How does it make you feel?
A robin and a magpie were perched on a windowsill at Master of Malt Advanced Base Camp 1. They peered in inquisitively and, by chance, happened to see an email from The Dalmore on someone’s screen, after several attempts to open the email and a quick rebooting (why would anyone unleash a travesty like Outlook on the world?).
Anyway, the email advertised a rather unusual, groundbreaking bottle of Scotch whisky, a bottle known as “Trinitas”. Aside from its age (64 years), its handsome packaging and rarity (there are but three bottles in the world), Trinitas has one overriding talking point; it’s £100,000 a bottle…
Hershel the magpie turned to Esteban the robin, “astonishing, a work of art!”
Esteban didn’t share Hershel’s view; “it’s naked profiteering, of the worst kind!”
Hershel felt he needed to make his point clearer: “But what’s wrong with it? Someone will certainly buy it, someone with a lot of money no doubt, but someone who may well get £100k’s value out of it. Something is worth what someone will pay for it; there is a big market in high-end, luxury goods, driven solely by the value that customers assign to it. What’s wrong with charging a lot for something if people are willing to pay it? It’s incredibly rare, beautifully packaged, and certainly will taste exquisite…”
Esteban felt differently, “But Hershel,” he began, “it’s whisky, it’s a drink and its purpose is for drinking. There is no way it cost anywhere near £100k to make. It’s all just one big marketing story, designed to garner brand attention. It just feels contrived.”
“You could very well argue that it’s art, though… What’s the difference between this and a Picasso (which can easily cost an order of magnitude more)?”
“A Picasso you can look at and you can enjoy without literally removing part of it (i.e. by drinking it). This… …this you take a sip and thousands of pounds worth of value has gone, instantly. In fact, I’d warrant after that first sip you’ve almost completely devalued the bottle!”
“But a collector of fine wines and spirits may well never taste his or her most expensive bottles. The value is in knowing its rarity, admiring its aesthetic beauty, and the idea that one possesses something so exclusive. It’s very human; we crave the best, the rarest, the symbols of success… The buyer will enjoy simply having it. Hell, the buyer may even enjoy drinking it too!”
“It seems opportunistic, and the fact they’ve produced just 3 bottles is purposefully driving up the price, creating hype. That Picasso has been a work of art for decades; its merits are known universally. Furthermore, if you buy it and don’t drink it, you’re simply collecting for collecting’s sake. It’s a drink for heaven’s sake! The Dalmore have been distilling for years, but it’s only comparatively recently that they’ve been ramping up the frequency and the ludicrousness of these ‘ultra-premium’ bottles. Glen Wonka anyone?”
“The Dalmore have been distilling for centuries, the oldest whisky in the bottle was distilled in 1868! Yes, they’ve created hype and deliberately limited its production (they could easily have taken a little more ultra-rare whisky from their astounding stocks and made more) but that’s how the luxury goods industry works. They’ve brought the techniques of designer fashion brands to the spirits world – I say ‘good for them!’ Recently, a luxury watch manufacturer decided to reposition their brand as super-premium. They did this by literally buying up the existing stocks of their watches, creating rarity. How is this any different?”
“It’s unnecessary profiteering. There is no need to charge so much, aside from to create a story, and reap a massive profit margin.”
“But,” Hershel the robin countered, “by that same token you should never charge more for something than it is strictly worth on an objective level. That Highland Park 40 over there, that’s hundreds of pounds a bottle. That Macallan Rankin 30 Year Old is the best part of a grand, but you can buy 30 year old whiskies for sub £100. Neither is objectively worth its sticker price, but because they are rare, legendary, utterly delicious, and because of the sterling job the brands have done presenting them, as well as the allure for collectors, they command those price tags.”
“£100,000 and several hundred pounds are two very, very different ballparks. So few people could even dream of spending £100,000 for a bottle of something that is destined for consumption. How can you argue that it’s anywhere near ok? When such a large percentage of the world’s population can’t even afford clean water, or an education!”
“There are people on this earth who cannot afford anything. You only object to this because 100 grand is outside the realms of what you can afford. The same thing applies to any consumer. This is fashion, after all, it is a luxury, and some people can afford to spend hundreds of thousands on cars, watches, houses, yachts and whisky!”
“But yachts, houses and cars cost money to make! That whisky would have cost less than a thousandth of its retail value.”
“They still have a mark-up, where do you draw the line?”
“It sounds as though we shan’t reach a conclusion!…”
So, we’re putting it to you; how do you feel about The Dalmore Trinitas?
– The Chaps at Master of Malt –