Whisky Club



Whisky Bottles and Treasure Chest with Coins

Treasure Hunting Tips

Where to look? Is all that glitters gold?

Typically most buyers will look to the retail market to acquire their target trophy bottles. However, as with all things rare whisky it pays to do your research. Many iconic retailers of the past who have incredible choices, ranges and back catalogues of amazing bottles are not the only game in town!

Buying at retail

Whilst the choice may be vast our analysis suggests that buyers may not be getting the best of deals! Quickly looking at the top 100 most valuable bottles on The Whisky Exchange website on 23.5.17 and seeking to compare v recent auction prices (last 6 months so we get accurate and up to date data) we see the following over some 15 products (we could only find recent UK auction data points for 15 of the bottles):

Bottle TWE (GBP £) UK Auction (GBP £) Date Assume 10% Auction Fee (GBP £) Total Auction Cost (GBP £) Cash Saving (GBP £) % Saving
Dalmore 50 yo Crystal Decanter 30000 18600 May-17 1860 20460 9540 47%
Bowmore 1964 35 yo Sherry 15000 10051 Jan-17 1005.1 11056.1 3943.9 36%
Bowmore 1964 43 yo White 10000 6100 Feb-17 610 6710 3290 49%
Bowmore 1964 44 yo Gold 10000 6100 Feb-17 610 6710 3290 49%
Bowmore 1957 38 yo 8500 5400 Apr-17 540 5940 2560 43%
Macallan 30 yo Blue Label 5500 3300 May-17 330 3630 1870 52%
Port Ellen 1981 Islay Festival 2008 5000 2800 Feb-17 280 3080 1920 62%
Mortlach 1936 45 yo 4000 1300 Mar-17 130 1430 2570 180%
Talisker 1973 28 yo 4000 1850 Mar-17 185 2035 1965 97%
Balvenie 1966 Cask 6434 4000 1711 Mar-17 171.1 1882.1 2117.9 113%
Port Ellen 21 yo, Maltings 4000 2700 Feb-17 270 2970 1030 35%
Port Ellen 1979, 22 yo, 1st Release 3750 2500 May-17 250 2750 1000 36%
Linkwood 1938, 44 yo 3750 1000 May-17 100 1100 2650 241%
Ardbeg 1974 Provenance 3500 2500 Apr-17 250 2750 750 27%
Laphroaig 1980 27 yo 3500 2100 Mar-17 210 2310 1190 52%
Totals 114500 68012   6801.2 74813.2 39686.8 53%
Average 7633 4534   453 4988 2646 53%

In summary it suggests that you will over pay in all cases for the bottles we have been able to “benchmark”.

Buying at Auction

The collection above would cost £114,500 at The Whisky Exchange (inc VAT) and at auction (if you could find the same bottles, and they have appeared in the last 6 months, we checked) you would pay around £74,813 (inc buyers fees at 10%). This would result in a total saving of some £39,686! Enough to go and buy more super rare whisky to drink, collect or invest in.

The chart below shows the absolute savings for these “iconic trophy bottles” and suggests savings of almost £1,000 to £10,000 can be secured if you have the patience to purchase at auction.

The great thing about buying at retail is the immediacy and the control the buyer has over the price. Buying at auction is a more tricky experience where there are no guarantees that the bottle you really want is available. If it is coming up at auction are there likely to be other bidders and have you got the time to sit and watch the prices rise until you reach you max bid? Can you sneak in as the auction closes and put in one final winning bid to secure your prize? It seems to us that the huge savings available make the secondary market (auctions) well worth considering for tracking down that sought after bottle!

Looking at the percentages you could save buying at UK Auction v TWE they tend to be around the 30 to 50% mark although a few bottles can deliver massive savings – sometimes as much as nearly 250% !

Over this full collection we estimate you could save on average around 53%


Obviously, key to all of this is research. Do your homework, look at previous auction sales results – most auction houses publish results from previous auctions.

Another quick way of checking the market is to look at something like wine searcher where they list data for bottles and their prevailing prices.

And of course your can use our RW101 Valuation tool and generate data rich and insightful information.

Buying Privately - Brokerage

Finally, many bottles are sold privately from seller to buyer without anyone tracking the prices and knowing what is going on. At RW101 we can absolutely track the UK auction market data and it gives us a powerful insight into the state of the market and the dynamics on a bottle by bottle basis and we can track if brands are up or down and if market sentiment is positive or negative for that brand or bottle! This forensic detail, now covering some {{numberOfBottles}} different bottles with {{numberOfSales}} price records is the next step for creating a more professional way of understanding the rare whisky market.

We do work for a number of clients and they use our data to ensure they are selling at a fair price and/or buying at a fair price. We find the fairest way is to use our UK auction data as the “Open Market Value” or OMV and get the seller and buyer to “coalesce” around this value as a solid start point for negotiating a fair for all result!

Of course we don’t and can’t track all sales and we don’t focus on the primary retail market where brand owners and retailers are free to set the prices they choose. But what we can do is report on what the market – the buyers, be they connoisseurs, collectors or investors – choose to value these rare treasures!


Where in the world is best to go looking? Given the explosion in the UK auction market we understand that many of the bottles appearing in this channel are not just from the UK. Collections from UK, USA and Europe are being consigned to the most dynamic auction market in the world – the UK! We see more and more Japanese whiskies being consigned for sale too and many of these bottles come from Asia.

We are experiencing and enjoying a real shift in buyer behaviour and auctions are a critical part of this. In the UK we have seen the following Volume & Value explosion over recent years and there is little sign of it reversing, although we do sense a slow down in volume growth leading to a slowing of value growth for some brands/bottles.

The range, choice and availability of rare whisky at auction has never, ever been better. Happy treasure hunting!

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