Whisky Advocate

Whisky as an investment: are we in a bubble?

December 14th, 2011

The cover story for the new issue of Whisky Advocate (pictured below) is on whisky auctions and whisky collecting. We like to show both sides of a story. Ian Buxton has a feature in this issue that takes a more contrarian approach to auctions and collecting, discussing a whisky’s “soul.” Below, in this guest blog post, he goes into even more detail.

Read what he has to say below. Do you agree with him? Disagree with him? And why?

 

WHISKY  ‘INVESTMENT’

By Ian Buxton

Can one invest in whisky?  And, if yes, should you?

There’s certainly a lot of excited chatter about this right now, perhaps a measure of the troubled economic times in which we live.  The idea seems to be creeping into the popular imagination that picking the right bottle is a worthwhile, not to say near essential part of your financial planning.

We can argue about the figures.  Elsewhere I’ve taken exception to sloppy journalism and the casual quotation of potential investment gains that ignore transaction costs – and can thus never be achieved in real life.  Call me old-fashioned but I believe readers should be able to trust what they read and citing illusory and unattainable rates of return is misleading at best.

What’s more, simple common sense suggests that returns of over 100% in just two or three years are never going to be sustained in anything but a feverish bubble. When you appreciate that those figures are being most enthusiastically trumpeted by people with a vested interest, such as distillers with a brand to promote, retailers with stock to move or auction houses keen to drum up business you might just want to look twice before committing your 401(k) pot.

But there’s a more fundamental philosophical point that the money men, with their hard, cold souls don’t seem to get: if the whisky you buy is just for investment, then – since it’s never going to be opened – the bottle may as well contain cold tea.  Today whisky; tomorrow pork belly futures.

Whisky is a drink, but it is more than that.  It is a metaphor for the spirit and soul of the people and place that produced it. The distillers of Scotland express part of the austere, Calvinist personality of their land; in Kentucky (as for Rabbie Burns) “freedom and whisky gang  the’gither” and for the brave new distillers in Brittany, France it encapsulates their Breton identity and culture, even their language.

Buying and hoarding bottles like some latter-day Ebenezer Scrooge while poring over spreadsheets to measure RoI and capital growth tears out whisky’s heart and spirit; confounds its generosity and desecrates the memory, skill and craftsmanship of the people who made it. And, call me a romantic, but that’s just wrong.

If you love whisky, set it free.  Mark my words: this ‘investment’ bubble will end badly and people – and whisky – are going to get hurt.

80 Responses to “Whisky as an investment: are we in a bubble?”

  1. Rick Duff says:

    Love the article. Set the whisky free!
    Though.. any good places to just sell a bottle or two?

  2. sku says:

    First of all, kudos to John and the WA team. This was a great issue on collecting with extremely thoughtful articles.

    I absolutely agree with Ian that we are in a bubble and the people who are investing merely to make a profit are going to be sadly disappointed. Value for collections is based on scarcity and when there are this many collectors on the market, there is simply not enough scarcity. I was a kid in the ’70s and ’80s when the comic and baseball card markets became big. Everyone I knew was saving these things thinking that in 20 or 30 years we would have unbelievable treasures. Well, it didn’t pan out. For the most part, all of these collections have only mildly appreciated in value. Why? Overproduction and too many collectors. Once an item becomes known as a collectible, two things happen: (1) producers start producing with an eye toward the collectors; and (2) collectors buy and hoard. This leads to larger numbers of the product surviving, and it fails to go up in value. The trick is to get in the game before the bubble, such as those lucky folks who were collecting whisky 20 or 30 years ago.

    That being said, it seems that most of the collectors profiled in the magazine were drinkers first and collectors second. Does the pure whiskey speculator really exist? I think we might be setting up a straw man. It seems more likely that the people selling are people who have a few extra bottles in their collection or who have a valuable bottle of something they don’t want to drink. Most of the people with huge collections seem to be drinking them, even if the sell off some of the excess.

    • MrTH says:

      Exactly…when a collectible item becomes known widely as a collectible item, it’s too late to get in. Now’s the time to be getting out.

    • pat says:

      The pure speculator does exist! I recently spoke with a wealthy man (and a non-drinker) who this year began buying cases of whisky as an investment. He had read an article about whisky collecting. He paraphrased the article stating that cases of whisky from the 60′s and 70′s are fetching big money, and he believed he was getting in on the ground floor of this little-known investment opportunity.

