Inside track

Inside track

Keir Sword of Royal Mile Whiskies is in the chair

Collections 16 Jul 2002 | Interviews | By Keir Sword

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Investing in whisky is a complicated business. A couple of years ago everybody was searching for a bottle of Ladyburn to enhance their collection. Then Gordon & MacPhail brought out a bottling labelled as ‘Ayrshire Malt’, which was soon followed by an official release of 3000 bottles and the demand was satisfied. The attention of the avid collector then shifted to Kinclaith and Ben Wyvis. This however did not preclude a vatted malt, labelled as ‘Ladyburn’ for the European market, fetching up to £200 at auction. Presumably such sums were from unsuspecting collectors mistaking it for an old bottling of Ladyburn single malt. A clear lesson not to buy anything without first checking its provenance. Distillers tend to save their special bottlings until the run up to Christmas, consequently January to June bring very few releases to raise the collector’s blood pressure. Springbank’s Rum Cask was one exception, all of our allocation pre-sold before making it onto the shelves. As always, Springbank had set a reasonable price, meaning that we could retail at around £35. Some web-based dealers were offering it at more than double this, proving that some new releases are capable of generating a short term return (although these are increasingly rare). Older Springbanks are worth snapping up just now if you can find any. The oldest casks at the distillery date back only as far as 1986, so look out for the very limited 15-year-old, released in June. Another speculative option is Edradour 10-year-old. Rumours say the distillery is up for sale following Pernod Ricard buying several ex-Seagram distilleries. If the rumours are true, it is likely a buyer would want to re-launch in their own style making the existing bottling a collector’s piece.The Glenmorangie Wood Finish bandwagon is back in Bordeaux with a Sauternes finish, reputedly courtesy of casks from the great d’Yquem. With 4000 bottles, supply should satisfy the initial demand at the asking price of £150, with possibility of modest growth for those looking to invest.Under the hammer
According to Martin Green, “this proved to be another highly successful whisky auction. We are absolutely delighted by the outstanding new world record set by the second unlabelled Macallan 60-year-old which exceeded all expectations and fetched £20,100, making this Macallan the most expensive single malt sold at auction anywhere in the world”. Highly competitive bidding by British, American, Japanese, Canadian, Italian and other European collectors made this another spectacular sale.”Green continued “other fine malts performed very well including Manager’s Drams and Centenary bottlings from various distilleries, Black Bowmore averaged at £1180 per bottle, a wide range of The Macallan came under the hammer, distillate years such as the original 1938 Macallan fetched £680. The Millennium Decanter fetched well over the top estimate at £1870 and The Macallan 1948 with a label dated August, fetched £1870, also over the estimate.”The next McTear’s whisky auction is on 17th September 2002, with catalogues available approximately one month before the auction.
Enquiries: Martin Green +44 (0)1292 520 000. Catalogue Orders: McTear’s, Glasgow +44 (0)141 221 4456.Collector's corner
Collecting is a personal preference but I suggest you select any good single malt and specialize in bottles from an individual distillery; anniversary bottles, cask strength bottles, malt bottled over a certain age, limited edition bottles under a certain number, old 70 proof or 26 2/3 fluid ounce bottles or malt from closed distilleries.The price of a collectable bottle of whisky is determined by many factors: how rare is the bottling? Is the label in good condition? The level of spirit in the bottle. The number of bottles produced. Is it a proprietary bottling? Does it have its original box?The following bottles are all collectable.Bunnahabhain 1965 Limited Edition
Distillation: Distilled at Bunnahabhain, Isle of Islay, Argyll in 1965.Bottling information: Limited edition of 594 bottles 70cl Bunnahabhain 35-year-old single malt, bottled in 2001 by the proprietors.Strength: 53.9% vol cask strength.Presentation: Bottle contained within its original presentation carton tube. The bottle and cask numbers are printed on the carton label, along with the signature of the distillery worker and the Distillery Manager.Special notes: The Bunnahabhain 35-year-old Limited Edition was bottled to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the distillery.
Price guide: £150 to £200.The Glenlivet Special Export Reserve
Distillation: Distilled at The Glenlivet Distillery, Ballindalloch, Banffshire by George & J.A. Smith Ltd. Bottling information: Glenlivet 34-year-old single malt. 26 2/3 fluid ounces bottled by the proprietors.Strength: 70 proof.Presentation: Bottle contained within its original presentation carton.Special notes: This Glenlivet was bottled to commemorate the famous distillery’s 150th anniversary – 1872 – 1974.Price guide: £600 to £650.St Magdalene 20 year Old (100 years of Waterloo Street)
Distillation: Distilled at St Magdalene Distillery, Linlithgow, West Lothian in 1978.Bottling information: Limited edition of 396 bottles 70cl St Magdalene 20-year-old single malt, bottled in 1998 by the proprietors.Strength: 62.7% vol natural cask strength.Presentation: Bottled contained within its original wooden presentation box with Perspex front, also a letter of authenticity with the bottle number.Special notes: This St Magdalene was specially for the staff of United Distillers & Vintners Engineering to celebrate 100 years at Waterloo Street, 1898 – 1998. St Magdalene Distillery closed permanently in 1983.Price guide: £500 to £700.The Glendronadch 1968 Vintage
Distillation: Distilled at Glendronach Distillery, Forgue by Huntly, Aberdeenshire in 1968.Bottling information: Glendronach 25-year-old single malt from a sherry cask 75cl. Bottled in 1993 by the proprietors.Strength: 43% vol.Presentation: Bottle contained within its original presentation.Special notes: This 1968 Vintage Glendronach was imported by Hiram Walker, Southfield, Michigan for the American market.Price guide: £120 to £150.
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