An interesting set of lessons, trends and results from last night’s impressive auction. It’s been a while since a Cadenhead Dumpy topped the auction but it’s unsurprising in this case as that bottle was the extremely rare Laphroaig 1967 15-year-old sherry cask. From sibling stock to the fabled Samaroli 1967 the hammer finally fell at £7100. An impressive price but somewhat unsurprising given the almost hallowed status these whiskies are now afforded.
Elsewhere the Clynelish Royal Marine Hotel bottling fetched a record equalling £5100, the appetite for these bottles is understandably quite immense given the legendary quality of the liquid. However, the likes of old Clynelish is not as ‘obvious’ as certain Islay or Speyside distilleries and says a lot about the very specific tastes of serious whisky aficionados these days.
It’s unusual to see a Cognac so close to the top of the sale but Frapin’s ancient Cuvee Francois Rabelais commanded an impressive final price of £5100. Followed on the heels by a bonded cask of Tullibardine 2007 at £3700. Given the prices paid for other casks recently at WOA this might seem small fry but given that these kinds of casks can be picked up privately for around half this price if you know where to look then it looks increasingly like auction is the place to sell your casks.
Johnnie Walker once again proved its brand power with its 30-year-old Sir Alexander Walker edition hitting £3300. While the Caol Ila Manager’s Dram spiralled yet higher to £3000. How long before this one follows the other dark sherry / heavy peat legends past the £5000 mark? Not long I suspect.
Perhaps one of the more curious results was the bottle of 1802 Reserve Terrantez Madeira. This bottle is almost certainly a 1802 solera rather than a vintage and, although a remarkable wine no doubt, £2600 is still a pretty hefty price for such a bottle. Just goes to show what can happen when two people really want something.
The rest of the upper end of the sale was full of consistent higher market value results and few surprises. The Gordon & MacPhail Silver Jubilee series could be picked up for around £300-400 each not so long ago and a full set performed exceptionally well in last night’s sale. However, that the Macallan fetched £1750 says a lot about the continuing power of this distillery amongst a new generation of buyers. That this kind of buying willpower is starting to incorporate the independent bottlings as well as the official ones now suggests the ‘Macallan madness’ is far from over.
There were further strong results from Laphroaig with the 1967 First Cask and the 1976 official vintage both hitting £1450. Other impressive results around this level included the SMWS Music, Food, Friends, Words set at £1150, the Glengoyne 1968 single cask 4615 at a mighty £1100 and Glenfiddich 8-year-old for NAAFI stores at £925. Another rarely seen bottle was the official Glentauchers 5-year-old bottled for France in the 1980s which finished up at £825 – not surprising given the rarity of this bottling.
Bruichladdich had a strong showing with three of its Legacy bottlings – editions 1, 3 and 6 – finishing up at £750 and £725 a piece respectively. It seems word is starting to get around about aged Bruichladdich, shouldn’t be long before these sorts of bottlings start to crack the four-figure threshold.
The mid-range of the sale is usually where we see the most consistency and the fewest surprises and this was very much the case again last night with almost all bottles selling for their upper market value. Some notable results include the Highland Park Thor at £440 showing this series now comfortably resurged after a dip. The Bowmore 12-year-old litre 1970s bottling for £360 shows these bottlings creeping up incrementally. Although, given the quality of the liquid, these are arguably still fair value.
Scanning through the rest of the auction for bargains is – once again – hard work with slim pickings. The fact that this has become kind of a mantra in these posts speaks volumes about the way knowledge about older whiskies has proliferated. What remains to be seen is just how many of these bottles are being snapped up under the guise of investment, or by people with deep pockets and a taste for exquisite whisky. Time will tell but for now, prices remain high and – barring a smattering of unusual and interesting bottles beneath the £100 mark – it remains a tough market for people looking to buy serious whisky for drinking. If you’re a seller on the other hand… well, the sky is by no means the limit. Until next time…
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