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When tastings mean 30 lakhs for whisky

The newly opened Distillers Library raises the bar in Singapore

Even more exclusive bottles will also be on offer, such as those from so-called lost distilleries. (Unsplash)
Even more exclusive bottles will also be on offer, such as those from so-called lost distilleries. (Unsplash)

Ever wanted to taste a $50,000 whisky? Get yourself to Singapore. 

William Grant & Sons Ltd, an independent, family-owned distiller whose Scotch brands include Glenfiddich, the Balvenie, and Monkey Shoulder, has opened the Distillers Library to give collectors from around the region just that chance. 

“We’re trying to personalize the whole experience where you can choose, by invitation, to come in and for us to have the opportunity to share some of the family’s rarest whiskies,” says Doug Bagley, chief commercial officer at William Grant & Sons. “You’ll be trying some of the products that we don’t showcase anywhere else in the world.”

Rare whisky has been a standout among lifestyle goods for years. Resale values have grown by 478% over the past decade, according to the Wealth Report 2021 from Knight Frank— far outpacing other luxury assets including wine (up 127%), watches (up 89%), and art (up 71%). 

Also read: A beginner’s guide to whisky

Sotheby’s Wine in December pointed to Asia as key to its growth in the spirits business, which accounted for 20% of its overall sales in 2020. While figures were likely affected by the shift to digital due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 73% of the total bid amount from wine and spirits sales last year came from collectors in the region, Sotheby’s said, and 40% of bidders in Hong Kong sales are in their 20s and 30s.

“Singapore has a very unique place in the world as well, whether it’s in the number of real discerning collectors here in the world of whiskey, or when you’re out,” says Will Peacock, William Grant & Sons’ global luxury director. “You visit a hotel bar like the Writer’s Bar at the Raffles Hotel, or some of the more modern-style bars—there’s a real discernment for great quality fine spirits.”

To that end, the Distillers Library is offering selections such as a Glenfiddich 1973 Armagnac that goes for about S$25,000 ($18,800) a bottle or Glenfiddich 50 Year Old for approximately S$65,000. Tastings are complimentary and bottles available for purchase, with each visit tailored to the guest.  

Also read: No whisky for old men

William Grant & Sons will seek out the region’s big whisky drinkers (and spenders) to extend invites, or collectors can solicit more information themselves via email. “In the past year we’ve seen the interest in authenticity and real craft elevated even more,” says Peacock.

Even more exclusive bottles will also be on offer, such as those from so-called lost distilleries. Given these offerings are the last of their line, you’ll have to buy the bottle to get a taste. For instance, Ladyburn Edition One has labels done in partnership with famed British photographer David Bailey, which are meant to evoke the extensive change that’s occurred over the half-century the spirit matured. William Grant & Sons is offering 210 bottles selling for S$30,000, some of which are packaged into 11-bottle collections for S$350,000.

Each bottle is drawn from the same cask and signed by Bailey, an ex-husband of Catherine Deneuve who’s photographed the likes of the Beatles, Mick Jagger, and Twiggy, and features a photograph from his “London East End” work taken in the 1960s.

Also read : Sexism hits the whisky world

At 54 years old, Ladyburn is at the perfect time for release, the distiller believes. Like the Macallan-Peter Blake collaboration, William Grant’s Bailey collection is designed to add value to buyers seeking limited editions and who might appreciate the story line about 1960s London. Sherry flavors picked up from the casks are right on trend, too, they say.

“Being able to open your doors to some of the unseen whiskies that would perhaps never make it to market,” says Peacock, “some of those that are well loved by distillers, but we could never commercially put them out at any scale, that’s what people are after. Those are the stories behind the scenes; that’s really what this place is. That seems to be what gets people really excited.”

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