      Like sku, I have worthless 80′s baseball card and comic book collections!

    • Ryan says:

      “Does the pure whiskey speculator really exist?”

      It appears others would argue that they do:

      http://www.liquorpress.com/2011/06/05/spirits-collecting-or-drinking/

    • A Scientist says:

      I think there are pure speculators in any market for anything, and once that market begins to “take off” they’ll start multiplying.

    • Mendy B says:

      Great points about collecting in general. I recall a High School classmate buying boxes of basketball cards to find the Shaq rookie cards and discarding the rest. I doubt those cards would be worth anything today even if he still had them.

      I do think there is turn over in the “investor market”. How many of the recent Whiskey auctions have had a Black Bowmore? It is just one investor buying from another. However, the excess from the huge collections have plenty of uncommon whiskys that are within reach for the average whisky fan.

  3. JC Skinner says:

    There will always be hot rarities which sell out and then retail in auctions and elsewhere for premia soon afterwards, I think. That’s supply and demand. But for the most part, distillers are now pricing in such premia to make the money for themselves, which is to be expected but is likely to dampen down the market. The recent Connemara Bog Oak release would have been an excellent collectable were it not priced at an eye-watering 250 euro for example.
    Fundamentally, whiskey is a little different to most other collectable markets. It cannot be properly enjoyed while remaining in storage, whereas fine art, first edition books or rare comics can be. Whiskey can only be enjoyed once its in the glass, by which time it ceases to be collectable at all.

    • Roger says:

      I do not think this is really true. I do not know what pleasure people get from collection but they do get pleasure, people may collect and not drink or collect whisky that is not even nice, loch dhu for example. people define enjoyment in different ways There is no doubt that some people get more pleasure from collecting than drinking. or equally. some who collect art do not even look at he artworks, sachi and sachi in the warehouse.
      Where can one get the bog oak please?

      v. sorry for bad grammar and typing, my hands are sore from the arthritis today.

      • JC Skinner says:

        Only in Dublin, I believe. More info here – http://www.irishwhiskeynotes.com/2011/11/connemara-bog-oak.html
        I’m sure people get some enjoyment from the knowledge of possession, as it were, but as IB says, the bottles may as well contain tea. Unlike art or literature collectables, whiskey cannot be fully enjoyed and also then sold on. That’s the crux of the matter really. Fundamentally if it can be traded like a commodity, it also serves a utilitarian purpose (though a transcendental one) too.

        • Roger says:

          Thankyou so much for the link. They want people to collect this bog oak since it is in such a nice box. It would tase the same from a milk bottle as a crystal bottle.
          Is the same bottle worth the same money to the collector if it is full of tea or full of Ardbeg? The collector mush enjoy that he has something most people cannot have, tea can be had by anyone. but as you say the drinker can enojy it in different ways.

          • JC Skinner says:

            It’s like schrodinger’s cat – it doesn’t matter to the collector/speculator if it happened to be tea or whiskey in the bottle, since he does not intend to drink it. Only when the bottle falls into the hands of a drinker and is opened does it matter. Of course, no one has yet mentioned the elephant in the living room here – speculative markets lead to fraud. How many counterfeit bottles have surfaced and will surface in the future? How many more bottles full of ‘tea’ are there out there, giving pleasure to collectors but destined to dismay a drinker at some point when the counterfeiter is long gone?

  4. bpbleus says:

    This is an old topic with, for a change, only wise words being said so far. It is helpful to realize that anything that is going up in value is, in some way, in a bubble. Bubbles differ in amplitude and time scale. The loudness of the burst goes up with the amplitude and declines as the time scale stretches. Some people proselytize the dynamics of whisky prices operate on a geological time scale, or so it seems, but the rate at which prices increase suggest that many of the very old collectors/investors among us will live to hear the burst. It’s plain math, really (but math is so uncool).

    The best thing about speculating with a whisky portfolio is that one can liquidate one’s assets in two distinct ways.

