[Last updated 01/07/2021]
If you are looking to invest into whisky in 2021 but don’t know where to start then this is the guide for you. As well as looking at releases which have already hit the market we take a look at some of the most anticipated releases of 2021 so you can make sure you get your place in the ballots. But where do you start?
Whisky Investment: Flipping vs. Long Term Investment
Before we go any further you need to understand the difference between a whisky investment, and whisky speculation.
We argue that if you want to make a sound whisky investment then you should invest in older and rarer bottles such as the Macallan 25 Year Old series. These bottles have been on the market for a long time so there are hundreds of previous sales results going back decades. As such you can gauge how well this bottle has performed over time and what potential future returns are likely to be. You can be certain that the growth of these bottles will be much slower than modern releases like we outline below, but they are arguably a safer investment and are not likely to be subject to large drops in value as can be the cask with modern releases.
The problem with buying old and rare bottles as an investment is that there is not much thrill involved. They are relatively stable, long term investments, and as such there are no dramatic increases in value.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush and the feeling you are making a lot of money then you really need to be buying modern releases and become what has become known in the trade as a ‘flipper’. A flipper is someone who buys modern bottles upon their release and then immediately sells them. There is no doubt that demand is far greater than supply at the moment, and as a result the prices rapidly jump after the initial release. As such there can be great profits available to those who are able to secure a bottle. However, as we have seen with bottles such as the Macallan Genesis 2018 prices soon drop and correct themselves after the initial flurry of interest. With this in mind if you are planning on buying new releases of whisky in 2021, the surest way to make the greatest profit is to sell them as soon as you receive them.
What have been the best whisky investments of 2021 so far
Ardbeg – Arrrrrrrdbeg!
Original retail price: £145
Current auction value: £200
Trending: down – the auction high was £440 in February 2021
Ardbeg’s 2021 release, the Arrrrrrrdbeg!, commemorates departing Master Distiller Mickey Heads who has left the distillery after 13 years. The Arrrrrrrdbeg! is the first Ardbeg whisky to have been matured entirely in rye casks, which provides a gunpowder aroma in keeping with the pirate theme. The Arrrrrrrdbeg! was released as part of the Committee Releases, of which Mickey Heads has overseen the bottling of 12 others. Whilst this Ardbeg release didn’t experience a huge price jump when it was released, its value did increase to £440 at auction in February, from its original price of £145. This seemingly hasn’t lasted however, as its current value at auction is in the region of £200.
Ardbeg – Guaranteed 25 Years Old
Original retail price: £710
Current auction value: £1070
Trending: down – the auction high was £1475 in April 2021
The Ardbeg Guaranteed 25 Year Old is the oldest expression of Ardbeg to date, having been distilled in the 1990s during a tumultuous period in Ardbeg’s history. The Ardbeg 25 Year Old has joined the distillery’s core range of whisky but it is only available in limited quantities due to its age, hence the auction value. Ardbeg claims that this release still maintains all of the powerful smoky flavours of its younger whisky while the older age statement introduces additional intricacies. The limited number of the Ardbeg 25 Year Old has ensured that its value increased at auction immediately following its release. However, after a peak in April at £1475, the auction value seems to be decreasing.
Midleton Very Rare Vintage
Original retail price: €180 (£155)
Current auction value: £230
Trending: down – the auction high was £663 in March 2021
The 38th edition of the Midleton Very Rare series and the first for new Master Distiller, Kevin O’Gorman, this Irish blend includes whiskey from 15 to 36 years old. The 2021 edition uses a mix of both first and second fill casks and each whisky is hand selected. The 2021 Very Rare is the first to have been released at the beginning of the year, all other releases in the series have been autumn time, and this was to honour the new Master Distiller beginning his tenure. Whilst this release did see a significant rise in value at auction soon after it was first released, a 400% increase from £155 to £663, it is now steadily decreasing. However there has been a reserve of this release kept by Irish Distillers for purchase in autumn which could see prices rise again.
