Malt Resistance

Narrating the Rise and Fall of Single Malt Scotch.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

How to Build a Cellar On the Cheap!


Well, the Drama today is that after perusing a number of Single Malt Websites and Discussion Groups, I’ve come to realize that most single malt amateurs are people of substantial means. You know, wealthy, rich, well-to do, etc… Just read the posts on the whisky discusion sites ("did you try the Macallan 30 years old?") or check out the pictures of the “small collections” people post on the web: tens upon tens of unopened, expensive, bottles that you know are not all going to get opened! What a waste.

What follows is my modest attempt at democratizing Single Malt connoisseurship, since the days when all excess wealth will be confiscated, and larger collections reduced for the common good, are sadly far off. So in the meantime, I have decided to share -- for the benefit of my readers -- a few tips on how to build a respectable cellar on the cheap.

It all began when I "once uponed" 6 or 7 bottles of Springbank 21 at a Supermarket in the outskirts of New Orleans a couple of years ago. As I was staring at the proud, if dusty, boxed bottles I remembered reading in Pip Hill’s excellent book “Appreciating Whisky” that Springbank would not be produced in the years to come. While normally I would never consider spending more than $85 on a bottle (I can hear the moneyed amateurs chuckling in the background) I decided to buy the lot at $90 a piece, which somewhat startled the cashier, but delighted the ignorant liquor manager! I sold them for more later, needless to say.

And therein lies the first lesson: read all you can on single Malts! Go to the bookstore and read every book (you don't have to buy them!), and then go to a public or University library and check out any books on Whisky. Same for the web, look for any decent outfit like Loch Fines, and even the Magazines, and last not least, learn to read between the lines. I.e., when a "new" bottling is issued to great fanfare go buy the old one in its original box and put it in a dark dry cupboard and forget about it. If you hear that a distillery was closed, or burned down, buy a bottle. It doesn't always work of course: one might have decided that buying one of those silly Macallan Replicas would have been a smart move since the likelihood of them being pulled off the market increased when it was discovered they were based on fakes. That was based on the assumption that the powers that be at the Macallan had a sense of shame -- a mistake.

Another bit of advice is to normally avoid buying a "limited" edition release: everybody buys them, hoards them, and tries to sell them eventually. Its hard to manufacture rarity and collectability that you can invest in from the get go, and the distillers know this but still issue their "limited editions" Anyway. "Limited to how many we can sell you," Seinfeld said, how right he is. Better to search out of the way stores for recently discontinued issuing of popular brands. I got a nice tubed bottle of the water color 10 year old Edradour that way (with a poster inside) for $28 and Whisky Magazine valued it at around $200. Which means I will never drink it. But will sell it, and use the cash to buy something I like and re-invest it if possible.

I am anticipating howls of protest (and you can comment anonymously now by the way) to the effect that collectors are evil and that whisky is meant to be drunk. Well, here collecting is only a means to an end. So please, have a drink, take a deep breath, chill!

The next step involves selling the stuff and you can do that mainly via Ebay. (Keep in mind that I am not suggesting that you quit your day job to go rummaging around your town’s supermarkets or liquor stores, but it might be a good way for you to finance your passion hobby as well as bring a little extra cash.). Of course, your luck will be enhanced the farther you live from the capital of you country --this is perhaps the only comfort I take from living in a political and cultural wasteland disguised a Mecca of Jazz to attract unsuspecting tourist.

I do hope this was somewhat useful and allows some of you to make wise purchases and enable you to afford this passion, if not profit from it .

A new rubric is announced today: the "Best Bet" malt, which either presents a good investment value and/or a great value for money. The first one up here is the American Market Cask Strength Macallan (no age statement) “old” issue: buy them off the shelves quick before the horrid perfume bottle version arrives. This is an especially good move since retailers have been discounting the last old style bottles to get them off the shelves and this great undiluted malt becomes a better value than usual, notwithstanding the fact that one day the older label and the fact that it came from Sherry casks will increase its value. The same applies for the Standard Macallan Cask Strength 10 years old. It is a vastly superior drink by the way, and is a better Macallan than even the 18 year old, not least because its undiluted straight from the Sherry cask Macallan at a great price point. I forecast an increase in price in all of the cask strength offering that becoming more and more trendy. You’ve been warned.

One last word to encourage you all to post comments which can now be posted anonymously!

Cheers!

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