How expensive can Scotch whisky get?

10th December, 2013 by Becky Paskin

Prestige spirits are the playground of the world’s wealthiest, but Becky Paskin asks if there is a limit to how much they’ll pay for a bottle of Scotch?


Richard Paterson admires his exclusive £987,500 collection for Harrods – a playground for prestige spirits buyers

As you read this, The Dalmore Paterson Collection may or may not remain the centrepiece of Harrods’ Wine and Spirit department in London.

At £987,500 it is the most expensive collection of Scotch whisky available to buy in the world, and not likely to draw a hurried impulse purchase.

But with luxury spirits selling faster than an Arab playboy’s supercar races through Knightsbridge, its sale doesn’t look far off.

Sales of prestige spirits – priced over US$100 – are at an all-time high, thanks in part to the advent of the “weekend millionaire”, “status chasers”, and wealthy Chinese consumers, the latter of whom now account for one in four purchases of luxury products, according to Bain & Company’s Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study 2012.

Chivas Brothers defines prestige spirits consumers as “high net worth individuals, who are well travelled, with salaries in the top 10%, are very comfortable with technology and frequently entertain and celebrate with friends, clients and colleagues whom they seek to impress”. It’s this elite group of consumers who are increasingly pushing the boundaries of what prestige spirits are worth.

In 2009 the first whisky to sell for over £100,000 was The Dalmore Trinitas 64-year-old. Since then, The Macallan 64 Year Old in Lalique: Cire Perdue almost tripled the record when it went on to become the most expensive whisky ever sold at auction in 2010, at a staggering US$460,000 (£291,125). If the trend continues, we could be looking at a £900,000 single whisky sale very soon.

Fastest growing category

The IWSR reports global volumes of prestige spirits reached 10,700 cases in 2012 – a 27.6% leap in just five years – making the category the fastest-growing in spirits, outpacing already remarkable growth for super-premium (9.4%) and ultra-premium brands (12.8%).

The majority of that growth is driven unsurprisingly by Scotch and Cognac, two categories long associated with prestige, wealth and status that can command high price tags with romantic stories of decades-long maturation and the craftsmanship of master blenders. But a market is starting to emerge for luxury rum with both Angostura and Appleton Estate releasing £20,000+ prestige editions to mark Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica’s 50-year independence.

Likewise, knowledge of Japanese whisky is also starting to spread, although the majority of sales are confined to Japan’s borders. Category dominator Suntory Holdings, which almost doubled its sales in the US in 2012, is targeting the rising global whisky connoisseur with a sturdy overseas expansion plan. Identifying the market for luxury spirits, particularly in the States, Suntory released its first ultra-luxury expression – a Yamazaki 50 Year Old – in late 2011 in a run of 150 bottles with a price tag of US$13,000 each.

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