How do you go about making money from whisky? Rare whiskies and investment expert Andy Simpson of Whisky Highland explains…
Most people know that you can invest in art, gold, oil and fine wine, and that there is the potential to make more money from such assets than from the financial markets.
So, is there also a market for investing in Scotch? Put simply, yes… In 2008, had you invested £100,000 in the top 250 performing bottles of single malt Scotch whisky it would now be worth £190,530 (a gain of 90.53 per cent). If you’d done the same with the top 100 bottles you’d have £237,540 (a gain of 137.54 per cent). And if you’d chosen really well and invested in the top 10 bottles you’d now have whisky worth £400,370 (a staggering gain of 300.37 per cent).
There’s a global, rapidly growing investment market in the guise of single malt Scotch Whisky. The market for investment grade Scotch (IGS) emerged in the late 80s and early 90s with a small number of bottles appearing alongside established wine auctions. The market for collectable whisky is now unrecognisable from those early days and has been transformed to quarterly whisky auctions at Bonhams (Edinburgh) and McTears (Glasgow) plus thriving online marketplaces where whisky can be both bought and sold.
As with any such investments, the aim is to maximise capital appreciation (after all, bottles of whisky can’t pay you an annual dividend!) and minimise the associated risks. The stock-market is largely driven by company fundamentals, supply and demand, sentiment and most of all for small cap companies news releases on company success or otherwise.
Whilst the IGS market is clearly not news driven, the broad rules of investing still apply. Imagine company fundamentals to be the distillery you choose to buy from; some perform a lot better than others and choosing the ‘right’ distillery is crucial. Supply and demand is the real force behind IGS; demand is at an all time high with more collectors/investors than ever before attending whisky auctions and bidding online. Supply for certain whiskies is rapidly dwindling, take Port Ellen, Brora, Glenugie, Rosebank and Glen Albyn as good examples where new bottles will eventually, sadly, no longer be released… This increase in demand and short supply is applying serious upwards pressure on prices for certain bottles from certain distilleries. Couple the above with the fact that people quite frequently drink these rare bottles and the prospect for significant gains looks rosy.
Dos and don’ts of investing in whisky
Firstly it’s good to have a passion for whisky, it’s also good to enjoy drinking whisky (if the market ever collapses at least then you’ll be able to commiserate in style!). For the
vast majority of bottles a good degree of patience is also required.
There are simply too many other hints, tips and best practices to list in this one short article, however, to take it back to the analogy with the stock market; the key is to do your own research, take your time and know your subject matter inside out.
As single malt Scotch broadens its global reach and more people discover this water of life, the future looks decidedly golden for Scotch as an investment. The single biggest risk I face though is simply not drinking the stuff!
Go for limited editions
To give yourself a fighting chance of good gains, a bottle should ideally be a limited edition (the fewer bottles the better), ideally cask strength, ideally single cask and have a vintage. Discontinued bottles (such as Cellar 13 by Glenmorangie) can also show good gains over time.
Buy upon retail release
This a good strategy for certain bottles, take the Ardbeg Lord Robertson released early July last year. By 1pm on release day all 222 bottles had sold for £220 each. This bottle is now selling for upwards of £500 which represents a 127 per cent increase in value in under 12 months. Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix is also a great example, costing £50 initially, it now sells for around £80 – that’s a 60 per cent increase in value since last October.
Go for independents
The question of distillery or independent bottles gets asked frequently. Write off independently bottled whisky at your peril. Granted, few independent bottles rocket in value within weeks of being released. However, if you want to obtain bottles from some rarer distilleries, indie bottles are the best and frequently only option. Take Kinclaith, Killyloch and Glen Flagler; without independent bottlings these would be virtually impossible to acquire. Most companies have bottles that will perform exceptionally well if you have one from an iconic distillery. The Whisky Shop’s Brorageddon and Ardbeggedon are good examples.
Pick the ‘right’ distillery.
Get this wrong and bottles have gone down in value by some 70 per cent over the
last three years. Stick to the well-known brands which already cater for the collectors and investors market. Some good examples of distilleries where rare bottles have seen rising values are The Macallan, Glenfiddich, Dalmore, Balvenie, Highland Park, Springbank, Ardbeg and Lagavulin. Virtually any silent distillery is going to be a good choice – one day supply will cease and prices will rocket.
Pick the right bottle.
Please don’t rush off to your nearest supermarket
and buy every bottle of Macallan 10-year-old under the premise of making a million… it simply won’t… not just yet anyway! There are two main ways to buy into IGS; these are to buy new bottles immediately upon release or to buy older previously released bottles.
Go for old measures
Bottles measured in fluid ounces rather than centilitres are sought by collectors and investors. In 1980 fluid ounces changed to centilitres and any single malt bottled in the 70s or earlier is quite frankly hens-teeth.
Buy past releases
This is also a great way to get hold of IGS. There are a number of whisky retailers worldwide where you can buy previous releases. You’ll often have to pay many times more than the original price (as the investment value is becoming inherent in the bottle) so you need to be sure what you’re buying. The benefit of paying a premium to a reputable whisky retailer is the likelihood of buying a fake is greatly reduced as these guys are experts.
Don’t buy cases of standard bottles
The rapid growth of single malt and high number of bottles means you’ll be waiting a long time to see even the smallest gains.
Don’t panic buy…
…just because you haven’t seen something before. A good example would be the free miniature given with the recent Macallan Easter Elchies Cask release (you have to go to the distillery to buy one). The first bottle on ebay sold for £311, the price is now slightly less silly at around £80 (still not bad for a free miniature).
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