Investors toast rare Scotch whisky market amid forecast for record-breaking year

The rare whisky market is set to rebound and break all previous records this year, following a strong first-half performance, new figures suggest.

The first six months of 2021 saw nearly 85,000 bottles of single malt Scotch whisky traded on the secondary market with a total value in excess of £36 million.

Based on the current rate of growth, Rare Whisky 101 - the whisky analyst, broker and investment specialist - expects the full year to reach 172,500 of bottles traded, an increase of almost a fifth on 2019’s record (143,895 bottles), with a value of £75m, which would be up on 2019’s record £57.7m.

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The firm noted that trading in the rare whisky market had been subdued by a succession of lockdowns during 2020, mirroring other physical asset classes.

Andy Simpson and David Robertson, Rare Whisky 101. Picture: Stewart AttwoodAndy Simpson and David Robertson, Rare Whisky 101. Picture: Stewart Attwood
Andy Simpson and David Robertson, Rare Whisky 101. Picture: Stewart Attwood

The overall number of recorded bottles of single malt whisky sold at auction in the UK in 2020 fell slightly by about 3.4 per cent to 139,044, while the recorded value decreased by 7.5 per cent to some £53.4m, compared with 2019.

Rare Whisky 101 said the market had experienced a classic V-shaped recovery following the easing of the first lockdown. November and December 2020 were record breaking months from a volume perspective with both months seeing more than 16,000 bottles of single malt Scotch sold at auction in the UK for the first time (the previous record in April 2019 was 15,830 bottles). Figures for May 2021 once again raised the bar with 16,858 sold.

The average per-bottle price dipped 2.6 per cent from £401.04 in 2019 to £390.81 in 2020 and has quickly re-bounded to £426.58 as of the end of June 2021.

After two years of relatively flat growth, Rare Whisky 101’s broadest measurement of the market, the Apex1000 Index, closed the half-year 2021 up 9.06 per cent with a full-year estimate of 17.5 per cent growth in investment values.

Springbank retained its number one position from an investor’s perspective. However, The Macallan slipped 17 places to number 28.

Over an 18-month extended period, the Apex1000 Index fractionally edged ahead of gold, regaining its number one spot in Rare Whisky 101’s alternative asset rankings.

Whisky investment analyst and company co-founder Andy Simpson said: “After an inevitable dip in volume supply following the double impact of Covid-19 and Brexit, the secondary market for rare whisky is, once again, set to smash all records.

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“In our view, the pandemic has shown us that physical assets, such as whisky, have become ever more popular. When combined with a growing global consumer thirst for single malt which shows no signs of slowing, we see no reason why prices will not continue to rise for the right bottles.

“However, as is always the case, there are some watch-outs for collectors and investors. There are still some high value refills and fakes creeping into the market, so constant vigilance is required. We’re also seeing stress in the high value (£5,000-plus) segment of the market and have seen bottles selling recently for around 50 per cent of their 2018/2019 high points.”

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