Looking to diversify your portfolio? If coins, sneakers and rare wines just aren't your thing, a collectible worth considering as an alternative investment asset is rare whisky. After all, auction houses have been reporting brisk business when it comes to the sales of these spirits. And according to the 2020 Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, rare whisky has risen in value by 586 percent over the past decade.
But what makes a whisky rare? Which rare whiskies are popular among collectors right now? More importantly, should you ever decide to open a bottle, how should it be best enjoyed? Diageo Senior Global Brand Ambassador Ewan Gunn has the answers.
Rare whisky comes down to quantity, age and flavour.
Quantity will usually play a significant role as many of the rare and collectible whiskies are either limited editions in terms of number of bottles produced, or have been sourced from limited and finite maturing stock from ghost distilleries no longer producing whisky. The Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare Collection is a great example of this.
Age is also often be a factor. Most casks are either used in Blended Scotch Whiskies or bottled as Single Malts well before they reach 18 or 20 years old, which means that high aged Blended Scotch Whiskies and Single Malts often contain casks that have been specifically earmarked to be matured for longer, and often with greatness in mind. Additionally, in Scotland, the casks of whisky experience an annual evaporation loss of around 2 percent. This means that after 30 or 40 years, there often is very little remaining, which in turn contributes to the rarity of the liquid.
This combination of factors influence price, so while a high price in itself is not necessarily an indication of rarity, many of the factors which lead to rarity can have a significant influence on price.
Ultimately, however, whisky begins and ends with flavour, and for a whisky to reach the heady heights of being considered both rare and exceptional, it has to have a truly outstanding taste.
But collections that tell a story are also in demand.
Whiskies from ghost distilleries tend to meet all the criteria of rareness as they are usually in limited and finite quantities, of a high age and often in high demand. The fact that you are able to own and enjoy a slice of history that will never be repeated is of particular interest to both collectors and lovers of great-tasting whisky.
Collections that tell a story are increasingly of interest as well. Diageo’s Prima & Ultima Collections highlight some of the first and last whiskies of their kind and are extremely limited. Each collection is curated by one of the most respected whisky makers in the world.
Store away as you would anything precious.
It should be stored away from fluctuations of temperature and humidity, and not in direct sunlight. Also, they should always be upright, and never on their side as you would with wine bottles.
Shopping around? Johnnie Walker has a nifty collection.
Three rare whiskies and/or rare whisky collections popular among collectors right now include:
1. Those in the Johnnie Walker Ghost & Rare Collection: Each release features a specific key ghost distillery, is limited in nature and includes whiskies from distilleries that will never produce whisky ever again. The whiskies in this collection offer a rare opportunity to taste these ghost whiskies at a surprisingly affordable price.
2. Mortlach Midnight Malt 30 Year Old: This has long been considered to be whisky’s best kept secret, with only true aficionados fully appreciating the rarity and quality of the whisky. This expression has been aged for 30 years and experiences a three-cask finish featuring Bordeaux Wine, Calvados and Guatemalan Rum casks which adds incredible layers of richness and intensity. There is a limited release of just 350 bottles annually.
3. Johnnie Walker Master’s of Flavour 48 Year old: This exceptionally rare expression includes whiskies from several ghost distilleries, all aged at least 48 years. It is the final bottle in the Johnnie Walker Master’s series and celebrates four of the truly great whisky makers of the modern era, all of whom dedicated decades of knowledge and craftsmanship to the creation of this whisky. Only 288 bottles of this exceptionally rare whisky will ever be made available to purchase.
But if you have $48,000 to spare, you can consider The Singleton 54 Paragon of Time II.
It is the oldest and rarest whisky that The Singleton has ever released. In addition to being one of the most incredible whiskies I have ever had the privilege of tasting, this whisky stands out as it tells the story of how distilling was done in Dufftown over half a century ago and the “slow-craft” of that time. Plus, it was given an exquisite final maturation using a single Pedro- Ximenes Sherry-seasoned cask—a last act of mastery in the pursuit of true richness that only time, skill and patience can achieve. Only 235 bottles of this historical treasure exist!
The best way to enjoy rare whisky is with friends.
It should always be a shared experience as it'll often be a whisky you’ll never have the opportunity to try ever again. It may even be the last bottle or indeed glass of that whisky in the world, so what better way to enjoy the moment than by experiencing it with the people you care about.