Apr 062017
 

Alright, Drammers and Dreamers.  something to talk about.

Let’s beat this dead horse like Negan on a noggin'(*).  It’s a subject that seems to be getting a lot of play in almost every whisky conversation I’m a part of lately.  Let’s talk about the price of whisky.  yes.  That again.  I kinda think everyone needs a public forum to air it out.  The comments section below, I imagine, is about to become just that.

There seem to be two schools of thought (of course there are more nuanced approaches, but for the sake of simplicity, bear with me).  The first suggests that whisky is a luxury item and that any price is fair on a luxury item.  Especially in light of the fact that many of the same individuals who are now complaining about the stratospheric (and still soaring) price of the precious fluid are the ones that have helped push it there via the laws of supply and demand (and disposable income).  The second suggests that no matter what your personal druthers are, there is no fucking way that the current climb is justifiable in light of the very small change in conditions that supported prices which probably came in about 40% lower (more in some cases) just a year or two back.

Are these two arguments balanced?  Do they offset?  Well…I think you know where I’m about to weigh in, aye?

Here’s the thing.  Shit gets more expensive over time.  We know this.  Just ask your parents who trudged uphill both ways in the snow to see a ‘picture’ at the cinema with no more n’ a few bits in their pocket.  Of course, that covered popcorn and a wee dip into the sweet shoppe on the way home too.  The reality is…the times they are a changin’.  BUT…typically this happens incrementally.  Small hops and skips that mostly go unnoticed by a population that progressively earns more and more and a dollar that continues to morph into an entirely different beast than back in the day when a home could be bought for tens of thousands.

As regards whisky though (before we start to ramble too much)…in the last couple of years where we’ve seen spikes that look like towering t-rex teeth or stalagmites in some Journey To The Center Of The Earth spinoff can we reasonably explain away such drastic increases?  Uh…nope.

Barley is about on par with 2010 prices (source); barrel shortages we heard so much about have been claimed to have been BS by many industry sources (forgive my refusal to name names of the good people who share insider secrets, but even so, let’s face it…much of the industry’s move to ‘sherry-seasoned’ barrels must be a cheaper option than the old ‘ex-sherry’ butts); fuel costs are on the decline (source) so transport should be cheaper; it would seem median salaries in the UK (home of all this glorious malted gold) have held pretty steady in recent years, right around £26k (source); and…let’s name the pet elephant in the room: “hello, Brexit!”

So…why the hell has the price of whisky shot through the roof?  It’s simple really.  Because it can.

Let’s return to the other argument for a moment.  The one that says whisky will cost what whisky costs because it is whisky, not bread.  The point: it’s non-essential.  It’s a luxury item that we don’t need, so if we’re gonna be that indignant about it, we can always just walk away.  At the end of the day, this argument really is sound as a pound when you think about it (a pre-Brexit pound, that is ).  Vote with your wallet.  Simple message.  We don’t need this stuff, so shouldn’t we be saving our breath to fight the good fight elsewhere?  Yeah, probably.  But life is rife with shit in so many ways.  That’s a simple reality.  In our few short rotations ’round the sun we hunt out the things we love (and that make our lives better) then we cling to them like life preservers.  The more we learn to love them, the more we become covetous and protective.  It’s only right that we should fight to hold onto what we hold dear, don’tcha think?

Anytime there is an illogical leap in expense, should we not as consumers question it?  Caveat emptor, aye?  If not are not implicitly responsible for the act of gouging?  Look what happens when fuel costs spike.  Or automobiles.  Or when Cauliflower doubled in price last year.  Or bacon.  The internet went batshit.  People wanted answers.  And for the most part, they got ’em (excepting fuel, that is…we’ll never get answers there).  Why, therefore, can we as consumers not question the rising tide of malt prices without being villainized?  It’s a bullshit old world mentality that is telling us to suck it up and not question the status quo.  And I, for one, will never buy into that (pun intended).

