The stills may be silent but it is back in the WMI, Jonny McCormick celebrates
Brora is greatly treasured as a single malt by collectors and always generates healthy debate among whisky aficionados about the variety of whisky styles created during different periods of distilling.Although the distillery closed nearly 30 years ago, this cult Highland malt whisky is back in the WMI after an absence of 15 months. The last few years have seen many of the independent bottlers from Signatory to the SMWS reportedly run out of stock, which has sharpened collectors’ attention on the reality that new releases are becoming very scarce. Official releases have appeared annually over the past decade, but last year’s highly regarded Brora 32 Years Old from Diageo (Editor’s Choice, WM Issue 100) was restricted to only 1,500 bottles, half the number of the earlier releases, fuelling theories that even their stock is running low.One can speculate on who is paying the high prices for Brora; it may be retailers, Brora fanatics or Rare Malts Selection completists. Certainly, the early Brora Rare Malts Selection releases have greatly appreciated in value whereas the Brora 30 Years Old releases have not shown a particularly impressive uplift in value to date compared with the Port Ellen annual releases.At auction, Brora holds a higher average price than Port Ellen, Dalmore or Ardbeg but it may take the inescapable conclusion of the annual releases before we see the interest in these bottlings reach their full potential.AUCTION WATCH March significantly upped the tempo of the whisky auction scene and the volume of trading saw the WMI hit a new peak.Bonhams first Edinburgh sale of the year matched their recent sales in scope with a rich array of collectibles. Gordon & MacPhail bottlings of The Macallan fared well with consecutively numbered 1938 bottlings fetching £2,800 and £2,400 a piece, and boxed examples of the 1950 were acquired for £1,400 to £1,500.The Royal Marriage 1948/61 expression shows every indication of holding its substantial gains made last year with bottles selling at Bonhams for £1,100-£1,200.Some of the more sought after Bowmore releases were available including the solidly packaged 40 Years Old from 1955 delivering £3,200, Black Bowmore second edition £2,200 and Bowmore Bourbon Wood 1968 37 Years Old achieved £700. There were aged expressions from distilleries that lie out with the WMI top 25 such as Glenury-Royal (currently 78th position) with their 50 Years Old from 1953 commanding £850 to £1,000, Auchentoshan 1962 41 Years Old made £900 helping maintain 35th place and former top 25 regular Talisker, currently holding 33rd, received a boost from the Gordon & MacPhail bottling distilled in 1957 securing £650.The third Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts bottling sold in New York for $94,000, substantially more than the earlier bottles and with £10,000 paid for each bottle of the Glenfiddich 1937 50 Years Old at Bonhams, they became only the third distillery to earn second place in the WMI.The end of the month witnessed two substantial rare whisky sales occurring simultaneously on opposite sides of the Clyde in Glasgow.McTear’s offered a broad range of Ardbeg including a number of single casks bottlings; £600 for a bottle of Cask No. 3475 (Distilled 1974, bottled 2002), £440 for a signed bottle of Cask No. 2751 (Distilled 1974, bottled 2005) and £260 was paid for the more recent edition from Cask No. 368 (Distilled 2000, bottled 2010). A Rosebank 1967 bottled 1988 by Cadenhead’s clinched £650 amongst many other expressions, helping Rosebank to become the highest ranked closed distillery in the WMI.Highland Park 35 Years Old John Goodwin made a return to former glories with £1,300 even though Lagavulin overtook Highland Park in the WMI rankings as it slipped back to 9th this month. Across town, Mulberry Bank Auction hosted their first major whisky sale with a slant towards collectible Islay malts, especially Bruichladdich and Bowmore.Bunnahabhain was well represented with the popular Auld Acquaintance making £320 (although a bottle at McTear’s gathered £460), and a bottle of the 1965 signed by all the distillery workers made £500. Their top bottle was one of the two bottles of Ardbeg President’s Malt 1975 in existence which fetched £6,800.The list of exquisitely rare bottles was extensive with a Springbank bottled and sold in MacCallum’s bar on Saddell Street in Campbeltown in the 1950s selling for £1,100 and a Bowmore ceramic flagon from 1955 bottled in 1974 for distillery workers which soared to £1,300. Overall, most average prices were rising across the WMI with the last 12 months seeing the greatest whisky auction action in history.
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