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How to invest in whisky

Richard Woodard offers a simple guide with tips on what to buy and where to buy it

Investing in whisky has never been more popular. As more and more people around the world have become interested in owning rare bottles, the simple mechanics of supply and demand have sent prices rocketing.

The Apex 1000 index, compiled by broker and consultant Rare Whisky 101, tracks the pricing of 1,000 collectable whiskies; from a baseline of 138.0 at the end of 2010, it has risen by well over 500% to hit 936.24 on 25 May 2020. That comfortably outperforms fine wine, gold and the stock markets.

Anyone can make money in a bull market, but pricing trends can fluctuate, so there is no substitute for experience: the best whisky investors have an in-depth knowledge of the subject, and/or lean heavily on the expertise of merchants and auction houses. That way they can successfully navigate leaner times.

Where should you buy?

Seek out specialist retailers or auction houses with a proven track record. The best will share your ambition for a return on your investment, and have the expertise to make it happen – and they are a safer bet when it comes to provenance. As in fine wine, fakes are a real and growing problem.

What should you buy?

Something you like – because you might have to drink it.

Bottlings from closed distilleries, limited editions and discontinued expressions are worth considering. Online whisky reviews and price comparisons are great aids in this process.

You could also look at a whisky investment fund, of which there are a growing number, but ask lots of questions about the people behind it, their accreditation and experience, and the storage, insurance and valuation of the whisky they hold. Many have been swindled over the years.

As well as individual bottles, you could buy casks of maturing whisky. These are sometimes made available to private individuals by brokers or distillers – and now, increasingly, appear at auction – and can be bottled immediately or left to mature further. Some investment funds also specialise in this area.

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