Welcome to comhrá fuisce. For those unfamiliar with the Irish language it’s translated to Whiskey Conversations, pronounced ‘co-raw’ ‘f-wish-kah’ and it’s a place where we discuss everything whiskey. This series focuses on various topics in the whiskey industry posted as questions. Myself and Larry will provide our views on the questions and we encourage everyone to get involved, and who knows maybe you’ll be on the next one! 🙂
Question Posed: What do you think about the complaints in whiskey social media that there are too many releases from X brand?
When I hear that complaint, I think the real complaint is that someone did not feel there is value or quality for the price. A label/bottle/box should have a well designed and informative graphic. A premium look or feel won’t carry a mediocre product in the bottle but is a plus for the collector and fan. The colour of the liquid is also a selling point, it could be a dark mahogany from E150 colour additives, but it’s not a proxy for quality. Finally, price should be in line with the cost to produce and distribute the bottle. In Ireland, there is the added overhead of extortionate excise tax, but I think we have seen about half the new releases wander into the grey area of ‘fair’ pricing. To find a positive out of these many releases, the popularity of bottle shares is very helpful to fans in getting grassroots feedback to the distilleries, most of whom are very responsive to their fan base.Larry
Some great points there Larry, for me it hinders on the release cadence, I think, and also whether the distillery intends it to be a collection in the first place. From what I’ve seen and read online, this complaint comes from collectors rather than drinkers more often than not, and there are a couple of brands that spring to mind when I think about this complaint. They’d be Dingle and their Founding Fathers series, Waterford’s Single Farm Origin (SFO) and anything JJ Corry.
I don’t think Dingle ever expected anyone to buy all releases of the 500 casks made available to founding members, and I would have to investigate if they get to choose when they’re released (I’m pretty sure it’s the investors that choose when and how many to release). The same goes for Waterford’s SFO, the idea there is the explore the different ‘terroir’ associated with different farms, not to collect all 72+ SFO editions, and after 6 years without selling a drop, you can’t blame them trying to please every corner of the market with an offering. JJ Corry on the other hand is more of a Pokémon “gotta catch ’em all” scenario in my mind. There’s no special series, or yearly release that could be considered a collection, it’s simply the want to own all of their expressions. While admirable, and shows peoples love for their product, it’s hardly JJ Corry’s fault that they are producing great whiskey and releasing it when it’s ready, is it?
Of course, price also has a part to play. Take for example Midleton Dair Ghealach Knockrath. 7 bottles released at once, €340 a piece and they don’t seem to be moving very quick. It’s a lot of money to fork out all at once, perhaps it may move quicker if there were 1 released every 6-12 months? It would give people a chance to save each month toward that new release, and they wouldn’t worry too much about them being sold out of one particular tree in the future.Carl
Your idea about cadence is interesting, Carl. Midleton has also started the “Silent Distillery Collection” this year and plans a 6 year series culminating in 2025 to mark the anniversary of the distillery. At an eyewatering MSRP of €35,000 it may just be the most expensive Irish Whiskey Collection for years to come. This reminds me of the Macallan Six Pillars collection and the price appreciation on those bottles has been very large.
I think the Dingle and J J Corry examples you mention are more in the category of “Vanity” labels. The wine industry has been doing this for decades where you get your name on a bottle to use as a holiday gift. Single cask “store picks” satisfy both vanity for the store and if selected well, a taste bonus for the buyer.
I am coming to the idea that it is not a problem of “too many releases” but rather a strong admonition to buyers to choose wisely. Collectors of particular labels will not do as well monetarily so the psychic reward will need to be enough. Releases outside the core range give producers a chance to experiment and buyers a chance to give feedback and find unique offerings.
Also noteworthy that even the most exclusive collections like the Six Pillars that have recently sold have been sold by the individual bottle to maximize return to the seller. The sale of entire collections are more likely to be private affairs with factors other than just monetary return.Larry
I would agree with you there Larry, perhaps it’s not a case of too many releases, simply some releases aren’t collectable as a whole, no matter how much we would like them all to be 🙂
What do you think? Let us know in the comments, do you agree with our conclusion?