STATUS SPIRITS
Maxim|May - June 2021
Beyond single malt Scotch, rare Irish whiskey, cognac and armagnac are commanding ever-increasing prices
NICOLAS STECHER

This beautiful level of whiskies play a hugely important role, because what they’re doing is bringing depth to the category, as well as intrigue and desirability. At this top level what you’re playing with is rarity and uniqueness,” posits Gordon & MacPhail’s Stephen Rankin from his home in Elgin, Scotland. “In the same way as limited edition Ferraris or Bugattis—why does one need to exist? You can’t drive it on the open road, it goes too fast. But like a car, the difference with this whisky, as opposed to coins or whatever other stock investment, is it is something you can experience, you can drink it.”

As Director of Prestige at the esteemed family-owned whisky label, it is literally Rankin’s job to guide the growth and release of their treasured casks. Founded in 1895 as an elevated shop for luxury goods, Gordon & MacPhail soon started buying whisky from nearby distilleries, casking it themselves in ex-sherry and bourbon American oak, and meticulously shepherding the aging process. They were the first to offer single estate, or single malt, bottles, and even today still only sell whisky which they’ve completely aged themselves.

“It’s an incredible honor to work with such liquid. Imagine sitting on the shoulder of Leonardo DaVinci while he paints the Mona Lisa and then saying to people decades later, Oh I saw him paint that!” he says. “It does feel that we’re often exploring very much uncharted waters with a lot of these releases, because nobody’s ever done something with this age before.”

While venerable maestros like Gordon & MacPhail, The Macallan, Bowmore and The Balvenie have pioneered the surging single malt Scotch craze, other categories are starting to see their values climb as well. Just across the North Channel from Scotland lies the country that is said to have invented whiskey sometime around the 14th century—Ireland—and interest in its rare gems like Knappogue Castle 1951 have seen “significant growth over the past few years,” as Brand Director Jon Dubin tells us, “and I am very optimistic about the future of the category.” First made available in 1998, Knappogue Castle sells a bottle of its treasured 1951 for about $2,000. “With the double-digit growth of Scotch single malts there’s a huge opportunity for the Irish whisky category to capture some of that market share,” says Dubin.

Taking a far more precious approach with its juice is the nascent CraftIrish Whiskey Co., whose second release The Emerald Isle Collection snatches the crown as the oldest triple-distilled Irish whiskey in the world. Made in collaboration with celebrated Russian jewelers Fabergé, all seven of its bespoke Experience Boxes will be sold exclusively via private auction. The dark walnut treasure chests come replete with a Celtic Fabergé egg, bespoke one-of-a-kind Fabergé Altruist 18k rose-gold timepiece, a rough, uncut Zambian emerald presented on a gold guilloché-enameled clawfoot base, and a humidor with two rare Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva cigars (and a gold-plated cigar cutter, naturally).

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