It may not be on a par with fine wine just yet, but whisky is fast emerging as a serious investment. In the past 15 months, the top 100 bottles of investment-grade Scotch delivered a return of 24 per cent at auction, while prices for the sought-after Japanese whisky Karuizawa regularly surpassed £2,000 per bottle. And 2016 looks set to be a record year, with 55,000 collectable bottles (first picture), worth an estimated £12m, traded in the UK.
And as competition for the top bottles hots up, it will pay to have the experts on your side. Rare Whisky 101 is a whisky valuation service, brokerage and consultancy that now advises some of the top collectors in the world. Founded by Andy Simpson, a whisky collector and former corporate banker, and David Robertson (both second picture), a former master distiller for The Macallan who also headed up the rare whisky arm of Whyte & Mackay, the company has tracked every bottle sold at UK auctions over the past 12 years, giving it unrivalled insight into the performance of more than 25,000 different bottle types. Its annual market report is closely watched by the industry and private collectors alike – if you want to get the latest figures on your favourite dram, the website absolutely heaves with statistics.
But it’s with the bespoke service that Rare Whisky 101 really comes into its own – in the past year, it has brokered around 20,000 rare bottles for clients around the globe, as well as traded in aged casks and bottles from iconic distilleries, including The Macallan, Bowmore and Lagavulin. It doesn’t deal in transactions under £10,000 but that doesn’t trouble the clientele – last year’s transactions ranged from £15,000 to £1.5m.
Rare Whisky 101 also offers a valuation service for Scotch single malts and Karuizawa (though not blended whisky). And if you’re toying with the idea of building your own distillery, Rare Whisky 101 can help with that, too – its consultancy services encompass everything from distillery design and development to cask sourcing and spirit creation.
“My father rubbed Scotch on my gums as a teething baby, so whisky has been in my blood – and my family – all my life,” says Simpson, who began collecting 28 years ago, at the age of 16. “I try to buy two of everything, one to drink and one to keep – although sometimes I weaken and drink both. I reckon I’ve tried around 7,500 different single malts over the years. The first rule of collecting and investing in whisky is: love whisky.”