Why spending 1.9 million dollars on a bottle of whisky ultimately works against the consumer.
The recent sale at an auction house in London of a bottle of scotch whisky for the mere sum of 1.9 million dollars, sparked a lively debate as to the relative value of a glass of scotch. Various approximations as to the cost of a glass of the “1926 Macallan” sprouted forth – I presume depending on just how many cl a standard whisky dram/shot was supposed to contain. As it was a 70 cl bottle, that works out at 27,143 dollars for one cl. Opinions vary as to what may be considered the “size of a shot”, but we could simplify things by agreeing that a “typical shot” of the above spirit is valued at over 70,000 dollars.
Is it worth it?
Well the obvious answer would be – never. (Or, we’ll never really get a chance to know – will we?).
The “never” answer should be true for over 99% of all scotch drinkers, inasmuch as they are not multi-millionaires, do not usually consume their favourite tipple with a view to depleting their life-savings, and would more than likely – given the choice – prefer a life-time supply of their favourite 18 year old malt in exchange for just that one single dram.
In other words, the question of value is purely subjective. To those in that very small and exclusive category of wealth who purchase fine and rare objet d’art in the 7-figure plus bracket, perhaps a small deviation from their next Rembrandt in favour of an extremely rare bottle of scotch would be barely noticed in their investment portfolio. For the collector, there is near-blind value – i.e. the determination to get their hands on it is such that the price is of virtually no consequence. However, the knock-on effect to the entire scotch whisky market could be quite significant, should this mark the beginning of a new trend. The very fact that selected single malts attract investors or collectors – as opposed to straightforward consumers – warps the market in a manner that adversely affects a major pocket of higher-end consumers.
The real price of scotch whisky
Such added demand – certainly at the very high end of the “decades-aged” spirit – puts price pressure on the rest of the aged single malt market. Since in recent years the aged single malt market has seen unprecedented growth in demand, there have been subtle changes in the whisky producing industry. You only need to look at the influx of non-aged-statement malts flooding the market for proof of this phenomenon. Macallan themselves have joined the bandwagon with their latest colour-themed bottles. This remains the scotch-producing industry’s way to meet the ever-rising demand for single malt whisky.
On the other hand, many purists prefer to steer clear of the non-age-statement malts, but will struggle to afford the increasingly higher prices for the “decades-old” single malt. These customers serve as an important, and profitable, slice of the overall whisky market. The advent of new speculators foraying into the high-end market are only going to squeeze supply further. Likely result – an escalation in consumer prices.
Put another way, the hope for us purists would be that the recent sale at Sotheby’s of a fine rare single malt actually remains a rarity.
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