Whiskey market soars as rich Asians take the bottle

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While the world had stayed at home last year, the alcohol markets performed very well. But now that the lockdown measures are mostly above normal, normality should prevail, right? Not, it seems, for the rich.

“Spirits are on fire right now. They are really growing from the high end to the prestige level of the industry, ”says Gerry Tosh, manager of Rare Whiskey at The Dalmore Distillery in Scotland.

The premium market starts at $ 100 a bottle and $ 1,000 prestige, which gives you a rough idea of ​​who is buying spirits right now. But many buyers today go even further.

In June, for example, Sotheby’s sold 24 bottles of the famous Chinese liqueur Kweichow Moutai for $ 1.4 million, breaking previous records for this spirit. It “totally and completely changed the market,” says Tosh.

Records are set everywhere, but especially in Asia. China is a rapidly growing market for all spirits, but Scotch whiskey is the main one. France and Taiwan are the biggest markets for Scotch, “but China and America are right behind them,” says Tosh. And it is the Chinese that whiskey distillers keep a close eye on.

“There is a generational change. The younger generation is starting to learn more about whiskey,” says Thorsten Hartmann, director of IWSR, which tracks the global beverage industry. “These are emerging consumers who are starting to fall in love with whiskey. They may not have been exposed in the past, but they certainly are now.”

At a recent Sotheby’s whiskey and rare spirits auction, 80% of buyers were Asian and 60% were under 40.

“There are guys in Asia who have really raised the bar when it comes to whiskey tasting and tickets for those tastings sometimes cost tens of thousands of dollars and they open all kinds of bottles,” says Jonny Fowle, senior whiskey specialist. spirits at Sotheby’s. . “It’s pretty regular that in people’s homes they open bottles up to $ 50,000 and more per bottle.”

Like wine tastings before them, expensive whiskey is sought after both to drink and to show off. “There is certainly an element to conspicuous consumption, showing your wealth,” says Hartmann.

This is the complete opposite of what has happened in Western markets over the past year. The lockdown unleashed the whiskey market in the UK and US as wealthy connoisseurs, consoling themselves or just getting bored at home, started drinking their rare whiskey collections like never before. Of course, they then had to piece them together.

While this brutal consumption may have slowed, the market has not. Investors are realizing that if richer young Asians find a love for whiskey, the market will only grow.

“We’re still in the early days of the single malt rebirth,” says Tosh, referring to the market for single-origin whiskeys rather than blended whiskeys. Whether or not this is your drink of choice, the market is also open to outside investors.

For around £ 3,000 ($ 4,122) you can buy a cask of Scotch whiskey as an investment. “Given the current growth rates, you should be able to turn a profit immediately,” says Jonathan Hook, founder of MacInnes Whiskey, a whiskey investment company. “But after passing the 15-year mark, the earnings increase a bit.”

The idea of ​​buying a cask rather than a bottle is more and more common. “If you bottle a wine, it appreciates. With whiskey, once you take it out of a cask and into a bottle, overall the flavor doesn’t improve,” says Hook.

But when the time is right for bottling, you can either sell the cask as a whole or have it bottled and sell these instead.

This does not mean that the price of the bottles is not increasing either. Whiskey houses recently commissioned artists and architects to decorate limited edition bottles.

Architect Sir David Adjaye designed a decanter and case for the oldest single malt Scotch whiskey ever to be bottled, an 80 year old Glenlivet. These bottles are expected to be auctioned off at Sotheby’s in London next month.

But the main reason for the increase in the whiskey market is that people continue to drink it. As long as this continues, says Hartmann, there will be a growing market: “Consumption is a very important part of collecting whiskey that we have to propagate in order to be able to develop the market.


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