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Rare whisky market to break records in 2021

The rare whisky market in the UK is expected to rise by nearly 30% in value this year, surpassing all previous records, according to Rare Whisky 101.

Rare Whisky 101 founders
Andy Simpson and David Robertson, founders of Rare Whisky 101

New figures released by whisky analyst and broker Rare Whisky 101 (RW101) found that the first six months of 2021 saw nearly 85,000 bottles of single malt Scotch sold on the secondary market, with a value of more than £36 million (US$49.6m).

As such, the analyst expects the market to reach 172,500 bottles this year, a rise of 19.88% on 2019’s record. By value, it is predicted to be worth £75m (US$104m), up by 29.97% on 2019’s record of £57,707,707 (US$79.5m).

The market was impacted by several Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020, RW101 said, resulting in a slight decrease in the number of recorded bottles of single malt sold at auction in the UK last year – down by 3.37% to 139,044 (2019: 143,895). Value dropped by 7.47% to £53,395,201 (US$73.6m) when compared with 2019 (£57.7m).

RW101 said the market witnessed a V-shaped recovery after the first lockdown was lifted in the UK. November and December 2020 set new records in terms of volume with more than 16,000 bottles of single malt sold at auction in the UK for the first time in each month. May 2021 also recorded 16,858 bottles sold.

The average price of a bottle dipped by 2.55% from £401.04 (US$553) in 2019 to £390.81 (US$539) in 2020. However, this figure rebounded to achieve a new record by the end of June 2021 – £426.58 (US$588).

Andy Simpson, co-founder of RW101, 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.

“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, he warned investors and collectors that there remains many high-value refills and counterfeit products on the market.

He continued: “We’re also seeing stress in the high-value (>£5,000) segment of the market and have seen bottles selling recently for around 50% of their 2018/2019 high points.”

Springbank retained its number one position as the Scotch most in demand for investors, followed by Rosebank and The Dalmore. However, The Macallan tumbled 17 places to the 28th spot.

The Macallan slips in value

Simpson added: “For investors, we’ve seen plenty of movement up and down the rankings. The Macallan is an interesting case in point. The brand has further extended market share over the past year, but investment values have slipped.

“In part, we believe that the sheer volume of non-age-stated releases may have confused the market, potentially leading collectors and investors to seek out other brands. However, it’s worth noting that the recent Macallan Red collection is a great example of where the brand works very well, leveraging the value of its aged stocks.”

RW101 also noted that rare whisky had regained the top spot in the Apex 1000 Index – which tracks the best performing 1,000 bottles of rare whisky – taking over from gold by 0.03%. Over the last six-and-a-half years, Scotch has grown by 225% compared to gold’s 50% rise over the same period.

Simpson also noted a rise in popularity for whiskies in the sub-£1,000 (US$1,378) segment.

However, he added: “This price point isn’t particularly well served by brand owners who have been focused on releasing the ‘most expensive’ or ‘oldest’ to attract high-net-worth buyers. We sense a genuine uplift in the number of collectors who are prepared to pay premium prices but not £20,000-plus [US$27,567] for a 50-year-old.”

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