And here’s the real rub for someone like your faithful author:  I love this stuff.  I mean…I fucking love it.  I have dedicated vast tracts of my life over the last decade or so to pushing it to the fore.  To publicizing the greatness in it.  To sharing the word and helping elevate brands (even in my own small way).  I have started massive whisky clubs, written hundreds of reviews, shared countless experiences and bottles, led more tastings than I like to admit and supported businesses near and far.  And yet, I’m one of the ones struggling to stay in the game.  That is…well…lemme be honest here…it sucks.  A lot.  It’s caused me a bit of an existential crisis of late.  (I know, I know…sounds melodramatic, but do realize how much of my life I’ve dedicated to this.)

So where do we go from here?  Hard to say.  If you’re like me – and you maybe squirrelled away a bit of a store for rainy days – you hunker down and wait.  And you plug your ears when the bubble bursts.  You also scour for deals, share the word when you find them, and sew enough good karma that others share their hoards throughout these lean times.  Oh yeah…and you learn to fall in love again with the younger, cheaper malts you started with.  If you’re not like me…well…you pay grossly inflated prices and live large now, but recognize your dollar is working harder for you than it ever has before, and that you…are…being…fleeced.  If you’re okay with that (and to a degree, we all must be right now, or else we wouldn’t be drinking some of the drinks we do), let’s simply smile and move on.

In short…consider me on record as saying that the current state of whisky valuation is bullshit and it simply comes down to what the market will bear.  Supply and demand, and all that.  The question now becomes, are you ready to walk away or are you going to continue playing, knowing that the metrics have changed in favor of the other team and you’re playing on their turf?  Who knows…maybe it’s gonna be a true David versus Goliath story.

Either way…the next few years are gonna be hella interesting, I’d say.

(*shameless Walking Dead reference)

 

– C

 Posted by at 5:38 pm

  26 Responses to “Dollars & Sense”

  1. I’ve started walking away. I now drink cheap and cheerful bourbons and Irish whisky like old grandad 100 proof at $27 and Red Breast 12 CS at $100. I’ve set a price per bottle limit and the number of bottles I purchase annually. Having said all that, it’s rare if I purchase Scotch whisky anymore. Time to move on!! I have greater priorities in life!

    • I’ve said this in some manner before. I’m not beholden to whisky. I won’t buy something I don’t like because it’s cheaper. I won’t even drink someone else’s expensive stuff unless it’s something I like.

      I like good quality scotch, bourbon and even the odd Canadian. Some of that is moderately pricy (I’ve never spent more than $150 on a bottle unless I was trading something in) and some is inexpensive but fabulous (OGD 114 anyone?). I have enough that I can live my life in peace without ever buying another bottle.

      I’m slowly turning around and walking away. I’ve drastically reduced my buying this year. My supply, if you don’t count bottles I’m holding for others, is unchanged from Jan. 1. Unless something really special comes this way this will not change.

      But I’m not hiding until the bubble bursts or walking away from one of my favourite hobbies.

      To me Scotch and whisky in general has been about 3 things:

      1. Reading and learning. I can still do that and hope ATW remains a big part of that.

      2. Tasting with friends. I have enough interesting stuff to keep things interesting for decades.

      3. The hunt for new discoveries.

      It’s only in the last one that things get tricky. Up until now I’ve been able to find some well-priced gems. Recently a Longrow Burgundy at original price, before that Mac CS at $73 tax in, and a few others on my annual trips to Calgary. It’s getting harder these days.

      Sometimes I go on the hunt for something for a friend. I like doing favours.

      But finding something I want is easy. Something I can afford, not so much. The last 2 really good bottles I bought in Ontario I only could even think to afford because I was simply trading in other really expensive gifts.

      And so staying on the hunt does result in some angst and longing. .

      But I think, in order to not regret the stuff I now have to leave behind, I have to let the hunt go, except on special occasions (like Calgary).

