The seventh and final edition of Fine Spirits Auction in 2021 came to a close on Friday, 10 December, marking a stunning end to the platform’s first year of existence.
The omnipresence and success of contemporary bottlings in this latest edition leaves no doubt as to the trends set to drive the spirits market in 2022!
In both the whisky and rum categories, time has unquestionably lost its sacrosanct position as king of the collectables market. In the past, bottles were only really considered rare or collectable some five or even ten years following their release. After the 2008 crisis, however, things began to change, and a new wealthy and demanding international clientèle arrived, creating sudden high demand for premium and super premium single malts. Among other things, this led producers to reassess the concept of age as a gauge of quality. Hoping to free themselves from a guarantee that was now a constraint on their development, they joined a more widespread and international movement of rejuvenation that not only led to changes in client profiles and production facilities but also saw the emergence of new producer regions promoting limited editions with no age statements—in most cases at much higher prices.
Against all expectations, it was Japan—a country steeped in tradition—that led the first wave, putting an end to the value of time as a benchmark of quality and creating a new momentum for rare bottles from distilleries old and new. The same movement then swept simultaneously to Scotland—Islay especially (Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, Octomore, etc.)—Kentucky (Blanton’s, The Antique Collection, etc.) and, more recently and much more subtly, to the world of rum, Demerara Rums in particular.
FSA closed its first year with a perfect reflection of these developments and the frenzy of the collectors market for certain distilleries, ranges and bottlers. A generational split has also emerged. Some bottles, considered perhaps too rare or too dated, now appeal to only a minority of bidders and are no longer guaranteed a higher price. It seems they are failing to find a market among a new generation of bidders whose attention is focused on contemporary categories.
Might this generational split lead French whisky to become the new El Dorado for collectors in the coming years?
JAPANESE WHISKY: representing just 13% of lots, Japanese whisky was responsible for 39% of all sales. Although Japanese whisky’s presence remains in line with our last auction, the quality of the lots available led the category’s value to double in this edition.
Unsurprisingly, Hanyu and Karuizawa attracted the highest prices. Karuizawa 1981 notably fetched an average of €7,670 this month versus €4,366 in April. With a less spectacular but just as notable increase, Karuizawa 1977 Ama Fisher Girl (Cask #7026) went for €10,738, versus €9,086 in April.
For Nikka, vintage bottlings and single casks from Yoichi and Miyagikyo continue to make very clear progress compared with the start of the year. But they still fetch less (for equivalent vintages) than their competitors. Nikka nonetheless offers some great opportunities.
Despite all lots having a reserve price (which can sometimes be a hindrance to bids), only 8% failed to find a home, a testament to the category’s dynamism.
CARONI & OLD DEMERARA RUMS:
If we learnt just one thing from this auction, it is that, in the paradise of sugarcane, there are rums and there are rhums. And, when it comes to distilleries and bottlers, Caroni and Velier are in a league of their own. Although potentially a hard pill to swallow, there is now no denying the split in the rum category, one that has been growing over the year and was confirmed in this latest edition. Right from the start of the auction, the die was cast. Looking at all categories as a whole, the first bids were driven by Caroni and Old Demarara rums. And the bidding battles were intense right to the last minute.
More generally, all lots in the traditional rum category were sold. All bottlings from Compagnie des Indes, That Boutique Y and Rum Nation found a buyer. Rhum Agricole was less popular this edition, with the exception of La Favorite and Neisson, both of whom flew the flag for French rum!
Interestingly, for the first time in any FSA auction, the rum category represented a quarter of the lots up for auction and a quarter of the total value generated. But there were huge disparities within the category. 69% of the lots available were from Velier (Caroni and Old Demarara Rum), representing over 90% of the value generated by the rum category as a whole.
Among the Caroni bottlings, the Employee range was the most sought-after. All high estimates were either reached or exceeded, fetching an average €2,183 per bottle. In the Old Demarara Rums range, Skeldon 1978 was hands down the leader, fetching the jaw-dropping hammer price of €17,818.
Representing 14% of lots, Islay generated only 10% of the total value for FSA#7. The category nonetheless remained one of the most stable, with only 3% of lots going unsold. It also offered lots of great opportunities for peat lovers, with Port Ellen bottles at €767 and an Elements of Islay Elixir Distillers AR11 Full Proof at €213.
TOP BIDS: other categories