What to look for when Investing in Whisky

23-01-2017 By Emily Stockden

In 2016, Bonhams Whisky Department in Edinburgh made a total of more than £900 000 over four sales, with 89% of the lots sold and an average sale value of 93%. That is a considerable amount of money. The highest selling bottle was a bottle of The Glenfiddich Rare Collection 1937 sold for a record-beating £68 500 in October, making it the highest price paid at auction for a bottle of Glenfiddich and also qualifying it as a Scottish auction house record for the sale of a single malt. Its estimated value was between £25 000 and £35 000.

Glenfiddich Rare Collection 1937

Said Bonhams Whisky specialist Martin Green, "Whisky collecting is now very much an international pursuit, and during 2016 we've again seen buyers from all over the globe – especially from South East Asia where Scotch whisky is still highly prized.”

Who decides the value of the whisky?

McTear's is world famous for auctions of Rare & Collectable Whisky, holding several world records in the sale of whisky. The Rare & Collectable Whisky Auction is held once every six weeks. One way in which the value of the whisky can be determined is endorsement by a well-respected association like The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Founded in 1983, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s (SMWS) mission statement is to “provide their members with an adventurous and fun journey of discovery of the world's widest collection of single cask whiskies”. Key in deciding on the value of the whisky is that every bottling has to be approved by their Tasting Panel, with samples being judged with no prior knowledge of age, distillery, region or cask type.

Scotch malt Whisky Society whisky bottles

Look out for whiskies rated highly by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's panel of experts

In August’s Rare & Collectable Whisky Auction, McTear’s offered Lot 430, SMWS 1.100: a 36-year old bottling from Glenfarclas Distillery in Speyside. The clue to the significance of this bottling to SMWS is in the bottling code: the first ever cask purchased by founder Phillip ‘Pip’ Hills was a cask of Glenfarclas (known as ‘Distillery No. 1’ from then on), with this particular expression being from the hundredth cask purchased from Glenfarclas by the Society.

One of only 481 bottles, its maturation in an ex-sherry butt explains the bottle’s name: ‘Blackcurrant jam and cigar boxes’. It offers rich, deep and complex aromas, with notes of dark toffee on the palate, along with dark chocolate, liquorice and Benylin!

What should I look out for when investing in whisky?

So, have you a whisky gem worth a small fortune somewhere in your cabinet? It’s not impossible, especially if you have a bottle from a mothballed distillery like Port Ellen or Brora. The other whisky that is well known for appreciating over time is The Macallan. Last year, a £45 bottle of The Macallan was sold at auction for £1 600.

The Elgin gentleman had been gifted the 25 year old The Macallan in its presentation box by his son almost thirty years ago, but he didn’t realise that the value of the bottle had risen dramatically over the years until he took it along to a McTear’s valuation event.

Macallan 25 year old

The Macallan 25 Year Old

McTear's uncovered a host of rare whiskies during the event in April, but the rate bottle of The Macallan was probably the most exciting discovery. Distilled in 1962, it was sold at the Rare and Collectable Whisky Auction on 1st June with a promise from the seller that half the proceeds will go to his son.