The last time we sold a Dalmore 50-year-old was in May 2017 when it fetched an impressive £18,600. Fifteen months later, last night, bottle number one finished up at £28,000 on the nose. At one time such a result would have been pretty staggering but it says a lot about the nature of today’s secondary market that these kinds of serious five-figure sums have become almost ubiquitous. Still, this is an impressive result no doubt and shows that whiskies of genuine and deserved legend such as the Dalmore 50 are going nowhere but up. There is in fact almost an argument that it always makes sense to buy them if you can because they will only ever be more expensive. Say this same whisky turns up again in five months time. Would it make sense to buy it for, say, £38,000 – 45,000? I would argue that it would because the year or two after you can most likely sell it for £60,000. It’s just a matter of cash flow really. Which brings us back to the reality that, at this level, whisky is very much a commodity and a rich person’s game.
Once again Macallan displayed impressive strength and consistency at the top level of the sale. £20,000 on the nose for the 1946 Fine & Rare, £4000 for the 1958 Anniversary Malt and – somewhat bewilderingly – £3600 for the Diamond Jubilee. This is the thing about Macallan, you can understand it when the whisky in question is of the stunning, old style sherried variety, it’s somewhat more bizarre when it is, essentially, a contemporary NAS single malt. Such is the power of the name.
In fact, save for two bottles, one of which was the Dalmore 50, Macallan dominated the entire top end of the sale all the way down to a Springbank 1964 Cadenhead 34-year-old at a healthy, and somewhat unsurprising, £2500. In between all that one of the most interesting, and telling, high results were for John Scott’s 1965 35-year-old Highland Park which finished up at £3300. I remember buying the 42-year-old in this series in London in 2008 for £180 and subsequently drinking it. Given the quality of the whisky in these John Scott Highland Park bottlings, it seems retrospectively obvious that they would end up at such prices.
It was good to see the Glenfarclas 105 40-year-old back, hitting a healthy £2150 after a reasonable period of absence. Similarly, the Mortlach 1936 45-year-old and MacPhail’s 1938 45-year-old both did well at £1950 and £1900 respectively.
Springbank 12-year-old 100 proof bottlings from the 1990s have sat around the £1000 mark for quite some time now, so it was interesting to see one last night finish up at £1850 – exactly the same as the 22-year-old Cadenhead dumpy Springbank. This looks like it could well represent a bump up to a new trading level for this bottle, something not underserved considering what a legendary whisky it is.
The Lagavulin Syndicate 38-year-old appears to be holding strong at £1600. Another of quite a few Springbanks in this sale, the 1969 Signatory 28-year-old, performed well at £1150. Similarly, independent Macallans are increasingly chasing their official siblings up the auction levels with three Douglas Laing 30-year-old single casks fetching £1100 and £1050 respectively.
The Ardbeg Mor 1st edition was back on strong form at £900. And the long-awaited inaugural bottling of Daftmill single malt looks like a strong future classic, trading as it is already at £625. The Ardbeg 1975 and 1977 official vintage releases at £600 and £575 respectively showed good solid growth for these old classic bottlings.
Other strong results were a 1947 White Horse for £490, although for the historic nature of this liquid this also still seems like a good price for a drinker as well. The Cragganmore 17-year-old Manager’s Dram and the Glen Elgin 16 Manager’s Dram both did well at £450 and £525 respectively. This whole series is on the upward move so it’s nice to see these two slightly underrated examples getting the attention they deserve.
Similarly, Glen Ord, another seriously underrated distillery, saw one of the best examples ever bottled fetch an impressive £410. Although, if you ask me, this still represents good value for the liquid. Old Balblairs are another area where plenty of examples were arguably too cheap for too long, it seems this is changing as well. The 1974 ‘Highland Selection’ Balblair fetched a solid £390.
Although, at the same price levels one of the bargains of the sale was the Strathisla 35-year-old Bicentenary for £390. Given this is known to be a 1947 Strathisla it’s a terrific price for a drinker. Similarly, the Ardbeg 1974 23 year old by Signatory for £360 was also something of a steal.
Looking further down the sale there is the usual mix of solid consistency, some bewildering results – I still don’t get why people are paying £280 for a litre of 1990s Scapa 10-year-old – and a tiny smattering of bargains. A Glenlochy 1980 27 year old by Part Des Anges looks good at £270 and a rare Laphroaig 10-year-old bottled for Japan around 1990 also looks good at £245.
Largely though, scrolling from around the £300 – £80 level of the sale, you’re mostly reminded of just how much has changed on the secondary market over the past two years. Bottles like litres of old 15-year-old Glendronach. The kind of thing you used to be able to pick up for £40-60 for so long, now trading at £130. While at the same time you can still get bottles like Tormore 1983 28 year old by the SMWS for £135. It’s a funny old whisky world. Thankfully it’s still also a lot of fun!