  5. A reason the bubble is going to break might be that although the market for quality whiskies are very competitive right now (at leat for some whiskies like PE11) the demand is going to break down in a few years when all the whisky geeks like me (we are are growing in numbers more than any subgroup in the whiskyworld) realsie that our buy to drink ratio is 1 to 4 :-)
    There’s probably more whisky on the shelfs of drinkers around the world that there is on the shelft of whiskyshops and collectors combined!!

    Steffen

  6. Scott says:

    “Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t end.”

    Of course it’s a bubble, but I’m less concerned about people getting hurt than the product itself. Anyone foolish enough to invest money they couldn’t afford to lose on retail product futures would have lost the money some other way, so in the end they’ll be no worse off than they’d have been anyway. But in similar collectors-market bubbles (say, baseball cards or comic books in the 1980s and 1990s), the major corporate players tend to sacrifice quality of product when chasing the bubble’s last new dollars with new brands and products. Meanwhile, just as the bubble tends to attract committed small players into the market, the crash tends to disproportionately wipe them out while leaving the big actors even more dominant than before.

  7. Ben McNeil says:

    Arggh, I have several bottles in the back of my shelf that I won’t touch. I can’t tell if it’s because they’re too rare and I need to save them for a very special occasion, or if it’s because I have unconsciously “priced” them higher than I think their taste warrants, meaning I ought to sell them instead of drink them, and use the cash to buy something else. Perhaps I just save them because they’ll impress people.

    It’s not exactly speculation, but as long as I have limited funds and distilleries keep playing to the collector mentality, I’ll keep acting like this.

  8. Jason Pyle says:

    Great discussion, and sadly I have little good information to add with regard to “investing” in whiskey. I have a great deal to add about enjoyment. It’s almost sad that these prized whiskeys get locked away somewhere to point at and say, “hey look what I have over there…..no there, just there under the dust”. I’m kidding of course to a degree, but whiskey is made for enjoyment. Ian is right on with his 5th full paragraph – lots of blood sweat and tears went into that bottle. And not for it to look pretty behind glass, but to taste wonderful IN glass.

    Drink your whiskey! That’s what it’s for. That said, I’m horrible at hoarding. I have trouble not opening my good stuff.

    • sam k says:

      Haha, ain’t it the truth! Fifteen years ago I bought three bottles of what was the first Hirsch/Michter’s bourbon release available in the state of PA (blue wax), at fifty bucks a pop. I felt stupid and somewhat insane for spending that kind of money on booze. Now it’s practically the norm. How times have changed.

      Gave one away and drank the other two. Enjoyed ‘em both immensely. Had I kept them, I’d be richer financially but poorer for not having enjoyed the contents nor had the experience. C’est la vie!

      • sku says:

        “Had I kept them, I’d be richer financially but poorer for not having enjoyed the contents nor had the experience.”

        Eloquently stated, that cuts to the heart of the matter for me.

      • MrTH says:

        Yes…a bottle of whisky is an experience, not a possession. Or so I keep telling myself.

        • sam k says:

          Yes, that plus there’s no way the voices in my head would have let me rest until they were both empty. It’s a lot quieter around here now.

  9. Jason Beatty says:

    After John recently reviewed the 20 Year Elijah Craig, a collector bought up all he could of it at The Heritage Center. I don’t see the point in collecting and recently bought a second bottle of the Golden Anniversary to drink in a year. I hope the bubble does burst because I want to buy some bottles at affordable prices.

    • Scott says:

      The good news is that every bubble creates opportunities for arbitrage such that it’s possible to acquire real value at depressed price. So while the bubble may be pricing Elijah Craig 20 out of one’s reach or simply disappearing it from the market, whiskies that don’t command such premium cachet will tend to linger longer, and at lower prices, than they otherwise would. There’s reasonable value in craft distilling right now, both American and from Britain & Europe beyond Scottish single malt. It’s like the old ballplayer’s motto of “hit ‘em where they ain’t” – in an inflated market, all you have to do is look where the market isn’t looking to find underpriced value. (Intrinsic value, that is, which for whisky means enjoyment from drinking, not potential future profit from holding & resale.)

    • sam k says:

      Shame on the Heritage Center for selling more than one bottle to any single customer.

      • Jason Beatty says:

        They actually took them off the shelves because of this guy. I got them to put them back out but they did not want all the 20 year EC to be taken. More than one bottle is OK however this fellow was buying all they had, and then coming back for more.

