Spirits: Super scotch, super price tags
Earlier this year, I wrote a column about very, very expensive booze, in particular some 18th-century cognacs sold at auction for $37,000 and scotches sold at auction for more than $7,000. At the time, I asked: Who was buying this stuff? Perhaps, I suggested, spirits were the only safe investment in this economic climate.
Anyway, six months later, the trend toward super-super premium (shall we coin a new category called "ridiculously premium"?) spirits continues. In April, I went to a scotch tasting in New York, put on by the Scotch Whisky Association, at the British Consul Generals' apartment. It was a swanky affair, with a few dozen scotch producers pouring some of their best bottles. One of my fellow journalists recommended a little taste of the Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1973 whisky. Well, four decades in sherry barrels created something pretty delicious: serious, but nutty and with intense dried-fruit notes and a subtle sweetness not usually found in scotch. Wow, I thought, I should share this with my readers. So I asked, "How much does this retail for?"
$1,250, I was told. I nearly gagged.
But they weren't kidding. Next week, the Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1973 actually goes on sale for $1,250. Only 240 bottles are being offered, so you'd better move fast if you want to grab a one or two for Father's Day.
Glenlivet isn't the only distillery banking on expensive offerings. Earlier this year, for instance, The Macallan released 1,000 special bottles of its 30-year-old Fine Oak selection, whose labels are decorated with artsy photos by the fashion photographer Rankin. Price per bottle: $1,700.
So what's the deal? Why the impulse to release such expensive whisky? One theory holds that scotch distillers are feeling the pinch of the spirits boom of the past several years. Scotch sales overall have been flat for the past decade, while other categories such as tequila and rum and bourbon have exploded with exciting premium offerings. The only segment of scotch sales that has shown much promise has been single-malts, at $40 and more. Eric Arnold, in Forbes earlier this year, suggested these ridiculously premium scotches are way of saying, "Hey, don't forget about scotch! We're the original premium spirit!"
-- Jason Wilson (Follow me on Twitter.)
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