      It’s what we call a first world problem. If I miss out on a good scotch, my life won’t really take a nosedive. People are clinging to or losing their jobs. I’m working so hard I don’t even have the energy to drink 5 cc out of a dram most nights. I have a 30 cc sample bottle almost full of what I poured 2 nights ago, and I can’t even consider pouring it again.

      But I have a home and a great family and rewarding (in non-monetary terms) job with a good chance of keeping it a while. I’m exceptionally lucky. I’d give up my whole collection and never drink a drop again if I needed to in order to keep all that.

      For someone who consumes less than 100 cc of whisky in a week, I should rightly be worrying about other things, not about getting the latest steal of a deal or special release.

      So I’m good. But I really like discussing and reading. So keep this site on all cylinders!

      • I love David’s answer here.

        My consumption pattern isn’t the same, but I can dig those three things you’re getting out of the whisky world: reading and learning especially. I spend FAR more time reading, chatting online, and sometimes just daydreaming than I EVER would actually drinking the stuff.

  2. I don’t care anymore … sing along with me (& Phil Collins)

    I have enough good to great whisky in reserve to last me for years – if not decades.

    My obsession has moved onto beer. Tonight I had a Fuller’s Imperial Stout (2014 vintage), a bruiser of a beer – think cask strength SM. The label says the 500ml bottle packs 5.4UK units of alcohol whereas my Talisker 18yo says 32 units. So a bottle of whisky is equivalent to ~6 Fullers. I paid $7.95 for the Fullers … or a $48 whisky bottle equivalent.

    Name me a world class bottle of whisky that costs <50 or even <100 bucks!

    Off the top of my head I can name a dozen high quality, world class, beers that cost the equivalent of a Johnnie Walker Black.

    … had a couple of really yummy Tequilas in Mexico recently – a really pleasant surprise I must say. Not saying I'll ever get as obsessed with it as I did with whisky … but there are some really good values to be had in that game…

    I will still buy the odd bottle as the opportunity arises, but I no longer have whisky FOMO. There are plenty of other alternatives out there. So, I'll wish the whisky purveyors the best of luck as they screw with their best customers….

    • “Name me a world class bottle of whisky that costs <50 or even <100 bucks!"

      Old Grand Dad 114 $25
      Bowmore Tempest 10 YO $80s
      Amrut Single Cask $75 at LCBO when available in the past
      Amrut IS $97.94 in Calgary last fall
      Ardbeg Uigeadail $83.99 in Calgary last year
      Benromach 100/10 $91.60 (VAT included) last year

      Just a small sample.

      They are there, but more rare.

      • Price those out in Ontario. The Ardbeg is $179. The Benromach is $117. The others aren’t available. I realize Ontario’s prices aren’t other people’s prices, but other people’s prices aren’t Ontario’s either.

        • I don’t have a problem with the price of that Benromach here in Ontario when there is a same abv NAS Talisker 57 being sold for lots more. That price just seems goofy right now as the 10yo 43% is just so cheap (see folks, through sheer lcbo ignorance deals can be found in Ontario!)

          I think all of us have a threshold and for me it would be hard to stay a whisky fan if I couldn’t continue to buy great stuff ~$100. That has of course become exceedingly more difficult in recent times and sometimes I allow my budget to stretch a bit on that if something is cask strength, which of late has come in the form of RB12CS, Laimrig and snowbird deliveries of Laphroaig10CS.

          I’m also finding more and more that I am happiest to just stick with stuff I know I will love. I know variety is the spice of life and that is the fun of whisky for many, but for me, I found myself caught in a hamster wheel pursuit of buying anything and everything new (and often NAS) and 90% of the time being disappointed. More or less cutting out NAS product has been so liberating for me!

  3. Hi there,

    there is another way of looking to the price and/or value of whisky. Whisky has been undervalued for a long time.

    In the face of market mechanisms that would make sense if you consider that from the beginning of the 1980s nobody wanted to buy whisky. If demand is low so are prices. That is market theory.

    If demand goes up so do prices. The other part of market theory.

