Once you’ve made the decision to sell your whisky collection, how do you determine how much it’s actually worth? We’ve all had well-meaning, if slightly uninformed, friends/family members/colleagues tell us that our dusty bottle of whisky must be very expensive now as it has been sitting in the attic for over 30 years now. That is simply not the case.
There are a lot of factors that go into determining the value of the whiskey you want to sell:
Does its age matter?
Let’s just clarify something upfront. There’s the whisky’s age and then there is how long you have had it tucked away. For example, a Bowmore 25 year old is – and always will be – a 25 year old. The age statement defines how long the whisky has matured in casks before being bottled. Once it is in the bottle, the aging stops (as per the Scotch Whisky Association regulations).So if you inherited the Bowmore 25 year old from your father, who bought it in 1994 (just an example), then it is a 25 year old whisky which you’ve had for 20 years. Not a 45 year old whisky as I’ve heard from far too many people before.
Another thing I’ve seen is people reading the date the distillery was established which is shown prominently on some brands – like The Glenlivet which proudly shows “Est 1824” on the bottle – and saying that the whisky is almost 200 years old! It’s not.
Now that I’ve got that out the way, yes – age matters a lot. As a general rule, the older (the age on the bottle) the whisky the more its worth.
What condition is it in?
Condition is everything. If you have a bottle with a broken seal, you may as well just open and enjoy the whisky yourself. Once the seal is broken there is no way to know for sure if the 50 year old Glenfiddich has been decanted and replaced with a cheap, no-name blend. So 99% of all potential buyers will steer clear if it appears that the bottle has been opened.
The more pristine the whisky – labels intact with no tears or discolouration – then the better position you are to negotiate a price.
Is the original packaging still intact?
If the packaging is not in pristine condition, it won’t be a deal-breaker, but you may have to accept that it is not going to sell for as much as an identical whisky that is in top shape.
Does it matter if it is a single malt or a blended whisky?
Personally, I’m always on the lookout for single malt whiskies, and I think you’ll find other collectors out there are the same. There are some great blends out there – especially the really old stuff. But don’t expect the bottle of Blair Gowrie (or similarly named cheap blend) that you inherited from your parent’s estate will be worth thousands. It most likely won’t be.
Is it from an in-demand distillery?
Like all things, there are distilleries that are more favoured than others. Distilleries that are closed or demolished (also known as the “Lost Distilleries”) often attract more interest as there simply will not be any new whiskies released from these distilleries. Great examples are Port Ellen, Brora, Rosebank and St Magdalene. The list goes on and on…Then there are the fan-favourites like Macallan, Springbank and Ardbeg that are always in demand with whisky lovers the world over.
In addition to a distillery’s OB (“Official Bottling”), there are several independent bottlers (“IBs”) out there that bottle some really excellent whiskies. So if you can’t find a distillery bottling of Port Ellen for example, look out for the Old Malt Cask Port Ellen bottled by Douglas Laing.
How urgently do you need to sell it?
If you need to raise money fast, you may have to settle for selling your whisky at a lower price that what it is truly worth. However, if you are not in a rush and are prepared to wait for the buyers to come to you, you’ll be in a stronger position to sell your bottle at your asking price.
If the same bottle as yours is selling for R1000 in the shops, how much is your bottle worth?
Let’s use the analogy of buying a car. You drive a shiny, new car off the showroom floor and then decide to sell it a short while later. Can you sell it for what you bought it for? No, of course not! The second-hand/used car prices are quite a lot lower than new car prices*. You shouldn’t expect any different when looking to determine the value of your whisky.
* There are some exceptions here. If you bought a classic sports car, it may appreciate in value over time. The same applies to some whiskies.
Do you sell bottles individually or as a collection?
This is a harder question to answer. Quite simply, it depends on what you have. If, for example, you’ve got a collection of all the Macallan age statement releases (10, 12, 15, 18, 25, 30, etc) then it would be better to sell them as a set. If you have a bit of everything, then it may make more sense to let the bottles go individually.
Do I sell to an individual or a bottlestore/bar/restaurant?
Both buyer and seller will always want to make the best deal possible for themselves. A collector who is looking to complete a set in his/her collection will pay more for your whisky than someone running a business. Business owners operate on tight margins, so the less they have to pay for the whisky, the more they can earn from it.
Hopefully that has answered some of your questions and concerns that you may have. At the Whisky Tasting Fellowship we are happy to help you negotiate your way through all these factors and provide you with a fair valuation of what your whisky is likely to fetch when it comes time to sell it.
For a free valuation of your whisky collection, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org including a list of whiskies you are looking to sell as well as photos of the bottles too in order for us to be able to accurately evaluate your whisky.
Please note: This site merely aims to put buyers and sellers in touch with each other and does not handle any transactions whatsoever. As always, show common sense and proceed with caution when entering into any sales in the real world as we cannot vouch for anyone that we put you in contact with. For the full disclaimer, read here