  10. Ben McNeil says:

    And if that “collector” (I would call him a jerk, but maybe not to his face) wants to sell them later, I’m the kind of sucker who would want to buy them.

  11. AaronWF says:

    I say whiskey should have a place in every investor’s portfolio. You know, for the liquidity.

  12. Charlie C. says:

    http://tinyurl.com/7sk3f7w (AH Hirsch 20 year going for over $1,000). If you bought the Hirsch 16 two years ago for $100 bucks a pop, a quick ebay search will show that you are getting 300% returns.

  13. Ryan says:

    I think that as long as there’s people willing to pay more money for whisky at auction, there will be people willing to hoard it and sell it for more money. I can’t imagine that coming to an end any time soon. The only way it would stop is if whisky prices went up across the board so that people no longer valued them above market price, and that wouldn’t be a good thing either!

  14. Tom D says:

    For some reason, it is very hard for me to see whisky as an investment. I guess I am in the camp that believes it was made for consumption. At the very least, I get the most enjoyment from it while it is in the glass.

    I have a small group of friends that get together once a month to drink whisky. Our goal is to try as many types of whisky as possible and figure out what each of us likes and why. I have about sixty bottles in the house right now and every one is open.

    I just purchased several bottles at the Bonham’s auction in NY with some friends and we intend on trying them all. Our one rule is not to purchase anything we cannot afford to drink.

    • Jason Beatty says:

      I want to be in this drinking session if you are any where around Indianapolis.

      • Tom D says:

        Jason,

        We are in NY. If you are ever in town, drop us a line.

        • lawschooldrunk says:

          Is this open to people in the NYC area who want to join you and split the costs equally? I’d pay, pro rata, to taste each of your 60 open bottles.

          • JoshK says:

            You may of opened a can of worms here with this one. I’d also go about trying to try as many things as possible. I have about 30 (mostly lesser) bottles open and am in the metro-NYC area.

          • Tom D says:

            I think you are right Josh. Maybe I should have kept quiet on this one. This started off as three of us who went to high school and law school together. We brought on one more regular we went to school with and a few relatives. We followed that with a spare, empty and furnished apartment, some free time, a very simple private web page, and planning for some charity work. Put it all together and we had an instant Whisky Society. It is still in its infancy so we are trying to figure out how to expand some day soon.

            I have only been drinking whiskey on a, for lack of a better word, serious basis for about seven years and have gotten obsessed in the past two. We really just started with entry level bottles from every distillery we could find from every region in Scotland, Ireland, and the States. As we find entry level bottles we like, we start to move up the ladder with that distillery. We don’t take money from each other. It is simply bring what you can when you can. We pooled together some funds for the auction to buy thing that otherwise would have been out of our normal price range.

            After the Holidays, perhaps we can get a good NYC Session together.

            P.S. Law School Drunk- If you are still in school, we wouldn’t take a penny from you. We all went through law school and know the strain it can be at times.

          • Henry says:

            Great project, excellent approach. Very glad to read about it here in an otherwise unpalatable (for me) thread. Best wishes as you pursue your passion.

          • lawschooldrunk says:

            I graduated but am looking for a job. Yes, I have a mountain of debt. But in my defense, I started law school before bear sterns collapsed. Thanks for the kind words.

        • Jason Beatty says:

          I lived in the city while I attended Seton Hall. I am coming back in a couple years once I am certified to teach special ed. I have only a masters and once I am on the teaching salary in NYC, I won’t have much money to spare. It seems you’re a lawyer. Napoli and Bern might be taking my case as they just reopened the fund as a result of the Zadroga Act. I am sure to have some excellent Kentucky bourbon with me when I come back!

          • Tom D says:

            Jason,

            I am a St. John’s man myself. Big East for both of us. Born and Raised in Brooklyn.

            If you have been with Napoli and are impacted by the Zadroga Act, that has a specific meaning to me. Were you a first responder? Hope you are doing ok.

          • Jason Beatty says:

            I was living there, 33 Gold St, and after a month they took a tumor the size of a large orange out of my throat because I kept breathing in all the toxins. Now, I suffer from debilitating migraines coming from the neck region and what the toxins has left behind. They have an actual case for me and I am hoping they can get some assistance. I had to pay for everything out of pocket and did not know about the fund back then. I’m thinking i might go through nursing school to make enough money to pay for Seton Hall and Drexel and I am still haunted by the fact I could not do anything on that day. I’ll be back sometime and it seems I might have to live in Korean Town because a friend can get me a place there. I did visit Saint Johns before making the decision on Seton Hall.

