I read with dismay Ian Buxton’s feature on whisky investment, published on the Just Drinks website last week. It was, quite frankly, nonsense.
Buxton takes issue with writers who write about whisky as an investment – er, me then; with retailers who promote whisky as in investment- whoops; and with Whyte & Mackay for ‘talking up’ The Dalmore. Yep, guilty of collusion there, too.
Let me say immediately that I am somewhat surprised but impressed that Buxton opens every rare and old bottle which has come his way and has resisted the temptation to buy whiskies such as this year’s Macallan Royal Wedding, which within months of release is selling for four or five times times its £150 original price tag.
But I’m struggling to understand what the point of Buxton’s article is. Is he against investment in whisky because it’s not a sound way to make money? Is he against it because he hasn’t made money at it, though he has clearly tried? Or is he against it because it is in some way immoral and against the spirit of whisky?
Let’s deal with the last point first. Buxton’s weak conclusion is no more than a transparent piece of cheap populism and complete emotional and irrational twaddle. Why? Because once I’ve bought a bottle of whisky it makes no difference what I do with it – I’ve deprived everyone else from drinking it except me and perhaps a close group of friends. Indeed, if I keep it I’m actually extending the life and memory of that whisky. I have about 100 bottles worth some £12,000 to £15,000, some of them bought for my children. I like to think that if and when Prince William becomes King, my family and I will open and share my bottle of Royal Marriage. Or we’ll sell it for a lot of money and pay for the ensuing street party with the profits. So unlike Buxton, I’m extending the whisky’s memory for another generation.
Let’s be clear that Buxton’s article is nothing more than a very misguided opinion piece. Buxton claims he researched his subject – and indeed he did – but he either failed to understand what he was being told or chose to ignore it.
He spoke at length to Andy Simpson of Whisky Highland, for instance, a friend of mine and someone who knows as much as anyone on this subject. Buxton would have been told that short term investment is indeed a form of gambling and comes loaded with risk. But that’s not investing. An investor should be thinking ten or more years. And yet at the core of his whole article are some cod inaccurate figures based on an investment period of just one year.
He states that because an investment whisky is never going to be opened “it may as well contain cold tea.” But the first rule of whisky investment, and what everyone who understands the subject will have told him at the outset, is that an investable whisky must taste good. Limited editions appear all the time but they will only become worthy investments if there is a medium and long term demand, and that comes from whiskies that are in demand by some people for consumption. And of course every bottle consumed raises the value of what’s left.
Buxton has focused on short term speculation and identified it, correctly, as a gamble. But he has failed to address longer term investment either in proven ‘premier cru’ whiskies or in a basketful of more standard bottlings. In the first case it’s like looking at the form of Manchester City and predicting that they just might make next season’s Champions League. In the latter it’s about spreading what little risk there is over a broad basket of whiskies. In both cases it’s about looking at statistics, weighing up probabilities, and investing wisely.
If you do that and are patient, your investment will not necessarily give you headline treble digit growth, but it will make you money. Buxton is, of course, entitled to his opinion, even when it’s so totally wrong. But I take issue with some of the insinuations about collusion, corruption, and pseudo ‘insider dealing’ which are insulting, potentially damaging, and bordering on libellous. What The Whisky Shop, The Dalmore and I are doing is letting people know of a real opportunity and offering them an alternative to standard financial investment. The figures speak for themselves. And it seems others agree with us.
My latest investment piece, featuring prominently The Dalmore, appears in the prestigious World Financial Review published later this month.