Last year saw a flurry of record-setting whiskey auctions, highlighted by a string of individual bottles raking in seven-figure paydays. In May, a rare 60-year-old Macallan netted approximately US$1.06 million. That record was broken in October, with another Macallan hauling in US$1.1 million, and that new high mark lasted merely until the following month, when yet another bottle from the same Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 sold to the tune of US$1.5 million.
These seven-figure standouts have only served to intensify the spotlight on what has been a growing trend for years—whiskey investing. “It’s been nothing but exponential growth year after year,” says Bill Thomas, proprietor of Washington, D.C.’s Jack Rose Dining Saloon, a bar with approximately 2,700 labels of whiskey, and in his free time, an avid collector with a personal stash dwarfing that of his bar’s.
The Growth of Whiskey as an Investment Strategy
From the world’s finest auction houses down to the local liquor shop around the corner from your home, investing in whiskey is a global phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down.
“Whiskey collecting used to be a niche, where people who really liked certain brands would buy all they could find of that particular brand,” says Brian Robinson, a well-known spirits collector who brings unique dual-expertise into the field, as he also happens to run a financial planning firm. “Nowadays, it seems a bit more indiscriminate, where people are gobbling up anything they can find that they think might have a higher secondary value.”
If you’re a whiskey drinker, then you’ve already noticed the phenomenon. Annual releases such as the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection or Pappy Van Winkle lineup sell out instantaneously, fetching many times their suggested retail pricing. Same goes for Japanese brands such as Yamazaki and Hibiki. The best of Japan have also sold well at auction. In 2018, a 50-year-old Yamazaki sold for roughly US$300,000, a record. Later in the year, a 52-year-old Karuizawa sold with a US$312,000 price tag, only to be surpassed by a 50-year-old Yamazaki, which earned its owner US$343,000.