Someone emailed me the other day about our single barrel of Port Ellen that currently sells for $600. He was asking me why our bottle was so expensive compared to earlier independent bottlings that were still available on the market. Apparently he had done some investigating on Wine Searcher and had discovered some different Port Ellen offerings that were significantly cheaper.
If you do the same search right now you'll come up with a few hits:
A 1983 Scott's Selection for $199.99 in Rhode Island.
A 27 year old Douglas Laing bottle for $270 in Connecticut.
A 1982 Signatory cask for $314 in New York. And so on.
"Why should I pay $600 for your cask when I can get these for less?" he asked.
Where do I even start?
First of all, no one is forcing you to buy our Port Ellen. You're under no obligation to get one. Honestly! You can use your money to buy whatever you like. It sounds crazy, I know. Secondly, not one of these other whiskies is the K&L Exclusive 30 year Port Ellen. They're all from younger casks and were all bottled years ago. They're not 30 years old and they're not even the same whisky! All casks are different. We happened to think ours was pretty good. Third of all, those prices are based off wholesale costs from years ago when Port Ellen was more "affordable." Fourth of all, some of those stores appear to be closing out the products, maybe because no one wants to buy them. Fifth, you'll have to pay for shipping and hope that they're willing (and/or able) to ship to your home state (if they actually have the bottle).
Those are the quick points. The most important one being the second.
While all of the whiskies he had searched were made at Port Ellen and said Port Ellen on the label, they were not the K&L Exclusive 30 year Port Ellen. Let me give you an analogy.
Let's say I come into work wearing my brand new Levi's (the 511 Skinny Fit with Stretch that I buy from the main store in Union Square) and my co-worker asks, "How much did you pay for those jeans?" I answer him with, "That's really none of your business, but I paid $69.99 per pair." He says in reply, "HAAA! You got ripped off! I just got this pair of Levi's at Marshall's for twenty bucks!" I look at my jeans - sleek, classic dark denim, perfectly fitted, and stylish. I look at his jeans - an ugly shade of bronze, baggy on the sides, with a seam mis-sewn on the leg. "Wow, you got quite a deal," I say.
I know people that think this way. They're constantly worried that the entire world is conspiring to rip them off. When they go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, they eat six plates to make sure they get their money's worth. They price check everything and compete with me to see if I paid more than them. As concerns the price for our Port Ellen, we paid a premium for three reasons:
1) It's freakin' delicious. We tasted it and we even like it more than the official Diageo release. We've tasted other independents that are not up to snuff, but nonetheless are still expensive. Rather than save $200 or $300 per bottle, we paid extra to get the good one. Why pay $350 for sub-standard Port Ellen? If you're going to shell out for something like that, it had better be good.
2) Prices today are not what they were last year.
3) Have fun even finding a cask of Port Ellen. If you find someone willing to even sell you a cask, let me know. It took us three years to even get this offer, let alone complete the purchase.
That's why our cask of Port Ellen costs $600 a bottle. Because it's delicious. Because when you spend the money you're going to get a really good whisky that's worthy of the reputation. Because we didn't feel that being cheap was in our best interest, nor the interest of our customers.
I love shopping at TJ Maxx and finding a Ben Sherman shirt for $20. It's a great feeling. However, this isn't TJ Maxx. We want top quality stuff on the rack at all times. Stuff that fits, that makes you look good, and makes you feel like you got your money's worth. Most of the time, I'd rather pay my money and know I got something of quality than feel like I got a deal. Deals are great as long as the product is the same one I wanted originally. Not all Port Ellens are equal, however. Not all bottles are the same.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I can't promise anyone that our Port Ellen is going to fulfill their $600 expectations. I can only say that I have tasted it against other expressions and it stands above them. I'm willing to pay more to get the product I want. But that's just me.