          • Tom D says:

            I am sorry to hear that. 33 Gold Street put you right there. There were some many problems with the Victim’s Compensation Fund. I truly hope the Zadroga Act remedies many of those problems.

            Like I said, if you are evn in town, drop a line. I most definitely owe you a drink.

          • John Hansell says:

            Guys, can we stay on topic, please? Thanks.

          • Jason Beatty says:

            On topic: I just invested in the bottle of Very Old Fitzgerald that John has pictured from the auction, an 8 year from 1958. Did you get one of those from there? I can trade you a sample from it? I am going to let it sit for a whole month and then open it up down in bourbon country and let some people try it. It really bothers me now that I spent such money on it but once I get to drinking it, all the fun will be worth it. John I can trade you a sample as well?

  15. Paul M says:

    The way that I invest in whiskies and other spirits is simple: Buy stock in Diageo, Beam and others. They seem to be treating me well!

  16. Marc says:

    Its quite surprising, and sad, how this topic is so dividing withing the whisky community, especially since I doubt that many people are the one extreme or the other. Most of us are somewhere in between; we have a few closed bottles that we hold on to, maybe its because we haven’t gotten around to drinking it yet, maybe we are waiting for a special occasion, or until we think we are ready for it. About 50% of my bottles are open. Out of the other 50%: I intend drinking 80% of them sometime, saving 10% of them in case I ever fall on hard times, and the other 10% I don’t intend to drink or sell but I keep them because they look nice on my shelves (discontinued bottles, or older packaging) but the whisky is not great.

    The 10% that I may be perceived to be investing in, I do not really see as investment pieces but rather just more valuable parts of my collection. In 30 years time, I hope to drink it, but if things haven’t gone well then I know there is a very real likelihood I can just as easily sell it for some extra cash.

    I do think there is a bubble now and I do think it will burst within the next 5 years. I attribute this bubble to whisky producers making “investment” whiskies not to be drunk (Glenmo Pride, Dalmore Superstarius?), as opposed to drinking whisky that appreciates well.

    No whisky that had a reputation for being a crap spirit will ever appreciate, so the Buxton comment about tea is nonsense. Someone has to have drunk it and created the demand and reputation, that will enable long-term investment gains.

    • John Hansell says:

      You make a good point. The world usually isn’t black or white. Most of the time it’s some shade of gray. And when it comes to whisky collecting/accumulating, I am in a gray world.

      Over the past 20 years, I have purchased more whiskies than I have consumed, leaving me with a surplus right now. But I generally purchased with the intent to drink and share with friends–meaning that I would usually buy whiskies that I thought/hoped would taste good.

      There were some instances, however, back in the 1990s, where I bought bottles of whiskies that I knew were rare (Ladyburn 12 year old, Kinklaith, Killyloch, Glen Flagler, etc.) and got them at rediculously low prices ($25 for the Ladyburn). I bought them and sold them over the years for profit.

      I am left with whiskies that I am enjoying, and will continue to enjoy, for the rest of my life. I drank my Black Bowmore, I am drinking my way through my 1973 and 1974 Longrows, shared them with friends, and will continue along these lines. Many of my whiskies are open, and many aren’t.

      But my ultimate goal is to make sure they are all gone by the time I die. I don’t want to be one of those people whose entire whisky collection is being auctioned off at Bonhams by my wife after I croak!

      • David says:

        Reminds me of a line a friend used recently about his collection, not whisky but just as applicable here. My deepest fear is that after I die my wife will sell my whisky collection for what I told her I paid for it.

    • Ian Buxton says:

      Let’s be clear. We need to distinguish carefully between bottles that are held in a collection by connoisseurs or enthusiasts (for pleasure or for ultimate consumption) and those which are being held purely and simply for investment. The current rash of ‘investment funds’ and ‘advisors’ (not to mention the whisky being promoted by some distillers who should in my view know better and behave more responsibly) is qualitatively different.

