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Is whisky rivalling wine for its collectible value?

At a glance

  • Fine wine has been a staple investment for investors for a numbers of years and will continue to be so
  • Whisky has become increasingly collectible with investors looking at the market to spur growth in their investments
  • In the first half of 2018, the value of rare Scotch whisky sold at auction exceeded £16 million for the first time

Fine wine has been a staple investment for investors for a numbers of years and will continue to be so. However, whisky has become increasingly collectible with investors looking at the market to spur growth in their investments.

In the first half of 2018, the value of rare Scotch whisky sold at auction exceeded £16 million for the first time. This was a year-on-year increase of 46% compared to the same period in 2017. Compared to 2013, the market has grown 732%, demonstrating the increasing popularity of whisky as an alternative investment to fine wines.

In 2018, a bottle of ‘The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old’, broke the world record at auction for a single bottle of whisky, selling for £1.2 million at Christie’s in London.

In 2019, auctioneers unveiled what is believed to be the largest private whisky collection ever to go on public sale. More than 3,900 bottles of primarily single malt Scotch, including very rare bottles from The Macallan, Bowmore and Springbank distilleries. The total value of the collection has been estimated at an auction price of between £7m – £8m. Perthshire based Whisky Auctioneer will sell the collection over two online auctions in February and April 2020.

In 2019, a Vietnamese businessman was revealed as the owner of the world’s most valuable whisky collection. Mr Viet Nguyen Dinh Tuan’s collection comprises some of the world’s oldest, finest and rarest bottles of Scotch and Japanese whisky, with an estimated auction hammer price of nearly £10.8m by valuation experts Rare Whisky.

Whilst whisky may be becoming a more attractive investment option, there are still some considerations to be had before putting your money where your glass is:

  1. Buy what you like drinking

If you buy what you like to drink, even if your investment doesn’t increase in value, you can still enjoy your collection by drinking it. Compared to wine, whisky keeps for longer and will retain its flavour over many years. If it’s stored under the right conditions, you have plenty of time to enjoy it.

  1. Consider collecting in themes

Most collectors start out by buying whisky from a particular distillery. Other collectable themes include; a particular area or production technique or even a certain type of whisky (Bourbon, Scotch, Japanese or Irish).

  1. Buy Limited edition

The scarcity of the bottle is what really impacts its price. A lot of distilleries (and certainly those that are well-known), will produce limited edition runs of certain releases. Like any collectible item, a rare whisky will fetch a higher price than those that are available to everyone. Another tip is to look out for bottles from ‘lost’ distilleries, these are distilleries that have closed down or no longer produce whisky. As these bottles become harder to source, their collectability and value rises.

  1. Don’t forget about storage

It’s important that like fine wine, you correctly store your collection. Whilst whisky is less volatile and easier to store, if the right precautions are not followed then it can degrade. Some things to consider are:

  • Store the bottles upright
  • Keep away from strong sunlight
  • Avoid extreme temperature fluctuations
  1. Have a labelling/filing system in place

It’s worth having some form of filing/labelling system for your collection, so it’s easier to correctly identify your bottles. It’s also better to have a filing system for your collection for insurance purposes. In the event of a claim, it’s easier for all parties if you can methodically list out your collection with the related evidence.

  1. Consider insuring your collection

A standard homeowner’s policy wasn’t designed to fully insure an extensive (or expensive) whisky collection. Instead, in order to insure your whisky collection, you should consider purchasing an insurance policy that will cover your whisky collection for damage, spoilage or loss. As well as ensuring that you aren’t underinsured and knowing that your collection is adequately covered. Some insurers may offer cover for your collection as part of your contents sum insured, however, this would be policies aimed at high net worth individuals and not a standard home insurance policy.

Compared to fine wine, whisky is easier to store and a bottled spirit will neither improve nor get worse over time, which means that its value should continue to increase, as the supply of it diminishes. Fine wines are much more sensitive and often require costly investment to ensure that they are stored in optimal conditions. Investing in rare spirits such as whisky, can offer a potentially safer and lower-maintenance choice compared to the traditional fine wine investment market.

For more information, please speak to your local Zurich contact.

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