Springbank: Buy The Cask

Springbank: Buy The Cask

Is it time to take the money and run?
Cask ownership schemes have been widely pilloried over the years. Criticisms range from accusations that they are poor investments compared with mature bottlings, suspicions that the distillery is just looking for operating cash, the rather obscure manner to which the contracts allude to the final costs payable, and the fact that most private individuals have little use for so much identical whisky. Back in Issue 120, we had a number of Springbank cask owners from the early 1990s contact us enquiring about the best option for disposing of their cask. Back then, casks at auction were frequently left unsold and a private deal with a broker or an independent bottler was your best bet. With aged stocks becoming harder for companies to acquire and brokers’ prices climbing, the market for whole casks at auction has increased. The Springbank cask scheme closed around the Millennium. Mulberry Bank Auctions offered one in their August sale following the sale of a sister cask in Hong Kong. The hammer came down at £75,000 for the hogshead of Da Mhile Organic Springbank 1992, a resounding victory for all parties. Certainly, it made a new house record for a whisky lot at Mulberry Bank, and I hope it will tempt a few more hopeful cask owners through the doors of the auction house.\r\n\r\n

\r\nAuction Watch

\r\n\r\nBonhams, Hong Kong had a sensational auction in August with some colossal prices realised for both Scotch and Japanese whisky. A 29 bottle vertical of The Macallan 18 Years Old from 1958 – 1986 romped away with HK$420,000/£41,000, and an equal price was put on the table to achieve a record price for bottle of Macallan in Lalique 50 Years Old. Port Ellen Maltings 21 Years Old took HK$32,000/£3,120 with a good showing for other bottlings from the closed Islay distillery. The Scotch whisky results kept on coming: Bowmore 1957 38 Years Old peaked at HK$50,000/£4,880, Springbank 50 Years Old topped out at HK$75,000/£7,320, and Highland Park 1958 40 Years Old made HK$42,000/£4,100.\r\n\r\nThe Japanese whiskies countered the Scotch, delivering impressive results from most Japanese distilleries; the high tide of Karuizawa has lifted all boats. All bets were off when a flush of five Club card bottles of Hanyu Ichiro Malts won the hand with a bid of HK$180,000/£17,570, a couple of Hanyu Jokers took HK$110,000/£10,735 (no kidding), and Chichibu On The Way managed HK$5,200/£500. Suntory brands could celebrate Hakushu sherry cask 2013 making HK$26,000/£2,540, while a five bottle vertical of Yamazaki sherry wood 1982 – 1986 soared to HK$140,000/£13,660. For Nikka whisky, a precious bottle of Yoichi 1984 20 Years Old took HK$38,000/£3,700 and a Miyagikyo 1988 single cask broke HK$10,000/£975. Then Karuizawa made HK£900,000/£87,840 on one lot – a 27 bottle collection that Bonhams headlined as the Full Geisha series. Hong Kong’s whisky auction scene continues to command the best prices and attract the world’s leading collectors, trading in some wonderful bottles over the past few years.\r\n\r\nThose looking for vintage bottlings at live auction should continue to check what’s on offer at Taylor’s, Montrose. Their July sale saw some attractive bottles of Signatory Vintage Glenury Royal 14 Years Old distilled in 1978 fetching £200 a piece. A pre-Royal Warrant Laphroaig 10 Years Old hit £360, Glenmorangie Native Ross-shire 10 Years Old distilled 1980 was a steal at £160, the 2004 cask strength bottling of Ardbeg 1990 made a solid £300.\r\n\r\nThere was plenty of excitement at McTear’s as they auctioned a Black Bowmore 1964 1st edition in August for £4,800, a Brora 1972 22 Years Old Rare Malts Selection 61.1% ABV for £2,100, and a Cadenhead Springbank 1965 made an impressive £1,900.\r\n\r\n

\r\nDid You Know?

\r\n\r\nEconomically Brexit may be contributing to the recent surge in online whisky auction prices. The devaluation of the pound from $1.50 to $1.30 has helped boost the final sale prices achieved for UK sellers, but disadvantaged UK buyers by making them less competitive. Look at Highland Park 40 Years Old for example: at Scotch Whisky Auctions in May (pre-Brexit), it made £1,500, but in their 65th auction in September (post-Brexit), it made £1,900. Now, for UK sellers, that’s a 27 per cent increase in value if it’s rising by £100 a month. However, if you adjust for those pre- and post-Brexit rates, then a US buyer would only have paid 10 per cent more dollars than the price in May. So UK collectors, it’s time to sell, sell, sell.\r\n
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