To Collect, or Not To Collect?

As Michael Jackson notes in the Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, at some point every whisky drinker becomes something of a collector.

Every lover of malt whiskies sooner or later becomes to some extent a collector. It may not be a conscious decision. It can just happen. A few casual purchases, the odd gift. For the collector’s friends, birthdays and Christmas are suddenly easy.

After two years drinking scotch, I think I’ve now found myself in that position. When I first started, it would be rare that I would have more than one bottle in my house at a time. Then came Christmas, an anniversary, and suddenly I found myself with 5 or 6 bottles on my dining room table. Over the course of a year, those bottles were killed off, but I started buying a little more. Then came Christmas again, and another anniversary, then my wedding followed by a birthday, and all of a sudden my collection looks like this:

Single Malts

- Laphroaig Quarter Cask

- Laphroaig 15

- Laphroaig 11 (Scotch Malt Whisky Society Bottling)

- Laphroaig Cairdeas (2009 Feis Ile Bottling — in the mail)

- Ardbeg 10

- Springbank 10

- Mortlach 17 (Malt Trust)

- Talisker 10

- Tullibardine 1993

- Glenkinchie 10

- Michel Couvreur 12 Pale Single-Single

- Glen Elgin 12

- Port Ellen 7th Annual Release

- Longmorn-Glenlivet 1967 (Scott’s Selection)

- Lagavulin 12 (200 cL Islay Gift Pack)

- Lagavulin 16 (200 cL Islay Gift Pack)

- Caol Ila 12 (200 cL Islay Gift Pack)

- Caol Ila 18 (200 cL Islay Gift Pack)

Blends

- Black Bottle

- Famous Grouse

So in the span of about 7 months, I’ve gone from almost no bottles, to almost 20 in total. The vast majority of these bottles are opened, and run under $100, but a few of them are closed and are actually quite expensive. The Port Ellen and Longmorn-Glenlivet in particular are both very expensive bottles that are likely to appreciate over time as stocks dwindle.

Should I drink these, or should I save them?

On the one hand, I’ve tried both of these bottles before. I had a small, 200 cL of the Port Ellen as party of the Islay gift pack, and I had a couple glasses of the Longmorn-Glenlivet at a local tasting. So these are not just expensive bottles that are collecting dust — they are both scotches that I have tried and genuinely enjoy. I would LOVE to drink these scotches.

But on the other hand, they are both bottles that are likely to become exceedingly rare as years go by, and they actually represent an not insignificant investment — especially if they are the anchors of a growing collection, which is a distinct possibility. Even if I receive two scotches of similar value per year as gifts, in 15 or 20 years, that will become a sizable investment …

Two of my favorite scotches — Laphroaig 15 and Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist — are soon to be discontinued. Do I stock up on a few extra bottles of those, as well? One to drink, and one to save? Just to drink? Just to save? Are those going to be good long-term investments, or are they so common at the moment that they won’t appreciate over time?

Not sure that I have any of the answers to these questions at the moment, but I’ve definitely hit a point where it’s something that’s on my mind. For the moment, it’s not like I’m buying scotches and not drinking any of them. The vast majority of my collection is open and drinkable. So I’m certainly not depriving myself of good scotch just so I can have a few bottles gathering dust … but in a few years, I’m going to have enough of these “collectible” bottles that I may need to make a decision. Not sure what I’ll decide when that day comes …

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