I was half way through writing a piece on new distilleries and the eye watering prices their new, mainly 3 Year Old whiskies, are costing people then I read an excellent piece on Malt Review and decided to amend my piece so as not cover the exact same points.
There is a worrying trend here, and we all know it, new distilleries raking it in on their inaugural releases and leaving punters either skint or upset that they’ve missed out on something potentially exciting.
I would understand if they all said that they were doing a run of say 50 bottles, and they’d all be numbered and in a fancy box and all the rest of it, maybe a scroll or your name on the distillery wall and all that shit, and charge a grand a bottle or stick a few to auction for charity and let prices go bonkers and then get back to supplying customers with decent whisky for a decent price.
But that’s not how things are panning out.
I’m not going to list every bottle these new distilleries are selling for mental prices but outwith Daftmill Who did a small first run for £250 (for a very limited 12 Year old remember not a 3 Year Old) and then a summer run for £95 (again another 12 Year Old) which I think is pretty fair when we are seeing 3 Year Old whiskies being sold for hundreds of pounds, or maybe a 50cl for £100, what a fucking con.
I actually started this article off the back of receiving a sample of Steel Bonnets from The Lakes Distillery. I’m still pondering on whether or not to review Steel Bonnets, it was alright and it’s a bit of an oddity because it’s a mix of English and Scotch whisky but it’s £65. That by the way is about £30 too much, if not £35. I recently picked up the new core range bottle from Compass Box for £50, it’s cracking, it’s got some aged spirit in it and I dare say each bottle makes them a reasonable profit so how the fuck can The Lakes attempt to charge so much for so little? It’s naked profiteering and I’m not happy about it, which is a shame because it is a half decent whisky but for £30 or £35 not £65.
It can’t all be about money, can it?
Of course it is, because something that’s aft forgotten is the money trail.
Distilleries cost millions to build and that money has come from somewhere doesn’t it, and they aren’t raising millions from people buying new make and the odd few cask sales.
The new Clydeside distillery is family owned, The Morrison Bowmore family in fact, so they’ve a history of whisky making, care about their product and have loads of cash swilling about. They won’t be making gin either although they have done a small run of 20cl new make which is worth picking up or asking me for a sample as I’ve got a couple of bottles of it. They do a slightly over priced tour, have a whisky shop which I think offers a great range and have a lovely cafe, it’s as much a place for tourists to visit (it’s next to the SECC and Transport museum).
Likewise Kingbarns is family owned and owned by people who have made whisky for years, yes they’re first release isn’t going to be cheap but it’s part of the founders club thing and I’m confident they will produce decent whisky for a decent price, in fact I’ve been told as much so hoping those words are true.
I know these things because I know these distilleries, perhaps other distilleries will reply here, and let me know where their investment money has come from.
Why does this matter? I’ll tell you why, investors and banks care about one thing and one thing only, money.
We’ve seen what happens when established distilleries get taken over by giant companies, new releases every five minutes, quality cut and NAS marketing lead rubbish and it’s all to make as much money as possible in a short a space of time as humanly possible and I have a horrible feeling that whoever is holding the financial reins will be dictating that profit always comes before quality and these new distilleries will never have the opportunity to truly create and innovate.
New distilleries have two choices, either become whisky for everyone or whisky for rich people and if they choose the latter and if the arse falls out the market, which it has before (and by that I mean the collecting market levels out or collapses) then these distilleries are going to be left with a lot of very expensive bottles of whisky sitting in their warehouses doing fuck all, and wouldn’t that be a shame?
I hope I’m jaded and cynical, I’ve heard that some companies plan to rip the piss for the first year and then settle down and sell reasonably product, but we’ll see but I’m heartened to see that some companies are selling reasonably priced stuff, Cotswalds Whisky seem to be doing well in terms of pricing and quality and The English Whisky Company too, they seem to know how to not rip people off.
So come on, stop ripping people off, please, and we can all be friends, or don’t and take every penny you can but be prepared to alienate a huge customer base, and just hope the collectors continue to consider whisky a worthwhile trinket.