some thoughts about whisky prices.

Ken writes:

After just over two months sitting on my hands after packing in the old job, I’m now gainfully employed again. Hip, hip… I’ve had a finger and a half of my special ‘getting a job’ Scotch which is about 30 years old and way out of my regular price range (but I won it as a scholarship gift). It’s truly a beautiful, beautiful drink, but I don’t think it’s so very much better than, say, a 15 year old whisky, or better enough to justify paying more than 50 to 60 quid. When it comes to pricing whisky (in this country at least) there’s a minimum floor created by the truly massive duty on alcohol which together with VAT amount to close to €14 per 700ml bottle. Then there is the fact that whisky is a very expensive commodity to produce, since it has to be warehoused for a minimum of three years in oak barrels before it counts as whisky (think how much vodka the distillery could have made in the meantime instead of making that bottle). So the manufacturer, distributor and retailer all have to make a profit out of the balance over €14. That covers production costs, wages, marketing, materials etc etc. A micro-sized distillery probably has to retail for €40 at a minimum to make any sort of return on investment. So basically €50 doesn’t buy you much of a premium in whisky. That’s just your average product. However, actual price is merely influenced by the fundamentals like duty and cost of goods to produce. it’s also affected by rarity and marketing. So the actual price can go way up. Obviously the older the whisky gets the rarer it is (because inevitably some whisky is sold young). The reason I say it’s not worth paying too much for whisky is that, in my opinion, the pleasure you get from whisky doesn’t increase in line with price. To a degree more mature whiskies taste better than younger whiskies, but only up to a point, and they don’t necessarily increase in proportion to the increase in cost. You’re not buying the sensation on your taste buds. You’re buying the right to have that sensation instead of someone else having it. The qualities of the sensation itself drop out of the picture. All this means: Don’t let the snobs fool you about whisky. Drink the stuff you like and the stuff you can afford and be happy with that. Sure, if someone gives you an expensive bottle, enjoy that too, but keep things in perspective.


2 thoughts on “some thoughts about whisky prices.

    1. kenanddot

      I agree. I was trying to say I don’t think you can taste the difference in general. I’m sure you’re right that there may be exceptional cases where you can.

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