Whisky Magazine Index Year in Review 2010

Whisky Magazine Index Year in Review 2010

Jonny McCormickputs the year that was under the hammer.

Whisky Magazine Index | 04 Mar 2011 | Issue 94 | By Jonny McCormick

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There’s no two ways about it, 2010 was a thrilling year for the whisky auction market.A new record price was set for a single bottle and more whisky auctions took place, selling more bottles than ever before.Since the Whisky Magazine Index (WMI) was launched, we’ve tracked the steady growth of the market while curious whisky collectors reviewed their liquid hoard and dabbled with selling and acquiring rarities. The remarkable upward trend through 2010 was inescapable as each auction outperformed its 2009 counterpoint, in itself a year crowned by Bonham’s colossal Fulsom collection sale in three continents.Unlike other indices of financial performance that are based on value alone, the WMI combines the volume and value of sales, which adds a second dimension to the whisky secondary market. Not every whisky will attract a buyer at auction, and many still sell for the same or below their original retail prices and if too much of a particular brand or bottling appears at any one given time, prices tend to drop as the perceived scarcity is diminished in the minds of the buyers. The dominant player in 2010 was Europe where 76 per cent of the WMI eligible bottlings representing 65 per cent of total sales were made (with the U. S.selling 21 per cent of the bottles for 32 per cent of the total market and Asia selling the remaining three per cent).Last year, a notable rise in the number of bottles sold at auction without a universal rise in prices meant analytically the volume of sales was driving the WMI upwards and explains the ascension of Glenmorangie and Bruichladdich in the WMI rankings. Looking at the change in the number of WMI eligible bottles traded in 2010 from the previous year; Bruichladdich was up 104 per cent, Glenmorangie and Highland Park were both up 63 per cent, The Macallan was up 49 per cent, Bowmore up 15 per cent, Springbank nudged up seven per cent whereas trading in Ardbeg was down 11 per cent and Glenfiddich sold 20 per cent fewer bottles. If trading activity continues at the current pace with sustained growth in the newer U. S. and Asian whisky markets, then we would predict further rises over this year. It was a year when certain hard-to-find bottles in Diageo’s Rare Malts series rocketed above £500 a bottle and one can only speculate as to which bottle will be next to follow Black Bowmore above four figures in the next few years (Bowmore Bicentenary? Ardbeg Provenance? The Macallan Private Eye?) As the year passed, it was noted that more American whiskies, particularly old bourbons, were appearing more regularly at auction, though there was little evidence of a change in trading of Irish or Japanese whiskies.With increasing competition from online bidders, many bottles achieved prices well above their estimates and there were some spectacular bids with 58 individual lots across the year achieving a hammer price of £2000 or more.Thirty of these lots were Macallans, 10 were from Bowmore, four from Ardbeg with prized whiskies such as The Dalmore 50 Years Old, Glenfiddich 64 Years Old, and Springbank 1938 among some of the others. The Macallan continued its position as the world’s most collectable single malt with a dynasty of ultra premium bottles appearing at every auction, and until The Macallan 64 Years Old in Lalique: Cire Perdue expires from the WMI in November, it is unlikely that their WMI status will be threatened this year.“The impressive standing of The Macallan in the Whisky Magazine Index is testament to the recognition of the exceptional quality and distinctive character of our whiskies, the cornerstone of The Macallan’s reputation and fame since the distillery was founded back in 1824,” commented David Cox, director of fine and rare whiskies for The Macallan. “We are delighted to maintain such a position and to see continued growth in the auction arena. The overwhelming success of The Macallan 64 Years Old in Lalique: Cire Perdue, which achieved a world record auction price of $460,000 in November for the benefit of charity: water, again reflects the strength and desirability of The Macallan at auction. Much of this growth has come in recent years from the markets of Asia Pacific, where The Macallan has built a position of great strength among a younger generation of consumers.“In recent times, we have witnessed some dramatic growth in the price of rare single malt whiskies. This is driven in part by investors seeking new asset classes, particularly given the low returns from banks and volatility of share prices, and by connoisseurs who are also driving the demand for such exquisite products,” notes Cox. “We have seen a similar trend develop within the fine wine category, which rare single malt now seems to be echoing. The move by Bonham’s into this market, coupled with the wellestablished auctions by McTear’s, has also assisted in creating an upsurge in interest and prices within this market.” One of the most frequently asked questions about whisky investing is:“What whisky should I buy now that might rise in value over time?” Clearly, different collectors have different tastes and budgets, and some will follow the brands that inhabit the top of the WMI rankings, others will select individual bottlings in a series or concentrate on whiskies distilled in a particular year.While there are never any guarantees, recent bottlings that should see a rise over their retail value include the Ardbeg Lord Robertson single cask, Highland Park Earl Magnus 15 Years Old, Bowmore 1981, Port Ellen 10th release, some (but by no means all) of the 2010 Féis Ile bottles, the prodigious Kilchoman Inaugural Release and the continued popularity of the Noh Series and other bottlings of Karuizawa.
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