This Article is About
whiskies
single malt scotch whisky
single malt scotch
distillery
Why Are Some Whiskies So Expensive?
Join 1000's of Authors at StreetArticles Today!

Why Are Some Whiskies So Expensive?

Not perhaps a question that springs to everyone’s lips but if you are interested then I will explain why some whisky is so expensive compared with others. I will concentrate mostly on single malt scotch whisky but the same principles apply across the whole range.

To understand more then we need to look more closely at each stage of the whisky making process.

Malting The Barley

The first stage in whisky production is to encourage the grains to begin to sprout and turn starch into sugar. The process is stopped at the critical phase by heating it in an oven. A proportion may be dried over a peat fire to add the smoky flavour that some whiskies have.

Most distilleries now buy their malted barley in but some still produce their own. This adds a certain exclusivity to the process and therefore may influence the price, as of course would the quality and availability of the grain used.

One particular example would be the Glen Garioch distillery. it was shut for two years from 1995 to 1997 for refurbishment, but the old maltings were closed, never to reopen and so any whisky produced prior to 1995 has a certain rarity value. The company utilises this in its marketing by releasing limited batches of pre 1995 single malts.

Brewing and Distilling

The largest influence in these two processes is the size and capacity of the equipment. Producing spirit is in two stages. The first is to extract the sugar and flavours from the malt and then ferment the extract to produce a strong beer like liquid.

The second is to distill this liquid by heating it in large copper vessels and condensing the resultant vapour to produce a cask strength spirit. All scotch whisky is double distilled (except for Auchentoshan which is triple distilled).

In both these processes it is generally cheaper to produce on an industrial scale, but this of course raises the rarity and exclusivity value of the smaller distilleries, such as Edradour of Pitlochry (Scotland’s smallest at the time of writing).

Storage in Barrel

This above everything else is the biggest influencing factor in the final cost of any malt whisky.The liquid that results from distillation is clear and does not have a particularly strong flavour, (I did get the chance to try some last year with a bottle of the “Spirit of Lewis” from the very new Abhainn Dearg distillery in the outer Hebrides. The final flavour is imparted to the final product by storage in wooden barrels and there are two factors that come into play.

1) The type of cask used. Traditionally most whiskies are matured in used American Bourbon casks. This is because American Bourbon is matured in new barrels and therefore there is ready supply of used barrels available.

Some whisky makers use other barrels to add different flavours to the whisky. Some of these are still easily obtainable so do not affect the price greatly, except again by the rarity value. Other barrels are rather more difficult to get hold of cheaply.

This is particularly true of used sherry casks which are used to give many Speyside malts their distinctive smooth sweet flavour. Many distilleries partly store in bourbon casks then transfer to sherry casks later to add this character, but a few, such as Glenfarclas of Ballindalloch still use sherry casks for the whole process. This sets their whiskies at a premium of course (or at least the ones that they make solely with sherry casks).

2) The length of storage time. The longer a whisky is stored in cask then of course the more storage space it must use of course relative to its financial return. This inevitably makes the longer stored whiskies more expensive.The other factor is the evaporation that occurs from the cask, the so called “Angels’ Share”. This means that there is of course less whisky to bottle at the end of the process.

Why then you might ask do they store whisky so long? It is simple, the longer in barrel the whisky remains then the more the flavour of the barrel is bestowed on the final drink. On top of this some of the harsher flavours are calmed down so the finished spirit is more mellow (as a general rule). For example 18 year old Talisker is the same spirit and essentially goes into the same barrel as its younger more common counterpart but the peaty flavours are slightly less pronounced and the slightly oaky tone slightly enhanced. I did not appreciate the subtleties until I actually got to try them side by side for my self.

When I did my Glenrothes Select Reserve review therefore I had a pretty good idea what to expect before I even got my hands on the bottle. Speyside, no age or year declared, it held no surprises at all.

