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- [Ju] This whisky costs $30,000.
It's a single malt.
Single malt whisky is one of the most
revered spirits in the world.
It's exclusively made from barley,
which is quite a cheap product.
So how does one bottle get to be so expensive?
Over the past 50 years, single malts
have become increasingly popular.
Scottish single malt exports grew by 14.2% in 2017,
to just over $1.5 billion.
One of the main players in the single malt market
is Glenfiddich, whose parent company
achieved a 1.2 billion pound turnover last year.
- [Ian] We are selling 1.2 million 9-liter cases
of Glennfiddich around the world.
We have 180 markets around the world
that we generally service.
In 1963, we started to commercially sell
single malt, but also to promote it actively
outside of Scotland.
But we gave the single malt category
the biggest push it's ever had in its life.
- [Ju] We were fortunate enough
to try a 12-year-old bottle, worth $36,
and a 50-year-old vintage, worth $30,000.
- [Ju] The 12-year-old whisky was certainly
sweet and pleasant to drink,
but I was expecting the more expensive bottle
to taste out of this world to justify its price.
- [Ju] Wow, really distinct.
- [Ian] You can taste much more European oak in this one.
- [Ju] Yeah, the distinction between the flavors
I think is a lot smoother and lot oakier.
There seems to be truth that the longer the alcohol
is in there, the smoother it tastes,
so the more deserving of the expensive price.
But that can't be the only thing
that justifies one bottle being
close to $29,000 more than another.
Another reason is that making single malt
is an extremely difficult process to get right.
Barley is ground down and added to spring water.
Heated to 64 degrees Celsius, it turns to sugar,
dissolving into a fine sweet, tangy liquid called wort.
The wort is drained, cooled, and passed into washbacks.
This is heated and condensed in copper wash stills
for its first distillation,
and a second time in spirit stills.
The spirit trickles into the spirit safe,
ready for maturation,
and then it's batched in casks with spring water.
Casks spend years in the warehouse
maturing into a single malt.
- [Ian] So the secret to the quality
of single malt is consistency.
You've got to nail down your production
so that your unique spirit comes off exactly the same,
and you have a spirit quality team that are
actively looking at [that], and we also nose
the unique spirit on-site as well.
- [Ju] But there's more.
An age 30 maturation can have 30% to 40%
of the alcohol evaporated in the barrel,
or 1% each year of the whisky's life.
This is because of something called 'angel's share,'
the natural evaporation of the liquid
into the atmosphere over time.
So older whiskies are expensive
not just because they're old
but because there's less of them left.
There's one more factor we haven't
touched upon yet: status.
- [Ian] It's all about the equity of the brand
and the perception of the consumer
about how much they're prepared to pay for our brands.
I think, in general, younger people want quality.
They want good shoes, good clothes,
nice cars, nice houses, and they want
to be drinking single malt.
- [Ju] And it's not just store-bought bottles.
One factor that's driving up the price
of single malts is a booming collector's market.
A bottle of the Macallan 1926 60-year-old
recently sold for $1.5 million in auction,
marking the largest single sale ever for a bottle.
Christie's international director of wine,
Tim Tiptree, oversaw the sale.
- It was one of 40 bottles produced from a single cask
that was distilled in 1926 and then bottled in 1986.
It was a hand-painted bottle,
so I think it does add a little to the desirability,
but it's the intrinsic quality of the whisky
inside the bottle that is driving the demand.
- [Ju] But scotch has some serious competitors.
Alongside China, India, Taiwan,
Ireland, Japan is one of the world's
major producers of unblended whiskies.
- "For relaxing times, make it Suntory time."
- [Ju] You might have heard of 'Suntory time.'
Suntory own the Yamazaki Distillery in Osaka Prefecture.
The rarity of their produce drove prices sky high.
- The Japanese have come to the fore,
about four or five years ago, one of their whiskies
a Yamazaki was named the best whisky in the world,
and that created a lot of noise
around the Yamazaki single malt.
But Yamazaki's owned by Suntory,
and the bulk of what they produce goes to blends,
so they had insufficient whisky in their warehouses
to actually continue on the success of what
Yamazaki achieved in that one year.
What dictates the price, the value of a whisky sometimes
is the exclusivity, so the less there was,
it drove the price up to the point
where Yamazaki was being sold off at three,
four times the normal value.
- [Ju] But blended whiskies can
also reach quite a high price.
Will they ever be as expensive as single malt?
- We don't normally sell much blended whisky
in our auctions, single malts are much more rare,
they are much more individualistic so,
whereas blended whisky is typically,
generally more produced in larger volumes
and also is more homogenous in the actual
style and taste profile.
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