Whisky Advocate

Ridiculously expensive whiskies have just about jumped the shark

September 21st, 2012

I try to be open-minded and cover all whiskies, regardless of price or category. Some of you give me a hard time for writing about whiskies you can’t afford, while others (as demonstrated in our most recent post on craft distillers making “moonshine“) complain when we cover the opposite end of the spectrum.

That’s okay. I’m a big boy. I can take it.

You can rest assured, knowing that the majority of the whiskies we write about and review are whiskies that most of you can afford. Whisky still is, after all, an affordable luxury.

Well, most whisky, that is. Even I am surprised by the proliferation–no, make that competition–by the whisky companies to see how fancy–and expensive–they can make a bottle of whisky these days. I mean, every major brand seems to have thrown their hand-blown glass, silver-lined, diamond-studded hat in the ring, including Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Macallan, Johnnie Walker, and Dalmores (plural). I’m sure there are more brands we could include here, but these are the ones that came immediately to mind.

And this craze seems to be getting more prolific. Just within the past few days I’ve been sent press releases for a 1970 Vintage Extraordinary Cask Glenrothes ($5,000), a 70 year old Gordon & MacPhail Glenlivet ($35,888 CAN), and–you better sit down–a Bowmore 1957 54 year old release which will sell for around $155,000. (I’m not picking on these three brands, specifically. They just happened to be the the most recent three. This is a industry-wide issue.)

Okay, I’ve always felt that I don’t care if a whisky company comes out with a ridiculously expensive whisky, as long as they still sell good quality, affordable whiskies for us 99.99%ers. I understand why they might want to create a fancy whisky to commemorate a special occasion, and I’m proud of those companies who tie in a charity component to it. But, it’s gotten to the point where my eyes begin to glaze over when I get a press release on a new whisky that’s priced like a car. Or house! It’s just not cool anymore–especially given the economic woes most of us still struggle with.

Careful, whisky producers. You are very close to jumping the shark. (For me, anyway.)

These older whiskies don’t need to be this expensive. It’s the packaging and marketing that drives the whisky from an affordable luxury for many of us to just display items for the very rich. Take Glenfarclas, for example. They came out with a delicious 40 year old whisky a little while ago for only about $460, not $4,600. It was packaged in their standard Glenfarclas bottle format.

Tell me about a great whisky at an affordable price. That will never go out of fashion. And I will shout it from the highest mountaintops.

No Responses to “Ridiculously expensive whiskies have just about jumped the shark”

  1. Chris says:

    Richard Paterson has been doing this for years. Dalmore is the poster child for whiskies whose absurd prices have little to do with cost. The sad thing is that I’m sure that most of these super-high priced whiskies are actually quite good, but they’re priced and treated as investments and display pieces, rather than something to be tasted and enjoyed.

    • John Hansell says:

      To be fair to Richard, he’s just creating the whisky. And it’s generally high-quality liquid. He doesn’t determine price or packaging.

      • MrTH says:

        Maybe not, but he doesn’t seem to have any qualms about going out and promoting it. And if you think he’s unconcerned with packaging and presentation, you haven’t noticed the way he dresses….

        • Jeff says:

          Well said, and when he swishes the whisky around and then throws it on the floor, I’d be handing him a mop.

  2. Joe Hyman says:

    In some respects, I can’t blame the companies producing these bottles…They see people buying up limited editions, then put them on Ebay. Speculators buy them up then auction them while they watch the retail prices escalate. If I were a CEO of a multi-national corporation, I might think our prices were too lowas well. I agree with you, John. As long as they are also putting out good whisky at reasonable prices, I don’t care if a select few pay through the nose for those bottles. Is a 1st Class plane ticket worth $5,000 while coach is $600?

  3. Brendan says:

    Thanks for this, and I agree completely, but I’d like to add that it’s not just the co$tly whiskie$ that have jumped the shark, or at least should have.

    I also get tired of hearing about some amazingly incredible new expression that is available in 3 milliliter bottles at some store in Unreachable County from 6 AM to 6:12 AM on the third Wednesday of the month. I’m being funny, of course (I hope) but it’s not much of an exaggeration.