Macallan x Sir Peter Blake – Anecdotes of Ages Collection
Original retail price: £750
Current auction value: £2500
Trending: down – the auction high was £3400 in March 2021
The Anecdotes of Ages Collection is the third collaboration between Macallan and artist Sir Peter Blake. This release was designed to commemorate and tell the story of characters from the distillery both past and present. There are 13 different label designs in the collection, each of which are displayed on a printed scroll that accompanies each bottle. Although Macallan claims that this is a limited release, the Anecdotes of Ages collection is actually at the bottom of a pyramid release. At the very top of this pyramid is the 13 original bottles designed by Sir Peter Blake. These 13 exclusive labels are one of a kind and are expected to sell for between £85,000 and £500,000 apart from one which will be archived by Macallan. The second step on this pyramid is a release of the ‘Down to Work’ collection which will comprise of 322 bottles with a single label design done by Sir Peter Blake commemorating Macallan’s commitment to sherry oak casks. These limited bottles are expected to sell for approximately £60,000. The Anecdotes of Ages bottles are digital reproductions of the original 13 bottles.
Brora – Triptych Collection
Original retail price: £30,000
The Brora Triptych collection was announced as the first release of the newly reopened distillery. The collection features 3 vintage statements that each represent one of the iconic styles of Brora’s history; a 1972, a 1977, and a 1982. The collection is going to be available only as a set of 3 500ml bottles that have a retail price of £30,000 and of which there are only 300 available. Those lucky 300 who buy the Triptych collection will be invited by Master Distiller Stewart Bowman for a tour of the new distillery facilities.
Yamazaki Single Malt Limited Edition
Original retail price: ¥8000 (£53)
Current auction value: £1150
Trending: up – first appeared at auction for £1105
Picking up the series after 4 years, the Yamazaki Limited Edition single malt will be the first since 2017. This single malt has been maturing in virgin Mizunara Japanese oak casks for at least 12 years which is a new development for the 2021 edition as early editions featured some younger whisky. The limited edition single malt has been designed for the purpose of gift giving and as such are presented in gift boxes. The new Yamazaki is being bottled at 43% and are going to be available immediately in Japan only. It is yet to be known if Suntory has plans to release this single malt worldwide.
Hibiki Blossom Harmony
Original retail price: ¥8000 (£53)
Current auction value: £680
Trending: up – first appeared at auction for £675
The new Hibiki Blossom Harmony is set to be released in tandem with the Yamazaki single malt as part of Suntory’s gift giving release. The Hibiki Blossom Harmony is a blend of whisky that has been matured in Sakura (cherry blossom) casks with whisky from the original Hibiki whisky. The Hibiki was originally released in 1989 to commemorate Suntory’s 90th birthday and it’s the most premium blended whisky that Suntory produces. As with the Yamazaki, the Hibiki Blossom Harmony will be released in Japan in limited numbers and there are no plans as of yet to release it worldwide by Suntory.
Feis Ile 2021 Bottles
Original retail price: Various
Whilst the Feis Ile festival can’t go ahead in person this year, a virtual festival is being held from the 28th May until the 6th June and rest assured there will be plenty of bottles to look forward to. Big name distilleries such as Bowmore, Ardbeg, and Bruichladdich are back on the bulletin for this year’s festival to name but a few and there are sure to be some fantastic bottles produced for the occasion. Feis Ile began in 1984 as part of the Gaelic Drama Festival with its first whisky tasting event taking place in 1990. It has now grown into a huge culture and whisky festival with exclusive bottlings being produced for the annual event. As the festival is virtual this year, the bottles will likely be available online from the distilleries and this will be confirmed closer to the festival dates.
Festival bottles – 2021 releases:
Ardbeg Scorch – £98
Jura Distillery Cask – £145
Bunnahabhain 2001 20 Year Old Marsala Cask – £199
Bunnahabhain 2013 7 Year Old Moine Bordeaux Cask – £85
Bruichladdich Laddie Origins £150
Bruichladdich 17 Year Old Single Cask £150
Lagavulin 13 Year Old – £160
Caol Ila 12 Year Old – £130
Kilchoman Single Farm – £99.96
Big Peat Peatrichor – £44.50
Laphroaig Cairdeas PX Cask Cask Strength £89.90
Bowmore 1996 23 Year Old £365
Bowmore 18 Year Old £135
GlenAllachie 30 Year Old Batch 1
Original retail price: £475
Current auction value: £1300
Trending: up – first appeared at auction for £575
As its oldest core bottling, GlenAllachie has released a 30 Year Old Cask Strength single malt. This is following the recent achievement of winning Best Single Malt at the 2021 World Whiskies Awards for the GlenAllachie 10 Year Old Batch 4. This 30 Year Old release is batch 1 in what will be a series of annual 30 year old small-batch bottlings and batch 1 has a yield of only 2,000 bottles. This whisky is drawn from whisky distilled in 1989 and 1990, all matured in sherry oak. This series is the passion project of Master Distiller Billy Walker, who had the ambition to create a 30 year old expression for GlenAllachie. This bottling is a cask strength whisky of 48.9% ABV and is non chill filtered and its natural colour.
