Whisky auction volumes decline, but prices rise

The latest Noble & Co Whisky Intelligence Report, for the first quarter of 2024, has revealed that the four largest brands in the auction market – The Macallan, Springbank, Bowmore and Ardbeg — have seen a significant decline in volumes.

“Overall in the market, volumes have fallen and although average prices are rising, we see this as largely a mix effect with fewer bottles for sale <£200,” said the report.

“Supply to the auction market has tightened, as the market has got weaker. This could be a promising sign, as sellers are trying to be rational in their approach, holding on for stronger markets.

“However, with the primary markets weak currently, new releases are easier to get a hold of in the launch channels, rather than relying on the secondary market.

“We see a need for consumer spending and confidence to turn before significant progress can be made in the auction market.”

The report, in partnership with decision intelligence firm Brainnwave said volumes at auction were down by 11% in Q4 of 2023 versus Q4 of 2022.

This is mostly being seen at the lower-priced bottles, with £100-£1,000 bottles down 11.4% and £1,000 to £10,000 down 9.4%.

“Average prices are rising but this is predominantly a mix shift due to the weakness at the lower-priced end of the market,” said the report.

“Volume declines worsened through December and January, even accounting for seasonality.

“Bottles selling between £100 and £200 were down by 20% in December 2023 vs December 2022, and 21% in January 2024 vs January 2023.

“Most of the major brands have seen significant brand declines. The Macallan noted a very strong value in the quarter due to the sale of The Macallan Valerio Adami bottle

“Our data shows that bottles that are ‘unsold’ at auction are not increasing significantly in number overall.

“This implies sellers are being more careful in putting bottles to auction in a more fragile market.

“Overall, it is clear that the macro-economic climate is weighing on the auction market. If 2024 is a year of economic recovery, this may feed through to the auction market.

“We now have 905,025 bottle sales in our dataset and over 20 million datapoints.”