    I leaves the question why now or why did it take so long for the prices to climb to the ultra high levels we have reached?
    What can explain the gap from the beginning of the new whisky boom – let’s say from 2000 on – to today if pure market theory applies?

    I value the features of this site highly – https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/the-debate/11788/has-scotch-whisky-become-too-expensive/

    but this one made me shake my head in annoyance. It postulates that whisky was given away almost for free from 2000 on and that even at the height of the boom which I would place to 2009-2011 when choice was unbelievable and there was still a connection between scarcity age and price of tressures like Rosebank or Littlemill and even Broras and Port Ellens which you could understand.

    It was only in the last 2-3 years that sanity has left the world of whisky completely. There is no connection whatsoever between availability scarity and price anymore. On no level.

    It has become take what the market will bear and do not be bothered by connections to reality.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

  4. The main post here is spot-on with its assessment of why prices are what they are. Far too often I see people trying to explain or justify prices based on what it costs to produce the stuff. Irrelevant. Every price is based on what people are willing to pay, and on the company’s overall marketing strategy.

    Why are NAS Ardbeg one-offs so expensive? Because that’s how much people are willing to pay.

    Why is Lagavulin 16 so expensive? Same reason, but also because the high price is designed to add to the product’s prestige.

    Why does JW have blends at various price points up the scale from $30 – $50 – $80 – $100 – $200? Because they know they have various customers who feel good about spending $30 – $50 – $80 – $100 – $200 on a bottle.

    The reason is NEVER “because this price is what we require to cover our production costs.” No company is in business to cover their production costs. Every company is in business to sell goods for profit.

  5. WARNING: POST FROM AN AMERICAN!

    I’m still in the game. I find plenty of stuff that’s worth the asking price. For examples, here are some purchases over the past few months, either for myself or on behalf of my club:

    •Ardbeg 10 for $45

    •Lagavulin 8 for $65

    •Black Bush for $30

    •Old Grand Dad 114 for $25

    •Kilkerran 12 for $70

    •Kilkerran WIP 7 CS for $75

    •Talisker DE for $68

    •Glenmo 12 Quinta Ruban for $38

    •Mortlach 15 (G&M) for $80

    •Bunnahabhain 10 CS IB sherry cask for $65

    •Laphroaig 10 CS ALL DAY EVERY DAY for $60

    Back to the general theme: The fact is that we’ve always had some bottles that were worth their price and some that weren’t. Every time you had some money in your pocket and wanted to pick up a whisky, and decided against a particular purchase—i.e., every time you didn’t clear the shelves or exhaust all your money, so yeah, EVERY TIME—you inherently judged that some bottles were priced more than you valued them. That’s why you didn’t buy that dusty old bottle of 1982 Mannochmore or whatever, just to name something random. And all the bottles you DID buy—well, those you judged to be worth MORE than the asking price, even if you didn’t explicitly think that way.

    That line dividing “not worth it” bottles from “worth it” bottles might have shifted over time, pulling more bottles into the “not worth it” camp, but it was always there. So I guess the question is, are you happy with what’s left on the good side of that line for you? It sounds like some aren’t. (I am.) But until it’s empty, you still got something good going on.

    • •Ardbeg 10 for $45 Here: ~$85

      •Lagavulin 8 for $65 Here: ~$108

      •Black Bush for $30 Here: ~$45

      •Old Grand Dad 114 for $25 Here: ?

      •Kilkerran 12 for $70 Here: ~$85

      •Kilkerran WIP 7 CS for $75 Here: Gone.

      •Talisker DE for $68 Here: ~$110

      •Glenmo 12 Quinta Ruban for $38 Here: ~$80

      •Mortlach 15 (G&M) for $80 Here: Not sure. Think about $100

      •Bunnahabhain 10 CS IB sherry cask for $65 Here: No idea

      •Laphroaig 10 CS ALL DAY EVERY DAY for $60 Here: Not available.