    It’s the same reason why I no longer read Backpacker’s stories about a mind-blowing hiking trail in Australia or somewhere.

    I’m sure that it’s great, and I don’t fault anyone for writing about it – it can’t be easy to find new topics each month – but it’s not fun for me because it’s not accessible to me.

    If I’m going to Australia or I find myself visiting Unreachable County each month or I suddenly discover $5K that I can drop on whiskey, I am completely sure that I can find opportunities to do what I want in that locale.

  4. John Hansell says:

    Oh, and let me just add that I was being nice adding the words “just about” to my title.

  5. Jim Clarke says:

    Best pound for pound in the world – Powers John’s Lane. Honourable mentions to Writers Tears and Yellow Spot. All exceptional value Irish whiskeys.

  6. Paul M. says:

    “a great whisky at an affordable price” Let’s see – Ardbeg 10, Highland Park 18, Lagavulin 16, Laphroiag QTR Cask, Talasker 18, Springbank 15 of the top of my head.

    I wonder if one of those ridiculously high priced bottles that no one will ever taste just has colored water in it. The world may never know!

  7. Reasonably priced: By coincidence, I compiled a list of app. 50 whiskys under or around € 60 from suggestions by members of the maltmaniacs facebook group. Find it here: (article is in german, but the list is in universal language *g*)

  8. David says:

    Thank you for this post!

  9. NW says:

    Just a thought here, but it sounds like you are actually more fed up with press releases than whisky producers bottling some unobtainables.

    If you have an improbable cask that somehow made a journey like these have, you had better do something special with it don’t you think? I can’t imagine the uproar if word got out that something like the ’57 Bowmore was vatted into a standard 18yr.or 25yr..

    • John Hansell says:

      I would never want that. But it would be nice if they took their rare whisky and bottled it in a simpler package and charged a fraction of what they are charging so its obtainable to more people.

      • theBitterFig says:

        This is why I have insane levels of respect for Glenfarclas. No, I’m not going to go spend $450-500 dollars on their 40yo whisky. However, it’s at a price where I can realistically imagine that I could. I roll the thought of buying myself a bottle for an important birthday, or being able to give it as a gift, or so forth. Anything in the $2000 plus range? I know I’m not going to make so much money I’ll be able to afford that. The aspirational aspects start to fail once we know we’re never going to be able to buy it.

        And you know what? That makes me want to go out and buy regular Glenfarclas whiskies much more than these multi-thousand dollar bottles make me interested in buying Bowmore or Dalmore or Macallan.

  10. BJ says:

    One word – Glenfarclas

  11. Kyle says:

    Nice little article there John.

    After only collecting for about a year and a half, I’ve already spent about 12g on whisky and I’ve got 140 bottles so I guess that’s about an affordable average $85 per bottle.

    I definately think, like you, that these bottles are creeping up to the beyond ridiculous price however I am in the category of “if I win lotto the first thing I’ll be doing is going out and buying Ardbeg Double Barrel”…..

    As for affordable great scotch, my favorite is Benriach Curiositos 10 yo and I’ve recently fallen in lvoe with the new series of Islay grown barley Whisky’s from Bruichladdich. Both of these wont set you back more than 35 pounds.

  12. These bottlings are doing what they were made to do. Create attention. People talk about it, bloggers write about them. My facebook wall is getting flooded with photos of these bottlings, same is my blog list. Some are in disgust, some are in awe. I think end of the day this is very clever marketing

    How much do we talk about whiskybroker releasing 40 something whisky at 50£’s, or whiskybase selling a 50yo grain at 160€ ?

    This doesn’t create any talk in town at all (almost not at all)

    As long as we talk about it this much, it will continue to happen


  13. I agree with Steffen here. These bottles are made to be talked and written about. In a way it would be better to just ignore them, but then, being a blogger myself I have to say that this is next to impossible.

    As long as there are people it there like Mahesh Patel who will pay literally any price for a good bottle of whisky and even makes this public, the companies will continue to offer their treats to them.

