After reading a great article recently by our Cellarmaster on ‘whisky flippers’ and the ugly side of scalping whisky, I was inspired to look at the other side of the coin: whisky collecting.
What does this mean specifically, and how do you collect whisky? Some drams for thought…
I’ve often categorised whisky buyers into three broad categories in this respect. The first is whisky drinkers. These are people that open everything they buy by the bottle, sometimes as soon as it arrives in their hand, sometimes later that day, or perhaps in a week or two. They buy to drink, to enjoy, to share around, to get the most of the experience of purchasing a special malt or two. This is something I resonate with on a huge level, and as I’ve said before, it doesn’t taste any good inside the bottle!
The second category would be whisky collectors. Those who buy to collect, who want to build a library of interesting sealed bottles that might be enjoyed later, or not, to admire, to build on, to enjoy at a later date, but certainly not with the intention of flipping or on-selling. Whisky collectors sometimes don’t even open what they buy, but they live for the hunt, or completing sets of bottlings, or just admiration for the liquid or brand. This is admirable, takes a long-term view, requires some patience and usually a fair amount of disposable income.
The third category, of which Andrew wrote about his thoughts on here, are whisky flippers. Those who buy explicitly with the intention of flipping at a profit on secondary market, usually with quite a markup. I won’t delve too far into this as Andrew has really said everything that could be said.
Focussing on the second category, whisky collectors, let’s examine how and what to collect when it comes to whisky…
1. Buy what you like
This sounds really obvious, but you’d be flabbergasted if you knew how many times I see people getting this wrong. Let’s pretend you’re a huge fan of distillery ‘Glenbagpipe’. You love their whisky, their casks, their packaging, their story, and you’ve perhaps even visited the distillery more than once. If you want to build a collection of their whiskies, then go for it. Do you care that it’s not as popular a distillery as Glenwonka just up the road? Are you super keen on their story and love what they represent in whisky? Do it. Buy what YOU want to drink, not what others think is hot. Some members of the SMWS often like to collect certain flavour profiles, or certain distillery codes. Whatever you like, however you want.
2. Diversify and discover
Perhaps ever-so-slightly contrary to my previous point of focusing in on one bottling or distillery, but I personally find diversifying your whisky collection is a great way to get into it. My own collection has a broad array of bottlings from early SMWS rarities, to modern Australian whiskies, to strange sonic-aged experiments and more. They are all bottles that I want to own, intend to open, and want to share the story behind why I own them. Having 200 x bottles of Glenwonka might look fun, but once you scratch beneath the surface a bit, the whole world of flavour can open right up.
3. Keep them right
If you’re going to collect and drink, the last recommendation is an easy one, but one that I’m asked quite often. Keep your bottles in a cool, dark place in your home. Natural sunlight is the enemy to whisky longevity, and keep the bottles upright (not laying down) and the rest is easy.