      • If those were the prices where I live, I think I’d still buy Ardbeg 10, Black Bush, tons of Kilkerran, and plenty of indies if that $100 Mortlach is representative of what’s available.

        I think I remember reading that you have decent prices on Laphroaig QC, so toss that into the mix too.

        All the rest would be a no, though. So that sucks. Still, if any Springbanks were available south of $100 and if some other Irish cheapos are to be had, I’d be pretty satisfied that that rotation, even if jealous of other markets.

        • Nope. Quarter Cask is $85 now. Doubled a couple months ago.

        • I think you have to remember that $100 for us is $75 in the US just by the exchange rate.

          • I bought QC in Edmonton last September for $45 Can. That is an atrocious price increase and totally unjustifiable.

            The price of whisky is very much a regional thing and very much dependent upon the degree of government involvement. In jurisdictions with competitive private sector retailing the prices tend to be considerably better. I bought Balvenie DW at 43%, 750ml in Mexico for $62 Can, Glenmo 10 also 43%, 750ml for $48, Macallan 15 Fine Oak was just under $80 Can. Those prices are all double that in BC where taxation and huge markups account for a big chunk of the price. And they are all 700ml and 40% here. We are getting ripped off, as much or more by governments and retailers as by the producers. Obviously the poducers are able to sell it much cheaper to some jurisdictions than others.

            Canadian provincial goverments are addicted to the proceeds of addiction, i.e. gambling, cigarettes and booze.

          • Chris1,

            Then we should stop feeding the addiction. no more smoking (easy for me), no more lottery tickets (will save up for booze), and booze only on trips.

  6. Agreed, Skeptic. I don’t gamble or smoke, but I still love my single malt.

  7. Based on prices and expressions listed above (& yes there are some top notch whiskies still available <$100 … not so much under $50 though) It occurred to me the majority of good QPR bottles are expressions that have been around for a while. Therefore, if one is willing to drink the "same old stuff day in, day out" there is no reason to exit "the market".

    The problem seems to exist on the margin (a small portion of the single malt market – itself a small portion of the whisky market). Most whisky geeks are continually on the hunt for the next bottle – the so-called Untappd ticker phenomenon. The industry has figured this out and the crazy pricing seems to be in the annual/limited/special edition/etc releases – the ones geeks seek to tick another expression off the list in the quest to reach Valentin-esque status.

    Ardbeg is the best example of this – and all other distillers have followed suit. Ontario pricing excepted, the 10 yr old can be had for $50-75. That number may have increased somewhat (incredibly it has been stuck at $99.95 in Ontario for over 6 years) but it is still an affordable high quality whisky. It is, however, NOT EXCITING. Other than slight batch variation few bloggers review/talk about Ardbeg 10 or the other 2 regular Ardbeg releases – Uiegedail & Corryvrekan. This is not good for the company – when no one is talking about your whisky, there is no buzz. What do people talk about? The annual NASty releases: 7 years younger and priced ~2x the regular 10 year old.

    Bottom line: stop chasing the latest "limited" releases in order to increase your whisky count and you should be able to drink great whiskies – even if you don't have the equivalent of a whisky store in your house – at still reasonable prices !!!

    (For some odd reason 3 of the top quality whiskies that get discussed as standard bearers have had zero to slight LCBO price increases in more than 6 years: Aberlour a'bunadh, Lagavulin 16, Ardbeg 10. Not only those, but blends have hardly moved price-wise: JW Red has been $30, Teachers $26 for a long time. If you're a REGULAR drinker of one of these expressions, you have little to complain about).

    Keep calm
    and
    drink boring whisk(e)y

    • Hahaha. Your point is well made. I am guilty of looking for the next best thing without a doubt. Part of that is based upon the huge variations in flavour that scotch provides. And while some core expressions have remained stable, many have not. 1 year ago Glenfiddich 18 jumped from 105 to 150 for example.

