If last night’s sale proved anything it is that, for the right bottles, Macallan is still the unassailable king at auction. The first edition Lalique 50-year-old finished up at a whopping £65,210. There’s been a lot of chatter about the charity sale of the full Lalique set in Hong Kong recently, but this record result is more impressive for the fact this was not a charity sale which makes this not only the most expensive Macallan auctioned in the UK to date but also the most expensive non-charity bottle sold at any UK auction thus far. How long that record will stand is anyone’s guess in today’s constantly surprising market. But this remarkable and telling result must surely be causing collectors to think long and hard about top end bottles they might have stashed away. What would top the Lalique? Possibly certain Japanese bottles and definitely the Peter Blake 60-year-old Macallan – if one ever surfaces again – and the 1926 Fine & Rare would certainly be the other strong contender.
You know it’s a pretty special auction when the Macallan 1928 50-year-old is second on your list of bottles to talk about. The fact that this legendary bottle finished up at – again a new record price – £25,100, even without a box and not in tip top condition speaks volumes about the desirability and potency of this famous bottling. On the flip side, however, the fact it sold for less than half the price of the Lalique also says something about the unique power of Macallan’s modern day iconic series. How long before we see another one of these bottlings? Who knows, but one in perfect condition can’t be far off the £30,000 mark next time around…
Looking through the other highlights in the upper ends of the sale there’s a number of bottles which would ordinarily be auction standouts, however, in this sale they feel understandably overshadowed. The Karuizawa 1964 48-year-old for Wealth Solutions finished up at a healthy £16,300 – down a little from its initial forays into auction but still impressive. The Macallan 1948 continues to hold at its new five figure trading level with a hammer price of £12,300. The beautiful Macallan 1949 50-year-old in Baccarat crystal for Japan – a stunning and remarkably hard to find bottle – finished up at £10,200. This really was a sale that belonged to Macallan.
Elsewhere the Black Bowmore 42-year-old held strong at £10,100, repeating the previous result. Interestingly the 1st edition Black Bowmore only fetched £4800, a good price but one which no doubt reflected the lower filling level in this example. This will likely become more and more of a problem in the coming years as these bottles – notorious for their poor quality corks – begin to the suffer the effects of evaporation more and more. Further strong results for Macallan with the 1938 handwritten label fetching a cool £6100, the 40-year-old Pinerolo at £3100 – not long ago these were around the £1200 mark – and the 1950 handwritten at £3500. All showing consistent strong demand. Likewise, the 25-year-old crystal decanter and the 1962 25-year-old Anniversary Malt Macallans settled on £2900 and £2600 respectively – further demonstrating the huge increase in demand there’s been lately for these classic era official Macallan bottlings. Much of this upper section of the sale was a slew of Macallans, most of which were above the £2000 mark, it seems likely that this is set to become the new trading boundary for these older releases.
The Ardbeg 1967 Signatory hit £2150 and the Talisker 1955 £2000, showing that amazing old peat and sherry big beast drams are going nowhere but upwards in value and desirability. Bowmore 30-year-old Sea Dragon showed an impressive leap with a hammer price of £1850 and a second example for £1200, these were very recently around £800-1000 so it will be interesting to see if this represents a new trading level for this bottling. With the high-level Macallans you kind of expect crazy prices now, but the 1990 Exceptional cask selling for £1300 and it’s sibling 1981 bottling for £1250 looks somewhat bewildering, perhaps this is a spike or this often overlooked little series is going to suddenly spring from the shadows.
Other surprises were the Glenlivet Vintages 20cl box set hitting £1100 – especially considering the filling levels. The Clynelish 1972 Rare Malts 57.1% inched past the four figure mark to £1050. It’s hardly surprising these 72 Clynelish Rare Malts are starting to creep up – the liquid inside quite remarkable. Another name that has surprised a few times in recent sales is Midleton; the 1991 bottling fetched an impressive £1050, is this series about to take shift upwards in value?
Similarly £925 looks like a remarkable price for the Bruichladdich 1970 I Was There valinch bottling. These can often be picked up for less than half this price. A 1980s Lagavulin 12-year-old White Horse bottling for £800 suggests this rarity is taking a further rung on the ladder towards the £1000 mark, where it will probably be before too long. Speaking of White Horse a 1940s spring cap example, a 1940s 8-year-old and a 1955 bottling fetched £725 a piece and £700 respectfully. It’s nice to see these older, legendary blends being so appreciated but it’s also curious as White Horse bottlings have been somewhat inconsistent as of late with some older examples selling for a lot less.
The SMWS got a look in with a rare early example of their Ledaig 42.3 selling for £625. From this point in the sale onwards, prices seem to settle back down a bit too consistent levels with most bottlings hitting their upper market values quite consistently. It’s a story of few surprises and even fewer bargains. Although, a Peter Dawson spring cap from around 1950 for £160 and a Laphroaig 10-year-old circa 1990 for the same price both look decidedly drinkable. A Johnnie Walker Black Label from the 1960s for £90 also looks like a no-brainer.
But overall the trends this year seem to be prices rising and bargains getting fewer and further between. Good news for sellers as ever so if you do have a stash of old bottles somewhere, well, you’ll be quids in with today’s market the way it is should you decide to sell.