Glen’s Extra 8 year old 1970s Springbank for £205 a piece were both something of a steal.

By and large though it was an interesting, slightly quieter sale with a broad and pretty varied selection of bottles. One that possibly indicated either a slight cooling off of recent madness, or simply a little seasonal lull. However, for the right bottles as ever, prices remain comfortably crazy.

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Old & Rare Whisky Show – Glasgow 2018

Last weekend the Whisky-Online Auctions team headed to Glasgow for the second Old &
Rare Whisky Show in Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel, and it was another cracking event.
The team for the weekend was headed by Harrison Ormerod from Whisky-Online, ably
assisted by spirits trainer Tim Roberts and whisky writer Tim Forbes.

The format for the Show was much the same as the previous year, with visitors buying
whichever drams they fancied in 1cl measures that started at just £1 and went up to £200 a dram. Along with the long session times – the Show was open for 6 hours each day – these small measures mean that visitors could take their time and savour many more different drams at cheaper prices than larger measures would allow. We’re big fans of this system, although the long hours meant there were a few sore feet amongst the exhibitors at the end.

The real stars of the Show, of course, were the whiskies – and what amazing drams we had on offer for the lucky punters. The jewel in the crown of our stand was the legendary Queen’s Visit Port Ellen 12 year old, an incredibly rare whisky bottled in 1980 when Her Majesty popped over to Islay to inspect the Port Ellen Maltings.

The whisky for this bottling was drawn from two casks dating from 1967 (the year the
distillery reopened after a 37 year silence), and only a very small number of bottles were
produced, to be given to the Queen’s retinue, local dignitaries and some senior distillery staff on the day of the visit. This Port Ellen is famous for its colossal 99-point score from
Whiskyfun and that reputation ensured a stampede to the Whisky-Online stand as soon as the Show’s doors opened. Over the course of the event almost the entire bottle was sold at £200 per 1cl – a lot of money for a dram, but a bargain considering the bottle’s £12,000+ valuation.

Another standout dram at the Whisky-Online stand was the Brora 1972 Rare Malts 22 year old. This is another whisky with a massive reputation, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Bottled at 61.1% but very approachable nonetheless with a gloriously farmyardy aroma, hints of custard and condensed milk balanced with ashy phenols and wet turf. We only had half a bottle of this one left, and at a very fair £100 per nip (considering the £7,100 recent auction price) the bottle was finished long before the end of the Show – as was the Black Bowmore 2nd Release at the same price.

Of course, the Show wasn’t just about very expensive whiskies, and our stand had a lot of outstanding drams at very affordable prices. As well as the recent Tomatin 36 year old, which flew out at just £5 a dram, we had quite a few very reasonable official Macallans, with the 1982 18 year old available at £10 and the 1973 18 year old at just £15. These made a fascinating comparison with the 25 year old Macallan Anniversary 1965 (£25) and the wonderful 1980s Macallan 25yo decanter (£50).

Talisker was well-represented too, with a dark, earthy 1972 Berry Bros bottling and the classic grassy, smoky 1970s 8 year old both hugely popular at £10 a dram. The word-of- mouth hit of the show for us, though, was the 1955 50 year old Secret Stills bottling of Talisker by Gordon & Macphail. We were practically giving away this sherry monster at just £25 a nip – several punters came back for second helpings – and there might have been a few envious glances from Gordon & Macphail themselves, who had the stand next door…

Blends are always great value at our auctions, and our show offering reflected that as well, with a 1955-bottled White Horse and a Black And White from 1941 wowing the lucky visitors at only £10 each. It’s great to be able to share these historic whiskies with appreciative whisky fans, and the Show stood out for its relaxed atmosphere, no matter how busy the stand got.

We like to bring a few esoteric drams to the Show as well – it’s fun to show people bottles they’ve never even seen before. This year we had two versions of 1960s Four Bells Demerara Rum, one bottled before Guyana’s independence in 1966, the other soon after (and many thanks to former El Dorado ambassador Stefanie Holt for the info!). These dark, sweet, raisiny rums had strikingly different characters but were both delicious.

On the whisky side, some highly discerning connoisseurs were delighted with our massively smoky Caperdonich 5 year old at £10 a nip, and a few clued-up punters spotted our half-bottle of Ben Nevis 1977 bottled by Cadenhead’s in 1991. This was a very austere, but beautiful, whisky at a massive cask strength of 62% – and at just £3 for 1cl, we reckon it was one of the best bargains at the Show.

The event was a great success once again, and everyone on the Whisky-Online stand enjoyed it immensely, as did the hundreds of lucky whisky fans who flocked to try our delicious whiskies! Full credit to the Show’s organisers and we hope to see them again next year.

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