Old Perth 22 year old
Originally published 03/04/2019
A new Instagram post recently piqued my interest. A new bottle was due for release, very limited, and I had missed out on purchasing the last variation. The bottle in question? Old Perth 14-year-old, a blended malt containing just two distilleries’ wares: Highland Park and Macallan, married together in a sherry cask for the entirety of their maturation, producing 675 bottles.
The Old Perth 13, the one I missed, was a blended malt again comprising the eponymous duo from Edrington. This time, production yielded 620 bottles from a single sherry cask, and it sold at retail for a reasonable £75 to £80, depending on the retailer. Personally, I was a bit gutted I had missed out, but hey; you can’t buy everything... right?
Here stood another chance to get in on the action. I direct-messaged the retailer in question, the Whisky Barrel, about when the 14-year-old would be available to purchase.
“Keep checking new arrivals,” came the response.
“I missed out last time... I WANT this one! LOL.”
“Be warned. They increased the price quite a lot!”
I waited for the listing... then I saw the price, and promptly decided that I didn't WANT this one any longer. The price had jumped to around £125. As much as I'd have liked to have tried it, I wasn't willing to part with that much cash, even for a blended HP/Macallan. Considering the 13-year-old had only been released around six months earlier, I was a bit taken aback by the substantial price rise.
I messaged the Whisky Barrel to say I'd suddenly lost interest in making a purchase. They explained that the price rise wasn't their doing, but was the result of Morrison & McKay (the blenders & bottlers of the Old Perth range) themselves. Essentially they had watched the previous releases go straight to auction and make much, much more than retail, so the price rise was designed to curtail this release going straight to auction, and to obviously cash in on the the sums we consumers were willing to pay (the last part of that statement comes from myself, not the Whisky Barrel).
I can understand Morrison & McKay's logic. The Old Perth 13 was fetching north of £400 at auction, a tidy windfall for those flippers who never intended to open their purchases, and had a direct line to their auction house of choice. So as a producer, why not get a slice of the pie?
Now recently The Whiskey Barrel themselves made quite the commotion in the Twittersphere and beyond by pricing the recent Springbank 12-year-old cask strength at £150 a bottle, a bottle released with an RRP of around £55; coincidently, the price I paid for mine from my local bottle shop, Fairleys. When asked about the pricing, the Whisky Barrel were very open about the fact that they were essentially matching auction prices (I have since checked The Whisky Barrel website and noticed that the price has dropped down to £69.95 for the Springbank). They even have the entire Game of Thrones malt set on offer for the very reasonable price of £1500... slightly more than the £400 at which it was was available on Amazon.
Cue much murmuring, wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the Twittersphere.
Now, this is not a phenomenon unique to the Whisky Barrel. There are many online retailers who add their own top line to a product, especially if they know it's limited release, discontinued or about to be so. Just wait a week or so after Feis Ile and see the proliferation of Festival bottlings that appear for four to five times the original asking price, charging auction prices before the auctions manage to even move any bottles. I even heard of retailers in Ireland last year refusing to sell on the latest Dingle Cask Strength releases as they were too valuable. Sad times indeed.
Curiously, though, these overpriced bottles seem to sell... eventually. Even auction prices and beyond don't seem to put us, the whisky-buying public, off making a purchase. As such, then, our own behaviour has not only helped fuel the flipping culture, but led onto producers and retailers, who are keenly watching our behaviour, to get in on the act.
Personally, I am not keen on retailers following this kind of price-setting culture. In fact, I think in the long run, this will alienate them from their customers.
As consumers, though, we have a choice, and that choice is not to buy. If you see a bottle that is significantly overpriced at retail, pass it over, and spend your money on something else. The world will not end if you miss the next Springbank 12 Cask Strength; there are an infinite number of alternatives on which to spend your £55.
If you see something on a Facebook 'Buy, Sell, Swap' page or at auction with a stupidly high reserve or asking price... just slide on by. Ask yourself, is it really worth it?
By voting with our wallets, we might cause a few opportunists to get their fingers burnt and possibly help put an end to the flipping, price setting and profiteering culture that now seems to be an ever-growing part of the whisky world, and we might even make the secondary market achieve a level of sanity.
