Diminishing returns

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Diminishing returns

Postby dormouse » Tue Jun 06, 2006 4:41 am

At what price do you start to see diminishing returns in whisky? At what price can you generally expect a whisky to be great?

I've enjoyed some threads on bargains and bangs-for-the-buck in whisky-dom but also see an equally large number of threads on Port Ellens, Broras, and other whiskies that seem, well, really expensive.

The reason why I ask is that I'm thinking about taking a trip to Park Ave Liquors to pick up (hopefully) their bottling of Highland Park, which according to Malt Madness, is quite extraordinary and costs just $200. Can I sanely state that that's a reasonable price for a whisky of that quality?

Thanks once again for your help and advice. It's a great forum but really hard on the pocketbook. :smile:


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Postby Jan » Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:40 am

Hi dormouse

You have asked a very good question… and one that is perhaps hard to answer to your satisfaction.

The simple answer is, that you can’t equal expensive to good. Or sometimes you can, but it really depends on the whisky in question and some other factors….

There are a lot of very good (younger) whiskies out there, which are fairly inexpensive, Ardbeg 10, Lagavulin 16, Laphroaig 10 & QC, Balvenie 10 & 12, Glenmorangie 10, Dahlwhinnie 15… the list goes on and on.

So clearly one can’t state that an inexpensive whisky is of lesser quality.
What makes a whisky expensive is age (It costs the distillery more to store it, there is greater loss of product due to the angles share and it is often intentionally positioned as a premium product) and rarity. (Supply and demand at work.)

But there are some truly outstanding whiskies in the old/expensive category… and there are a lot that is less outstanding, perhaps merely good.

The best quality/age to price ratio is perhaps found in whiskies in their late teens/early twenties. After that you begin paying for the other factors mentioned above.

Following the discussions at forums like this, can warp ones perspective of price, I think. This is due to the fact that for many of us here, whisky are a hobby (borderline obsession, would perhaps be more correct), and many of us spend more on whiskies, than can be rationally explained I think.

Not so long ago I had the chance to try a dram of the legendary Ardbeg Provenance at a fair (And to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege) Beforehand I also agonized if I should really pay that much money for a dram and I asked around here. In the end I did buy a dram of this and yes, it was a great whisky and I am glad that I have tried it. But if I look solely at quality, I’m not so sure if I could not have gotten a equally good Ardbeg at a fraction of the cost. On this occasion, I chose to pay for the legend of the Provenance. (And thus earning a small measure of bragging rights at my whisky club.:wink: )

Personally I think that after a certain point the price of matured whisky becomes too steep. What that point is, is a personal matter, depending on what you can afford and what you are comfortable to pay for the experience.

So to return to your question: Is the HP you have your sights on, really good enough to justify the price…?

Perhaps, but it is really something you have to decide for yourself. If you can afford it, by all means go for it. But I do not think that you should expect it to be twice as good as the more affordable HP18. (I have not tried the Park Avenue HP).

We have discussed this question before at some length:

Age vs. oakiness
Is an older whisky by definition a better whisky?
Price/Quality perception?


Edit: fixed couple of typos
Last edited by Jan on Tue Jun 06, 2006 7:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby dormouse » Tue Jun 06, 2006 8:08 am


I just wanted to compliment you on such a kind and thoughtful response. Really quite awesome and a clear part of why this is a great forum. :D



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Postby Par » Tue Jun 06, 2006 10:58 am


I agree more or less completely. On HP in particular, the 18 yo is certainly a very good and also affordable bottling, especially here in Sweden, where it costs SEK 499 (£ 38).

And whiskies that offer very good quality without a fantastic increment in price are usually found in the late teens or early twenties. Many of the 30 yo plus bottlings have just gone far beyond drinking price. Ardbeg wants £ 299 for their Feis Ile 2006 bottling of a 1975 - which is far too much!

Old is far from always good - but just about always expensive. And whisky is for drinking.

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Postby lexvo » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:04 pm

In addition to the answers above: at some point it becomes like high-end hifi equipment, cars, ... You pay dispropotional more for an (little) improvement. It is your choice if you want to.

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Postby Jan » Tue Jun 06, 2006 7:06 pm

Mike; Glad if I have been of help. :D

Par; agree with you on the price of Ardbegs. Can't really complain - 70's Ardbegs are becoming rarer by the minute and so far it seems they sell, even at the high prices. But I'm sad, that they are mostly beyond my means


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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Jun 07, 2006 1:27 am

Jan has covered this very well. I would add that with very expensive whiskies, you are often paying for intangibles (like rarity, prestige, etc), and you are the only judge of how much these intangibles mean to you.

