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WMI - Whisky Magazine Index

WMI 827.9 +11.8%

December 2014

WMI Online - January 2015
27 Addresses

This month, we had a long-awaited chance to test the mettle of Diageo’s Managers’ Choice series at auction. Released in four tranches over 2009-2010, the collection of 27 burgundy-boxed whiskies originated from the addresses of each of Diageo’s single malt Scotch whisky distilleries. Each hailed from a unique single cask selected from a short list by a core group of the company’s distillery managers. The whiskies were all bottled at cask strength and each was chosen for its distinctive characteristics that elevated the liquid above the traditional styles expected from that distillery. Packaging was akin to a (rather stylish) lovechild born from an unholy union between the Flora and Fauna series and the Rare Malts Selection.

Yet the series was dogged by criticism. Priced between £200-300 a bottle on release, the concept was judged and condemned by some of the whisky commentariat who were particularly irked by these prices for 9-17 year old whisky. There was a considerable online backlash, resulting in several whisky retailers being saddled with unsold stock. Any hopes of replicating the momentum of the Rare Malts series were dashed. In the intervening years, some retailers discounted heavily in order to move the stock on. With understandable apprehension, few purchasers have risked sticking their neck out and putting their set on the block.

That made it truly fascinating to observe the bidding on the full collection, offered in individual lots, during the latest sale by Scotch Whisky Auctions, the Glasgow-based leading online whisky auction specialists. Speculatively, the vendor could have been a retailer disposing of dead stock, rather than a serious collector with the bottle to test the market. That’s by the by. So, how did it fare?

To buy the 27 bottles at the recommended retail price would have set you back £6,300 by the time of the final releases in 2010. At this auction in 2015, the combined hammer price raised £4,845. Once the 10% seller’s fees and tax had been paid, the vendor would have received a grand total of £4,236.60. This represents a loss of over 32%, costing the vendor more than £2,000. True enough, a vendor in the whisky retail business will have acquired the whisky at trade prices and not paid the full RRP that you or I would be charged, so they may not be particularly out of pocket.

Two bottles made a profit; the top bid of £380 bought the Lagavulin 1993, a 15 year old matured in a bodega sherry European oak cask and bottled at 54.7% (612 bottles were released). In fact, Scotch Whisky Auctions have had greater success with this bottling last September achieving £540. However, as this bottle originally cost £300, a take home profit of £34.40 (or 11.5%) after five years was meager. The best performing bottle was the Mortlach 1997 11 Years old 57.1%, matured in bourbon American oak which sold for £330 (the original price was £250 for one of the 240 bottles). This made a net gain after charges of £40.40 (or 16.2%).

There were promising results for the Talisker, Caol Ila, and Clynelish bottlings though none turned a profit. The poorest performing bottles were Linkwood (retailed at £200, auctioned for £115), Dalwhinnie, Glen Ord, and Knockando (retailed at £250, auctioned for £145), each representing a net loss, after charges, of nearly 50%.

If these bottles are languishing in your collection for investment purposes, then a profitable return, or simply breaking even, could be a protracted wait. However, there are glimmers of hope in the potential slim gains to be had on the individual bottles from distilleries such as Lagavulin, which are popular with collectors. Each time I taste one of these, I am reminded of how enjoyable the whisky inside was – could it be time for a reappraisal of these whiskies or will public opinion show no mercy and no forgiveness?

Top 25 Chart

Price Chg
1 Macallan +23.1%
2 Bowmore +6.9%
3 Ardbeg +2.3%
4 Springbank +5.9%
5 Port Ellen +0.8%
6 Glenmorangie +10.2%
7 Glenlivet +5.7%
8 Highland Park +9.0%
9 Glenfiddich +13.8%
10 Lagavulin +6.4%
11 Laphroaig +4.2%
12 Caol Ila +1.9%
13 Bruichladdich +7.3%
14 Dalmore +6.8%
15 Glenfarclas +8.8%
16 Glen Grant +0.9%
17 Talisker +2.6%
18 Aberlour +6.7%
19 Brora +6.3%
20 Rosebank +7.1%
21 Balvenie +5.1%
22 Mortlach +6.0%
23 St Magdalene +4.8%
24 Bunnahabhain +5.9%
25 Linkwood +7.3%

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