Why you shouldn’t fall for marketing.
After an elongated trip to 64 degrees north (that’s level with the southern edge of Iceland) which involved long periods of being cold out on deck of a ship, there is no doubt winter is now here in North West Europe. Now safely in my warm house, it’s -5c outside and I’m convinced I’m not moving from bed today. So, seeing that I now have proper internet and time on my hands, I’ve been catching up on the whisky auction action that I was unable to see while at work.
Now winter is here in Strathspey and Badenoch, it seems fully appropriate to now talk about the collection I have been most asked about since starting Scotty’s Drams. This has been the ‘Game of Thrones’ series, released by Diageo in collaboration with HBO. I can’t say too much about the series, as I am one of the few people in my circle of friends and colleagues who haven’t seen it. I’ve watched the first three episodes, and to me it’s all cack.
The question invariably turns to ‘is it worth collecting?’ For me it has to be a no, as I already have bottles from the distilleries in question. For the record, the GoT bottlings are :-
- Dalwhinnie Winters Frost, 43% – House Stark
- Singleton of Glendullan Select, 40% – House Tully
- Cardhu Gold Reserve, 40% – House of Targaryen
- Clynelish Reserve, 51.2% – House of Tyrell
- Royal Lochnagar, 12 y.o, 40% – House of Baratheon
- Lagavulin 9 y.o, 46% – House of Lannister
- Talisker Select Reserve, 45.8% – House of Greyjoy
- Oban Bay Reserve, 43% – The Nights Watch
There was also three Blends released:-
- Johnnie Walker, 41.7% – White Walker
- Johnnie Walker, 40.2% – Song Of Ice
- Johnnie Walker, 40.8% – Song Of Fire
There is now also a 12th bottle in the series which is supposed to be the last one, but we will see. This gets released at the end of November 2019.
- Mortlach 15, 46% – The Six Kingdoms
So is it worth collecting?
An article from October 2018 seems to think so.
However we have to read between the lines a little bit. This person certainly writes as though it’s a promotional piece. So of course they will say the whisky is good. But the drams were picked in New York and if they are only seeing Royal Lochnagar for the first time, then it’s also worth bearing in mind that maybe the lack of availability means the writer has not experienced the full depth of what good Scotch is.
Let’s just look at the selection. Only three in the complete range have age statements. You can bet your bottom dollar that the rest of them have a good proportion of young whisky in them. Lack of age doesn’t necessarily make it a bad whisky, but depends on how much is in there. The price point indicates you aren’t getting a lot of the old stuff. Indeed, the original 8 bottles cost £390-ish, and this will be available on Amazon at the end of November 2019 at a slightly lower price of £380.75.
If you add the Mortlach (£120) and the three Johnnie Walkers (about another £100) you could be in to the collection for £620-ish depending on where you buy at retail. Again, we have to look at the detail. You can buy 16 year old Mortlach at 43% for £80. But perhaps there is more quality whisky been added to the vatting.
So, if it’s good for collecting, let’s take a look at recent auction prices.
Do you see the pattern? The complete sets are now selling for less than retail. Even the individual bottles are the same. How many were fooled when they saw pictures like the one below?
And this brings us to the point. Anything that is bonded to a TV show is a gimmick. The drinks company know that people will buy it. They can shift a whole heap of whisky, especially the stuff that isn’t likely to make it into their standard or premium brands and make a killing. Certainly, I have spoken to a few people in the industry and they agree. Whisky takes time to mature. With high demand, the stocks of aged whisky are diminishing, and how can you make maximum money out of young whisky? No Age Statement, TV tie-in, added to the younger demographic watching this show of whisky drinking age and boom. The lower prices have guaranteed it will sell quickly – that much I will agree with the Forbes article mentioned earlier.
Indeed, if you would like any more proof that it was just all about the marketing, the first paragraph of the next article sums it up for me
You see, Diageo doesn’t care about the secondary market. It sells product for drinking. If people will choose to collect it, that’s even better, as they may sell multiple sets to individuals. I know of people who have bought cases of each bottle. What happens to the secondary price doesn’t worry Diageo, as long as they manage to sell it first.
Don’t feel down if you have bought a set. I may be wrong, and at the end of the day, you’ll have at least 9 whiskies that will be worth drinking. Might not set the world on fire, but at the price paid, for drinking value that’s a decent price. Give the Johnny Walker a miss. I’ve heard it’s not great.
I have been tempted in the past to buy a set, and if the prices drop much more, I still might, but only to drink. But see where we are in 20 years. You may be happy to prove me wrong.
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