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The Good Life

Liquid Sunshine
For years, premium single malts have drawn the uber rich to auction houses, to spend even Rs.108 million on a bottle

Tanya Baisoya

Last November, a bottle of 1926 Macallan was sold for 108 million. The single malt distilled in 1926 had been matured for 60 years before being bottled, in 1986, and sent out into the world.

Besides its age, the premium drink is also priced for its rarity. The most expensive single malts include Glenfiddich 50 Year Old, 70cl; The Macallan Sherry Oak 18-Year-Old Whisky, 70cl; Johnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky, 20cl; and Glen Ord 12-Year-Old, 70cl — priced between 1.2 million and 1.7 million. 

They are exclusive, no doubt, but interest in single malt has only increased among ultra-high-net-worth individuals, or UHNWIs, according to Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index (KFLII).

“Craftsmanship, age and rarity are three things that determine the price of a single malt,” says Abhishek Shahabadi, vice president, Diageo India. “One such bottle that we sold globally was 47-year-old Mortlach. Only 19 of them were manufactured and one bottle costed $10,000,” he explains. Bottles of “liquid sunshine”, as playwright Bernard Shaw called whiskey, are not retailed but auctioned.

The one for this Mortlach, which was ‘orchard and tropical fruits’ on the nose and ‘soft, ripe fruits with an intriguing combination of sweet and sour notes’ on the palate, organised by a Singapore auction house. Its release marked the first in Mortlach’s Singing Stills series, a collection of ‘rare’ single cask expressions. The collection was named after Mortlach’s copper stills, which use a highly complicated 2.81 distillation process and generate a ‘whimsical’ hum when in use.

There are also some high net-worth individuals (HNIs) who order private casks for themselves. For such wealthy billionaires, Diageo has a separate team present in Singapore. “They usually want their private cask to look a particular way. Most of them get it reserved it under their name and mature it for 12 to 18-years. The cost of the cask depends on the available liquid and can be cost around 1.2 million,” Shahabadi adds.

Another special release is 40-year-old Singleton by Glendullan. One bottle can cost someone easily around 300,000. “We take these malts from the best of crafts in Scotland, for instance even for the Blue Label series we reject 10,000 casks to get the best one,” says Shahabadi

Created in order to mark the 200th anniversary of Johnnie Walker’s birthday, Johnnie Walker 1805 celebration blend is another one in the list of limited whiskies. It was made from nine casks all aged between 45 and 70 years, and limited to 200 bottles. 

The bottle reportedly has an exceptional presentation, nestled inside a lockable Victorian style writing case alongside a replica antique nib pen and a recreation of John Walker's son Alexander Walker II's handwritten book of blending recipes. The writing etched onto the bottle is from the oldest remaining document in their archives: "The inventory of the estate and effects of John Walker, November 1819". The price for this special edition goes up to 2.2 million.

These bottles ask for decades to mature and wear a price tag that scare away the weak-hearted. But those with the nose for it believe that these are worth every minute and dime.

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