The world is losing its supply of old single malt Scotch…to Scotch drinkers. It’s a strange turn of events, given that a score of distilleries were going out of business as recent as the late 1980s and only a decade ago Scotch exports were stagnant. But now the industry gets it and is changing supply to meet demand. The problem is that it’s going to take a while to catch up considering the aging process, which means 10 to 15 more years of Scotch shortage, making for the longest winter of class-act boozers.
“The shortage of old and rare single malt…has already started, and it’s going to get worse,” said Rickesh Kishnani, who, last year, started the world’s first whisky investment fund in Hong Kong. It keeps an ever-growing collection of 7,5000 bottles, having increased 26% in value since its launch.
Age-labeled single malt Scotch has always been treasured for its limited-edition nature. But with such legacy approach, it’s not exactly easy to know what future markets hold. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible. Distillers produce a set amount each year, unsure what lies ahead down the road when the Scotch is ready to be bottled and sold, which can sometimes take decades.
So the sudden increased popularity that followed the turn of the century was one heck of a curveball. How much did single malt experts jump? Well, if we’re talking strictly United States, annual sales tripled between 2002 and 2015. But it was a cork pop heard round the world, as globally, it increased 159% between 2004 and 2014.
China is one (rather new) market in particular that can’t get enough.
“In China, everybody is talking about it,” said Stephen Notman of the Whisky Corporation. “Nobody thought in a million years that there would be a market there for 30-, 40-year-old whisky.”
It’s not just China though. Asia buys a quarter of a billion bottles annually, making it responsible for purchasing one-fifth of all Scotch exports. Hell, two years ago in Hong Kong, a crystal decanter of Macallan “M” whisky sold for $628,205.
“We are currently working at full capacity – seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” said Charlie Whitfield, a brand manager for Macallan. “We just need to be patient and allow those casks to work their magic.”