Advice on whisky as an investment - and what brands to buy from Macallan to The Dalmore

As Edrington saw sales top £1 billion at the end of June, Rosalind Erskine looks at whisky as an investment, and what rare drams you can buy now.

Published 11th Jul 2023
Updated 10 th Jul 2023

At the end of last month, Edrington, the whisky and spirits producer behind Speyside premium malt The Macallan, reported a year of “outstanding growth and investment” after revenues topped £1 billion for the first time.

The Macallan has, in recent years, become a byword for covetable, expensive whisky. A rare “forgotten” cask of Macallan 1988, bought for just £5,000, sold for for $1,295,500 [£1.01m] last year 2022.

A bottle of The Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60-year-old was also the first bottle ever to fetch a seven-figure sum at a Scottish auction back in 2021.

The distillery has been one of a few to release very old whiskies. In early 2022, The Macallan released an 81-year-old single malt, with just 288 decanters available.

Although this is officially this distillery’s oldest, they’ve already launched a couple of limited-edition 70-year-old drams in the last year. The most recent was Tales of The Macallan Volume I, released in August last year, which features a single malt that dates back to 1950.

Also in 2021, Gordon & MacPhail released an 80-year-old whisky that was produced at the Glenlivet Distillery and the Glenfiddich, which sold three rare bottlings from the 1950s in 2021 for a whopping £1.037m, £1,037,500, has released limited bottles from its Archive Collection, which include three single malt Scotch whiskies distilled in 1973, 1984 and 1987.

As an investment, rare whisky has become increasingly sought-after by investors in recent years. Andrew Shirley, editor of the Knight Frank Wealth Report, said: “Over the last ten years, rare whisky has been the top performing asset class in our luxury investment index.

"Our index, which tracks a basket of rare bottles sold at auction, has increased in value 428 per cent over the last decade, and 9 per cent in the past year.”

Advice on investing in whisky

Perfect Collection
The extremely rare Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami.

House of Bruar's in-house whisky expert and holder of a single malt whisky diploma, Martin Homola, had this advice for anyone looking to make the leap into whisky investment. “Knowing how to invest is about connections and contacts,” he said. 

“It’s about being in the right place at the right time with the proper awareness about what to buy, where to buy and when to buy and sell.

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"Determining whether a bottle will become a collectible item is an art form in itself. It’s not necessarily dependent on taste, the distillery’s reputation or age.

"A random event can transform the most ordinary bottle into a collectible piece – the collapse of a warehouse roof at Glenfiddich, destroying the majority of casks, turned the surviving bottles into investment gold dust.”

Mr Homola was referring to the rare bottling of Snow Phoenix, which is now worth around £700, but was originally sold for about £60.

What brands to look out for

Picture: The Dalmore Distillery Exclusive

He explained his main tips for how to begin a whisky investment journey saying: “Stick with the ‘big’ brands, such as Macallan, Dalmore, Balvenie, Bowmore or Springbank – over time, well-established distilleries perform extremely well. Look for limited releases, vintages and bottles which are part of a series. Usually, first releases increase in value the fastest.”

With this in mind, what old and rare whiskies are available to buy now? The 25-year-old Glen Scotia, which is still available for £550, is well worth buying, not only because it won ‘Best in Show’ in the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

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This year The Benriach released a 40-year-old whisky, known simply as The Forty, which is available only as a global travel retail exclusive, with just 134 bottles available.

As with all rare products, time and budget is of the essence. But there’s choice for most with money to spend on bottles of old and rare whisky, whether it’s for enjoying with friends and family or as an investment.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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