    And don’t forget that some of the most ludicrous prices are demanded (and paid!) for charity bottles. This is where the distillery can say: “You think we are greedy? Not at all, we are generous, we are dontaing all that money.”

    It’s all a very clever marketing stunt. But if overdone it can backfire as John suggested. Dalmore may be the first victim. They are just trying too hard since their owner really needs any penny he can queeze out of the company.

    • John Hansell says:

      If bloggers and writers actually said how they really feel, rather than regurgitating the press release in the hopes of getting a tiny review sample, then maybe the distillers and marketers will listen. And maybe they will change their ways–especially of enough of us take a stand.

      • I am not sure if this wold really change so much. Aren’t these ‘luxury’ bottles mainly marketed to the ‘oligarchs’, the stinky rich that WANT to buy expensive stuff.? The more expensive the better, the ‘rarer’ the better, the older the better.

        I don’t think many of these people read whisky blogs or are subscribers of Whisky Advocate. The press releases for these bottles make ther way into glamour or luxury magazines and websites, and here they are most likely to meet their victi….. err… target audience. I am being cynical now, but as long as whisky companies can sell such bottles for such prices, they won’t care too much about whisky writers preaching to the converted.

        • John Hansell says:

          This post wasn’t meant for the super rich, nor was it to preach to the converted. It was meant for the the people who make and market these products. And trust me, many of them do read this blog–and other legitimate whisky media sources.

      • Bob Siddoway says:

        Of course, though, as you said most bloggers will be reluctant to say how they really feel for fear of putting off the PR reps who send them free whisky samples. For many, those samples are really the only way they’d ever have a reasonable chance to try some of those.

        It’s a vicious circle, really, but it’s still working as a marketing technique. This is the same as why a company like Ford puts out their GT supercar. It’s not to sell GT’s, it’s to sell more Tauruses and compact cars.

  14. Keith Sexton says:

    Long live Old Pulteney!

  15. David D says:

    As long as we continue to wear pants we need some way of knowing whose is bigger.

  16. Rick Duff says:

    Can’t agree with you more John.
    I have already been pushed too far.

    I go so sick of the hype and soaring prices I simply have STOPPED buying whisky and am dedicated to drink what I already have.
    I just hope this is a cycle and we get out of it soon.

    Companies – I CAN live without your latest, greatest.

  17. Jim Clarke says:

    I’ve been told more than once by people who ought to know that many of these whiskies end up in the Gulf and Eastern Europe where they are used as a form of bribery currency. IE One would lose face in such cultures to offer actual cash to get a deal or favour done, but the ‘gift’ of an exceedingly valuable bottle of status symbol spirits is seen as an acceptable baksheesh at the top end. I’ve heard that such whiskeys can end up going from hand to hand, like unwanted Christmas presents, many times without ever being opened, especially among Arabs, where obviously religion precludes most of them from drinking at all. It may be that the target market for such whiskies is not whiskey-loving billionaires at all, but corporate execs looking to grease the wheels in certain parts of the world to get a deal struck,

  18. Brad says:

    It’s all relative…..We all (perhaps should) aspire for that bigger house, newer car, better paid job, more extravagant whisky… If all whiskies were “available to the masses” then there would be a distinct mediocre feel about the whole world of whiskey… I think it’s a mistake Glenfarclas pricing their 40 YO that low – do they know something we don’t? Or is it good but just not great…. The Bowmore you mention – I’ve just read that the first two bottles are being auctioned off for charity…. why don’t you mention this? It’s relative…
    I can’t afford such extravagant things but I can dream and anyway “I try to be open-minded and cover all whiskies, regardless of price or category”

    • John Hansell says:

      Regarding Glenfarclas 40 pricing: yeah, God forbid Brad that true whisky-lovers get to actually taste and enjoy a delicious 40 year old whisky. And it is delicious. They just didn’t spend all the money on packaging to jack up the price several fold.

