A trend has been going on for a few years now. A trend that I expected to be over sooner or to be smaller in any case. By that trend I mean the incredibly high prices that are asked for extremely old or rare whiskies.
A few years ago, when Highland Park released their 40 year old whisky with a price tag of around € 1000 I thought the world had gone crazy. Other distillers were asking similar prices, like Macallan and the likes, but those operated in an entirely different league and were aiming at Russian oligarchs and not specifically at whisky drinkers.
I expected that to be a short fad and distilleries would realize quickly enough that their general fanbase would not go for / care for / like such expensive whiskies. The fact that similarly aged whiskies from other distillers and independent bottlers are available at sometimes 20% of that price didn’t help their case, I thought.
Things didn’t go that way. Actually, things went the exact other way. The companies behind distillers could apparently smell the money and they just kept upping the price. Highland Park 50 goes for € 13000. Macallan thought to throw in a polaroid with their regular priced 30 year old and raise the price by € 500. The older Dalmores are out of most people’s league too.
Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. Now, a trend has been around for a while in which the ‘oldest’ from a distillery is released at prices that people used to buy a house for. Dalmore Trinitas at £ 100,000. Bowmore 54 years old £ 100,000.
The alarming thing is that some other distillers and bottlers release stuff that is starting to look like a bargain while still being worth a small car. Glenfarclas 1953 for € 7500 and Gordon & MacPhail’s Glenlivet 70 year old at € 14000.
What I’m trying to get at is that I absolutely don’t see the point of these ultra expensive releases, even from the distillers’ point of view. Yes, it’s easy to sell 10 bottles and have the quarterly turn-over of the century, but why would you want to be associated with that? To me their reputation is lessened because of this easy money scheme. Distillers should be in the drinks business, not in the Chinese-museum-of-foreign-booze business.
Since Dalmore and Macallan started doing these tricks I haven’t even considered buying a bottle of their whisky, albeit lovely drams. I regret Bowmore is taking this route too and I can no longer see them as an ancient company on an island full of honest and good people. To me they’re now the Japanese-run money maker on an island full of honest and good people.
I’ve just stopped caring. Whenever such a bottling is announced with all the bravura accompanied with it I just shrug and close the browser window. With me a lot of people who spend the better part of their income (after tax) on booze do so too. Not that I mind paying good money for good booze, but I want it to be in balance.
The best example of a distiller keeping both feet on the ground is, I think, Glenfarclas releasing their 40 year old baby a few years back for € 240. A regular bottle without diamonds, platinum, African hardwood cases and such. A bottle in a cardboard tube. You spend your cash on whisky. Not on marketing.
By the way, I intentionally didn’t mention the Macallan Lalique that was auctioned for about a $ 250.000 a few years ago, since that was for charity.