How Whisky became a better investment than gold
Part of a wonderful collection that now belongs to a real whisky connoisseur and enthusiast,
A Mystery buyer who paid nearly £850,000 will by now have taken delivery of his world record purchase, the Macallan Valerio Adami, distilled in 1926 and bottled after 60 years in the barrel.
His outlay of £848,750 beat the previous record of £814,000 set at a sale in Hong Kong in May and it is highly unlikely that a single drop of it will be drunk any time soon.
Last year the market value of rare Scotch rose more than 40 per cent, making it a better investment vehicle than gold bullion.
“Surely this is not what whisky should be about,” argues Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible. “[At auction] I am up against the investor who will pay way above the actual worth. So now some whiskies have gone the same way as stamps or paintings: something to be kept privately or on public display to impress.”
And to the big-bucks investors he adds, in the new edition of his book: “I beg you, try the whisky for what it was intended: drinking. Discovering flavours and nuances you could barely imagine possible, or comparing one distillery against another, no amount of money can make up for moments as magical as that.”
Speculators are not the only problem. Rising demand for whisky in the Far East, notably in Japan, China and India, is also squeezing supplies and driving prices up.
“Wine used to be the big thing there but now it’s whisky, so demand is being driven by the Far East rather than the UK. But of course we benefit, because we make it here,” says Richard Siddle, editor of drinks business website the-buyer.net.
Contributing to this demand is a savvy approach to marketing by the distilleries. Whisky has moved from being something you drink in a bar to a product that operates in another world entirely, thanks to sophisticated campaigns geared to turning it into a luxury brand in the eye of a new generation of enthusiasts.
Take the remarkable two-minute endorsement for The Macallan in the 2012 James Bond movie, Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig.
Product placement in Skyfall
“Fifty-year-old Macallan, a particular favourite of yours I understand?” says James Bond’s nemesis, MI6 turncoat Raoul Silva, as he pours two glasses.
“So, what’s the toast?” the character, played by Javier Bardem, continues. “To the women we love?” Silva then places his glass on the head of his girlfriend, whom he then shoots dead. “What do you say to that?” he asks Bond.
“It’s a waste of a good Scotch,” declares 007 as the whisky seeps into the ground before catching fire, while John Barry’s iconic theme tune plays out… The man responsible for this extraordinary product placement is Ken Grier, the brand’s “creative director” – yes, really.
He is a legendary figure in the world of whisky who for the past two decades has helped to transform the single malt into what Richard Siddle calls “an iconic global luxury tour de force”.
The Macallan, made by the Edrington Group – the distiller behind several of the world’s best-loved Scotch whiskies – has also featured as the tipple of choice for the US president in Netflix’s House Of Cards. It is even the malt behind the saloon bar in Sky Atlantic’s Westworld series.
“People like Macallan have been turning their brand into an aspirational luxury product,” says Siddle. “They want their whiskies to be seen in a similar way to how collectors view watches. To this end, they sponsor art shows and work with famous photographers and models to create the air of an ultimate luxury product.”
In a recent interview, Grier explained how he had increased sales of The Macallan from 150,000 cases a year to more than one million, while increasing its profitability 10-fold.
“The challenge,” Grier said, “Is to always keep the brands relevant and to use whatever creativity you can to do so. We are creating partnerships that hopefully people will want to talk about.”
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