Everything You Need to Know about Whisky Valuation

March 11, 2019

The value of whisky has appreciated over the past few years, and smart investments can offer returns worth thousands.

However, it can be tricky figuring out which whisky is worth collecting, and which can give the largest return on investment, especially if you’re a novice investor or collector. As older bottles become rarer, the value increases, so it’s become imperative for anyone with a whisky collection to know its worth. It’s also worth knowing what bottles to watch out for when growing or starting a collection.

Why is whisky worth so much?

Whisky has enjoyed an increase in popularity, and now an appreciation is not just reserved for experts.

Scotch, in particular, has caught the eye of a number of investors over the past few years, as well as Japanese whisky. Where older fine wines were once considered a luxury item, its worth relies heavily on how it’s stored by the owner.

Failing to store your wine correctly could render it worthless. Whisky, however, is much easier to store and the taste doesn’t change drastically once it’s been bottled—providing it’s stored at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.

While the quality of a whisky doesn’t improve with age—unlike a wine—it also doesn’t deteriorate. Over that time, people’s perceptions towards that whisky may change, especially as the particular batch of whisky becomes rarer and rarer. Whisky enthusiasts are generally prepared to pay over the odds for these rare bottles, especially if the bottle, or cask is in good condition, which can be determined by a whisky valuation.

What should you look for in rare whiskies?

The rarer whiskies have the highest value, as these are considered more desirable. There are some brands which are consistently sought after, such as Macallan, Ardbeg, and Bowmore, which can have an impact on how much you pay initially, and how well the bottle appreciates.

The Private Eye Macallan, for example, first launched in 1996 for £36, and can now sell for £3,000. If you think you’re in possession of a rare whisky, check to see how sought after the distillery and batch is for a rough idea of how much your bottle could be worth. Alternatively, have your whisky professionally valued.

You should also be mindful of limited edition releases of specific blends. The Johnnie Walker brand, for example, is one of the most famous brands of Scotch in the world, and regularly releases limited edition bottles as part of its revered Blue Label collection. Some are worth more than others, depending on how old and rare the bottle is, and a fine whisky valuation will be able to accurately determine how much your bottle is worth.

Bottles produced from the “lost distilleries” are worth keeping an eye out for. In the 1800s, more than 200 distilleries were in operation around Scotland, helping to establish the country as a leader in whisky production. However, by 1945 about 70 of these had closed due to poor economic and political circumstances. Despite whisky sales growing every year, more distilleries had closed by 1984, and there is still stock from these closed distilleries being used to produce blended Scotch, increasing the overall value. The most esteemed of these are Brora, Port Ellen, and Rosebank, and it is possible to buy blends that include Scotch from these now-defunct distilleries. However, these whiskies are becoming increasingly rare.

What are the most popular brands of rare whisky?

Some of the rarest whiskies in the world, that are still available to buy, were released as extremely limited runs. Because of that, the initial price may have already been quite high for a bottle of whisky and would have only appreciated since, if it’s still available to buy.

Macallan

Macallan is famous for its single malts, as it was one of the first to market this type of whisky. The Speyside distillery works hard to ensure the quality of its Scotch, employing a Master of Wood to source the oak wood to produce the 200,000 barrels needed to give the rich final product. The oak is dried, shaped, and seasoned with Oloroso sherry in a process that is much more expensive than what the average distillery goes through to source its barrels. This contributes to the high price of a Macallan and gives it the sweet and fruity taste.

Nikka

One of the more well known Japanese brands, Nikka produces whiskies that exceed the high expectations that come with a Japanese blend. The first Nikka distillery was established in Hokkaido in 1934 and named Yoichi, and now the Yoichi 10 year is one of the more popular, and rarest, whiskies produced by the company. In 2015, Nikka announced that it would stop bottling the entire range of aged single malts, which caused the price of a bottle of Yoichi to skyrocket. Adding a bottle of a discontinued Nikka to your collection is a worthwhile investment if you can afford it.

Talisker

The Island single malt distillery released its oldest malt in 2018 in the form of its 1978 vintage. The 40-year-old Bodega single malt was matured in refill American oak barrels before being finished in 40-year-old amontillado Sherry casks. The vintage malt is a rare Scotch, and one of the most valuable Talisker’s ever bottled to date.

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