I have said several times here that when someone pays $1,000 for a bottle of whisky, it often says more about what $1,000 means to him than what the whisky does.

Mr Frodo is our resident expert on the quality/price ratio--he seems to be the one person here who can taste a whisky and say "This is worth x." In fact, we call this Frodo Factor--is the whisky inherently worth the price, on quality alone? It raised a few eyebrows when he admitted to stocking up on one bottling of Port Ellen (3rd Release?). Given the price, there could have been no better recommendation.

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Postby MGillespie » Wed Jun 07, 2006 5:16 am

Mike, I have tasted the HP bottling that I think you're talking about...it's the special bottling they had done for Whisky Live NY, and in fact, it is an excellent dram. They also have a single cask done just for Park Avenue that goes around $180, but I haven't tried that one. However, I've had a number of HP bottlings recently...and this $200 one is the best I've had so far, with the 1977 Bicentennary version (about $120) coming in second.

Hope this helps...


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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Wed Jun 07, 2006 12:02 pm

Jim Murray has an interesting slant on buying whisky in relation to collecting. He reckons you should not spend over £300.00 from an investment point of view or else it is not worth your while.

I myself have have brought this down to €300.00Euro but rarely spend over €200.00

Regards Adrian

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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Jun 07, 2006 12:59 pm

The key to investing is to pay less for something than you receive for it when you sell it on. With hindsight, I would happily have bought a crate of Black Bowmore for £350 a bottle a few years ago, but I could imagine some whiskies that would never be worth £300.

I wonder whether there is more hoarding of whisky now than, say, 30 years ago. Some of the very ordinary whiskies of the 1970s can fetch high prices today because they are scarce. But if people are now more switched on to whisky investment, ordinary (and even "collectible") whiskies of today might never be rare and therefore never fetch high prices. And as more distilleries flood the market with their one-off collectible limited editions, it is easy for collections to become unmanagable with just current releases so trying to go back and collect historic releases just becomes less attractive.

Sorry for the pessimism.

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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Jun 08, 2006 2:16 am

You make a good point, Nick. By the time the general public latches onto the fact that something is collectible, and the producers start producing for the collectors' market, it's really too late. Beanie Babies, anyone?

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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Jun 09, 2006 9:27 am

Are the early rare Beanies still valuable? I remember the Princess Diana beanies used to go for thousands and I have seen them on shopping TV here for £20.

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Postby lbacha » Fri Jun 09, 2006 10:29 am

The Whiskys that will trully keep their value are the ones that are both in short supply and are a great whisky. The problem with most collections is that as the fad of collecting something diminishes the supply is the same but the demand is lower so the price goes down. with a great tasting whisky even if the collecting fad goes away I believe the drinking of whisky will always occur so the bottles that are great and in short supply (for example the old white horse 12 yr old lagavulins) will always fetch alot because as people drink them the supply goes down so even if demand lowers the price will still stay high.

Just as Nick was commenting about the 1977 Ardbeg it may not be that expensive now but I garuntee if you try to buy the same bottle in a few years it will be Quite expensive. There are just too many of them on the market right now. As people drink it the value will go up. I think the Whisky Auction has 3 on auction and ebay has another 2 or so. That is alot of bottles.

You have to love the laws of supply and demand. (If collectors trully want to increase the value of their bottles then they need to convince people to drink the whisky. So in reality all collectors/investors need to promote drinkers.)


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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Jun 10, 2006 4:24 am

You don't have to love the laws of supply and demand, but you do have to respect them. And I wish more people truly understood them.

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Postby dormouse » Sun Jun 11, 2006 2:14 am

Interesting discussion and great perspectives on rare whiskies. In the end, I decided to apply the laws of diminishing returns and chose not to get the $200 Highland Park Whisky Live NY, even though it was sorely tempting. But, it just didn't seem worth the premium over the regular HP 18, which is one of my favorites. Of course, if I find that the Frodo Factor is actually favorable for this dram, I'd pick it up in a heartbeat. :D Rather, I picked up an OMC Brora 21yo (1981).

Of course, the addition of the Brora in my collection raises the question of when or if to consume it. Until it's opened, I can continue to imagine that it'll be stupendous and special. And maybe that's better than experiencing the whisky itself?

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