Is the Rare Whisky Auction Market Flattening Out?

A new report suggests value is decreasing in fine and rare whiskies sold at auction

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby's global head of spirits, with The Macallan Adami 1926 at a recent auction.
Jonny Fowle, Sotheby's global head of spirits, with The Macallan Adami 1926 at a recent auction.

Rare whiskies are still breaking records at auctions, but the overall market for fine and one-of-a-kind brown spirits may be softening, according to a new survey by the Edinburgh financial firm Noble & Co.

“It’s not just the economy that is struggling — luxury goods and auctions have shown significant weakness recently too,” the company writes in the intro to their annual Whisky Intelligence Report. Focusing on bottles that sold at auction for values over £100 and concentrating primarily (but not exclusively) on single-malt Scotch, the firm noted that secondary market value had risen by 2% over the year to the end of September, but this marked a significant slowdown on the 6% raise that they had seen at the end of July.

This Whisky Just Broke the World Auction Record
A bottle of The Macallan 1926 fetched over $2.7 million at Sotheby’s

While prices are falling, volume is rising, so the market is pretty much staying flat. “The growth in volume is mostly happening at the cheaper end of the market in bottles selling for less than £1,000 because it is easier at auction to get hold of interesting bottles to drink,” they write. “Or it could also be the accessibility of stock for the growing number of flippers who are keen to trade and make a short-term profit.”

Some other interesting findings in the whisky auction market:

  • Growth in value has come from Campbeltown and Speyside (credit Springbank and The Macallan distilleries), while sharp falls have set in with bottles from Islay, Highlands and Lowlands.
  • The Macallan remains the top brand by both value and volume on the auction market.
  • If you’re looking for lesser-known Scotch brands increasing in value, the top three risers include Loch Lomond, Glenugie and Royal Lochnagar.

Still, if you’re worried that whisky is no longer a hot auction item, other statistics paint a glowing picture. As Decanter points out, Knight Frank’s whisky sub-index (which tracks U.K. auction prices) was up by 322% in 10 years, far outpacing other luxury investments like wine, jewelry, art, handbags and cars.


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