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    The best investment drinks: from whisky to wine

    22 September 2020

    The most heart-warming story of last week was that of the far-sighted dad who bought his son a bottle of 18 Year Old Macallan Single Malt Whisky on each birthday for 28 years. Both father and son somehow managed to keep their mitts off the bottles and the collection is now worth some £40,000 and the lucky lad is cashing it in to put a deposit down on a house. Good work, boys, drinks all round! 

    Claret has long been the go-to drink to buy for investment. For many, though, Bordeaux is a busted flush (the high quality and low opening prices of the 2019 vintage notwithstanding) and potential investors are casting their net considerably wider. Vintage champagne, icon wines of California, Chile and Australia, artisanal gems of the Languedoc and Tuscany, Japanese whisky, old cognac, small-batch rum, you name it, people are scooping it up. Here are my top tips for investment buys:

    • Speculate to accumulate. There’s no point going to the cheap end. I bought my two sons a case each of 2019 Ch. Cissac this year. It cost just £8.75 a bottle in bond (that’s to say ex VAT and Duty) which is a bargain when you consider the comparable 2010 vintage, which is drinking nicely now, sells for roughly £16 a bottle in bond. My boys will drink well but sadly won’t get rich. 
    • Spend high (if you can) and reap the rewards. And delight in the uncertainty of it all. A chum of mine bought a bottle of Japanese Yamazaki Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky a year or so back for some £70, just because he fancied trying it. It was promptly named World Whisky of the Year by the Whisky Bibleand was soon selling for £4,500 a bottle. It’s fair to say my chum never got to taste it. 
    • Buy from a reputable merchant or auction house. Store your bottles out of temptation’s way in a professional, temperature-controlled wine warehouse and delight in the fact that HMRC sees bottles of wines and spirits as wasting assets and, as such, exempt from capital gains tax when and if you come to sell them. 

    I beg you, though, never lose sight of the fact that whatever is in the bottle you just bought was made to be drunk and enjoyed rather than just simply traded in. 

     On that note, herewith six suggestions for investment or – even better –drinking… 

    2017 Joseph Phelps ‘Insignia’ (£960 per six 75cl bottles in bond; Goedhuis & Co)

    Joseph Phelps is one of the titans of the Napa Valley and this brand new release of its icon wine – a headily aromatic, sumptuous, silky, rich, fruit-laden Cabernet-based blend – is stunning. I was lucky enough to taste it, pre-release, and I couldn’t stop grinning. It’s pricy but worth it. The 2005 and 2008 vintages opened at £595 per six bottles in bond and are now trading at £975 and £1,105 in bond respectively. They usually make around 12,000 cases but only managed 7,500 in 2017 making it all the more rare and desirable. 

    2008 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (£900 per six 75cl bottles in bond; Fine + Rare)

    Comtes de Champagne is mighty Taittinger’s prestige cuvée par excellence (as famously knocked back by James Bond himself in Casino Royale) and is only produced in the finest vintages. Made from 100 per cent Chardonnay from the finest Grand Cru sites in the Côtes des Blancs, it’s a staggeringly complex and rewarding champagne of which between 250,000 and 300,000 bottles are made. Previous vintages invariably increase in value (the fabled 2002 spectacularly so) and this only-just-released 2008 has been hotly anticipated. Indeed, Taittinger tell me they don’t have enough stock to go round. Well worth tucking away. 

    2008 Royal Tokaji Co Essencia (£485 per 37.5cl; Drinks & Co)

    This is, quite simply, one of the finest sweet wines – if notthe finest –available, Hungary’s gift to the world. Made from free-run juice of grapes picked one by one this Tokaji Essencia – only the sixth to be made in almost 30 years – took an astonishing eight years to ferment (to just 4%vol) and barely 2,900 37.5cl bottles were made. It’s richly, gloopily sweet and readers lucky enough to be at our Royal Tokaji Winemaker’s Lunch some months back loved supping it from the requisite crystal spoon. Its reputation is soaring, its stocks are diminishing and despite its hefty price tag, it’s a fine investment. 

    Clynelish 1993 26 Year Old Single Malt Whisky (£850 per 70cl; Justerini & Brooks)

    Clynelish 1993 26 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

    Rare whiskies can fetch a fortune (with returns over five years better than oil or gold at the moment) and this might be one to keep your eye on. Only 941 bottles of cask strength Clynelish 1993 were made and it has just been released as part of Diageo’s brand new Prima & Ultima Whisky Collection of eight single malts. If you want to buy one of just 240 complete sets, you’ll have to fork out £20,000. If you only buy one bottle, buy this soft, creamy, aromatic beauty and salt it away. A quick shufti round Google will show that rare old bottlings of Clynelish go for many times the current price. 

    2016 Domaine de la Grange des Pères (£100 per 75cl; Yapp Bros)

    2016 Domaine de la Grange des Pères – a cult wine

    This might officially be just a humble Vin de Pays but it’s also a major cult wine which those in the know have been snapping up ever since its first vintage in 1992, happy in the knowledge that what once cost £25-£30 a bottle never sells for less than three figures these days. A big, bold, rich, herbal blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Counoise and Cabernet Sauvignon from the l’Hérault region in the Languedoc, it’s hard to get hold of but rewards the dogged pursuer. Past vintages sell for vast sums and the white wine – which constitutes just 10 per cent of production – is similarly prized. 

    Foursquare Diadem 12 Year Old Rum (£85 per 70cl; Whisky Exchange)

    Rum is the new whisky, the new gin, the new everything. Mixologists love it, drinkers love it and investors love it. My current tip would be this cracker from Barbados. Foursquare’s owner-distiller, Richard Seale, is famously-quality focused and this is spot on, a small-batch blend of pot and column still rum aged for 12 years in Bourbon and Madeira casks. It’s gorgeously fruity and rich and, given that its sister rum – Foursquare Criterion – has risen in value from just over £100 a bottle in late 2018 to around £280 today, it’s a bargain. Visit www.whisky.auction for essential information about buying and selling spirits.