Collections

Choice buys

Chrisitie's whisky consultant Martin Green takes us down the malt vault and advises on what to buy now and drink or sell later.
By Martin Green
Whisky collectors tend to select from the following categories: limited edition single malts, by region, by distillery, by maturation, by their year of birth, very old and rare blended whiskies, and so on. With limited edition malts the main thing to look for is the age of the spirit. Generally speaking, the longer the spirit matures, the more expensive it becomes. However, I do know a collector who only collects 21-year-old malts. The secret lies in selection, so examine the label and check how much information it gives. The important things to look for are: Date and year of distillation and bottling
A clear statement of the age of the spirit when bottled
Bottle number
Quantity of bottles in the release or single cask selection
Cask number
Strength of the spirit These are all important factors in determining the value and potential future value of the spirit. In 1989 for example, Glenmorangie selected eight casks of malt from the vintage years 1976 and 1979. The spirit was traditionally matured in American white oak barrels then transferred to first growth claret casks from Pauillac, Bordeaux to finish. The result was a very pleasing drinking malt. Each bottle was numbered and presented in a well-made case. Bottles are now very difficult to find and although often come up at auction will command over £130 each. Many people purchased more than one bottle at an affordable price of around £50, drank some and saved the rest thus combining the opportunity to drink and collect.Others are great fans of the Islay malts, myself included. The first bottle I bought was a limited release of Bowmore, distilled in 1963, the year of my birth. I paid £55 for it in 1989 and it is now worth £160. Until now I have managed to resist the temptation of opening it although when I look at it I am reminded by the tag around it’s neck that it is quite rare. A very special Bowmore release in 1994 was the first distillate after the distillery changed hands. After 30 years maturation, the spirit was so dark they named it Black Bowmore -1964. There were three limited edition releases. Each bottle was numbered and packed in its own wooden presentation box. It was mouth-watering to look at and like gold dust to find. It is worth is in excess of £600 per bottle these days, often more. It cost £120 in 1994.In the Speyside region The Macallan has recently released rare mature limited edition malts. For example its 1946, labelled with a date for each day of the year, is bottled at over 50-years-old. Many people have been lucky enough to reserve their birth date making the bottle a very personal treasure. Other limited edition releases by The Macallan are the original 50-year-old, distilled in 1928 and bottled in 1983. A limited release of 500 was sold world-wide. Bottle number 007 recently fetched £8,500 at Christie’s. It is not known whether it was bought by James Bond star Sean Connery.Rare old blended whiskies that have appeared at auction include brand names that have disappeared without trace or are difficult to identify. They are often colourful to look at and quite distinctive in their design, bottle shape and labelling. Examples include: Heather Bloom; Macdonald’s Highland Belle; Drum Major; Glenstrath Fine Old Liqueur; Crookit Horn; Top Malt De Luxe and Harvest Glen Highland Whisky.These are exceptional examples of the very finest and rarest whiskies. Whether the vessel contains single malt or blended spirit; a large quantity of bottles or indeed decanters makes a highly impressive and colourful display. The first time you see a collection or accumulation of this nature on a large scale, the impression you are left with is breathtaking and mouth-watering to say the least. It remind me of going to museums where it is impossible to take everything in on the first visit. It is often second time around that a particular artefact grabs my attention. It is exactly the same
with whisky.