The value of rare whiskey has increased by 478%in the last ten years, according to Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2021. This massively supersedes the value of traditional investment options: Classic cars increased in value by 193%, fine art by 71%, and wine by 127%.
Portfolio Manager, Casey Alexander, believes this is an important time for diversifying your portfolio and now, unlike before, it is easier to gain access to some of the rarest casks of single malt Scotch whisky.
While it is undeniable that markets are now volatile, I would still write the same article regarding whisky cask investments and how they compare to investing in whisky bottles and other physical assets even if this were not the case.
Although the act of buying whiskey casks privately is almost as old as the act of producing it, the opportunity for investors to participate in this market is a relatively new phenomenon. There are several causes for this, the most important of which are the increased availability of Single Malt Scotch in the 1980s, and the ongoing rise in popularity of whisky as a hobby since the beginning of the twenty-first century. Around this time, a small group of whisky collectors began to amass uncommon bottles, and this market has continued to grow to this day, as evidenced by the growing number of whisky auction sites and the frequency with which they sell.
Despite the scarcity of collectible bottles, it is a reasonably easy market to break into by visiting a specialist retailer, purchasing through an auction or from a private owner, or participating in one of the rare bottling ballots at a launch. Purchasing whiskey casks is a little more complex – and it is strongly recommended that you work with a reliable organisation in this field – but it can provide numerous benefits to investors seeking medium and long-term growth when compared to bottles and other alternative assets.
Let’s start with a bottle investment. Given the expanding global interest in single malt whisky, there are still plenty of smart investments to be made, and the industry’s development and profitability show no signs of slowing down, but a collection of rare bottles isn’t always the greatest option. Importantly, the liquid in a bottle does not age or mature, therefore a 12-year-old bottle of whisky will always be a 12-year-old bottle of whisky, and its value will only rise if the supply of that alcohol decreases, either due to discontinuation or a limited-edition bottling.
Many investors face financial and logistical difficulties, such as auction fees, shipping charges, and storage space requirements. Many investors just don’t have the time or space, either at home or at work, to dedicate a room to their bottle collection and manage the administration of tracking, packing, and shipping bottles, particularly when significant collections can have hundreds or thousands of bottles.
Whiskey casks are a much easier investment since the liquid is often acquired at a younger age and for a lower price compared to when the whiskey is matured. In certain situations, it is even purchased as a new make spirit. Whisky sells best at the ‘Milestone Ages’ of 12, 15, 18, 21, and 25 years old, so keep this in mind while deciding on an exit strategy for your investment.
Holding a 9-year-old barrel until it is 12 or 15 years old, for example, would be a shorter-term investment, with the whisky maturing in the cask and increasing in value throughout this time. We have yet to come across a distillery that sells their 18-year-old single malt for less than their 12-year-old single malt, and casks are no exception. The cask must be stored in a bonded warehouse in Scotland, which removes the need for the investor needing storage space for the cask.