      And I did mention in my post, in general terms, that I appreciate the charity aspect of distillers across the board who donate some for charity. And there are many who do this–too many to single out individually–which is why I made the general statement. I’m glad Bowmore is donating the first two of the twelve to charity. And, at over $155,000 per bottle, that still leaves them over $1.5M in sales for the other ten.

  19. H.diaz says:

    It’s about time Bowmore made some news with their whiskies, even something this outrageous. You hardly read about them anymore. Suntory should treat this much ignored brand much better.

  20. Gary Gillman says:

    I would argue that very often, the best use of very old whisky is precisely to vat it into one that is younger.


  21. Jeff says:

    I am glad to see the magazine make a comment and take a stand on this issue, and I give it full credit for doing so. I do see it as a bit of a course correction from its previous take, and I have to wonder if that previous take was one of the reasons for the constant stream of press releases about prestige bottlings.

    “If bloggers and writers actually said how they really feel, rather than regurgitating the press release in the hopes of getting a tiny review sample, then maybe the distillers and marketers will listen.” How true. But I’m still waiting to read the review, anywhere, which says: “97/100 – 54 years old, impeccable casking and aging, a simply brilliant example of the distiller’s art from a classic age – but $150,000? – these people are totally out of their minds. I was born on a Tuesday, but not the last one.”

    As Chris has said here, and I have commented elsewhere, these products are not being bottled or priced as drinkable whisky, but as investments and display pieces – neither of which, it could be argued, falls within the traditional purview of the magazine. I have no doubt that they are fine whiskies (they ought to be!), but they have, quite intentionally, been priced beyond the reach of the great majority of the readership, who, I think, have an interest in whisky as a subjective pleasure rather than as an objective business venture. Bottles for charity are a slightly different matter, but, once again, the focus is on something other than the value of the product as drinkable whisky.

    If, John, your blog is a shot across the bow of distillers to make them aware that, if these Imperial bottlings have no clothes in terms of pricing, they are now in danger of being called naked, so be it and I am proud of the magazine for doing so. I have never resented the bottlings themselves, or their unaffordability to me, only the industry’s disproportionate preoccupation with them at the cost of less attention paid to bottles that more people would actually buy, open and enjoy.

  22. John Hansell says:

    BTW, as I note in post above, I don’t mean to specifically pick on these three brands (Bowmore, G&M, Glenrothes). They just happened to be the most recent ones. No doubt, there will be more before the year is out.

  23. Richard says:

    Enjoyed your article.
    I’m saving up to get a subscription to your magazine
    I thought it was interesting that you mentioned Glenfarclas. I’d like to buy a bottle of that, not sure which one, cause all the reviews on your website appear to be family casks or high priced versions.
    Do you have any reviews of the regular bottlings?

  24. jazz lover says:

    Go for the 15 yr.

    • Richard says:

      While I have considerable respect for John I was hoping for a response acknowledging that these high priced bottles, while not putting his mag in the same league as Cigar Aficionado, does provide extensive foder for publication. It seemed to be hipicritical.

      • John Hansell says:

        I think that the 15 yr. or 17 yr. is the sweet spot for Glenfarclas. Great stuff and not overly expensive.

        Richard, like I said in my original post, it is our responsibility to review all whiskies, regardless of price or style, with emphasis on new releases because those are the whiskies our readers are most interested in hearing about. I really don’t have a clue what you mean about being hypocritcal. Perhaps you can be a little more specific? Finally, Whisky Advocate is nothing like Cigar Aficionado–and never will be. I really don’t understand the point you’re trying to make.

        • Richard says:

          Ok, I’ve reread your article, checked around the website, and still stand by by opinion.
          The article gave me the impression, humble as it is 😉 , that you were glad to write about these whiskys while still chastising the distilleries for producing them. i.e. your ” jump the shark” comment. I doubt that any of these companies would discard their roots upon discovering an ancient cask within their warehouse. Oban (i have no affiliation) recently discovered an old cask of theirs in another warehouse. I expect they will continue to produce the 14 yr old.
          I thought your commentary didn’t seem to hold true to the higher standard of commentary that I am used to on your blog.
          Glenfarclas (I have no affiliation) produces several respectable whiskys yet the only reviews you have (or that I can find) are all for the high priced, dare I say high quality, bottles.
          A search for inexpensive whiskys, those under $50 indicated over 25 that had the price as $0.00 but the fine print indicated a price of $200 or that the price was per 375 litres.
          The feeling I am left with is that you would rather review and comment on the high priced stuff. Hey, I know I would! But I don’t think you should sound like it grieves you to do so.

