Whisky collecting is serious business
A customer once said to me: “Do you have a 1978 Port Ellen?”
Wow, that’s a very specific request, I’m thinking in my head, but politely respond with: “Unfortunately we don’t, as they are very limited and cost around £1500 a bottle… sir.”
He responded: “It’s actually worth around £1700. I have two bottles,” and then went on to order a dram that cost £5.50.
Was he actually interested in tasting this whisky or just wanting to highlight to me that he owned it? I think it was the later and, as much as I’m a whisky drinker, I really don’t blame him – he’s investing in collectible whisky, and why not?
Whisky collecting is serious business and if chosen wisely can make a very handsome investment.
Any spare cash I have never sits too long in my bank account, it’s spent on bottles. With interest rates at rock bottom I see no real advantage in keeping any money in a savings account. Collectors will often advise on buying three bottles if you can – keep one, swap one and of course drink one. I often do this myself and the one I sell helps fund the one I drink.
But what determines collectibility? It can be a whisky that has a finite supply as a result of the distillery no longer producing, such as Port Ellen, Millburn or Karuizawa. Alternatively, it can be a limited edition whisky such as Macallan Genesis or Ardbeg Committee – releases where demand always outstrips supply.
In both cases, it produces a reaction parallel to mass hysteria. The fact that the liquid might be of average quality is irrelevant. Possession of the sacred bottle is all that matters.
The police had to close the road and local school due to thousands of whisky “flippers” fighting to buy a Macallan Genesis last August. A friend of mine witnessed a man paying £500 to get in someone's car in the queue. To put that into perspective, the bottle cost £495. As mad as that seems, the first bottles fetched almost £5000 at auction.
Like all markets, there are no guarantees that these values will hold forever. I would only advise investing in whisky if you actually enjoy the liquid itself. I’ve bought whisky that didn’t increase in value like I thought but I happily cracked it open and enjoyed every last drop.
- Matt MacPherson is the owner and founder of The Malt Room in Inverness.