Expert advice

Advice on Whisky Investment

Brought to you by Anne-Sophie Bigot - Whisky Expert

It's official: whisky has far exceeded other popular investments in value, such as wine or gold. The Rare Whisky Apex 1000 benchmark for Scotch whisky rose 14% in 2015, while the index of gold declined 10% during the same period. The whisky market is booming in Europe and even worldwide, attained at auctions for amounts never seen before. In the United Kingdom, for example, there were over 10 million transactions in 2015, up 25% from 2014. With so much open opportunity, Catawiki's whisky expert Anne-Sophie Bigot shares her top whisky investing tips for both the old and new generation of whisky connoisseurs. 

The Value is in the Rarity
This is the golden rule of investing in whisky. However, it is equally important to remember that as with any investment, trends change and evolve: no investment is risk free. Favouring an official bottle brings better resale value than an independent bottle, even when they have identical properties - same brand, same year of distillation, etc.

Bottles from closed distilleries, called 'silent distilleries', are especially prized by investors. Port Ellen, Rosebank, or Hanyu distilleries joined the ranks of sleeping beauties in the 2000s. Whiskies from these places are also very popular because they are often limited to a few hundred bottles. For example, during Scotland’s famous annual 'Feis Ile' music festival, bottles of Laphroaig or Ardbeg are depleted within days.

A handful of historic brands are also gaining high rankings at auction: Macallan, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Highland Park, The Balvenie and Glenmorangie.

New Trends
Japan’s whisky culture has grown exponentially in recent years, attracting the most collectors and investors. Bottles from Karuizawa, a closed distillery, sell for the price of gold: one sold recently in Hong Kong for around €100,000. The country currently has a shortage due to high demand that was not anticipated at the time, which is particularly visible in the 'older' bottles. Japan will have to wait many years before an 18-year old bottle of Yamazaki reappears on store shelves.

Bourbon is also in its heyday. Specifically sought after, bottles of Pappy Van Winkle are breaking records at auction. Last November, a pack of 5 bottles of varying ages reached €16,000 at auction, far exceeding their original estimate.

As for 'worldly whiskies' there are some hidden gems that attract attention and might sell at great prices in a few years. This is already the case for some expressions of Taiwan Kavalan, the Canadian Crown Royal or Amrut Indian.

Important Facts to Verify 
A general good state of the bottle must be ensured. The labels and against labels must be legible, not torn, and with the least damage possible, which is not always easy for vintage whiskies or bottles that haven’t been stored in optimal conditions.

Over time, an evaporation phenomenon occurs that releases small amounts of alcohol from the cask. This is called the 'angel's share', and it is generally up to 2% per, year but could be higher in warmer climates. While this is normal, it is necessary to make sure the level of the bottle isn’t abnormally low. We also cannot stress this enough: do not buy a bottle that’s already been opened. The whisky’s value decreases drastically from the moment the seal is broken.  

Lastly, all the information on the labels are indicators and quality guarantees for the purchase of a bottle. They detail the distillation and bottling dates, capacity, degree, type of barrels used for aging, and even the batch number. For the most prestigious bottles, do not hesitate to do more research and get an expert's opinion.

Where to Buy
There are two main ways to invest in whisky. The obvious one being through a wine shop or a trusted dealer; the other being through auctions. It's on auction sites that you will find the best treasures and deals for both a buyer and seller. On Catawiki, more than 300 bottles of whisky go up for auction each week, including many rarities that will delight investors, collectors, and connoisseurs alike.

The biggest risk in buying whisky is to acquire a counterfeit. To overcome this problem, each bottle auctioned on the Catawiki site is subject to prior appraisal by an expert auctioneer, thus ensuring the authenticity of the bottle for sale. To see which whiskies Anne-Sophie and her team have selected this week, visit Catawiki's Whisky auctions.

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