The Whiskystats Annual Report of 2019 (I/II)

4. February 2020 | 3.3K Views | 4 Comments

In our 2019 report we document a whisky auction market which continued its strong growth in size. We also find out in what sense the market moved away from Chile and even surpassed South Africa. Here is the first part of our Whiskystats Annual Report of 2019! 

Yet another year went by and hence it is time to wrap-up the market movements we witnessed over the past twelve months. And the last year of the decade was an interesting one. On the one side the market continues its phenomenal growth as more and more bottles of whisky are traded on auctions. At the same time though, the relative price performance of many market segments struggled eye-catchingly. But first things first, so let’s have a look at the overall size of the market we track.

More and More

Guess what, 2019 was another record-breaking year when it comes to the number whiskies traded on auctions. From January to December 2019 we observed no less than 162.000 bottles changing their owner. This is 30% more than in 2018 and the biggest increase in trades since 2016, when this number went up by 40% compared to 2015! Just to put this in relation. At the beginning of the decade, in 2011, we saw little more than 20.000 bottles appearing on auctions. Now we count more than 630 thousand price observations in our whisky database.
Trades per month by January 2020 When we sum-up the prices for all those trades we get what we call the total trading volume. In 2019, we observed 70,5 million Euros being spent on whisky auctions. This equals a 37% increase compared to the 51,5 million from 2018. So on average 435 Euros were paid per bottle. Sounds rather expensive, but the median price was only 150 Euros, so 50% of all those traded bottles were cheaper than 150 Euros. This indicates that there are quite some extraordinarily expensive trades which pull the average price away from the median.
Trading volume up to 2019 The above figures suggest that we still don’t see any signs of the market growth slowing down, at least in sheer size. If the growth rate stays the same, 2020 could see more than 200 thousand bottles being traded for more than 100 million Euros. The drifting apart from the mean and median price suggest that the price difference between the top-notch bottles and the broad mass is growing too, so let’s have a closer look at that.

Gini in a Bottle

The so-called Gini-coefficient is a measure of inequality in income across a population. The higher the coefficient, the more wealth is concentrated on very few individuals. To adapt this measure to the whisky market, we simply sort the observed trades by their price and draw the line of cumulated prices. If there had been only one bottle which traded for 70,5 million Euros last year and all other bottles would have been given away for free, the curve would equal the left upper triangle. In contrast, if all the 162 thousand trades of 2019 had the same price, the curve would equal the diagonal. The share of the upper left triangle the actual curve covers is the Gini-coefficient.
Gini curves 2019 Back in 2011 the curve covered 46,34% of the upper left triangle. According to the World Bank, this equals the latest Gini-coefficient of Chile. So the inequality in price difference on the whisky auction market was about the same as the inequality in income in Chile back in 2017. From above visualization we see that the inequality in the whisky market grew over time. In 2015 the coefficient reached 60% and for 2019 we calculated a Gini-coefficient of 68,64%. So now, the inequality in prices even surpassed the inequality in income of South Africa which was at 63% and among the highest worldwide.

Median Movements

We now slowly turn our attention away from the bold mass of trades and towards relative price movements. Like in our 2018 reports, we first segment the market by the labelled age of the whiskies. For each of these age-clusters we then calculate the median price per calendar year. Obviously the prices strongly depend on the time of maturation, which is apparent by the different levels the below curves live on. In 2018, half of the 20yo to 30yo whiskies traded for less than 265 Euros. In 2019 this number increased to 280 Euros. But for all other age groups, including the 30+yo, this median price did not change or even slightly decreased in 2019!
Median Price by Age Cluster 2019 We repeat the same procedure but now group the traded whiskies by their vintage. In contrast to above age clusters we now see some significant increases in the median prices. Back in 2018, 50% of the pre-1970 vintages sold for 1.050 Euros or fewer. In 2019, it were 1.150 Euros which equals an increase of 9,5%. Median prices for 1970s vintages increased by roughly 3% and the 1990s vintages by 5,7%. The younger decades more or less staid the same. This further indicates what we have seen above, the drifting apart from the very collectable premium whiskies and the mass of bottles available on auctions.
Median Price per Vintage Cluster 2019 Obviously those changes in median prices could be caused by a different set of actual bottles that have been auctioned. That is why we make use of our Whiskystats indices, which summarize the actual changes in prizing of all whiskies. So in the upcoming second part of our 2019 Annual Report we take a look at how the market performed in the way that really matters for you as a whisky collector. Stay tuned!



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    alan scottalan scott


    Really interesting article. The Gini coefficient is a great way of looking at it. So the Whisky world is a bit like the real world. On average everyone getting richer but the lion’s share going to those at the top.
    I’ve done some analysis on age in the past but never thought about vintage as a differentiator before. Always good to learn new stuff.
    I look forward to part 2.



    Hi Alan,
    yes exactly, the difference between the top and the bottom increases. Especially when considering that we currently do not track those few ultra-premium auctions of Bonhams, Sotheby’s and the like. With them, the effect would be even more pronounced.

    alan scottalan scott

    The number of bottles and their value has been increasing over the years.
    This could be due to
    1 The same number of people buying more bottles
    2 More people buying the same number of bottles.
    3 Somewhere in between.
    Do you have any data on the number of market participants?



    Hi Alan,
    no, at the moment we do not have any information about the buyer.
    I think it is a combination of both, more people are trading more bottles on auctions.

    Best wishes,

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