With volatility across traditional financial markets, investments such as whisky are on the rise. But is this a case of liquid or fool’s gold?

A 60-year-old Macallan Valerio Adami 1926, which sold for more than US$1 million

They call it “liquid gold” – and as an investment, whisky is starting to live up to the name. Last May, at Bonhams Fine and Rare auction in Hong Kong, two bottles of The Macallan 1926 sold in separate lots to different bidders for more than US$1 million each, breaking world records for the spirit set just a month before.

It was yet another sign of the growing prominence of whisky investing, an asset that, on paper at least, has seen dramatic gains. Over the past decade, rare whiskies have appreciated by 580 percent, outpacing the stock market and most commodities, according to Knight Frank’s 2020 Wealth Report. And even on a more conservative scale, Rare Whisky 101’s Apex Index of best performing bottles, measured 7 percent annual returns over the last few years.

“Whisky is a very unique asset class – it’s what we get asked about most – there’s nothing that compares to it,” says Andrew Shirley, Knight Frank’s Wealth Report editor. “It’s long established, but has only recently had huge momentum around it. Wine has new vintages every year, but that’s not the same for very rare whiskies – you’ve got this finite supply, which is why it’s such an interesting thing to collect.”

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(Image: John Paul Photography)

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