What is a $16,000 bottle of Whisky really worth?

What 99 Drams taught me more than anything else is the following – there are two types of people who buy whisky. There are those who buy it to drink it. This makes up the great majority of the marketplace. The level of “connoisseur-ship” in this group varies from person to person.

Then there are those who are the whisky collectors. A great many of them believe themselves to be connoisseurs as well, having the ability to discern those bottles with rare attributes from the rest of the proletariat whiskys.

Those of us in the first group believe those in the second group are, for the most part, out of their gourd. After all, who would spend $16,000 on a bottle of whisky, when a good one could be had for around $50 at the local liquor store.

Ah, but from the collector’s point of view, taste is but one of the variables that come into the equation. For example, you could purchase a bottle of 50 year old Highland Park that comes in a fancy bottle!

With this bottle, taste has little to do with the equation on why it’s worth $16,000.(Well, let’s not say taste and instead say flavor. Because anyone who believes that bottle looks attractive clearly has no taste. The bottle looks like it was designed by someone who had played one too many rounds of Dungeons and Dragons.)

What makes this bottle worth $16,000? The age of the whisky, for one. There are only a few fifty year old Scotches in the marketplace. However, without having tasted this particular release, it should be noted that the flavor profiles of whiskeys that have been in the barrel for over 35 years have an increased probability of losing whatever nuances come from aging. It’s around the 35 year mark that the characteristics of the wood can start to overwhelm the spirit. I’m not saying this is always the case, but it is the time frame when things can start to go really wrong for a whisky. But again, I’m assuming that flavor is important here when it may not be.

If I were to put my finger on why this particular whisky is worth that much is because it’s being marketed as such. Honestly? One could get away with selling this whisky for half of the amount and still make a profit off of it. Fifty year old scotches are rare but not unheard of.

For example, in the past few years, Glenfiddich has released one(at $16,000 for a 500 bottle run), as has Glenfarclas (at $5900 per bottle), Auchentoshan ($4183 per bottle), and several others. A $16,000 price tag for a limited run of only 275 bottles is implying that there’s something of value here beyond the age on the label. Outside of the fancy bottle, and the brand name upon it, I’ll be damned if I can figure out what that is.

In my opinion, as one who is definitively NOT a collector of whisky, there has been only one brand that should be worth at least $16,000. And that would be Shackleton’s. At least here’s there a whisky with a bit of historical significance.

(h/t to John at Cook Local for the link)