On paper, the first auction of the year seems to have shown a slight calming of the waters with a selection of bottlings whose results were also going to be fairly predictable. The only real doubt seemed to be over the Yamazaki 1998, something of an ‘unknown soldier’. Clearly, however, things have changed since last November and several lots literally flew off the shelves just a few minutes or seconds before the final gong. It was a nail-biting auction right to the end!
At the start of 2022, Chartreuse made an incredible entrance into the FSA family. If things continue this way, it looks set to become the fourth largest category after whisky, rum and cognac. The number of bottles available in this auction alone was almost equivalent to all the bottles up for auction in 2021 put together. More interestingly, however, the quality of the versions and their reception confirm the category’s appeal among bidders who seem to be hoping for more lots.
The Tarragona bottlings from 1973-1983 (€3,304) and 1982-1989 (€2,596) led the bids and largely exceeded high estimates. In both cases, in just four months (FSA Nov 2021), their values doubled.
Remaining split in our auctions but nonetheless dynamic due to the volume available, the cognac category played its cards right in this first edition of 2022, finding buyers for almost all its lots. Hennessy dominated across the board and remains the most popular brand with the highest average number of bids per lot. Hot on its heels came Remy Martin and its Louis XIII bottling, which remains the category leader in terms of value. Note also that this edition saw the first appearance of A.E. DOR Cognac, a development that did not go unnoticed among bidders.
With a little under a third of the volume available in our November 2021 selection, and a top bid of just €1,888 (Caroni 20 Year Old 1998 Dennis X Gopaul Employee Edition Velier) vs more than €17,700 (Skeldon 1978 Velier) in November, the rum category could look like it is slowing down as we start the year. But it’s just an optical illusion and, despite some lots going for more modest sums, many battles were as ferocious as ever.
La Favorite 2008 Cognac Cask No. 6 was the clear leader with the highest number of bids and hugely exceeded its high estimate (sold for €590). Another series that didn’t create much of a stir but still deserves close attention was Habitation Velier, with three lots fetching just over their high estimate and an average 20 bids placed on each lot.
When it came to rhum agricole, there was a little bit of a showdown between older editions of Reimonenq, Domaine de Séverin and Bologne, with bids often exceeding their upper estimates.
New heights in Japan: Japan created a buzz once again this auction.
With a very popular figure on one side, Yoichi, whose inclusion of the single cask #112112 from 1986 placed the distillery—and by extension the Nikka Whisky group—in the ranks of other cult brands like Yamazaki, Hanyu, Karuizawa, Macallan, Bowmore, Springbank, Laphroaig and Ardbeg, to name but a few. Last February, Yoichi was rightly deemed a “reservoir of value” due to its untapped potential. This single cask (421 bottles worldwide) created for the French market (La Maison du Whisky) was originally priced at €252 incl. VAT when it was first released in 2008. In this edition, it fetched €6,903.
On the other side, there was Karuizawa, with the single cask #8183 from 1969, a real game-changer for this distillery’s 1960s bottlings. A new threshold was reached in this edition with a hammer price of €23,128, despite the same vintage not reaching its high estimate of €14,160 in November last year. Bottlings from the 1960s are rare. Only one or two barrels were released from the vintages 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968 and 1969.
And the 1960 (41 bottles worldwide) launched in 2013 for €15,900 incl. VAT is now worth almost half a million euros.
Finally, a regular feature in our auctions, Suntory’s iconic blend Hibiki saw its 17 Year Old’s price rise from €448 (the consistent average for 2021) to €672. Less spectacularly but no less interestingly, Hibiki 21 Year Old also confirmed its position at an average of €885 versus €684 in the first half of 2021.
Scotland stands its ground: for once, Scotland played as a team, with an equal distribution of lots from one distillery to the next and very few bottles going unsold. This cohesion, however, reflects a slight loss of impetus for the region, which reached maturity in 1995 and has since suffered under competition from new segments and/or spirits categories. It’s too early to talk about interest waning, as Scotland’s leading distilleries and brands continue to enjoy a strong position, but things certainly seem to be slowing down, despite some bottlings doing extremely well in FSA 2022 #1, including:
Bowmore 30 Year Old Ceramic Decanter, sold for €4,248. This is a whole new level for this bottling, whose price stagnated at around €2,360 throughout 2021.
Glenfarclas 35 Year Old 1959 Sherry Cask No. 1814 Signatory Vintage, sold for €4,248. A bottling so rarely seen at auction that the price is difficult to contextualize. Note however that its sister cask #1813 went for €2,950 last November.
Bruichladdich 32 Year Old 1967 Sherry Cask No. 968 Signatory Vintage, sold for €2,800. The same goes for this Signatory Vintage sherry cask bottling from 1999, whose price has stagnated around €2,124 for the last few years.
NB : Many fans of Scottish single malts have since 2005 also been great connoisseurs of Japanese whisky and since 2015 of rum. Two categories which, with ten years between them, have breathed new life into the collection and auction market. One after the other, these two segments/categories have offered and continue to offer excellent opportunities for starting collections and generating profits in the short and medium term. It is therefore only natural that a share of these bids shift onto these new El Dorados, at least until prices balance out and the playing field levels out. Unless, of course, a new category emerges first! Let’s wait and see!