          • John Hansell says:

            Richard, I have several points to make here.

            First, thanks for letting us know about the whiskies with the “$0.00” price tag. We changed systems in our on-line Buying Guide recently and there are a few glitches we are working out.

            Second, you asked for a good affordable Glenfarclas and I (and one other person) answered you. in fact, I offered two choices.

            Third, we review whiskies from all categories and all prices. Not doing so would be discriminatory, and then you (or someone else) would be accusing me of that. But, when I notice something, or a trend, that’s seems wrong, or is beginning to bother me–like this new race to produce the most expensive whisky possible–then I am going to bring it to people’s attention. It is completely separate from our whisky reviews, so please do not accuse me of something I am not.

            Finally, as Ian ponts out below, these ridiculously priced whiskies drag all other prices upwards, which is why you are having difficulty finding a really good single malt for under $50 reiewed in our Buying Guide. I just went to my local liquor store and the only single malts under $50 were Glemorangie 10 yr., Glenlivet 12 yr, McClellends, and Laphroaig 10 yr. (barely). Your Oban 14 yr. was $75. Macallan 18 yr. was $175. We are on the same side here, Richard. It’s not my fault the whisky producer keep jacking up their prices. We review the whiskies they release and the prices they chose to charge, whether we like it or not. We’re just doing our job.

            Which brings me back to why I wrote this blog post. No, I am not going to change how a whisky company does their business. I am not that important. No one is. But, if enough of us start speaking our conscience–and with our wallets–then maybe we can effect change.

          • Jeff says:

            As Richard mentions with Glenfarclas, I also, some time ago, found “holes” in the Buying Guide reviews; inexpensive, but common, benchmark scotch whiskies which had not been covered. I contacted the magazine about it, and, to its considerable credit, a great number of these “holes” were filled in just the next couple of issues. I thanked John and the staff for that concerted effort, and do so again. It was, and is, appreciated.

            I find Richard’s comment about distilleries “discarding their roots” interesting. I would never ask them to do so, but I question whether the only way to “honour” a whisky of 50-years plus is to put it in limited-edition crystal decanters, set an outrageous price upon it, and issue a press release. (And how problematic that would now be for Macallan – and I certainly have no affiliation – now that the distillery has discovered that it’s colour, and not age, that matters; they would have to hope the ancient cask is very dark indeed).

            Silence indicates consent, and to say nothing about this kind of outrageous pricing, particularly when it’s the whisky’s most prominent feature, gives it a tacit stamp of approval. It’s my view that, if these prestige bottlings insist on being reviewed as drinkable whisky, rather than as investments or collector’s items, then, sooner or later, someone will, and should, haul off and simply call them what they are: a vastly overpriced confidence game. It’s true that will put some fingers in some eyes, especially the first time, but if such a comment is not required, or would be unfair, then all an impartial reviewer has to do is to tell me that a bottle costing $100,000 is worth every consumable drop, and I’ll take their word for it. Perhaps one way to handle it would be to create a regular “Collector’s Corner” feature, which would allow for these bottles to be reviewed while still acknowledging their separate, predominantly collectible, status.

            As for how the magazine will treat these bottlings in the future, only John and the staff can say. A shot across the bow has been fired. But as someone, I think Lord Nelson, said: “a shot across the bow may draw their attention, but one amidships will definitely do the job.”

          • Ian Buxton says:

            “someone will, and should, haul off and simply call them what they are: a vastly overpriced confidence game”
            I believe – in a smal way at least – a number of us already have.

          • Jeff says:

            True, Ian, but “in a small way” is exactly the problem; to date, that’s the only way it has been done. What might be necessary is to simply say “The Emperor has no clothes” in a high-profile review, as mentioned in my first post — that’s where fingers go in eyes and relationships are tested.

