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Review of the year 2009, the decade 2000-09 and the Perspectives for 2010

Part 1 (review of 2009) / Part 2 (review of the decade)

The decade 2000-09

With the development of Internet, whisky gained in popularity and many website and blogs dedicated on whisky have been created. These are mainly free and provide a wealth of information, like www.whisky-news.com launched in 2006. With the different forums, whisky enthusiasts can share their enthusiasm and knowledge and allow education.  As a consequence of this increased knowledge, the traditional whisky tours have been complemented in some distilleries by "connoisseur's tour". Whisky fairs, such as the Whisky Fest, Whisky Live, Limburg Whisky Festival, Whisky Schiff have been created and whisky festivals (e.g., Feis Ile or Speyside whisky festival). Consumers are not anymore entirely dependent on the advertisements; they can now read independent evaluations of their favourite dram.

Sales of Scotch consumed increased between 2000 and 2008 by 208% and the sales of the top 10 malts increased on average of 230 % over the same period, according to the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2010. Single malts represented about 10% of the total Scotch sales in 2009 as compared to about 5% in 2000. Since the margins are higher for single malts than for blends, companies are eager to develop this market.  Prices of the standard single malts (e.g. , Talisker 10 YO, Glenfiddich 12 YO or Strathisla 12 YO) have not increased,  but the companies are increasingly bottling more and more single cask bottlings at exponentially increasing prices.  This applies not only to "sought after " brands like Ardbeg, Bowmore, Macallan, Highland Park or Dalmore, but even to "less" prestigious brands such as Balvenie, Isle of Jura, Glencadam, or Glenglassaugh.

If we take Ardbeg for example, a 1975 30 YO sherry single cask was selling in 2005 for £185. In 2009, a 1998 10 YO bourbon cask was selling for £180. With Balvenie, a 25 YO 1974 single cask was selling for approximately £80 in 2001 and was replaced by a 30 YO expression selling for £300 in 2009.


This decade has seen Internet changing the method of whisky sales, with the creation of the online retailer like The Whisky Exchange (1999). Interestingly, I found an old price list of 2001 and I compared it with the prices on January 2010. As you can seem some "collectable" whisky have skyrocketed:



2001 (£)

2009  (£)

Aberfeldy 25 YO 43%



Ardbeg 1977



Glenlochy 1952 49 YO D. Laing



Laphroaig 1960 40 YO




Whisky and in particular single malts, became (and still are) fashionable and very collectable with the creation of whisky online auctions (www.whiskyauction.com) and whisky auctions (McTears or Bonhams).


Between the first auction of 2005 and the last auction of 2009 on www.whiskyauction.com, some prices have significantly increased; some remained stable and some even decreased:



2005 (€)

2009 (€)

Ardbeg 1978 OB



Longrow 1987 Samaroli



Springbank 21 YO



Aultmore 1974 Rare Malts



Brora 1977 21 YO Rare Malts



Glenesk 1970 Rare Malts



Glengoyne 12 YO 75 cl



Glenmorangie Tain l'hermitage



Longmorn 15 YO (old bottle)



Macallan 18 YO 1971




In general, prices have gone up and one of the major change during this decade was the marketing. Before, the size and shape of the bottles was almost uniform. To be distinguished from the competition, most brands have changed their labels and packaging at least once, if not twice (e.g., Highland Park) over the last 10 years. Not only the packaging has changed, but the size of the bottles. Looking at the last catalogue from La Maison du Whisky, the bottles have a height ranging between 20.5 cm and 34 cm. Good idea? Not really. It is a nightmare for the retailers to display the bottles in their shop, as well as for the collectors. Could the industry not agree on some standards? Some retailers now refuse to stock certain brands because of the shape of the bottle (either to tall or to broad).


During this decade, in terms of volumes, the production has not increased much, since the volume of exported Scotch whisky (in million litres of alcohol) have increased from 277 to 302 in 2008. However, in terms of innovation, it might not have been revolution, but at least evolution!

In 2001, Reynier, Coughlin and Wright revived the distillery of Bruichladdich, with the help of McEwan and Co. To differentiate from the competition, they proposed wine cask finishes at a large scale, the sale of immature whisky (i.e., spirit), of very young whiskies or of quadruple-distilled whisky (also done at Springbank). They were not the only one to follow this path to innovation, since this decade has seen the reopening of many mothballed distillery (e.g., Glenglassaugh, Glencadam, GlenDronach, Glengyle, Tamnavulin), the construction of new distilleries (e.g, Kilchoman, Daftmill, Abhainn Deard, Roseile, Ailsa Bay) and change of ownerships (e.g., Edradour, BenRiach), new players, which had (have) to attract attention. In terms of production, one of the main change was the wood policy, with greater emphasizes o wood selection and the use of first fill bourbon casks to decrease variability (consistency) and to speed up maturation. Unfortunately, the use of sherry casks has decreased and even Macallan is not anymore bottling exclusively sherry cask (Fine Oak) and only a few distilleries are bottling most of their production from sherry casks (e.g., Glenfarclas or GlenDronach)


In terms of consummation, the "peat freek" generation is born and most of the peated whiskies have achieved a high recognition. Several distilleries started to produce peaty whiskies during this decade (e.g., Jura, Fettercairn, Dalmore, Edradour, Bruichladdich [Port Charlotte, Octomore] or Glenglassaugh). At the same time, the old Speyside sherry whiskies (e.g., Strathisla, Glen Grant or Longmorn) have lost some interest for the whisky drinker. However, this is changing, as the distilleries are offering excellent old whiskies at mere affordable price than the fashionable equivalent whiskies.


The next decade will be interesting and I am curious to see if the expectations from the BRIC regions will be fulfilled or not. If not, then we might again experience a whisky loch. The capacity of production should now be sufficient and at the exception of planned distilleries, one could think that only some farm distilleries or huge distilleries will be constructed in the future. With huge distilleries, such as Roseile, or the expansion of The Glenlivet or Glenmorangie, some old and small distilleries might end up being closed for profitability reasons, and maybe for ecological reasons as well.

Concerning special releases, these should continue and the choice of young whiskies will expand. On the other hand, the old whiskies will become scarcer and more expensive.


Let's have fun in this new decade!



Patrick B. 17 Jan 2010©Whisky-news.com