“For drink or for collect?”

Yes, this is the phrase us Italians get joked about by our whisky friends. What is the bottle for? Do you intend to drink it or to collect it? Like it makes a difference…. True, drinkers joke about collectors and their perfectly lined-up displays of trophies, and collectors tell them “well, if there were no collectors you would be forced to drink what the distilleries are releasing now…” ahem, bleah. It used to be that good whisky was available in such quantities where you could do both, buy two of them, drink one, put one away for the future, or even three, that’s how i built my collection, open one, put two away, and after value has gone up sell one for the price of two… that way the one you opened was paid for.

And why is Whisky a great investment? Well all the obvious answers apply here, but also keep in mind that if you buy a Patek watch it will be one more Patek available in the world, with whisky when a bottle of Samaroli Bowmore Bouquet gets drunk that means there is one less in the world, that makes the value of the remaining bottles increase.

Scotch Whisky Export Growth
Value growth of whisky 1980/2013 Courtesy divingforpearlsblog.com

So what to buy? Well the answer is easy if what you are looking for is drinking bottles, buy what you like to drink! But if you’re looking to invest in Whisky and to buy bottles that will hold or increase in value my advice is to buy the “Legends” when you find them no matter what the price is, if you can afford it, that is because there are less and less of them around and they keep increasing in value, if your budget is limited then the rule is “buy good whisky”, do not buy the latest fad, there will be a new one next week, buy whisky that has a good quality price ratio, Glendronach is still selling a 18yo and 21yo of excellent quality and decent strength, compared to its price and they use real sherry butts, same for Aberlour, of course the 12yo Lagavulin can ONLY increase in value because it is good, Scapa is in my opinion a still “undiscovered” great malt for a very reasonable price, many from the Rare Malts series are still affordable at auction even though they are distilled mostly in the 70’s. And of course Springbank in my opinion is maybe the last true boutique distillery releasing consistently high quality products at affordable rates.

In 2010 when i had my first Online Shop “Good Whisky” I listed the “Samaroli Bomb”, 4 bottles for 3450 euro and it went unsold for a year, price seemed too high, then, lucky me, it took it offline.  What would it be worth now?

Sama bomb1
The “Samaroli Bomb” unsold in 2010.

But…. good times are over now, even in Italy, but it used to be, not too long ago, that my wife and I would just hop in the car on the weekend, drive around to places we had never been before and stop at every bar, every pastry shop, small grocery stores etc, and come home on Sunday with the car full of Laffies, Lagas, Samarolis, Macallans and so on, they were everywhere.

Why in Italy? Why not in Germany or Belgium or more likely in the UK? Well the story is a bit convoluted but it can be explained fairly easily: In the 70’s mr Giaccone started a “fad”, the Whiskyteque, a place where you could try different kinds of hard liquors, they sprang up everywhere, and Whiskyteques needed product, different labels, series, so the good old masters of selection like Samaroli, Mongiardino (Moon Import), Intertrade, Sestante, Co-Import, Bonfanti etc etc started asking the Distilleries and Independent Bottlers to have different labels, Cask Strength whisky, series of bottles from different Distilleries with beautiful labels, so to fill up the shelves at the Whiskyteca with an appealing and wide selection of goods. And people started buying full bottles in these places to start a collection.

At the same time Italy was going through a serious financial depression, people started not trusting banks anymore and would rather put their money on collectables, watches, whisky, gold coins, stamps and so on. We estimate that there are about 3000 “undiscovered” collections still in Italy, but the internet served the purpose to let the collectors know that what they have in their hands could be worth a fortune, so it’s not that easy now to get them to sell it, especially when these rare bottles serve as a “come in” for the most searched online Whisky Shops and their prices are inflated beyond belief and so when we get an email from a seller asking if we are interested in purchasing a collection it is very likely that their asking price is way higher than what we would even sell it for in the shop.

And so the problem now is sourcing, not selling. But we have had some great years of fun and drams and we are thankful for that. So feel free to use this space as a “trade” venue, just please do not offer bottles for sale.


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