The fifth edition of Fine Spirits Auction was the perfect illustration of the duality of this specialist market in France. What we see evolving is a mecca for pure investors and a hotbed of opportunities for well-informed enthusiasts and budding collectors.
The September 2021 sale revealed disparities in value and bidding intensity within some categories, as well as a slight polarization of buyer profiles.
When it came to bids, the leading five spirits set themselves apart. There were fierce battles for two Japanese whiskies, two rums, and one American whiskey, closely followed in sixth place by another Japanese whisky.
Karuizawa was once again the most popular and sought-after distillery. Most of the 15 bottles of Karuizawa up for auction exceeded their top estimates. The seven highest sale prices for FSA #5 all went to bottles of Karuizawa; the distillery represented over 30% of the total value of the fifth edition, despite representing just 2.5% of the total number of lots on offer. This comes as no surprise, however, as such bottlings are far from outsiders: these are safe bets highly prized by today’s investors.
Covering 9% of all lots up for auction, the rum category generated almost 12% of the total value in bids for FSA #5. These were mainly driven by the Demerara family, with Caroni heading the pack, representing over a quarter of rum lots. Since the distillery is now closed, investors have been flocking to the brand for several years now. A clear trend is emerging in French rum, with three distilleries frequently attracting the most attention: La Favorite, Rhum J.M, and Neisson. Bally and Saint James received their highest bids for their limited bottlings and cuvées as well as vintage single casks. French rum as a category generated 27% of the value of all rums sold and represented 30% of rum lots.
Making up for less than 3% of all lots available, the American whiskey category produced 4% of the total value of bids in FSA #5. All lots in the category found a buyer. In this sale, American whiskeys reached a total of 93% of their high estimates and have cemented their place as a healthy category for both buyers and sellers, with a wide range of prices, from very accessible to very exclusive bottlings, and from collectibles to more speculative investments.
Best-sellers in FSA #5 by value and category:
Karuizawa 29 Years Number One Drinks Bourbon Cask No. 8897 Speciality Drinks
Karuizawa 1967 Number One Drinks Cask no. 6426 – bottled 2009 LMDW
Versailles 9 Years 1998 Velier Full Proof Barrels VSG – bottled in 2007
Pappy Van Winkle’s 20 years Family Reserve
- Taylor Barrel Proof Uncut & Unfiltered 1st and Only (67.7°)
INVESTORS vs. COLLECTORS: lots & profiles
The latest sale was representative of the different positions, profiles, motivations, and objectives we observe on the platform during Fine Spirits Auction sales.
Although sellers’ motivations are clear—to sell bottles and stock at the best prices—buyers’ motivations are more varied. Bottles are purchased either to enjoy, gift, as part of a collection, or as an investment. Collecting and investing in bottles often ultimately has the same goal: resale. Collectors tend to think in the long term, whereas investors are generally more focused on the short term. Collecting also offers the possibility of tasting or gifting the bottle at any moment. A clear emotional aspect—or at least a material or sensory interest (flavours and aromas that reflect an era of production)—is associated with such purchases. There is also a lot of interplay between these different objectives. It is, for example, fairly common for consumers to become collectors before, due to the increased value of their bottles, investors. The reverse is rarer.
Overall, among the very comprehensive selection of bottles up for auction in FSA #5 (more than 650 lots in total), buyers were able to find a wealth of opportunities matching their profile.