      J C Skinner (above) has got this totally when he writes: “Fundamentally, whiskey is a little different to most other collectable markets. It cannot be properly enjoyed while remaining in storage, whereas fine art, first edition books or rare comics can be. Whiskey can only be enjoyed once its in the glass, by which time it ceases to be collectable at all.”
      This is the key point. Once you’re being recommended to buy whisky purely for its investment potential then it can never be opened and there might as well be tea in there.

      As for the comparison with investment wine consider the matter of packaging. High quality ‘investment grade’ wine such as Ch. Latour, Ch. Mouton Rothschild etc generally comes in exactly the same bottle that supermarket claret is found in. That’s because what claret comes in – a simple tall round glass bottle with a simple label. There may be a few cents difference in glass quality and a slightly nicer label but that’s all. It’s about the wine not the box.
      By contrast, most if not all of the ‘investment’ whiskies are lavishly packaged, accounting for a very high % of the price. What do you want to buy – ritzy bottles and boxes or great whisky?

  17. B.J. Reed says:

    The answer is yes, set it free in almost all cases. I am a consumer who collects more than a collector who consumes. I measure this by whether I am willing to open a bottle of very pricey whisky even though I may on take a dram every few years or share with friends rather than just hold on to it with the thought I might sell it one day.

    Now, I have a few bottles I have not opened (e.g. original balvanie 12 YO, macallan private eye) partly because they are so unique but mostly because while the whisky is ok, the bottles are more of a “novelty” in terms of collectability then they are a great whisky that you want to just hold on to. Will I ever sell them? Doubt it but it does rummage around in the back of my mind.

    Not sure this makes sense but it is how I approach it.

  18. Great article and some great comments. I also have lots of different whiskies at home that I have acquired over the years and sadly I am sure that when I die there will be lots left, but very,very few of these will be unopened bottles. Which means that there will plenty left for the wake.
    Regarding investment, I would say don’t buy one of our our casks, or anyone else’s, and hope to prosper from the future bottles rather buy one with the aim of sharing with your friends a dram of your very own whisky (with or without an e) and know that it came from your cask and that there are 1 or 2 bottles still to drink.
    Slange

  19. This is indeed a very good debate and I’ve said all I want to say on it elsewhere. But four points. One, it’s emotional and irrational nonsense to think ‘selfishly’ drinking a bottle and removing it from the world is in some way better than buying and keeping it – whatever your motivation. Two, whisky can be a very good investment. Fact. Talk to people who know what they’re doing and they will talk about long term investment of 10 years plus. Buxton introduced the figures based on one,two or three years, no-one else. Three, there are ways round the fees, EBay being one. And finally, much as I share Buxton’s dislike of short term trading on whisky, there are examples of whiskies that were bought today and made quite a lot tomorrow. The Macallan Royal Marriage this year was a case in point. I’d love to know Buxton’s views on this.

    On a personal note, I’ve written five investment in whisky pieces this year, including what is probably the most extensive work on the subject – a 12 page feature for Whiskeria. I have a feature in the next World Financial Review. I don’t consider anything I do as sloppy journalism, and indeed, as one of the few NCTJ trained journalists with a formal newspaper journalist background who writes about whisky I know my standards are as high or higher than many of my colleagues. I’m sure Buxton knows who he’s referring to as sloppy and who he thinks is guilty of collaborating with retailers and distillers in a form of insider dealing. Perhaps he should now come out and name them.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Should sex be sold? Why or why not? What about political office?

      The situation is more nuanced with whisky as it can only be legally created in the case that it is intended for sale. Whether right or wrong though, the fact that an increasing number of whisky makers are presenting themselves as investment brokers seems distasteful and perhaps even a little pathetic– A little like the sale of sex.

    • Ryan says:

      “I’ve said all I want to say on it elsewhere…”

      Apparently not.

    • mongo says:

      dominic, do you collect for investment as well? if so, it would be a great sign of your journalistic integrity if you identified which of the whiskies you’ve either rated highly or panned in reviews are or aren’t in your “portfolio”.

  20. Josh Scott says:

    Some really great discussion and debate going on here. I’ll throw in my $0.02.

    Every bottle of whisk(e)y I purchase, I intend on opening and enjoying. Whether that be by myself, with great family or friends, or for that special occasion. I’m sure we all have our “daily pour” bottles that we frequent at the end of those long, hard days. And even those unique or hard to find bottles when we’re in the mood for something a little better. And then of course, there’s the exceptional bottles that we all hold back for special occasions or small gatherings with other great friends who share our passion for great whisk(e)y.

