An Orderly Queue
Whisky-Online Auctions have sold a bottle of Springbank 1919 for £27,200, setting a new record price for an individual bottle of whisky sold at a specialist online auction. The business already has a track record of achieving record-breaking whisky sales over the years, securing prices for top bottles that are ahead of live auction prices. Whisky-Online Auction’s tally of individual whiskies auctioned for more than £10,000 is four for 2015; The Springbank, The Dalmore Selene (£15,100), The Balvenie 50 Years Old (£15,100) and The Macallan Millennium 50 Years Old (£11,100). Whisky Auctioneer has managed two; The Macallan Millennium 50 Years Old (£12,100) and the Johnnie Walker 1805 Celebration Blend (£12,000) although they deserve a notable mention for the sale of the Bowmore Trilogy (£16,000). No other UK-based online only whisky auction had broken the £10,000 ceiling by mid-May this year. Spectacular prices like these are important indicators, as they instill confidence in the owners of prestige whisky bottles that they are consigning them with specialists who can be trusted to deliver the best possible price.
Speaking of record prices, I have a couple of items to pique your interest in June, courtesy of Christies, London. Their “Finest & Rarest Wines & Spirits” sale will take place in King Street on June 4th with the bidding opening on a bottle of G&M Glen Grant from 1936. However, it’s the more unusual lots that I’d like to bring to your attention. Lot 65 is a cask of Knockando 28 year old in bond, distilled in 1986 that can be bottled at any time within the next five years, with a customised label and bottle of your choosing. Bottles will be inscribed with your signature and the winning bidder will be invited to meet the Master Distiller, visit the casks and stay at the world famous Gleneagles Hotel, Spa and Golf resort. They’ll even throw in a round on the PGA Centenary course should it take your fancy. Estimates are in the region of £160,000 - £220,000. Lot 66 is a similar deal for a cask of Oban 15 Year Old single malt distilled in 1999 (estimate £180,000 – 220,000).
Finally, lot 67 is one hundred bottles of Johnnie Walker Signature Blend, a bespoke blend personally created for you by Jim Beveridge, the Master Blender of Johnnie Walker. Bottle and packaging options are included as each will be serialised and inscribed with your signature. Finally, your recipe will be entered into the Diageo archive. Oh the price? Well, if you need to ask…OK then, the estimate is £100,000 - £140,000. It is fascinating to see these unique whisky experiences offered at auction and we will watch events keenly as the sale commences at 10.30 on that Thursday morning.
Is there a better way of allocating limited edition collectible whiskies? There are a number of events each year where hugely anticipated whiskies are released that every whisky collector would love to own in their collection. These events attract the whisky speculators as well, who will look to turn over that bottle quickly for a short-term profit.
At this time of year, we think of Islay and the hardy souls prepared to spend a night outside a distillery, queuing in the dark for 7 or 8 hours to buy a festival bottle that will go on sale in the distillery shop when the morning comes. The same bottles will be offered for resale, beginning the same day and then filter through the auction houses in the weeks to come.
Clearly, the whisky brands love to be in demand, but devising a workable system giving interested parties a fair chance to buy doesn’t always materialise. Two enormously popular bottlings have been the recent Ardbeg and Laphroaig bicentennial releases. Laphroaig put an initial tranche of bottles of the Laphroaig 15 Years Old 200th anniversary for sale on the Friends of Laphroaig (FoL) website. The server crashed under the weight of the considerable web traffic leading to spiralling frustration amongst the would-be purchasers. Unknown at the time, this was not the only opportunity to buy as several months later, more stock arrived in the shops.
Ardbeg Perpetuum Distillery Release had been on sale at the distillery on Islay for those who made the trip in the spring, but it was later sold online to UK residents in early May. Again, the predictable online rush crashed the site for many hours (similar issues have beset other Committee releases). Some had a tantalising glimpse of progress only to ultimately fail once they arrived at the six-stage check out process.
Some unsuccessful buyers expressed their frustration on Twitter or left negative comments as whisky reviews. Can the process be improved? I favour the lottery system whereby keen customers willing to buy can add their name to an email list and hope their name will be selected. The Whisky Exchange used that system recently for the releases of Karuizawa 1981 Suji Bachi Kabuto and Hanyu Final Vintage 2014. The usual caveats about one per household should apply, but this ensures a more equal chance of getting a bottle. By registering with the store and brand, you may be one of the first to hear about future releases.
Thousands of people could be spared the interminable wait for that fresh page to load as the server struggles to deliver performance barely approaching late 20th century Internet speeds. Therefore, I was delighted to hear that the new Laphroaig Càirdeas 200th anniversary release will be available to FoL members by ballot this year and I hope many other producers adopt this strategy. By all accounts, it’s going to be one of the most discussed bottlings of this year’s festival.
Speculate to Accumulate
July 2015, Issue 129
Straight to the Top
Glenfiddich stands fast
June 2015, Issue 128
Battle of the Brands
Second round to Karuizawa
April 2015, Issue 127
That was the year that was 2014
A roundup of the year in the auction house
March 2015, Issue 126
Chasing the top dram
March 2015, Issue 126