I haven’t been buying much whisky lately. Not because I did not want to, there are plenty of interesting bottles on the market. But as whisky prices have been rising for a while, and quite dramatically so in some cases, I feel myself more and more priced out of the higher end malt whisky market.
I have only so much – or so little – money to spend, and I have to pick the bottles I buy wisely. Sure, there are many who on Facebook proudly post pictures of tables bending under the weight of pricey “new arrivals” with most bottles going into the triple digits. But there are also bound to be others who cannot just spend a few hundred or thousand on booze because they feel like it. I also do not belong to the kind of whisky bloggers or pro writers who are in a position to just as proudly post pictures of all the bottles sent to them for review, easing the pain of having to buy all their whisky from their own money.
I don’t consider myself poor, but my income is not high enough to allow me to pay just any price for bottles that I have previously loved. 100 quid for the Highland Park 18? Forget it, however excellent it may be. And even if the price of a bottle remains flat, you cannot be sure if the liquid inside still is of the same quality. I am not the only one who for example was disappointed by the current bottling of Lagavulin 16.
The discussion if this is an unavoidable effect of the forces of The Market or an evil plot of the whisky industry bosses to fill their bank safes with more cash does not lead far. Megabytes of blog articles have been posted about the possible causes and explanations of what has been happening on the whisky market. Either way, it is the consequences of this development that we have to deal with. Beyond entry level bottlings, “premiumization” has gone rampant, and more than one whisky producer has begun to put their products on pedestals and market them like Gucci shoes and Louis Vuitton handbags with the corresponding price tags. And prices of independent bottlings have reacted to this trend as well.
So what should you do if you feel unable to cope with this development? I am sorry but I cannot give you a definitive answer here. Much depends on your personal situation and disposition. I for one will definitely be more picky when buying new bottles, preferably after having tried a sample. Luckily there still are bottles on the market that offer great quality for a decent price. But they are becoming less and less.
I certainly won’t cut back in a way that I would buy more entry level bottles instead of more expensive ones just because they are more affordable. I have always had some on my shelf, they have their place; but since my interest in whisky is more than just casual I do want to explore more of the whisky world than just the “lobby”.
Other than that, I guess more of my booze money will go into more affordable malternatives for the time being. There are plenty of interesting spirits out there which have not been hyped as much as whisky. Yet.
The whisky industry will not get as much money from me as before, but they couldn’t care less with so many finacially potent customers just waiting to jump in. But I do trust in the cyclical nature that the whisky market has proven to have in the past.