In the past years, whisky has become as much of a collector’s investment as jewellery or paintings. 2018 saw the market value of rare and luxury Scotch rise by over 40%, with collectibles auctioneer Bonhams setting three new world records for the most expensive whisky ever sold. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend thousands on whisky to get a good return – bottles in every price range can be seen to appreciate in value, if you know what to look out for. Here are some particularly special bottles tipped for whisky investing enthusiasts this year.
Diageo Game of Thrones Collection
Following the success of their Amazon-exclusive Johnnie Walker ‘White Walker’ blend in late 2018, whisky giants Diageo released their long-awaited collection of Game of Thrones whiskies in the UK on February 19th to celebrate the eighth and final season of the critically acclaimed TV show. The collection features eight single malts from Diageo-owned distilleries, with each distillery paired up to one of eight of Westeros’ Houses and the Night’s Watch.
Pre-orders for the whiskies were initially made available in Europe through Amazon, with each 70cl bottle sold separately, retailing for as low as £38 for Royal Lochnagar and Singleton and up to £65 for Lagavulin and Oban. In total, at the time of release, the price for the eight whiskies came to £398.
From the moment pre-orders became available, demand for the collection was heavy: The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt both sold out of their initial stock within hours, and independent retailers had their stock depleted in a matter of days. By the end of February, full sets were being auctioned on whisky sites such as Whisky Auctioneer and Scotch Whisky Auctions for an average of £925, with some sets going for as much as £1050.
While full sets are increasingly hard to get hold of, individual bottles are likewise increasing in value. The two hardest hitters early on have been Royal Lochnagar and Clynelish, for differing reasons.
Royal Lochnagar is the smallest of Diageo’s stable distilleries, producing only a tiny amount of whisky per year, much of which is put into Johnnie Walker’s premium Blue Label – and unique bottlings such as this are rarely found. Clynelish, on the other hand, has gained something of a cult status due to its proximity and similarity to the now-closed Brora distillery, with its malts sharing the same oily, waxy quality as its neighbour. Initially retailing at £38 and £48 respectively, the Game of Thrones Royal Lochnagar and Clynelish have since been available on auction sites for an average of £340 and £230.
The eight whiskies were not produced in equal amounts, and it is likely that the price of full sets will only go up as stocks of individual bottles deplete. Bottlings from the collection such as the Singleton, which produces a fraction of the output of huge distilleries such as Lagavulin and Talisker, will inevitably be consumed as time goes on, limiting the number of first-release full sets of the collection that are available.
Daftmill 2019 Release
One of Scotland’s newest and smallest distilleries, Daftmill only produces whisky at two points in the year – during mid summer and mid winter, as a side project for owner Francis Cuthbert, who spends the rest of the year managing the onsite farm.
Daftmill produces whisky in minute quantities – 20,000 litres of new-make spirit per year – using their own farm-grown barley and water from the nearby burn, and naturally, there is a huge demand for the finished product. Their inaugural release, a 12 year old distilled in 2005, consisted of only 500 70cl bottles, half of which were sold via ballot from Berry Bros & Rudd at £210. The Inaugural release is now selling at auction for as high as £650, and the subsequent 2018 Summer bottling going for anywhere between £140 and £180 (initially retailing at £100).
Though there is no set date for Daftmill’s next release, we can certainly expect at least one this year – their 2019 Summer release. Obtaining a bottle of Daftmill via the primary market is no easy task, however, it is definitely one worth keeping an eye out for – and it is possible that, as summer and winter releases are opened and drank while inaugural bottlings are kept behind, the first few Summer and Winter releases from Daftmill become more and more elusive.
The Macallan Concept Series
As a rule, limited edition, high-end whisky from The Macallan are some of the best bottles one can invest in. In November of last year, it was a Macallan that broke the record for most expensive whisky ever sold at auction – the 60 year old from 1926 bottle, hand-painted by Michael Dillon, sold for £1.2 million in London.
The furore surrounding the Macallan Genesis release last August was also well-documented, with hundreds of potential buyers lining up outside the distillery trying to get hold of one of 360 bottles. (Macallan Genesis sold at the distillery that day for £495, but has since been seen at auction for over £4,000).
In late 2018 Macallan announced the launch of a new limited edition series – the ‘Concept series’. While they will likely not re-sell at the level that the Genesis did, these travel retail exclusives are tipped to appreciate quickly in value: Concept #1, which became available in airports this January for £100, initially sold on the secondary market for upwards of £300. If you happen to see one of these exclusives in duty free, snap one up.
Other Macallans worth keeping an eye out for this year include the Rare Cask 2019 batches #1 through #4, The Macallan Edition no. 5, and The Macallan Estate Reserve.
Glendronach Batch #17
Glendronach have released a ‘batch’ of single cask releases every year since 2010 which have historically done very well on the secondary market. 2018’s Batch #16, for example, sees whisky released just last year at £305 selling this March at £370-£380 (27 y/o 1990, Cask #1014), and another originally priced at £260 go for £340 (25y/o 1992, Cask #334).
In addition, this year’s Glendronach 18 Allardice is likely to shoot up in price in the same way the 2016 release of 15 year old Revival did, being that the whisky inside is up to 24 years old. Make sure to check the bottling date, which can be found printed on the bottle itself.