Whisky: Invest in the rare liquid gold

Whisky: Invest in the rare liquid gold

Rare whisky is providing significant value for collectors, enthusiasts and investors, reports Damon Culbert, but is the amber nectar really worth its weight in gold?

With the market growing more than 700 per cent in the past five years, there has never been a better time to invest. No, not in gold or stocks or shares: these assets are decidedly more liquid and amber coloured.

The average value of a bottle of whisky is continually on the up, rising from £299 in 2017 to £377 in 2018. For those interested in building a collection or developing a portfolio, now is the best time to start getting serious about hard liquor.

Images courtesy of iStock and the brands
Feb 13th 2020
Damon Culbert

Investing in Scotch
Scotch is an iconic, geo-specific product with an extensive and prestigious history which has lent itself to the spirit’s exclusive, quality image. Rare Whisky 101 tracks the progress of the second-hand Scotch market, noting a growth of 163 per cent over the past four years – much stronger than gold, Brent crude oil and the FTSE.

The volume of Scotch auctioned in the UK last year increased by just under 30 per cent, while the value of these sales rose by more than 60 per cent in the same period. Proving that both interest in consumption and the value of expressions is consistently rising – a promising prospect for would-be investors.

The Rare Whisky 101 Index
According to the Rare Whisky 101 2018 review, the five most traded and collected bottles come from Macallan, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Highland Park and Bruichladdich. These five have held the top spots for several years, with the report stating that the only way to defeat Macallan would be to ban sales of its expressions at auctions. This gives a good indication of which entry-level bottles to invest in for the most reliable consumer interest but the Investor Rankings show a more interesting picture.

The most notable increases come from brands such as Islay’s Laphroaig, which climbed 22 places to sixth, and Clynelish, a Highland distillery which also rose 22 places to ninth. Both of these distilleries produce peated, smoky whiskies, further evidencing the flavour trend of last year’s investments. The top 30 from 2018 includes 16 silent distilleries (a distillery that is no longer in use), up from 14 the year before, suggesting the scarcity of silent bottles is a big draw for many investors.


Japanese whisky
Beyond the realm of Scotch, Japanese whisky is seeing some of the strongest growth of any whisky-producing region in the world. Thanks to an increased domestic interest, wider international acclaim and rarity caused by falling supply, the Japanese market has been able to craft an exclusive image which is highly attractive to overseas investors.

The Japanese market has grown by 35 per cent in the past year, 10 per cent stronger than the highest Scotch-producing region of Campbeltown. Rare Whisky’s Japan 100 index has also observed 30 per cent growth in the past year and more than 200 per cent since 2014, showcasing their increasing intrigue among enthusiasts.

The Rare Whisky Icon 100 index features the most desirable bottles from Japan, including expressions from the Hanyu, Yamazaki and Karuizawa distilleries. However, it isn’t exclusively these distilleries where the best returns can be found.

The main whisky producers in Japan – Suntory and Asahi – have been forced to discontinue several of their best expressions in recent years as they are unable to meet the demands of the market. Due to this, some of the most favourable bottles from distilleries such as Hibiki, Nikka and Yoichi will probably become even harder to find over the next few years. For anyone who can get their hands on one of these restricted expressions, some strong, quick returns are highly likely in the near future.


Notable bottles
The health of the whisky market can be seen in the success of some of the most desirable bottles to hit auctions. The number of Scotch bottles sold for more than £10,000 has risen astronomically in the past five years. Last year was a watershed period for second-hand whisky auctions, with records being broken in both the Scottish and Japanese markets.

Macallan claimed victory last year when a unique, 60-year-old bottle sold for more than £1million, breaking the previous record for the most expensive bottle ever. While the Japanese market came nowhere near this level, its record was broken by a 50-year-old Yamazaki which sold for £270,000 last year. Scotch is still clearly miles ahead of Japan, but this progress shows the overall health of the industry.

George Bernard Shaw might have labelled whisky ‘liquid sunshine’ but invest well and it could turn into bottled gold.


5 Luxury Whisky Bars in London

We’ve rounded up some of the best bars in the capital, where you can try investment bottles before you buy.

1 Bull in a China Shop
Japanese whisky aficionados and rotisserie chicken specialists at Shoreditch’s Bull in a China Shop offer more than 30 whiskies to complement the Asian-influenced menu.

2 Hide Below
A basement bar in Piccadilly offering more than 100 whiskies from all over the world; expect delicious cocktails as well as a high level of expertise.

3 Milroys
A liquor store in Soho with its own whisky bar offering more than 200 global whiskies. Milroys also conceals a secret cocktail bar for visitors to explore.

4 The Luggage Room
An exclusive, leather-clad back bar in Mayfair filled with quality whiskies. Japanese expressions are well-represented here with most of the cocktails having a whisky base.

5 Swift
This Soho basement bar hosts a whisky library with 250 different expressions to choose from.


Ready, Tech, Go: London’s tech investments

London’s ‘Silicon Valley’ set a record this year for venture capital investment and figures show it is the world's favourite capital for overseas companies to set up or expand in.


An artist and illustrator with a passion for interiors, Luke Edward Hall is the bright young thing who everyone wants to work with, says Kathryn Conway


Invest in property with green appeal, says Kathryn Conway