      I do not go bananas over the latest NAS special release and am instead interested in looking for the best reviewed, highest value malt I can get my grubby hands on. The challenge I am encountering is that prices are creeping up on everything. I did pick up a bottle of Benromach 10yo two days ago at LCBO for $50 because it is highly rated and a good price, but most bottles at that price are, as you write, a little ‘boring’. My dad, for example, is quite content to drink Glenfiddich 12yo. I have turned into enough of a snob to turn my nose up at it as ‘entry level’ rather than appreciating what it brings to the table as a classic expression. That’s on me.

    • Good point Dave, Portwood.

      I think a big part of the problem is right in front of us.

      When I started seriously exploring whisky in 2011 Ralfy videos were my “thing” and I had heard of ATW, Connosr, etc… but didn’t really really take part much. While my “to drink” cabinet grew steadily (from 1-2 bottles) it was a moderate total bottle count.

      Until mid 2016 I can graph my involvement in sites like this one and Connosr, and my increase in purchasing on the same graph with the same line. I passed the lifetime supply on hand in about mid 2015.

      If my consumption has increased in that time it has been moderate. I still consume < 60 cc most weeks. I have taken a month off the last 2 years and there weeks (like next week) when I have no access to grain spirits or to my collection at all.

      Five years ago I would have been content to drink the following for the rest of my life:

      – A'Bunadh
      – Bruichladdich Peat
      – Amrut Fusion
      – Springbank 12 CS – maybe

      But reading about other stuff here and there, meeting people from Connosr at local events like SOT (now way overpriced for what you get), I can now count over 15 expressions of Scotch, Irish, Indian and US whiskies within my "top"5". I'm no longer content to have the same old (great-tasting) stuff week in and week out.

      If some people have a problem of drinking too much, I have a problem of buying too much, because each new great expression may only be available to me for a short time, and I "need" to have enough of that particular one for the rest of my life.

      Is one bottle enough? no. Two? not really, cause when do you open the second one and then have none for the future. 3, 4? Where does it end? Though I've stopped trying to keep up, I have over a dozen different batches of A'Bunadh tucked away, some doubles.

      Back in the days before I was old enough to drink, and maybe I don't remember it clearly because I only have secondary sources for reference, it seemed like to bought a bottle or 2, and when you drank one you replaced it.

      For the most vocal people on this site and Connnosr, unless they are consuming enough alcohol to fry their livers and then pickle them, with plenty left for the wake, it seems the purchasing has gone way up.

      Is it FOMO in the future? Get the poorly priced stuff you like now before it is out of reach?

      Is it just expansion of tastes?

      Is it a pathologic need to collect more and more?

      Probably all three within our community. And the result is that the demand goes up, and as it does, the prices go up, and as they do, the desire to get in before you can't makes demand go up, and so the bubble grows.

      And if the industry (producers, agents, monopolies, private retailers, or whoever) are taking advantage by raising prices, it still comes down to the fact that the consumer is creating demand.

      In 20 years, I will look back at this time of my life. I will either say, I wasted a shitload of money on something I'll never drink, or, perhaps in 2016-17 I finally saw the light and either left the online field or picked what I enjoyed from it but stopped chasing everything I read about. Or all of the above…

      Cheers!

      • I feel like you just wrote a first person account of my thought process. Just about everyday I look through a handful of sites with reviews for drams I’ll never get my hands on or afford. It’s like chasing someone who is forever out of reach. I guess I have to stop reaching!

    • I think portwood’s assessment here is spot-on.

      Forgive me for quoting myself from the recent “Eyes to the Future” post, but it didn’t get much reaction there from anyone but Skeptic, maybe just because I was late to the party:

      “So what’s all the complaining about? There’s plenty of perennially good whisky available. In addition to THOSE being tasty, readily available, and affordable, are people ALSO expecting quality from latest shiny new thing being pumped out to satisfy demand from those who require shiny new things?”