Bringing this full circle, I actually have an Old Perth to review. The Old Perth 22 is a blended malt that is fully sherry matured and produced 326 bottles from a single cask at a healthy 55.2%. I don't know exactly what's in the mix, but there are rumours that Bunnahabhain and Glen Grant amongst others form the blend. I bought this from The Whisky Barrel for a very reasonable (in my eyes) £73.61 for my bottle share club.
Old Perth 22 year old - review
Colour: Rust orange.
On the nose: Initially quite taut, with a large alcohol hit and oodles of spicy oak. A little time brings cacao nibs, cinnamon sticks, raisins, ginger nut biscuits, and leather. There is an underlying fruitiness here, though: stewed apples, nectarine, and a notion of cherry Tunes (Google them). Water highlights cream sherry, more raisins, dates, brown sugar, tobacco and a light smokiness.
In the mouth: Not a super-sweet sherry bomb; more like dry oloroso, verging on a touch of fino. Raisins, dark brown sugar, clove, and quite a bit of oak. Walnuts and dark chocolate-covered brazil nuts with a tinge of salt. Water opens things out a little more and gives more dried dark fruit, more sweetness, steamed pudding, and the cherry note appears again. Some chilli flake heat with a lingering wisp of smoke. The finish is of bitter chocolate, clove, oak and slightly ashy.
A very good whisky; not overly complex, but had enough going on to keep you interested and wanting to return. I feel this was cask dominant but for £73 for a 22-year-old blended malt there is little to argue with. There is a 23-year-old Old Perth available now, but it is literally twice the price on the Whisky Barrel site at £152. I'm afraid at that entry fee I'm unlikely to return to the brand for a second sitting to step up a year in age statement.
I was very interested when Morrison and Mackay posted a picture on their Instagram profile of the forthcoming Old Perth 23yo and 41yo blended malts, plus a 46yo blended grain.
This however soon evaporated upon learning of the prices, which put an end to my considering making a purchase of one or more of them
Perhaps I shouldn’t compare to the prices of Cadenhead’s blends (43yo was £145 and a recent 20yo was £52), but for me with a small whisky budget prices are an important factor.
This article explains why I had such difficulty picking up the latest Springbank 12. Couldn’t understand it, never had an issue before.
Obviously the bottle flipping #$%#&!$s have latched onto it. I hope they failed miserably in trying to make free money and have moved back to Macallan.
My mate is a luxury watch aficionado and he was telling me what Rolex have started to do to stop people flipping their watches.
Apparently you can pick up a Submariner for £6k retail (there’s a waiting list of a year or so).
People put down a £500 deposit wait a year. Pay the remaining £5500 pick up the watch and sell it on Ebay for £8000.
But Rolex’s attitude is that they are proud of their watches and want to sell them to fans who will wear them. So they have started a thing where you only recieve the papers for the watch until a year after you’ve brought it. Which puts flippers off because you need a lot if disposable income to be able to afford to be out of pocket £6000 for a year to make £2000.
It would be interesting to see a distillery like Springbank do something similar. I’m not quite sure what or how. But make it difficult for flippers to buy their whisky.
Interesting point about the Rolex’s. Maybe it should be legislation that auction houses can list a bottle for sale until a year after their release? That may curb the enthusiasm for immediate flipping.
Those Old Perth releases got me thinking about a purchase too until I saw the prices and promptly decided to move on. I think what you have highlighted with Cadenhead’s is that value can still be found if we do a little searching around and most importantly vote with our wallets.
No surprise when it comes to The Whisky Barrel (Or Whisky Shop for that matter)
They are a bunch of greedy bas…..
And currently splitting first place on Greedy Whisky: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1901018026579588/
Interesting Facebook page…I didn’t even know it existed. Thanks for the share!
I bought the 22 Old Perth recently when I was looking for an alternative to Aberlour A’bunadh after the price hiked. It’s a good replacement. I’ve seen IB whiskies in their 20’s for 60-75 pounds. Bargains can be found out there you just have to do your homework.
In fairness to Morrison Mackay a lot of their bottlings offer tremendous value the Carn Mhor range especially.
If anyone can’t get a hold of the Springbank 12 CS they should join the Springbank Society I think it’s easier to get a hold of one then.
