Before we release our final pre-arrival of Whisky Season 2012 later today, I thought I would share this classic post with you. Back in 2010, when I was a wide-eyed young lad (and we still had a comments section on the blog), we thought these prices were expensive. The Chieftain's Port Ellen 25 was $265! Pricey, but delicious. The 1968 Springbank was a whopping $375 (today it's $1000). I remember writing that after having lunch at Martin's West in Redwood City. At that point, I had yet to really purchase anything expensive on behalf of K&L. I didn't know anything about expensive whisky! I had very little tasting experience with malts of this nature, so how in the heck could I actually sell them to someone while exuding any sense of credibility? It was scary and I can sense my anxiety in those words (and you can also tell from my tasting notes that I'm trying to sound like other whisky writers - any confidence I am projecting is bravado). Two and a half years later, however, those prices are downright cheap! Even the worst whisky salesman in the world would have no problem moving those units!
If we were to put a 25 year old Port Ellen back on the shelf for less than $300, it would be gone in seconds. In micro-seconds! An instant. Poof. Yet, back in 2010, I remember those bottles sitting there for months (along side the Van Winkles and the Vintage 23 rye). We're not talking about our days as teenagers here, or the rambunctious college years of yore. This was two and a half years ago. We were only a few months away from the third edition of Flaming Heart at that point and I still have plenty of that whisky left on my bar. It's incredible how much has changed since then. The hunger for rare, collectable, hard-to-find, must-have whiskies is at an all time high and the prices have risen along with it.
After getting back from Scotland this past May, I wrote this little blurb about our experience. It's even more true a few months down the road. If you can even get Port Ellen today, you can sell it. Price is no longer the issue - access is the key. Diageo doesn't even have enough Port Ellen for their official release. We received our cask (whoops, did I just let the cat out of the bag?) only after years of putting in work with one of our associates, proving that we were worthy of the honor and the responsibility involved in selling something so precious. Much like we do with our raffle vetting, they wanted to make sure we weren't just two kids looking to grab a quick barrel of PE, never to return for more business later. There were other competitors for this cask. Diageo was one of them and they're not the only company looking to buy back their own whisky. Springbank is putting in offers to cask owners as is Bruichladdich, who sold barrels early on to private consumers as part of an investment strategy. The independent whisky trade used to provide single malts that were off the beaten path. That path, however, is now thoroughly paved and the larger companies are sending their tankers down it. Whisky is hot right now and companies need every single drop they can find.
The last time we saw Diageo's official Port Ellen release was last November and we got one whole bottle. I had heard only five even made it to California. It was around $600 or so, if I remember correctly. The 12th edition of Port Ellen will be released this November with 2,964 bottles being filled with 32 year old juice. I've heard it will retail for more than $1000. If you get roughly 200 bottles from a 30+ year old hogshead, depending on evaporation, that means roughly fifteen barrels were married together to create this most recent batch (assuming none were Bourbon or Sherry casks). That means that the largest, most-powerful whisky company on the planet with the largest, deepest stocks known to man, was only able to scrounge together fifteen barrels of the most-revered whisky on the planet. Fifteen casks to feed the world's appetite for Islay's most-famous fallen soldier.
If you're a collector, this is the type of information that makes you salivate. You didn't want any Port Ellen earlier today, but now all of a sudden you do - you just don't want to think about paying $1000 for a bottle of whisky - if you're even lucky enough to find it!!
Later today, however, we're going to give you a chance to own your own bottle of Port Ellen whisky. Straight from a hogshead cask. Thirty years old. So rare, that Diageo wanted it for its own collection.
It won't be cheap. But it won't be anywhere near $1000.