The 2013 Half-Yearly Single Malt Report (Part IV)
Mid-Range to Top Shelf Selections
If you've tried looking for an apartment to rent in the San Francisco area lately, you'll have noticed both a sharp increase in rent prices as well as fierce competition for available units. My wife and I recently moved into the vacant two bedroom next door, still a deal in our minds despite the fact that we were paying $200 more per month than the previous tenants. The poor couple that moved into our old place is paying $300 more than we were and they don't get the parking spot we once were allowed to use. Why is the rental market so cutthroat right now? Because none of us middle class folk can afford to buy a house. If you're not in control of your own property, you're at the mercy of the market. Of course, we'd be better off saving up and getting a low interest rate on a townhouse, but we're not there yet.
Those customers who aren't accustomed to spending $100 on their single malt whisky may have noticed that the $40-$70 price range is becoming a lot like the Bay Area rental market. Prices continue to creep higher, $40 is becoming $47, $60 is becoming $72. Meanwhile, however, the $100+ market is remaining pretty stable. The Bunnahabhain 12 has gone from $42.99 to $46.99, while the Bunnahabhain 18 has remained right at $99.99. Highland Park 12 has inched its way from $39.99 to $42.99, and is likely due for another small hike again soon, but the 18 year is still the same old $99.99. In other words, if you can afford to save up a little extra cash you can not only step up the quality of the whisky you're drinking, you can also get a little more bang for your buck.
While the trusted mid-range classics are slowly testing out subtle increases, new arrivals have had no problem debuting their new perceived value. Balvenie 12 year single barrel came right out at $69.99 - BAM! That's right! I'm a 12 year old whisky and I'm seventy dollars, what are you gonna do about it? Arran distillery released a 12 year old cask strength release for $64.99, as did Springbank for a whopping $82.99. It seems that while raising the price of a standard whisky has been controversial, releasing a new one for a new high price seems to draw less heat. All three of the above mentioned whiskies have sold without a hitch from our retail locations, while the rising cost of things like standard Macallan or Glenrothes whiskies have drawn complaints.
Eighteen years seems to be the magic number for "value" in today's market, but how many people view a hundred dollar bottle of Scotch as a "value" product? We've just recently seen a light drop of Yamazaki 18 back into the California market after a long absence. The price is now up to $154.99, which is more than a 50% increase from the last time we saw it, yet in my mind it's still a reasonable deal. I bought myself a bottle this week in spite of the new high price, simply because it's one of the most spectacular flavor profiles in the world - and it's still fifty bucks cheaper than Macallan 18. The Glenmorangie 18, with our hot pricing, has also managed to weather the storm at a ridiculous $84.99, acting as a ballast in the tempest of price increases. Nineteen has also been a lucky number -Glenmorangie's 19 year old Ealanta is delicious for $115.99 and our Glendronach 19 single cask is one of the best sherry-aged malts in the store at $139.99.
Basically, if you're able to invest in some pricier real estate, your money is going to go further. Those of us who have to rent, however, are likely to see continued hikes in the market. We're squeezing margins as tightly as we can right now, as we're practically giving away some of the 12 year whiskies in the store. We won't be able to hold that line for much longer.