Well for sure the Whisky Barrel is particularly bad for opportunistic pricing and flipping but I can see the temptation when you run your own retail outlet and don’t even have to worry about the logistics or commission of auction houses. I agree that the consumer will have to drive the change. I find myself heading to the less well known distilleries and indy’s and shopping around a lot. Clubs too offer good value. But it’s hard work to keep ahead of the price tsunami!
I totally understand the flipping and price gauging—it’s market driven, so we can voice the disapproval with our wallets. After all, their cost of inventory will be substantially higher than our cost of holding on to the $ or £. But what I can’t understand is shady advertising. One major retailer (listed above) was selling a That Boutique-y Company 50 yr old single malt, listing it as Macallan. I wrote them asking how do they know its a Macallan, since it’s not listed on the bottling? They replied back that their “distributor told them that”. Sounds fishy at best, and false advertising at worst.
I totally agree with the first line of your comment. Also, it might be interesting to contact That Boutique-y Company to see if they would verify their distributors claims.
I have noticed on certain bottles a lot of retailers will try to be opportunistic. As regards The Whisky Barrel….I just avoid buying the stupidly priced bottles as they have plenty more things on offer at good prices. But it definitely pays to shop around and also to support your local specialist store if you have one.
You make a good point about the Carn Mor range being good value, especially those with a young age statement or less fancied distilleries.
I managed to get the North Star Spica 20 year old off The Whisky Barrel for £55 so yes there are still IB bargains to be had.
the trouble is that there are so many more people out there who have more money than brain.
Voting with your wallet will only help one of them to get one more covetted bottle to flip.
Not that I want to say you should partake in the game. Rather just sit back and watch whisky going downhill while not feeding the beast yourself.
Thanks for commenting Kallaskander,
I try not to get involved in the trophy bottle hunt….the very idea of it bores me!
I contacted Royal Mile Whiskies on the day of release and was able to pick up a Springbank 12 CS (2019). It then proceeded to sell out on the day, which speaking with the staff was a surprise even to them. So yes, it seems to have become another victim of the flippers. For what it’s worth it’s not a patch on the previous release so be glad you didn’t feed the retail trolls!
I must admit to having sold a few bottles and having bottles I certainly won’t drink (you’d be daft to uncork a Daftmill Inaugural release, right?). However I do, of course, recognise that the current frenzy is unhealthy. Producers such as Macallan seem to actively pursue the marketing of their product as a luxury brand, where the whisky itself is less important than the status it confers (Jason has written extensively on this!). There is a constant stream of limited or ‘special’ new releases that create enough exclusivity to permit wild spikes in price at auction. And the relentless march of NAS hollows out value in the entry level market; it seems every time I look at the supermarket shelves, the number of bottles I’d actually consider drinking at any price recedes.
In an ideal world consumers would have more restraint, producers would compete on price and the marketing men would all… [insert unpleasant fate]. However the current state of affairs doesn’t give me much hope for the future, I think the money men will ride this all the way to oblivion. These things are cyclical though, as history has proved, we’re just in the wrong part of the cycle at the moment, unfortunately. I just hope I’m still alive (with a functioning liver) when the bottom falls out!
You succinctly point out that in many cases that the big brands care less about creating quality products than they do about creating quantity and wrapping it all up in ‘premium’ marketing and of course pricing.
Thankfully many of the smaller and up and coming distilleries do care about quality and flavour so I suppose in some ways we’ve never had it so good due to the sheer variety available to us and thus options for us to channel our whisky funds.
I paid a visit to my local specialist liqour store recently The owner picked up on that I am into Whiskey so he began pointing out overpriced bottles and their potential to rise in value in the future. I had to stop him and and tell him that I don’t pay over the odds for Whiskey and I like to drink my bottles rather than let them sit in a cabinet for years or send them to auction.
I felt really hacked off by his approach. It’s this kind of mindset that is fuelling price rises and putting me off the Whiskey scene. I am looking more to the indies for value nowadays but even they aren’t immune to this issue.
I completely agree with your approach, sounds like you are a person after my own heart!
Thanks for reading and commenting.
It’s maybe time for a return to the good old days when you could chap on the back door of the distillery with an empty bottle and they’d fill it up with whatever was open for cash! Unflippable, good value for money and the value going directly to the staff. Now that’s a distillery exclusive I could get behind.