A final factor in the storage is of course not being entirely sure what the final result will be like. It takes a lot of faith and initially very deep pockets to put into barrels something that you may not even get to try in your own lifetime! Imagine the disappointment that inevitably must happen from time to time. The price of the succesful must of course reflect the failures (thankfully rare).

Once whisky has been bottled that that is it in terms of the finishing. If you put a bad whisky in a bottle then however long you leave it you will still have a bad whisky! The only difference that age might have is with the rarity value and older rarer whiskies can become collectors items.

The same principles apply to blended whiskies where the production from several distilleries is combined. They can be really cheap or using the top products with long aging be eye wateringly expensive

So now I hope you have a bit of insight as to why you might pay a reasonable amount for say a Glen Garioch Founders Reserve.(£30 UK) This particular whisky does not give any age for it time in barrel or any particular year. You would pay rather more however for the Glen Garioch Vintage 1995(£55 UK) and pay a vast amount more for some of their more exclusive bottlings.(£2,000 +)

I have not even mentioned other factors of course such as deliberate limited editions or editions for special occasions such as the Laphroaig Diamond Jubilee 18 year old. That I think will have to be the subject of another article.


Street Talk

I was always interested in this kind of info, thanks Roger!

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Thanks for your comment, glad to pass on the knowledge. :-)

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Interesting article! Personally, I prefer my whiskey melded to honey. Drambooie? However it's spelled.

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Thanks for your comment Cynthia. I do not think that you will want to use a very expensive single malt to make your "Rusty Nail"

Reply
  about 5 years ago

No Rusty Nails here! That's my dad's drink. Me? I'm a light weight - sipping away 1/4th shots straight from the drambooie bottle on a fairly infrequent basis.

  
  about 5 years ago

Why is all the best things in life are so bad for our health?

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Thanks for your comment TY, it is a fact isn't it :-)

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Speaking of whiskey! Where's the shot glass! Thanks for the great article. Great Info.

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Thanks for your comment. Much appreciated

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Now I have the answer that has always been on my mind... I thank you for the information so expertly penned for all doubters to read... Its not a drink I ever drank back in my drinking days, but certainly wondered why there was such a vast spread in prices.. Good article Roger

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Thanks Rob. The most expensive at auction reached £460,000! Now that is scary money.

Reply
  about 5 years ago

Hell I'd choke having a sip of that... imagine sitting in a pub and asking for a double????

  
  about 5 years ago

You certainly would not want to spill any!

  
  about 5 years ago
You May Also Like
Buy Whisky Online, Three Reasons Why You Should
Why is it a good idea to buy whisky online? Let me give you three reasons why I think it is a great idea.
By:  in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   Feb 03, 2011  
0
  Likes: 0

Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Whisky is known the world over and is the preferred drink of many. There are a variety of fine blended whiskies on the market but there is also something quite special, with its provenance following strict practices of production (and I love it!!) - SINGLE refers to the whisky coming…
By: diana-marie strang in  Writing and Speaking  >  Creative Writing   Aug 07, 2012  
0
  Likes: 0

Scotch Whisky – A Guide To Investing In Rare Single Malt Whisky
You may not realize it, but the single malt Scotch whisky is becoming a growing market for high yield investment. The trend started about 30 years ago when some bottles of Scotch whiskies were being sold at wine auctions for high prices. Now there is a flourishing market for investing…
By: scott_gibson in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   Aug 01, 2012  
0
  Likes: 1

Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Whisky is known the world over and is the preferred drink of many. There are a variety of fine blended whiskies on the market but there is also something quite special, with its provenance following strict practices of production (and I love it!!) - SINGLE refers to the whisky coming…
By: diana-marie strang in  Writing and Speaking  >  Creative Writing   Aug 07, 2012  
0
  Likes: 0

Scotch Whisky – A Guide To Investing In Rare Single Malt Whisky
You may not realize it, but the single malt Scotch whisky is becoming a growing market for high yield investment. The trend started about 30 years ago when some bottles of Scotch whiskies were being sold at wine auctions for high prices. Now there is a flourishing market for investing…
By: scott_gibson in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   Aug 01, 2012  
0
  Likes: 1