            I’m willing to go out on a limb and say, without tasting the whisky, that the price of a bottle costing $100,000 cannot be justified by the quality of the contents alone. I hereby challenge any expert to tell me otherwise.

        • Richard says:

          Glad to hear you are meeting with Cigar Aficionado.

  25. Ian Buxton says:

    Two problems with this trend. 1. It positions whisky as a status driven luxury category, thus denying its roots and heritage. 2. It drags all other pricing upwards and as such is dangerously inflationary. You may think such pricing is irrelevant to everyday drinking but it is representative of an insidious trend.

    Far too much of the final retail price is consumed in packaging (remember everyone in the chain is applying a % margin to their cost) not whisky. If it isn’t going to be drunk then it has neither soul nor meaning and might as well be cold tea!

    See my previous posts here on “investment grade” whisky and report on Dalmore Constellation launch.

    • Jeff says:

      Having just read your article about Dalmore Constellation series, I certainly do feel sheepish; you said as much there as anyone, and first. I salute you for your nerve.

  26. Red_Arremer says:

    The ultra expensive whisky is a reminder of the global economic direction. The middle class is shrinking, while the distance between the wealthiest and poorest is growing to proportions not seen since the middle ages.

  27. John W says:

    I also want to applaud John for sending this warning shot. I agree that this ultra luxury trend is getting totally absurd (and commonplace) and is inflating whisky prices beyond reason. Very basic and standard bottlings are moving into the luxury domain. Sure, there may be growing demand still—but let’s not hype the product on image, marketing and publicity stunts only. It will backfire some day.

    What’s also striking is the growing ages of these ultra deluxe bottlings. To quote the legendary Italian bottler Silvano Samaroli: “Great malts can’t mature in wood for more than 25 or 30 years. After this, they lose body and structure…..” I wonder what these ultra whiskies would score in a blind tasting? And I also wonder who will bring out the first 100 year old? At the same time we have louder chatter from some industry quarters promoting NAS and how it’s not about age at all! It’s becoming a circus.

    Thank goodness there are still a number of distilleries coming up with good quality/no BS stuff with reasonable prices. But also these must feel increased pressure to cash in on this craze.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      I appreciate your comment about whisky marketing becoming a “circus,” John. It is an absurd spectacle. But where a circus is calculated to satisfy our craving for absurdity, whisky marketing is *real* absurdity in action and makes us long for something rational.

    • Jeff says:

      Good point, John W, about the limits of improvement by cask aging – would a “Century Edition” really be good whisky, much less something worth $100,000? The NAS trend defense (hey, they’re just as good, because aging is overrated) is one of the most illogical and hypocritical thought reversals ever attempted by the whisky industry – it’s almost something out of Orwell’s 1984. The chemistry and physics of oak cask maturation don’t change simply because your bottom line needs and lift and you need to sell younger stocks while maintaining current prices. And then, of course, age statement expressions will become “premium” for the “discerning customer who wants a traditional assurance of quality”.

    • Mark S says:

      Your comment reminded me of John’s post on Macallan’s new line of NAS whiskies meant to replace the fine oak series – talk about hypocrisy. There’s a company talking out of both sides of their mouth. On one hand you’ve got the new NAS series (based on colour was it?), that they’ve created in order to justify the selling of younger whisky. But on the other hand, they charge exuberant prices for what they must consider their premium product; which is, of course, focused on the age of the whisky (with some lovely packaging thrown in). Apparently you can have your cake and eat it too.

  28. B.J. Reed says:

    We talk her about the upward price pressure of high end whiskies but I would argue you also see variation among distilleries in how that price pressure affects their range of whiskies – I have felt for sometime that certain distillery bottlings across a range of ages are overpriced relative to others. Now, I have not done a comparison but I suspect that if we stacked Macallan and its various age ranges against Glenfarclas we would find that Glenfarclas would be comparatively less expensive – Someone do the homework and prove me right or wrong! 🙂

    That is not to say that Macallan is not an very good whisky, it just means that when I look for a solid 12,15,18 or 21 YO I often go with the distillery that comparatively gives me a better return if the quality of the whisky is equivalent.

