With the price of rare liquor on the rise, connoisseurs and collectors are turning to scotch (Scottish whisky), bourbon (Kentucky whiskey), or Irish whiskey as the newest liquid investment. While not every bottle will bring record profits—like the 1926 Macallan whisky, sold at Sotheby’s London for $1,873,961 in 2019—collecting whisky can be a fun and potentially profitable endeavor.
Spirits accounted for 19% of the Sotheby’s auction and retail sales last year, having been at zero in 2015, 4% in 2018 and 13% in 2019.1 Within the first quarter of 2020, the Knight Frank Rare Whisky Index, compiled by sector specialist Rare Whisky 2020, reported an increase of 3% based on data compile from auction results. Within a year’s time, the same index was up 11%, and growth has been a staggering 586% looking back over the last years. By comparison, fine wine grew 127% over the same time period.2
Whether you simply enjoy a dram of single malt once in a while and want additional variety or are looking to amass an assortment of investment-grade whiskies, below are a few tips for how to start your collection.
Whisky is like wine in some respects. If you buy what you like to drink, even if your investment doesn’t pan out, you’ll still be able to enjoy your collection—by drinking it. Since whisky keeps longer than wine and will retain its same flavour over many years, if stored properly, there’s no need to rush into selling or drinking it either.
Some people will collect whisky from a favorite distillery or a particular area of production, such as Islay. Others concentrate on keepsakes from specific points in history, as liquid souvenirs. Like any type of collectible, having a theme can make your collection more valuable.
There were only forty bottles of the 1926 Macallan Fine & Rare whisky produced. When you can locate a bottle of it (which isn’t often), you could end up paying upwards of a million dollars for it. Like any collectible, whisky that is truly rare will fetch a higher price than those more commonly found on the market. As a collector, you may want to visit distilleries and look for limited editions or search out bottles from “lost” or “silent” distilleries – those that have closed and no longer producing.
It is important to do your homework before investing in whisky. You can head to duty-free shops, your local liquor shop or join a high-end club that provides exclusive tastings. A growing number of online whisky auctions may also be a good place to do research and start buying.
Compared to wine, whisky is easy to store, is more durable, and shouldn’t mature or spoil if handled and stored properly. Display your bottles upright—not on their sides, as the high-strength alcohol can degrade the cork or transfer unpleasant flavors into the liquid. Keep the bottles away from strong sunlight and temperature fluctuations. You may want to store them in their original cartons or cases, to avoid ripping or scuffing the labels, which can preserve the bottle’s value.
While your homeowner’s policy will cover your home and its contents, it wasn’t designed to fully cover your whisky collection. Consider a premium, accidental damage policy that will cover your whisky for damage, spoilage, or loss. The policy should cover your whisky anywhere in the world, whether at home or in transit and have no deductible.
1 Mercer, Chris. “Top 10: Sotheby's Lists Best-Selling Wine Estates of 2020.” Decanter, 2 Apr. 2021, www.decanter.com/wine-news/top-10-sothebys-lists-best-selling-wine-estates-of-2020-455917/.
2 Frank, Knight, and Andrew Shirley. “How Valuable Is Whiskey as an Investable Asset Class?” Knight Frank, 16 Apr. 2020, www.knightfrank.com/wealthreport/2020-04-16-how-valuable-is-whiskey-as-an-investable-asset-class.
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