    However, with that being said, if I happen to make a few purchases today, and those bottles skyrocket in value over the next few years…..I will have NO problem whatsoever selling them for a profit. There’s LOTS of great whisk(e)y out there. I can stand to part with a few bottles for investment purposes. And here is perhaps the most important point that I’ve yet to hear anyone make….

    Just because you sell a highly desireable bottle for a profit, why does that automatically mean the person who bought it doesn’t plan on drinking it??????? One man’s investment bottle might be another man’s celebration bottle. Just because a bottle has been a collectible for X number of years doesn’t mean it will NEVER get drank and doomed to be shelved forever. So I disagree with Ian with regards to the “might as well be tea” argument. If it will truly NEVER, EVER, EVER get consumed……fine, you got me. But never is a VERY long time. There is an inaccurate assumption being made here. When the bottle eventually finds the consumer and at whatever price that may be……I say well done gentlemen to those in the middle who made a profit along its journey.

  21. Red_Arremer says:

    Btw, regarding my earlier comment on whisky’s value to Dominic– Michael Walzer’s easy-reading book, Spheres of provides some good thinking on the matter of distributive justice.

  22. I have no idea what you’re talking about but I don’t think I’ve got any 18 year olds in my cupboard that I’m intending to have sex with…

  23. Sorry.it’s getting late here, I’m tasting some wonderful Mackmyras for the Whisky Advocate – all opened! – and the ‘nuanced’ comments and references to distributive justice are beyond me. I’m reading G&R’s Duff McKagan’s autobiography for heaven’s sake!

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Now that’s a practiced anti-intellecualism– Bravo, Dominic! Good show!

      Of course, anyone can see that the question Ian is raising about the “soul of whisky” is just a more poetic way of talking about the conditions under which something should be exchanged.

  24. Casey McLeod says:

    I’m fortunate enough to hail from Kentucky where the sought after bourbons are easier to find. I’m very green to the whiskey family, but I’ve had a number of limited bourbons that I could’ve put on a shelf and never opened. The best part of Pappy 23 was drinking it. For all of those investors flooding the market, find something else to invest in. The families that have spent centuries perfecting their recipe didn’t intend for opportunists to turn a dollar and make money off of a product that’s supposed to be indulged in. Thank you Ian for laying it out flat, whisky is made for drinking and the only way to reap the hard work is to appreciate it, in a glass with a cigar and someone else with the same affliction for such a fine spirit.

    • Ian Buxton says:

      Well said, sir. And thank you.

    • Jason Beatty says:

      Before John got his bottle, I was given the opportunity to drink as much of the Elijah Craig 20 as I could handle (in the 15 minute time frame). I did this among the barrels within a rickhouse. The bottle I left with was gone within a day as I shared it with folks.

  25. JC Skinner says:

    Great to see both Ian and Dominic responding to the debate here. I have a query I already alluded to that concerns me and may have got lost in the discussion so far – is whiskey investing fuelling the creation of counterfeit whiskey? It appears that whiskey counterfeiting is occurring, especially in relation to older and rarer Scotch, and obviously the most likely person to be taken in is a rookie investor.
    Insofar that generally Irish whiskey at the top end either retails much more cheaply than Scotch and the most expensive Irish whiskeys are generally from silent distilleries which would be difficult to counterfeit, I think I’m lucky that my predominantly Irish collection is likely to be spared from this risk.
    But if I collected top end Scotch, I think I’d maybe be concerned. In Asia massive counterfeiting rings produce gallons of spirit they knock out at top Scotch blends like Chivas and Royal Salute, and there have long been concerns about counterfeiters in places like Italy producing individual fakes of antique Scotch.
    I’d hate for anyone to experience opening a bottle on a special occasion to find it full of tea or a cheapo blend. Should auction houses like Bonhams and McTears be investing in that new laser counterfeit detection technology?

    • Ian Buxton says:

      Hadn’t thought about that but it has to be a concern.
      Dave Broom did some good work on this a few years ago in another whisky magazine and there is the ‘War on Fakers’ campaign that the Malt Maniacs (or someone?) started.
      If prices continue to rise it has to be a worry and, yes, I personally feel auction houses could do more to authenticate bottles.