    The other trend to this point about price pressure is that distilleries have relaunched their whisky range and raised their prices across the board for, what I consider, basically the same product – Dalmore has done this and so has Glenmorangie. I am sure that Richard Patterson would challenge me as to whether the old 12 YO was the same as the new 12 YO we can quibble about whether the Old 12 YO Sherry finished GlenMo is of the same quality as the LaSanta but I can guarantee you the LaSanta is more expensive that its older brother.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      The new Dalmore 12 is a disgrace, BJ– They raised the price and dropped the proof 3%. The trend of rebranding and raising prices may not be all pervasive, but it does seem limitless at the moment. Think of how Edrington dropped the proof on (I think it was) HP 25 and left the price the same without even bothering to rebrand it.

  29. H. Diaz says:

    This reminds me a little of Dewars Signature Deluxe Blend with its good looking wood packaging. How much did this packaging add to its price? Who knows? But when it hit the shelves here in Central Texas it was priced well over $200. This my Bowmore 54 y/o.

    Now you can pick one up for $80. It’s priced at less than buy one get one free when compared to the original price. I picked up two, one as a gift.

    I’m guessing they weren’t selling at $200+ and needed to slash its price significantly in order to move them. This tells me that if consumers do not shell out for uber priced whiskies, even with their fancy packaging and hyped up marketing, the brands will be forced to lower prices on their self-proclaimed deluxe whiskies.

  30. TheMandarin says:

    Cheers for a terrific thread.

  31. Ian Buxton says:

    I agree. Signature at $80? It’s a steal. Fill your boots because that can’t last!

  32. Ed Swafford says:

    I agree. Under $90 is my limit. At age 72, I’ve tasted some of the worst and best growing up. Went to single malt while in the Air Force in Paris(59/64).
    Learned about Armagnac also. Love single barrel bourbon and rye and don’t the Irish.
    Now back to my latest ‘Whisky Advocate’ magazine.

  33. Agreed John; thank you and kudos for posting and voicing, many of us average-whisky-drinker’s sentiments. I’ve always felt that these ridiculous releases alienate me from the brand’s core range; each release slowly turns me off, and pushes me away from the brand. Unless all the money goes to charity, I turn a blind-eye, and instead pour myself a dram of a no age statement, cask strength, peat teeth-kicker!

  34. Derek says:

    I have been priviledged to have tasted some of the finest and most expensive whiskies in the universe.
    It is my observation that there is an added set of benefits that come along with the pricetag. Its not just the combination of age, strength and quality. Its more- like a work of art unfolding on your taste buds. One of the whiskies I tasted created an imaginary “mushroom cloud” like effect of flavors! Another had a totally mesmerizing taste of rich pineapple/sultanna dried fruits.
    This obviously is the art of the Master Blender who puts the right casks together to produce such a fine symphony of flavors. The problem, as stated before, is that the pricetag and availability limits the amount of drinkers who can enjoy these exquisite creations, which is sad .
    Packaging, has also added to the overall price- since a vessel “worthy of the spirit” must be created to
    hold the elixir. No equivalent of “paperback” available here!

    • Jeff says:

      “some of the finest and most expensive whiskies in the universe” – once the prices left Earth, could the hyperbole be far behind?

  35. Scotty Freebairn says:

    You did it again! It’s Johnnie Walker – not Johnny Walker. But, you are forgiven…….

  36. Hi all-John,

    This is maybe ridiculous but it’s even more ridiculous customers still continue to buy these whiskies… So we can’t blame the distilleries who produce this kind of stuff.

    I think Glenfarclas 40yo is a very good exemple of your point. You can still stick to a Lagavulin 16yo for about 100$ who will always be one of the best deal on the market. I think Glenmorangie are doing a very good job also (up to their 18yo…), but there’s only a few exemple remaining, but we are talking about good quality stuff, not old unaffordable whiskies.

