Whisky Scotland: Figures show whisky becoming a buyers' market - as auction prices fall

Whiskystats, a business that collates whisky data analysis, recently released a comprehensive report documenting a growing disparity between retail and auction market prices for whisky

Experts have claimed the whisky market is “shifting”, as figures showed a fall in the number of bottles traded at auction worldwide for the first time in a decade.

The number of whisky bottles traded at auction houses fell by 5 per cent last year, with their cumulative hammer prices dropping sharply by 19 per cent, a report entitled ‘Has Whisky Become a Buyer’s Market?’ revealed.

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The report, which provides an in-depth analysis of whisky brand performances and trends, also showed more than 10,000 bottles had failed to meet reserve prices – 36 per cent more than in 2022.

Picture: ShutterstockPicture: Shutterstock
Picture: Shutterstock

The auction market’s three most value-losing brands were all Japanese – Chichibu (-43 per cent), Karuizawa (-36 per cent) and Yamazaki (-33 per cent). Ratings winners for 2023 were Glendronach and Port Charlotte. The 2023 releases for the two Scotch brands scored highest in Whiskybase data analysed by Whiskystats.

Johannes Moosbrugger, founder and head of data at Whiskystats, said: ”Data shows that the whisky market is shifting. Buyers’ willingness to purchase whisky at listed retail prices has dropped significantly.

"And even for whiskies that eventually sell, bottles tend to remain on shelves far longer than in the recent past. What we’re seeing in the auction market data is clear – prices are no longer reaching the peak prices of the Covid era, and there are some great bottles for sale at the lowest prices in years.”

The report found Bimber and Longmorn were the leaders in the retail-auction price gap.

Is whisky becoming a buyers market?Is whisky becoming a buyers market?
Is whisky becoming a buyers market?

Big name collector brands Ardnamurchan, Springbank and Daftmill saw prices begin to dip at retail. But Macallan had the most collector-oriented activity thanks to its secondary market dominance. Whiskystats found that Macallan is, by some margin, the world’s most auctioned whisky brand.

This was significantly driven last year by the record-breaking auction sale of The Macallan 1926, featuring the Valerio Adami label, which sold for £2.2 million. The whisky went for almost three times the pre-sale low estimate of £750,000 to £1.2m, and eclipsed the previous record of $1.9m (£1.5m). After being aged in sherry casks for six decades, just 40 bottles of The Macallan 1926 were bottled in 1986, representing the oldest Macallan whisky ever produced at that time.

The appearance of any of these bottles at auction over the years has produced extraordinary results. Across 2018 and 2019, the auction record was broken three times by three of the different variations – Sir Peter Blake, Michael Dillon, Fine & Rare.

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In contrast to the perception of Macallan, Whiskystats found Ardmore and Jura saw the biggest decline in quality perception, based on public ratings. Craigellachie was 2023’s most-improved brand, according to change in public perception.

Whiskystats also launched a first-of-its-kind ‘collector-drinker gauge’ to compare secondary market turnover to public ratings and reviews. The gauge revealed Macallan, Hibiki and Yamazaki were the most collector-oriented brands, while Ledaig, Kavalan and Glen Scotia were the most drinker-focused.



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