  26. Serge says:

    Indeed, fakes. I’ve seen for example an entire collection that was ridden with fakes. I’m talking about a ‘theoretical’ value of hundreds of thousands of euros.
    Also, I find it strange that nobody’s talking about how to secure an investment in whisky. All serious collectors know that closures are a main issue. Some whiskies will ‘lose level’ quick. Some whiskies will start to go down very suddenly when they change places (different temperatures, hygrometry and such). And a level into the shoulder means a value that’s much, much lower if not almost zero. Some collectors/investors are checking their levels very closely. If they ever start to go down, what do you think they’ll do? Sell before it goes into the shoulder, while the buyer will have no means to check if the level went down before and, above all, at which pace. In other words, an okayish level is fine if it’s stable, it’s a nightmare if it’s actually in the process of going down. Also, it’s important with expensive bottles to know at which temperature a photograph was taken. At 20°C or 30°C, the level won’t be the same at all. Wine is completely different because with collectable wines, usually a buyer will know about the previous ‘keeping conditions’, the kind of origin and so on (perfect cellar, restaurant, whatever…). Also, the corks are constantly wet, which makes for a huge difference. And third, the chateaux will replace the corks and even refill collectable bottles. Who will do that with whisky?

  27. Marc says:

    I think it’s very presumptuous to think that the distillery employees would be against purchases of their whisky for investment purposes. Do you not think they would be proud for a few bottles of their whisky to live on past them and be highly sought after? What a compliment!

    • Jason Beatty says:

      I talked to a man who works at the Heritage Center and he has a bottle of Golden Anniversary that he is saving for his granddaughter or grandson. I think he means he is going to leave it in his will to have something that he cherishes be passed on. Then, I think not drinking it is OK when it is a single bottle or so.

  28. Danny Maguire says:

    I’ve got a few bottles that I’ve purchased over the years that are now worth more than I paid for them. There are a couple I’ve bought deliberately thinking of that point but most of them are ones I bought to drink and over the remaining years of my life I’ll probably get round to doing that. I’ve also got a collection of minatures I’ve deliberately bought as a collection. At the moment the full bottles I’ll drink, the minatures? At the moment I’m thinking of leaving them to the whisky museum in Dufftown, but as of yet I’m not guaranteeing it. Is it an investment? No, whisky is a social thing for social occasions.

  29. John Lamond says:

    A very interesting discussion, but I maintain my oft-stated stance that the distillers make spirit to the best of their ability (and within the financial restrictions imposed upon them) and they make it to be drunk. The first completely whisky auction was held at Christie’s in Glasgow in ’86 and I, amongst others present, was gobsmacked at what people were prepared to pay for old bottles.
    On these pages last year, Dr. Nick Morgan of Diageo stated that the Manager’s Choice range were priced at what the market would bear, i.e. what the collectors would pay. I have yet to see one of them on the gantry of a bar.
    In answer to a question up there, yes, there are collectors who collect for collecting’s sake. They are not whisky drinkers. I have a publican buddy who is a collector, quite a serious collector, with thousands of bottles in his collection – and he doesn’t drink whisky. He collects in the same way that he collects gold sovereigns, as an investment for his pension. In his defence, he says that he is going to learn to drink whisky in 2012!
    I maintain that these collectors should be forced by government edict to throw a party so that you and I can taste these wonderful whiskies.

  30. Greg says:

    I’m digging the new WA. I’ll refrain from whining about it only being quarterly as I’m sure you’ve heard it before. The two articles on auctions and collecting were very good reads. For collecting I think you either missed one segment or didn’t bother to cover it and that’s those of us that travel to bourbon mecca (KY) and conduct private barrel purchases. I belong to a private bourbon group and we just finished up our 14th barrel purchase over the last 2.5 years. These bottles most times make their way into our bunker never to see a retail shelf. While many of us do go after premiums, rare and out of production offerings, the other leg of the stool so to speak would be personal selections. I’m sure this is a very small fraction of sales but nevertheless, there are those of us out here that have amped up our bourbon enthusiasm through private selection.

  31. John Lamond says:

    You Greg, are a wonderful person! You are buying it, drinking it, sharing it and enjoying it. That’s what it should all be about

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