    Arran really impressed me with a price range around 70$ bottle but don’t expect a 40yo bottle here… Sometimes it’s a potluck but i was surprise quite often with these distillery products.

    American whisky is till affortable, but you will need to like the style first, it may be different one from the other. A Rittenhouse Rye 25yo for 140$… nice.

    The best value ratio taste-experience-age-affortable for me is Grain whiskies. I’ve tried a few 40 to 45 y.o. grain whiskies and they are quite affortable, not always easy to find but you may be surprised the quality you may find for such a ridiculous price. The Black Bull 40 (around 250$), Old Malt cask Garneath 40 and 42 yo for about 150$ (La Maison du Whisky – Paris) !!! What a deal.

    Compass Bos is also a very good exemple… Hedonism, Flaming heart… very nice stuff, very affordable, yummy !


  37. Dear John

    I’m responding to you post about what you describe as “Ridiculously expensive whiskies” and as you have highlighted our second (and final release) of Generations from Glenlivet 70 year old I would like to put forward an alternative view and highlight some aspects that, whilst mentioned briefly at the outset, seem to have been lost in the discussion.

    At G&M we have been laying down casks of single malt whisky since 1895 and we have a unique range of greatly aged whiskies. We have experienced a high demand for bottlings under the Generations range (so far two 70 year old single malts) from throughout the world and quite a few have been sold in the US. They are without parallel and there is no yardstick of price. If you look at other rare items, such as antiques or art, the price will reflect the rarity of the item and that’s what we have here. Comment was made about the decanter and I recall a similar comment was made when we launched the Mortlach 70 year old back in 2010 and our responded then was this is an iconic whisky and we feel it deserves to be put into an iconic shaped decanter; we are still of that view.

    Now, I could understand your view if we only offered whiskies in the Generations range but we don’t. A few years ago Malt Advocate awarded G&M with best value whiskies with our range of 8 year old whiskies in the MacPhail’s Collection range which retail about $35 – $45 and do you know something, they are still available and at the same price! Because of our policy of consistently laying down casks of whisky for maturation in top quality casks, choosing an appropriate cask type to compliment the length of maturation, we offer single malts from 8 years old to 70 years old, from every region of Scotland,in all 360 different expressions of whisky (about 130 in the US because of the requirement of 750ml bottles). You can choose which ones you want to enjoy according to your budget, but there will be one over-riding principal in all our bottlings and that’s quality; we will not release a bottling if we don’t consider it to be a good example of whisky from that particular distillery.

    I hope the above puts some balance into the discussion, but whatever view readers have I hope they enjoy a dram of quality single malt whatever their budget.

    Kind regards


    PS. I’ll be sending you some information on two new releases under our Private Collection range which are available in the US and worldwide; firstly a Ledaig 1993 finished in St Joseph wine casks for 40 months and a Balblair 1991 finished in Crozes-Hermitage wine casks again for 40 months. The retail price for the Ledaig is about $95 and the Balblair is about $150. Both are absolutely delicious whiskies!

    • John Hansell says:

      Thank you Michael for taking time to join in on the discussion and offer your perspective. (Few whisky companies are brave enough to do so, so I applaud you for this.)

      Like you said, I did mention it briefly in my original post, but it deserves repeating: what’s important is that whisky companies offer quality whiskies that are affordable to most whisky consumers. You’ve done this with the MacPhail’s 8 year old collection, and we are very grateful for this.

    • Jeff says:

      Mr. Urquhart’s point that there is “there is no yardstick of price” for many of these boutique bottlings is well taken, evidently leaving producers with few options but to arbitrarily charge exorbitant prices for limited editions in fancy decanters. I think reviewers could be of considerable assistance in this regard by consistently weighing in on the question as to whether these products are overpriced. Is Generations worth $52/ml? Is JW Diamond Jubilee worth $224/ml? You guys could really help them out on this issue.

  38. John W says:

    John, you saw this coming–I am referring the failed auctions of the two 57 Bowmore bottlings in NY and Edinburgh.

    Hopefully this is a serious reality check for the industry.

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