Collecting whisky is a hobby that has baffled many. Some for the simple fact that “Why would you collect whisky instead of drinking it?” while others have a more flabbergasted “It costs how much????” to say.
So what really is ‘whisky collecting’, and why do people do it? How does one start their own whisky collection? And most importantly – How does an amateur whisky collector avoid buying a fake whisky? Let’s try and answer all your questions about whisky collecting one by one.
Whisky Collection – What Does It Mean?
Collecting whisky is a hobby, a recreational activity just like collecting stamps, bottle caps, coins and even action figures. Whisky collecting is quite similar to collecting just about anything, but what is different about it is the level of competition, and costs involved.
Why Do People Collect Whisky?
You see, people covet and treasure objects that are old, rare and sometimes, even valuable. This analogy can be applied to stamps, coins and just about anything that can be collected. Just like some stamps are fairly cheap, and easy to find, so are some whiskies. Then there are some stamps that are incredibly old, rare and hard to find like the one that was once sold for $9.5million in New York City.
Some people collect stamps with patterns such as stamps issued during a particular year, or stamps issued by a particular postal authority. Let us consider coins – some people collect coins from a particular country, continent or even empire sometimes. Some collectors don’t have a pattern, and they only wish to collect as many stamps or coins as they can.
Does collecting whisky work the same way? Interestingly, yes it does.
Depending on how rare they are, these coins or stamps can cost peanuts, or an amount that goes from moderately obscene to the “It costs how much!?” There are regular whiskies that cost nothing today, but could increase in value years later. There are whiskies that have undergone that process, and have arrived at a point where they are highly valued. There are also limited edition whiskies that are sometimes worth, and not worth the hype. There are limited edition whiskies from many years ago, and so on.
Did you know that Gordon & Macphail’s special bottling of The Glenlivet’s 1943 single malt Scotch is worth $42,000? Only 42 decanters of this whisky were produced and it is one of the world’s oldest Scotch whiskies every put on sale!
A whisky can be considered desirable for many reasons, and just like stamps in stamp collection may never be used, these whiskies may never be consumed. When you consider the fact that a bottle of whisky can lay unopened, and never be consumed, coupled with the fact that it costs a lot of money, one thing becomes clear. The possibilities of fraud, counterfeit products and cons also increase exponentially.
The truth is, there are plenty of ways for whisky collectors to end up being conned, or duped by an unscrupulous person. If you are planning to start your own modest whisky collection, or have already begun, here is how you can do your due diligence, and not be a victim of fraud. Problems with fake whisky, fraud, getting duped etc.
What To Do When Buying Expensive Whisky
If you are new to the world of collecting whisky, allow us to help you out. These are the six basic questions to ask yourself when you’re about to purchase a bottle of expensive whisky for your personal collection. Vetting the whisky, and the seller in this manner can significantly improve your chances of not suffering fraud.
Does it sound too good to be true?
Sometimes, you might hear an offer that simply sounds too good to be true. As a rule of thumb, it is always better to assume that an offer that ‘sounds too good to be true’ might just be that. It is a common practice for fraudsters and conmen to post ludicrous offers online, or even make tall claims in person to an unsuspecting buyer.
While veterans of the game could easily avoid such shams, novice whisky collectors could easily fall prey to these scams and end up buying a fake whisky.
Do you trust this person?
This might sound like an overstated piece of advice but it is one you should always ask yourself when conducting business with another person. With the advent of social media, it has become routine for people to conduct business with someone they don’t know well enough. It can be difficult to establish trust with someone you have no prior history with.
It is thus strongly advised that purchasing a bottle of whisky that is a collector’s item, should only be done from people you trust fully. Some people have a dedicated ‘whisky guy’ that either gets them the whiskies on their wish-list, or informs them when something valuable shows up on their inventory. Conducting business with a trusted seller, or an agent considerably reduces your chances of getting conned.
Online research is never a bad idea
Whether it is research about the product, or the seller itself, you should always research everything thoroughly. Check for pictures, facts and the label of the product you are about to purchase in order to cross verify them in person. Read up on reviews, comments and check with previous customers of the person you are about to do business with.
Did you check the label? We mean really check.
Whether you are about to buy an obscenely expensive bottle of whisky, or even a moderate one, make it a habit to pay extra attention to the label. Not just the label, we encourage you to check everything else about the packaging including the box, or bag that it comes with.
Check the label for fresh traces of residual glue since switching labels to sell fake whisky happens too often. Another frequently occurring incident is counterfeit labels that more often than not have some minor spell errors. Don’t be afraid to take a magnifying glass along to read the fine print because if you are investing a lot of money, you must always be certain. Most limited edition whiskies are also released with codes, and serial numbers in order to help buyers verify their authenticity.
Inspect the whisky
After you have made sure everything else is in order, it is time to give the whisky a test. Since you can’t taste the whisky you are about to purchase, we will have to rely on our sense of sight in order to look for inconsistencies. If you are about to buy a vintage whisky that is older than 30 years, there is a good chance there will be some sediment at the bottom.
Another test you can try is look at the level of whisky in the bottle. Nearly all whisky brands whether they are Scotch or Bourbon, fill their bottles up mid-neck. If the bottle is filled higher than the mid-neck mark, it is an immediate red-flag. For vintage bottles that were bottled more than 30 years ago, the level might even be slightly lower since the whisky does slowly evaporate over the years.
Consult an expert
If all else fails, and you are still uncertain about the purchase you are about to make, it is always a good idea to consult an expert. You can reach out to experts on the subject online, or even give them a call. If you have someone available in your vicinity, that is even better.
A professional can guide you in ways that perhaps no article can. You can ask specific questions, and they can help you with an exact bottle of whisky that you are trying to purchase. If collecting whisky means a lot to you, knowing an expert or two in the subject wouldn’t hurt right?
We hope the next time you are about to purchase a whisky to add to your priceless collection, these tips will help you verify and authenticate the product. For all the whisky lovers considering starting a collection of their own, here are a few tips on whisky storage that you will be needing too. Don’t forget to buy two bottles when you can so you can have your whisky, and drink it too!