I'd like to know:
1. Who does this and how do you get to hear about them.
2. Are these limited releases good in terms of quality (ie if I want to drink, not collect the stuff) and as an investment.
3. Is a distillery bottling more often than not better than an independent bottling (I would imagine so as the casks will definitely have been stored at the distillery itself and so will be more in character)
4. Could this be a good way to build a collection ie buying from source rather than, say, at auction.
Any thoughts on the above would be appreciated.
If you are a member of such a circle (free), you will receive invitations to purchase special limited editions.
Ardbeg, for instance, offered two bottlings exclusively available to the members of their "committee". The bottles cost £108 each (2000) - expensive, I know. But they are now worth over £300.
Ardbeg's sister company Glenmorangie does "special offers" on a regular basis, too. These bottlings however, for instance the long sold out "Côte de Nuits", are still available at or only a little bit above the original price.
So, there is no guarantee that these bottlings will indeed fare well on the collectors' market.
Many companies are now doing "distillery bottlings". They have discovered that it is an easy way to make a lot of money - alcohol tax on a 70cl, £15-bottle is the same as on a £125-bottle, so is the cost for bottling and labelling. Only VAT is higher. In other words: the distilleries earn a fortune with these bottlings.
The downside is that the more "exclusive" bottlings there are, the less exclusive they are.
As far as quality is concerned, these bottlings are indeed very special, at least the ones I have tried (Glenmorangie, Glen Moray). But whether they're really worth the money is up to you.
If you're really after rare bottlings, it is a good thing to go to the distilleries and ask whether there are any bottlings made for the employees not generally available to the public. Sometimes, employees are willing to sell you a bottle of their collection.
These bottlings tend to fetch quite high prices at auction.
BTW, I imagine the increase in price of Ardbeg above that of, say, Glenmorangie may in part be due to the fact that it closed down in the early 80s. I would guess that there are only so many "exclusive" bottlings left to come from that distillery that were distilled pre-closure. I believe the production has changed in some way (maltings now done off site?) which may produce a different taste?
Their 1974 "Original" (limited edition, 2000 50cl replica bottles) is a 24-year old with malt from the long since gone distillery maltings.
Originally sold for as much as £170, it is now on the market for as little as £75 - this is a great opportunity to buy a great whisky with potential.
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