Cork Versus Screw Caps Which is Better?
Corks are the classic choice in the wine industries that have been used for a very long period of time. However, there are some surprising facts and arguments so whatever you may using, you’re both right and wrong. The truth is somewhere between as they both have some good and…
By: Maria_Williams in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   May 18, 2016  
0
  Likes: 0

Wine Gifts Delivery NZ - The Easier Way to Send Wine Online
When it comes to present something as a thanksgiving to someone who has come with a gift to you on your birthday or any other grand occasion, various ideas come in your mind; while sometimes you are found in confusion what to select and from where to select. The main…
By: Gurpreet Gill in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   May 09, 2016  
0
  Likes: 1

Miami Wine Event
Thе Quotes оf Wine Wine quotes, like grapes themselves, tend tо соmе in bunches. Frоm thоѕе who've sipped a bottle оf Riesling аnd claimed, "That's thе best wine I've еvеr had," tо thоѕе who, аftеr a wild night, spend thеir morning assuring thаt thеу will "never drink again," quotes аrе…
By: mhovi in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   May 08, 2016  
0
  Likes: 0

Thе Quotes оf Wine
Miami Wine Events Evеrу year thеrе аrе a fеw wine events in Miami whiсh ѕhоuld nоt bе missed, if уоu аrе a wine lover, if уоu саn afford tickets аnd lastly....if уоu саn ѕоmеhоw land tickets whiсh аrе аlwауѕ incredibly difficult tо find. I hope you'll find thiѕ short catalogue…
By: mhovi in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   May 07, 2016  
0
  Likes: 0

The Difference Between Red And Rose Wine
Winemaking represents an art of its own, with so many types and varieties of wines that will make your head spin just by thinking about them, let alone drink them. We should simplify by dividing the wines into major groups. These major groups adopt certain criteria to help assign each…
By: Maria_Williams in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   Apr 19, 2016  
0
  Likes: 0

Commercial Wine Cellars In Dallas Tx: Wine Storage Tips
You can find all sorts of commercial wine cellars in Dallas TX from fine dining restaurants to hotels to private residences. As any wine collector knows, fine wines deserve fine storage systems. Commercial cabinets are available in standard formats or they can be customized to suit any storage or aesthetic…
By: Lawrence J. Dozier in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   Mar 31, 2016  
0
  Likes: 0

Commercial Wine Cellars Houston Tx: 5 Variables You Must Control
If you own one or more restaurants that sell wine, installing commercial wine cellars Houston TX in them should be at the top of your list of facility priorities. Why is this so important? Because when your guests order a bottle of wine that they hope will be the perfect…
By: Lawrence J. Dozier in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   Mar 14, 2016  
0
  Likes: 0

A Simple Guide To The Alcohol Making Process
Ethanol is an alcohol which is commercially produced by the use of a process called fermentation. Most alcohol can be produced in this way, but it's most likely that they be produced by use of synthetic routes - from oil, natural gas, or coal. Google dictionary defines fermentation as the…
By: Taylor King in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   Aug 27, 2015  
0
  Likes: 0

Wine Cellars In Dallas, Tx: So You Love Drinking Wine – Now What?
Wine Cellars in Dallas TXDesigners and builders of wine cellars in Dallas, TX know the story all too well – how many of their North Texas clients started out as people who simply enjoyed drinking a glass of wine with dinner but who quickly morphed into people who needed customized,…
By: Lawrence J. Dozier in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   Sep 15, 2015  
0
  Likes: 0

Enjoy the Benefits Of Purchasing Wine Online
Many people are often wondering, why should I buy wines online when I can buy it almost everywhere. The most precise reasons are probably the wide selection and the option to be delivered straight to your door. Despite the fact that you can find a much wider variety of wine…
By: Alex Mayers in  Food and Drink  >  Wine Spirits   Aug 27, 2015  
1
  Likes: 1

Article Views: 2150    Report this Article