Anyone following the whisky industry news will have noticed that the price of Scotch has sky-rocketed in recent years. Bottles have doubled in price in only a few decades, and many rare bottlings are selling for thousands of dollars at auction.
The impending whisky drought is also playing a part in this rise of demand, and price of Scotch whisky. Single malts are becoming rarer by the day, and producers are finally realizing the true value of the golden elixir they have been creating and aging throughout the years.
In this rise of price and reduction of availability, both costs and pricing can easily grow unbalanced. The production of great whisky takes time and a whole lot of effort, and the price of each bottle should reflect the skill and passion which has gone into its creation.
Yet, through the eyes of the consumer, the increase in price over the past years may be seen as unfair. Dedicated whisky fans have probably seen the price tag of their favourite single malt rapidly increase in just a few years, and may be feeling a little disheartened and disappointed.
Most older, rare bottlings are, indeed, priced as they should be and showcase the expertise which has gone into their production. On the other hand however, some producers may be taking advantage of the recent whisky boom, spiking their prices to make the most out of the coming whisky shortage.
To get a clear understanding, one need only look at the shelf of any liquor shop in the UK.
A bottle of Jack Daniels costs around £25 pounds, as does a bottle of VS brandy. For just over £30, just an extra fiver, you can purchase a bottle of Glenfiddich 12 year old, single malt.
There’s no point arguing on the quality and flavor, as everyone has a different opinion and many enjoy a brandy over a Scotch. However, the aging process of that single malt cannot be overlooked, and the price needs to reflect it.
Thirty pounds for a 12 year old, world-renowned Scotch is a bargain, and no one can deny that.
The problem lies not in the present, but in the approach taken towards good Scotch whisky a few decades ago. During the beginning of the millennium whisky was priced ridiculously cheap, and the price tag of most 12 year old or 18 year old single malts did not reflect the effort and work that went into making them.
Nowadays the production costs are, at last, taken into account, and new distilleries will rarely charge less than £40-£50 for a young single malt, often aged less than 5 years.
Investors were, at one time, making more than the producers of the whisky, and that is simply unfair. Today, good Scotch is paired with luxury, extravagance, and a price to match. The consumer who pays a few hundred pounds on a three-course meal or a branded dress shirt, will and should pay the same amount or more for a good bottle of Scotch whisky.
But do not fear! Despite the increasing price of Scotch, there are still many options for the whisky lover on a budget.
It is indeed sad that core whisky fans are seeing their favourite drams rise in price, however, there is a positive note to be found in the past. The whisky industry took years to balance the price of whisky with the labour going into its production, and fans have enjoyed that oversight for decades.
Many no-age-statement whiskies are taking advantage of the luxury associated with Scotch, and spiking their prices alongside great single malt Scotch. But any true fan will know if a price is fair or not, having an understanding of the true value of the bottle at hand.
To many the greatness of a complex 35 year old Scotch may be out of reach. But independent bottlings by world-renowned distilleries and younger bottles are available and very affordable for fans worldwide. Priorities need to be set, and if Scotch is yours, then nothing can stop you from getting a taste of your favourite dram. Just don’t break the law!
Here at the Whisky Foundation we price our whiskies with both the consumer and producer in mind. Have a look at our Top Shelf list for the best bargains around!