Cheers To Better Days Douglas Laing – 2 Releases
Original retail price: Linkwood £75 & Port Dundas £450
In a new mini release, Douglas Laing has announced two new bottlings for 2021. The release is the ‘Cheers to Better Days’ collection and it features a Linkwood and a Port Dundas bottling. The Old Particular Linkwood is a 12 year old whisky from the Speyside region of Scotland. The 12 year old expression is described as citric with a butterscotch sweetness. However, this release has been somewhat overshadowed by its accompanying bottle in the series. Alongside the Linkwood, Douglas Laing have released 7 exclusive bottlings of Port Dundas 40 Year Old Single Cask whisky. Rather tactfully, Douglas Laing described this whisky as ‘a favourite of the Angels’ but the age has resulted in an incredibly limited bottling. With Port Dundas having been demolished in 2011, this whisky is highly sought after.
Bimber – Spirit of the Underground
Original retail price: £125
Current auction value: £350-£650
Trending: up – first appeared at auction for £350 (Baker St.)
The Bimber distillery is based in London and is a new addition to the single malt industry. The first Bimber casks were laid down in 2016 and their first release, Bimber the First, followed in 2019. Perhaps their most ambitious endeavour to date, the Spirit of the Underground series is a collection produced in collaboration with TfL to celebrate the London Underground. The first release is set to be available in May and will consist of four single cask bottlings representing four of the most major tube stations: Waterloo, Kings Cross St Pancras, Baker St, and Oxford Circus. Bimber has hit the ground running with this release at the first launch will include 3 of the busiest tube stations in London, and as a result the most tourist focused. This series is targeting a huge array of people, many outside of the typical whisky buyer and at £125 per bottle is more likely to be bought by this new demographic. Whilst there is not yet a definite method of sale, it has been advised by Bimber that joining their mailing list will be the best way to find out how to buy these bottles when they are launched.
Glen Moray Warehouse 1 – 2005 Tokaji Finish
Original retail price: £75
The latest release from Speyside distillery Glen Moray is the 2005 Tokaji Finish single malt, bottled at a cask strength of 53.6% ABV. This release follows the success of the first ‘Warehouse 1’ release from 2020, the Sauternes Cask Finish, and Glen Moray has continued the theme of wine cask finishes. Tokaji is a white wine from the Tokaj region of Hungary and it imbues a sweet and nutty flavour onto the whisky. There were only 1244 bottles produced in this release but it is one of three planned for 2021. It can perhaps be expected that the following 2 releases will continue the theme of European wine cask finishes. This whisky was distilled in October 2005 making the spirit 15 years old, and it is its natural colour and non chill filtered. This release is a UK exclusive and so any international buyers will have to wait until it hits the secondary market.
Highly Anticipated Releases: Future Best Investments?
Macallan – Classic Cut 2021 Edition
Original retail price: £95?
The Macallan Classic Cut series was introduced in 2017 and has had a release every year since. The series is designed to give a different flavour profile each year, creating a wide ranging collection of whiskies. The Classic Cut releases have no age statement and in a clever marketing move the bottles are described by Macallan as ‘timeless’. Each addition to the series has been bottled at a different ABV and the aim is to explore Macallan’s cask options fully. The previous releases retailed for £95 per bottle and so there can be some expectation of this for the 2021 bottle.
Glen Moray Warehouse 1 2021 Range – Release 2 and 3
Original retail price: £75?
As previously mentioned, the first 2021 Warehouse 1 release from Glen Moray was launched in June, however there are two more releases planned. Whilst there isn’t a lot of information regarding the next two releases just yet, it can be expected that they will be European wine cask finishes and are likely to have a retail price of £75.