      I’ll also add a couple links to some interesting topical opinions from David Driscoll at the K&L blog. I know we’re often skeptical of him (especially when’s obviously selling a particular product), but I think his take on overall industry trends is often worthwhile. These are both on the desire for “rare” products on the edge of the market in lieu of reliable standbys:
      http://spiritsjournal.klwines.com/klwinescom-spirits-blog/2016/5/17/saturation.html
      http://spiritsjournal.klwines.com/klwinescom-spirits-blog/2016/5/19/saturation-part-ii.html

      • I’m not “skeptical” of Dave; I know he believes in fairness, I also know he believes in lying when it suits sales purposes. He’s told me both, so either he’s telling the truth about lying, or he’s lying about that as well. But, from Dave:

        “Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’m just observing. I think it’s hilarious that I receive hundreds of emails each month from producers to taste spirits the public doesn’t seem to want. Yet simultaneously I’m answering nonstop emails from excited potential booze consumers about spirits that we don’t have. Does that not seem funny to you?”

        No, I don’t find it funny or strange at all. If Dave’s account can be taken at face value (an issue in itself, see above), what it illustrates to me is that the industry is starting to lose touch with a customer base that it can increasingly neither control nor satisfy. Everything that’s new IS new in some way, but new isn’t necessarily to be confused with good (The Hymn of Travel Retail).

        As Dave goes on to say, he and others have a lot of work ahead, selling what’s being widely made/promoted while managing all the cutbacks on the stuff more people actually want, but it’s what inevitably happens when you only really commit sufficient production (not marketing) resources to a few products and your corporate philosophy on the rest of production is “yeah, it’s really only run-of-the-mill at best, but we’ll hook a story and a new label on it… it’s good enough for those guys”. Predictably, Dave has far more sympathy for the industry people (and retailers) who have painted themselves in this corner than for the customers the relative crap is being pushed on but… that’s Dave.

        If, after multiple smoke-and-mirrors campaigns and a million label changes to milk the new (but not improved) “whisky reinvented” angle, your problem is that you can’t make follow-up sales, your problem might be that much of what you’re selling isn’t all that special and that people are waking up.

        “I believe in sorting through emails, answering one’s correspondence, explaining how things work and what’s happening in the market, and making sure every customer knows we’re listening to them even if we can’t give them what they want.”

        What that boils down to is, essentially, Dave explaining “how things work” for him and for the folks upstream even as they aren’t necessarily “working” for the folks who actually pay the freight downstream. Maybe widespread customer dissatisfaction is the meaning of “fairness” but, I guess, things are becoming more stressful and less manageable – and that’s really too bad.

        Or maybe Dave just tells a story to encourage sympathy for Dave, so none of it really means anything (always a distinct possibility – no one owes you the truth anyway, right?).

        But, remember people – everything will always make “more sense” if you look at the lay of the land from the industry’s point of view (after all, it was made to suit the industry’s purposes) – except that, if you’re a consumer, looking at it from the industry’s POV doesn’t really do you any good at all anyway (so what’s the real definition of “sense” in that context?).

        Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!

        Sláinte!

  8. Great topic,
    I’m still relatively new to the magical world of whisky but I do have both a considerable amount of whisky on hand and plans to buy for at least the next 18 months moving forward. The plan is based largely on my uncles/father’s ages when they stopped drinking. I know about how much I drink in a year and have done the calculations out to the age where they largely ceased drinking. About 18 months from now I’ll have enough whisky to carry me through, not factoring in I will still buy when traveling for work.

    I was told years ago that whisky pricing was depressed in Canada due to low demand but that has obviously changed. I believe we’ve passed the point of normalization in pricing and firmly set foot in the bubble stage. Unlike many around here I tend to hover in the 12-18 y/o range so am not buying the higher priced stuff, I simply cannot buy whisky beyond what I can afford and won’t operate in that way. So I miss a great many things that are hyped that I do want but just won’t ever fall into my whisky cabinet short of a lottery win. And I’m ok with that. I still really enjoy some poorly rated whiskies (Cragganmore 12) and travel enough either to Alberta or the U.S. so that I haven’t bought whisky locally in well over a year (when I was snapping up Glenlivet Nadurra 16 everywhere I could find it or Glendronach Revival). The pricing where I live (MB) is attrocious on all things alcohol (Ardbeg 10 is $99 plus tax!) so I rarely support the local tax barons.

