The Balvenie – In Focus.
In the first of a new series of distillery specific articles, I take an in depth look at some of the iconic distilleries which attract collectors, investors and of course drinkers.
Given there’s been a raft of relatively recent rare and collectable releases from this distillery, including many Tuns, a couple of Roses and a Cooper, I thought it fitting to start this new series by taking a look at Balvenie. I’ve already been asked the question as to the collectability of the new 12 year old Single Barrel releases so we’ll come onto those a little later.
Balvenie have been an almost immovable rock within the Whisky Highland Index (the index used to ‘rate’ distilleries according to the collectability/investment potential). They finished 2010 in 3rd place, 2011 in 4th place and they finished 2012 in 4th place too. Incredible consistency, which no other distillery bar Macallan has managed to achieve. A consistency driven by the exceptional quality of their liquid coupled with single cask bottles and special releases to keep the avid fan wanting for more.
So how have The Balvenie got it so right?
Quite simply they meet the needs of every whisky fan, whatever the reason for purchase (drink/collect/invest) and whatever the budget. Simple as that…. And they do it with high quality product across the entire range. It’s no secret I’ve heavily criticised the over use of NAS (no age statement) bottles in pockets of the industry, however, Balvenie manage this well. Their NAS bottles complement, rather than dominate, their core range.
They have released special editions at prices which offer genuine value for money to drinkers and collectors alike. Last years Craftsman’s Reserve, The Cooper is a perfect example of this. A 15 year old vatting of a couple of casks, limited to 515 bottles and sold at a very realistic price of £65.
The aforementioned Tun 1401 and Rose first release both sold for £150; slightly more than the Cooper but still good prices for such limited bottles.
Balvenie are also clearly fortunate enough to have remaining stocks to enable such wonderfully aged whiskies as the recent 50 year old. Not within everyones budget, however, this is what I mean when I say Balvenie maximise their exposure in all areas of the market. From £30 a bottle to £20,000.
So let’s take a look at some of these collectable gems to see how they have performed over the last 12 months. The index below charts the progress of Balvenie Rose 1st release, Tun1401 1st release and also The Cooper.
The index starts at 100 and over the course of just 12 months increases to 265.13, showing a 165.13% increase. Even more impressively, had these bottles been purchased for their original retail prices the cost would have been £365. That value now stands at £2,250, a staggering 516% increase in value over their original release prices.
One of the things Balvenie has traditionally done very well is to release a number of older vintage single cask bottlings to complement their already impressive core offering. These precious gems range in vintage from the 1950’s to more recent 1970’s. The earlier vintages sell for thousands of pounds, such as the 1951 vintage (cask 1236, 90 bottles) which sold last year for £3,000.
Due to the rarity of these wonderful old vintages, prices should remain buoyant. Another factor to aid relative price stability and future increases is the almost obsessive provision of a desirable on going series for completionist collectors; there will always be a healthy market.
But just like any other distillery, certain bottles don’t perform as well as they are sometimes believed to. In the current market when high value bottles are becoming far more commonplace than they were just 5 years ago. The temptation is to assume what looks like an old bottle of whisky is going to be worth a small fortune. The older Cognac bottle shaped Founders Reserve is one of these bottles.
The chart below plots the progress of the Cognac bottle shaped Founders Reserve over the last 12 months (the index tracks both the 10 year old release and the NAS variant).
It’s interesting to see they moved up just 4.75% and that’s after a plunge into the red through most of 2012. While there’s clearly a market for these bottles, the reason they have not moved particularly (and they haven’t really moved much over the last two years) is simply the level of supply. They appear relatively frequently at auction which has supressed values over the short/medium term. If supply eventually starts to dry up I’d expect these bottles to see future increases in value.
Looking to current and future releases, a new range just hitting the primary market is the Single Barrel 12 year old. These are well priced single casks (around £50 a bottle) and as the first release, they should sell out relatively briskly. There’s also the continuation of the collectable series Tun1401. Batch 7 has just been announced on a travel retail exclusive basis.
Overall I see Balvenie continuing to become more collectable, with values poised for further increases. Their exceptional quality whisky and limited release programme fuels the market almost to perfection. I for one, expect them to hold onto their top five ranking like a limpet on a low tide rock.
Until next time,