Rare single malt whisky auction market in UK breaks through 100,000 bottle barrier for first time

More than 100,000 bottles of rare single malt Scotch whisky were sold at auction in the UK last year, according to a new report.

Published 8th Feb 2019
Updated 8 th Feb 2019

The secondary market has continued to grow in popularity with industry analyst Rare Whisky 101 estimating that 107,890 bottles were sold.

This is a rise of over a quarter (28.88 per cent) from 2017, while the value of collectable bottles sold at auction rose by 62.7 per cent to a record £40.7 million.

The average price per bottle also rose by over a quarter (26.24 per cent) to a record £377.91, up from  an average of £299.36 the previous year and more bottles fetched more than £10,000 in 2018.

In 2017 just 91 bottles were sold at that rate, but last year saw a 191 per cent increase to 265 bottles.

Andy Simpson, director and co-founder of Rare Whisky 101, said the secondary market "continues to outperform our expectations".

He added: "With the average bottle price increasing by around 15% from the half-year stage to year-end, we saw a rapid acceleration of activity within the last few months of the year.

"In fact more than £15.5 million of value was sold in the final quarter of 2018, more than double 2014's full year performance of £7.64 million.

"The value increase, in particular, is due in part to the two record breaking 1926 Macallan bottles selling in December.

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"While these two bottles were among the stand-out items for sale, they were by no means the exception.

"Across the board, we're seeing an increased number of valuable bottles selling for greater value than ever before resulting in phenomenal growth within the market for over £1,000 bottles."

The figures are helped in particular with the world record purchase of a bottle of the 1926 Macallan Valerio Adami in October.

Described by experts as "the Holy Grail of whisky" it sold for £848,750 at an auction in Edinburgh.

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The most expensive bottle sold in 2017 was £95,000.

Fellow co-founder of the firm David Robertson said: "While demand for rare and vintage whisky shows no signs of slowing, the fundamentals of investing in the rare whisky market remains strong.

"The UK auction market remains the biggest and most active market worldwide, and there's nothing to suggest that will change.

"As consumption continues to increase, driven by connoisseurs, collectors and investors, the stocks of rare whisky will continue to diminish, creating the ideal conditions for escalating hammer prices.

"However, with the uncertainty of Brexit hanging over us, it is extremely difficult to second guess what will happen with cross border trade and access to bottles.

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"From both a volume and value perspective, 2019 is very difficult to predict."

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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