Collecting Whisky

   

Why collect?

What to collect?

Is it worth anything?

Some individual case studies

 

 
 

In this section of Whisky Emporium I will try to answer the three questions which I am most often asked and which are usually followed by a healthy debate about the merits of collecting as opposed to drinking whisky. Firstly, I must define what is a collection in this respect? Well, my idea of a collection is something purchased with a view to being an investment for the future and not just a number of bottles being stored until the time comes to drink them. To me, this is more an inventory than a collection, even though the bottles may be very valuable.

So, now on to those three very important questions:

 
   

1. Why Collect?

 

 
 

Many of us are, by nature, collectors. We love to acquire, hoard and strive for that ultimate set or collection. It is similar with whisky, some people collect as many bottlings as possible from only one distillery, or specific series of bottlings (Macallan 18y classics, Flora & Fauna series & Rare Malts series are just three examples of many), or people may decide to collect bottlings from only closed distilleries. Usually, without monetary value in mind, people specialise in bottlings from only their favourite distillery. The list of possibilities is endless and I am never too surprised when I come across a new whisky collector specialising in something different, but they are all collections and, if you are lucky, ones which may even prove to be a good future investment as their values increase over the years.

So, is it possible to ensure that your collection increases in value? Of course there are no fixed guarantees, but if you are careful with your choices, then there is a pretty good chance that you can tailor your collection to maximise its potential, but beware; whisky should never be considered a short term investment as the best, or indeed any positive results are usually achieved when taking a long term view of 8-10 years, or even more!

 
 

2. What to Collect?

 
 

Collectable or Drinkable? Of course, all whiskies are drinkable and many people choose never to collect whisky other than as their drinking supply, awaiting the day it will be opened and savoured. But, for those looking to collect whisky with one eye on potential future investment value, what exactly does one look for?

I believe that collectible whiskies can be defined or categorised as "limited special editions", "closed distilleries" & "older, superceded presentations"

Let's examine these three options:

 
 

1. Limited, special editions

Many distilleries occasionally produce limited editions, anniversary or annual bottlings and commemorative bottlings for special events. These are often highly collectible as they are by nature, limited in their production.

But how do we know they are limited? What do we look for?

  • Individual bottle numbers and number produced. Preferably less than 2000

  • Single Cask bottlings also individually numbered with stated cask number

Some typical examples shown on this page:

 

 
   
  • The Macallan 18 year old series – no longer produced as dated bottlings!
  • Hazelburn Edition 1 – Three different labels, only 1700 of each produced!
  • Glenmorangie Single Cask, dated and numbered wood finishes.
  • Macallan Private Eye
  • Horae Solaris and the extremely rare
  • Solar Eclipse with only 16 individually numbered bottles world-wide!
 
 

A word of caution! Some distilleries enjoy periods of being 'in vogue' where it may seem that no matter what editions they bottle, people want to buy them just because it is from that distillery. This does not necessarily ensure that the distillery will remain so popular with the public in future years, however, when distilleries are in 'in vogue', rare and limited bottlings can command higher prices, so choose your times to buy and sell carefully.

I am not saying that the editions highlighted in these pages are the only ones to buy, or even certainties, but they are guidelines and examples to show you what typical attributes to look for.

 
 

2. Closed distilleries

Many once thriving Scottish distilleries have in recent years been closed. Some, totally demolished and the sites redeveloped. However, as the whisky takes many years to mature in oak casks, their products may still be available at the moment, but in some cases, not for too much longer and, as these brands may never be produced again, they are potentially collectible today and many promise great potential for future investment.

 

 
   

Typical examples which can still be found and which should be considered for your collections whilst they are still available, include:

  • Rosebank (A selection of which are shown here)
  • Dallas Dhu
  • Port Ellen (The 'Annual Releases' hold good future potential).
  • Glen Mhor
  • Glenglassaugh (Pre-reopening)
  • Convalmore, Brora, Lochside, Pittyvaich, St. Magdalene .... plus many more
 
 

3. Older, superceded presentations and discontinued bottlings

Over time, distilleries choose to re-market and re-label their products. Although not originally considered ‘collectable’, these once standard bottlings may become more collectable as they are discontinued or even replaced by new bottles, labels and packaging. Some good examples are the old Ardbeg 10 years (Black Label), the now discontinued Ardbeg 17, 1975 & 1977 and an old Dufftown Glenlivet from the 1980’s

Within the last 1-2 years many distilleries have changed, or modernised, their presentations and I am sure that some may be good potential investments for the longer term future. These distilleries include; Ardbeg, Auchentoshan, Balblair, Benriach, Bowmore, Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Highland Park & Macallan

 

 
 

Anoher word of caution! It is in this area of changed presentations and discontinued bottlings where the popularity, or the fact that a particular distillery is enjoying a period of being 'in vogue' that values are possibly affected the most. For example, at the time of writing Ardbeg is enjoying massive popularity and Rosebank are always being 'tipped' for future potential but haven't really been promoted to the top league as yet, whereas some bottlings like the (pictured) Dufftown Glenlivet are now rare and great whiskies, but not so sought after!

At the end of the day, it will always be a gamble when it comes to investment, but one which is thoroughly enjoyable and, if all else fails, there is no need to discard your collection, you always have the fall-back option of drinking it!

 
 

3. Is it worth anything?

 
 

I have experience of malt whisky since the mid-1990's and have acquired extensive knowledge regarding values of many individual bottlings. If you are a collector of Scottish Malt Whisky, or if you have come across what you believe may be a rare bottle hidden in your attic, maybe I can offer my experience to help you.

Just send me an e-mail with full details of your bottle, preferably including a picture and if I can help, I will do. This service is free of charge.

 

 

 

All collections should be insured. What's yours worth?

 
 

     

 

 

 

Some individual case studies of particularly interesting editions

 
 

Study 1: Macallan “Private Eye”

To celebrate the 35th Anniversary of “Private Eye” magazine in 1996, Macallan released a limited edition, special bottling featuring an enamelled label designed by the famous Private Eye cartoonist Ralph Steadman.

Including Cask No. 1580, Bonded in 1961 and limited to 5000 individually numbered bottles, this commemorative Macallan continues to impress at auction and increase or hold value.

 
   

Original price in 1996 €40

Price quoted by Macallan, Oct. 2004 €360
Price achieved in auction, Dec. 2005 €450
Price quoted by Macallan, Feb. 2006 €520
Price achieved in auction, Mar. 2008 €710
Price achieved in auction, Apr. 2009 €695
 

 

   

Study 2

Springbank 1966

‘Local Barley’

   
 

Officially established in 1828 in Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre, Sprinbank remains a family run distillery which adheres to traditional methods of distilling. The Springbank 1966 ‘Local Barley’ is a highly acclaimed distillation made from locally grown barley. Various casks were filled with this spirit and released as single cask bottlings between 1997 and 1999. Some of the cask numbers include 473, 477, 488, 499 & 502. These casks have alcoholic strengths between 52.1% vol. and 55.1% vol.

Highly collectible and superb examples of Springbank whisky, these 1966 Local Barley bottlings have proven to be excellent investments and should continue to do so.

 
   
Original issue price (cask 502, 53% vol.)  1997 €215
Price achieved in auction,   Sept. 2001 €450
Price achieved in auction,   Aug. 2004 €516
Price achieved in auction,   Feb. 2005  €590
Quoted online dealer price, May 2006 €785
Price achieved in auction,   Sept. 2008 €790
Price achieved in auction,   Apr. 2010  €695
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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