You’ve probably been in the whisky aisle trying to convince yourself that a $200 bottle is totally worth it. Well, is it? Is it just a gimmick, or is there a method to the madness? You’ll be happy to know that you can certainly justify that purchase!
Expensive whisky is higher in quality and often tastes better due to distinctive flavors. But what makes some whisky more costly in the first place?
Characteristics of Expensive Whisky
Expensive whisky tends to be older in age, has better crafting quality, and is considered more rare than its cheaper counterparts.
Age and the Angel’s Share
Expensive whisky tends to be older in age. But what about the age of a whisky makes it more expensive? The Angel’s Share.
Angel’s Share is a term that is related to the evaporation of older whisky. Whisky is aged in wooden barrels that cannot be completely sealed and often have small leaks. The longer the product is in the barrel, the more evaporation occurs.
This process is referred to as the Angel’s Share because the whisky is “evaporating to the heavens.” Since only about a third of the whisky remains by the time it’s bottled, the whisky is more expensive due to loss of product. It also becomes more rare throughout this cycle, adding to the cost.
Although all whisky contains the same three ingredients (grain, yeast, and water), there can be variations in the way these ingredients are processed. This influences the whisky’s flavor profile and, ultimately, the price.
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The faster a whisky is produced, the cheaper it is. Warmer temperatures help accelerate the aging process, therefore making whisky more affordable and maintaining the output. The opposite is true of expensive whisky.
As mentioned previously, there is less output of expensive whisky, and it takes longer to age at lower temperatures.
Quality of Water
Water may seem like an afterthought in the aging process to most people, however to distilleries, it can make or break a whisky’s quality. Expensive whisky is made with high-quality water. In Japan, for example, some of the top distilleries get their water from melted snow caps filtered by granite rocks.
The further lengths a distillery is willing to go to get quality water, the more they are likely to price the product.
Cost of Storage
Expensive whisky needs to be stored longer. This means that the storage space needs to be paid for a lot longer than cheaper whisky. This cost eventually gets passed to the consumer.
Type of Cask
Whisky is aged in wooden casks, but the type of wood used will significantly affect the cost of the final product. Some woods, for example, are more porous than others. This allows the whisky to have a distinct woody flavor and cause more evaporation, which elevates the price.
You won’t see a Cartier bracelet in a plastic bag, and you won’t see an expensive whisky in an unappealing bottle. A lot of money can go into creating an attractive and elaborate packaging, and the consumer (you) pay the cost at the register.
This factor simply follows the rules of economics. The price goes up on a product as the quantity of that product decreases and vice versa. The more rare a whisky is, the more expensive it will be. Whisky collectors will often invest in rare whisky to later auction it off for more than its original price.
Why Is Single Malt Whisky More Expensive Than Blended Whisky?
You’ll notice that single malts are typically more expensive than blended whisky. This is due to the length of production time and the cost of the barley needed for single malt. Barley costs more than the average grains used to produce blended whisky.
And, again, the longer a whisky is aged, the more expensive it will be. Single malts also tend to be popular due to their distinctive flavors. And when the demand is high but production is lower, the cost of a product will increase.
Some whisky is so expensive because the entire process, from start to packaging, costs the manufacturers and distilleries a lot of money. They are also a lot more rare, and at the same time, popular and longed for.
Expensive whisky can definitely be a good investment. Literally. It can make you more money over the years at auctions. And figuratively, the distinctive, woody flavors the expensive whisky has to offer will allow your tastebuds to be indulged in smooth taste.