    I’m like everyone else around here: I look at multiple sites and read reviews of products I can’t hope to drink and I’m envious. I follow a number of very, very high end people on instagram (whisky porn) that have multiples of bottles of very old vintages. It’s nice to look at but I’ll never touch nor taste those bottles. The closest I get is looking longingly in YVR’s international duty free area. I can’t bring myself to pay $50K for a car let alone a bottle of bloody whisky that I’d have a difficult time telling from a $500 bottle. For those that can, more power to you, but I recognize my limitations fully.

    The whisky world is indeed fascinating and I would have expected the bubble to burst by now but I think the world as a whole is a little too much smoke and mirrors in terms of how we should live our lives. We’re pushed towards wants more than needs and have been for quite a while. The bubble, IMO, isn’t just whisky, it’s all things these days. I can’t afford an Audi A8 any more than I can a 1964 bottling of Macallan but it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate looking at both of them. Do I want more? Hell yeah but neither is going to happen. I can live with that.

  9. Nicely said, Brent. And as someone else once said: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.”

    Cheers

  10. It’s a really good piece, and it raises a lot of good questions – not the least of which is, if the very mechanism for the skyrocketing price trend (simply “because it can”) either replaces or circumvents any need for any other kind of price justification (cost of production, etc.), is there actually anything that could really be called anybody being gouged or fleeced? I personally think that there is but, as with many other things in the whisky world, consumers drive, if not think up, many of the things we later complain about. People think that there really “should be” more product information, but buy products without it. Some think that many new Ardbegs (most without the aforementioned product information), for example, are overpriced and are becoming poorer values, yet they “just have to have” the next one… and the one after that. That doesn’t really absolve producers for putting out crazy asking prices on their next releases, but they ARE only asking prices; it’s within people’s power to say no – and saying no probably would result in some price corrections. It’s true that you’re not actually gouged until you buy something overpriced, however defined (so you do it to yourself in that sense), but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people actively TRYING to gouge you either. The prices may sometimes appear to be picked out of an expensive hat, but they don’t grow on trees or invent themselves.

    And I think consumers are saying no – not yet en masse and not, given the wide variations, with all products in all markets – but consumers who have done much of the whisky exploration within their current financial means have some idea of the personal value they put on what they’ve tried and whether they really believe that the next one, declared content or a pig in a poke, will really magically fall outside of the curve. As my buddy, the Whisky Guru, often puts it, the current issue isn’t really so much one of product “innovation” as it is one of product replacement – “Having tried it, would I buy another one, at what price, and what are my other options?”. To its detriment, the industry is making consumers ask these questions more and more, and the outlook for the industry isn’t really all that rosy when consumers do: quality, overall, is pretty static (if not slipping), which leaves values falling as prices increase and, despite the inevitable hype, the latest (or next) NAS mystery mix isn’t really going to ride to the rescue by redefining physics and make it all better either. Taken even further, I think some are asking “DO we need this stuff… at all?” and it’s a question that many have been helped TO ask themselves by the powers that be; in Ontario, the LCBO seems to want to see a lot of people largely leave whisky and it, and the industry at large, keeps nudging the punters toward the door.

    A word should also be said FOR the punters because, regardless of the many movers and shakers who have helped shaped public whisky opinion, it was the punters who, for better or worse, really built the market the industry profits from today (a point the WhiskySponge and others have recently touched upon). It remains to be seen if a producer’s dream of turning all whisky into a $200/bottle luxury commodity can possibly be realized but, as Kallaskander points out “there is no connection whatsoever between availability scarcity and price anymore. On no level”. If even more people reach the same conclusion – that there’s no apparent amount of profit that can make the poor producers feel adequately compensated – maybe there’s hope for us yet.

    Sláinte!

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