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Whisky investment: Rare bottles continue upward trajectory

A decade of steady growth has catapulted rare whisky into the market spotlight, but there have been mixed signals from the sector in 2023.

Ultra-rare bottlings continue to find buyers. A 1.5-litre bottle of Bowmore STAC 55 Year Old single malt Scotch fetched a hammer price of £450,000 (£562,500 with buyer’s premium) at the Sotheby’s-hosted Distillers One of One charity auction in October.

Data from Bordeaux Index suggests long-term price growth for rare whisky has continued in 2023 (see chart below), although Matthew O’Connell, CEO of the merchant’s LiveTrade platform, said momentum has slowed a little.

The Bordeaux Index view

Fine wine & spirits specialist Bordeaux Index kindly sponsors this section of Decanter, and provides its view on the market here every issue. It can be found at bordeauxindex.com

It is difficult to express fully how much the global whisky market has changed in the last 10-15 years, with top Scotch and Japanese whiskies seeing price gains of five times or more (the 10-year compound annual growth rate is around 20%).

The key driver is an explosion in wealthy collectors and consumers, against the backdrop of a very limited supply of old and rare whisky. Not only did distilleries have no idea of the current demand context 30-40 years ago, the economic and industry situation was difficult and numerous distilleries were closed at that time.

Even compared to wine, whisky is an ultra-long term business – setting aside casks for ageing for 20-50 years, or indeed occasionally even longer. Even though today distilleries have generally increased capacity, minimised selling liquid for blending and taken other steps to increase liquid for ageing, it will take a long time to accrue stocks of aged whisky and this is exacerbated by the demand for younger liquid from global consumers.

We see the future trajectory of the whisky market as likely to remain very positive over the medium term and longer given this deep-rooted supply-demand imbalance.

Bordeaux Index

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