Becoming a whisky collector – Everything you need to know
Dedication is what separates the accidental whisky hoarder and the truly devoted whisky collector. The hobby, or might we say, vocation is much like any other where the amount of passion one pours into it, is often reflected in the collection itself. Like postcards, stamps, currency notes, and even bottle-caps, collecting whisky too requires a particular knack, resourcefulness and a place to begin which begs the question;
What kind of whisky collector are you?
Did you just stumble into the activity where one bottle led to another, and before you knew it, you had a dozen or more at your disposal?
Or did you consciously venture into the world of whisky, navigating your way around the doyens and the posers? Did you wilfully absorb all the information you needed before meticulously purchasing every single bottle in your collection?
Are you neither?
Have you simply decided to stick a toe in the water, and learn what it takes to start collecting whisky?
Are you currently flirting with the idea whether you wish to spend the next few decades of your life collecting not precious baubles, but bottles instead? Let us help.
For a lot of whisky collectors, this activity is a lot like action figure and toy collectors that choose to preserve the mint condition of their treasures, choosing never to enjoy it themselves. While there are some whisky collectors that indulge in it exclusively to enjoy and savour rare whiskies with their friends and family. There is no right answer, as long as there is whisky.
Are you simply doing some light reading, or are you carefully weighing your options? Worry not, because information is always free and we have a lot of it for you.
The Whiskypedia outlines a list of the six most crucial tips for aspiring whisky collectors to get started with ease. Learn how to inspect and invest in whisky, and slowly build the collection that you have always dreamed of.
Learning the difference between a “Collector’s Whisky” and a “Bar Owner’s Whisky”
A lot of times, the brand or expression of whisky you love the most might not end up qualifying as an item that is rare and exclusive. Run-of-the-mill, standard expressions, even from the most revered distilleries and blending houses rarely make the cut as collectibles.
The Ballantine’s Finest is a fine example of a Bar Owner’s Drink. It is one of the best whiskies to have around to enjoy every day.
For your whisky collection, try to go for the limited editions and special releases that nearly all brands roll out from time to time. Small-batch releases are another terrific option for aspiring whisky collectors to begin with. Expressions such as the Aberlour A’bunadh, the exceptional 12 Year Old Jameson Distillery Edition or the Glenfarclas 25 Year Old Jim Clark edition released in honour of the late Formula 1 champion. Now, the Jameson Distillery Edition can be personalized, so go wild!
Not only are these whiskies highly rated and extremely well-received, their limited availability ensures their value only rises over time.
This does not mean that critically acclaimed, yet regularly available bottlings and expressions will never receive the same love as limited editions. Some expressions are bound to be discontinued, or scarcely available with time.
Unlike its cousin, the Ballantine’s 17 Year Old – 43% ABV is an excellent bottle to save for the future because it will be worth a bomb! This is a true collector’s item and has always been treasured by the person that knows their whisky.
Having a generous stockpile of the good stuff in the future might not be a bad idea after all right?
Maintenance is the key
Let’s say you have acquired some truly exceptional, and some none-too-shabby whiskies for your priceless whisky collection. You decided to savour a little bit of the spirit from your haul, and thought to preserve the rest for the future. Maybe you decided to only pop open a bottle for a special drink, on a special day. That’s fair right?
But how does one make sure the whisky does not go bad? Can whisky go bad?
Absolutely whisky can go bad, and it will if one is negligent with their whisky collection. The bar, or the cabinet that you use to display and store your whisky bottles must never be exposed to direct sunlight. Oxidation of whisky is also one of the chief culprits that ruin a fine whisky on the regular.
Hot or colder temperatures can affect the viscosity, integrity and quality of the whisky can be compromised, adversely affected even if not cared for meticulously. For more information on how to store and care for your whisky collection, click here.
Are you “Collecting to Collect”, or are you “Collecting to Sell”?
A lot of purist whisky collectors might be taken aback at the mere suggestion of parting with a bottle or two that they have treasured over the years. Yet, that is how the slow moving world of whisky collecting moves forward.
Someone far more eager to own a particular bottle is willing to pay far more than the original price of the bottle, and sometimes, the price is far too good. It all depends on what kind of whisky collector do you want to be? Take a word of advice from world-renowned whisky collector Mahesh Patel, who loves whisky as much as the next guy, but also understands how they can be an amazing investment.
Do you want to be the collector that might pay prime buck to someone else, but won’t part with your whisky for any price? Are you collecting to net a decent profit every now and then, allowing yourself to purchase the whisky that will bring you another decent profit in the next five years?
If you intend to be both, why not purchase two bottles every time you go shopping for relics and collectibles. One for yourself to enjoy, and the other as an investment
It is not that you cannot change your mind in the future, but simply having a clear goal in mind helps immensely. Until then, keep buying them until you run out of space or money, or both?
Can you afford it?
Whisky tasting is a hobby that can be pursued even by the most modest means, but building your own whisky collection is a far more indulgent, and financially demanding hobby.
Before you set out on a quest to build the most enviable and priceless whisky collection known to your friends and acquaintances, ask yourself – “Can you afford it?”
If yes, go crazy but if not, there is no reason to be disheartened. An impressive whisky collection cannot only be built with unending funds, but requires a keen eye, an understanding of the spirit beyond the rudimentary and above all, love for whisky.
For enthusiasts and connoisseurs with a less than astronomical kitty at their disposal, judge your purchases unforgivingly. Always be on the lookout for a bargain, and don’t be ashamed to get rid of a bottle of two every now and then for a good price.
Always do your research
When it comes to whisky, they are nothing like action figures, comics or even stamps. Knowing your whisky requires more than a keen eye, since it also involves being a well-informed and weathered veteran in the subject.
Collectors that do not regularly familiarize themselves with the drink they are so heavily invested in, both financially and personally, will fail to keep themselves up-to-date. Frequent the bars in your neighbourhood, befriend the bartenders and indulge in sampling some top-shelf liquor every now and then.
Read up on interesting blogs, books and other relevant literature to really get some theoretical knowledge to complement all the hands-on knowledge you will acquire. It really helps to get to know the basics first, and gradually moving towards the more complicated aspects of whisky tasting and collecting.
Of course we saved the best, and the most important tip for the ultimate spot on the list. It can be all too easy for neophytes to be duped, swindled or even outright cheated by unscrupulous businessmen.
Spurious goods, counterfeits and cheap copies are a real threat to the industry, and often result in some gentlemen or lady being cheated out of their money. Thus, it is always a good idea to attend as many shows, auctions and get-togethers among whisky collectors.
Build a circle, try being on a first name basis with the birds-of-a-feather, and you will soon be in an inner circle of people you can trust, and who do business with people they can trust.
Contacts are the greatest strength for a whisky collector, and can ensure a dealer rings you up first about a rare bottle they have gotten their hands on. In short, this isn’t an activity that offers complete solitude, and socializing is key if you cannot get a Man Friday to do it for you.
Always deal with people you trust, and even then, learn how to spot fakes, or forged liquor, signs to look out for and do make it a point to read the labels.
Well, we guess you are ready to venture out into a world full of new experiences, a whole lot of whisky and more than a few new friends. Be bold, be wise and be well fellow whisky lover!