Collecting rare Scotch whisky is a life-long (and very expensive) endeavor. Whereas collecting rare and expensive bourbon unicorns can still be about actually drinking the stuff, buying the Scotch whiskies below is often more about trading commodities, making sound investments, and signaling your status. Still, since I get to dip my toes into that exclusive world every now and then, I thought I’d drop a few bottles that I’ve added to my personal collection as investment bottles and a few that I’d like to.
Eight out of the ten bottles below are pretty widely available and cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000. They’re unique, rare, old, and very collectible. I also added one bottle that inches towards $10,000 and a final bottle that costs as much as a luxury car. Just to be clear, I’ve not tried the last bottle on the list — just heard about it ceaselessly from my whisky-collecting pals (I have included tasting notes from the distiller).
It goes without saying but this list barely scratches the surface of the bazillion bottles of scotch worth collecting out there. This is an introduction and not meant to be comprehensive in any way. Click on the prices if you want to dive in to the whiskey collecting game.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Year Of The Ox
Average Price: $209
This is the mountaintop of Johnnie Walker’s whiskies. The blend is a marriage of ultra-rare stock from extinct Diageo distilleries around Scotland. That’s cooler than Brad Pitt wearing work boots and aviators on his motorcycle. This expression is all about barrel selection and the mastery of a great noser and blender working together to create something special.
Dried fruit with a plummy sweetness mingle with a very soft and almost dry waft of smoke. The palate then veers in a completely different direction — folding in orange oils, marzipan, rose water, honeycombs, and even a dusting of bitter cacao once a drop of water is added. The end is slow, smoky, and full of dry fruits, nuts, and has a malty nature.
These are truly bespoke limited yearly releases that you have no reason to open — just grab a regular Johnnie Blue to sip. The Ox expression will 100 percent go up in value. It’s also a freaking beautiful piece to have.
Average Price: $1,000
Talisker’s seaside vibes are on full display in this beautiful bottle. The last limited release was only 3,186 bottles, making this a very rare expression from the Isle of Skye distillery.
Based on the 2017 release, the nose is shockingly subtle and soft with velvety notes of smoldering dried nori next to matchsticks that have been dipped in a buttery and rich dark chocolate with sea salt gently sprinkled all over. The palate leans into the dialed-back peat by bringing about a smoked cream with fire-seared peaches next to a hint of wet cedar, very old tobacco leaves, and a touch of almond or oat milk touched by salt. That salt drives the mid-palate towards a finish that’s like getting kissed by merfolk on a beach next to a campfire that’s heating a cauldron full of spicy stewed peaches in more of that cream.
Sound interesting? It is!
These are very rare drops that you can still find pours of in the best whisk(e)y bars in the world. Our advice: Order a pour at the bar and save the bottle in the vault.
Average Price: $200
This is the first of four releases in Octomore’s 11.x “Super Heavily Peated” line. The juice is fermented from 100 percent Concerto and Propino malted barley grown in Scotland. The whisky then spent about five years in ex-bourbon barrels from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, and Jack Daniel’s before it went into the bottle at cask strength with zero fussing.
These are peat bombs and that’s apparent from the first whiff of green moss and wet firewood bark smoldering over a campfire on a rainy day while notes of Windex mingle with honey apples and a touch of ginger spice. The taste dances between dried and smoked red chilis preserved in honey and a peaches-and-cream vibe that leans more towards buttermilk tartness with a dash of salt and a sprinkle of wet brown sugar. The honey and vanilla last into the mid-palate until the peat takes over the finish with a deeply charred bitterness that’s kind of like throwing burning coal in your face and then chewing on it (some people really like that).
There were about 30,000 of these bottles released with a much smaller number actually making it across the pond. These aren’t the rarest whiskies on the list but they’re fought over in the U.S. because there’s nothing quite like them. They are unique and we’ll never see this exact expression released again.
Orphan Barrel Forager’s Keep
Average Price: $590
This was Diageo’s first Orphan Barrel from Scotland (they usually focus on long-forgotten bourbons). The juice in this bottle is a 26-year-old single malt from the long-shuttered and now-demolished Pittyvaich distillery. So not only are you getting a super rare and old whisky, you’re getting something that we’ll never see again.
The nose draws you in with sharp green apples nestled in loose straw in wicker baskets in a sunny orchard with a throughline of light vanilla cream. The apple and vanilla mellow out into an almost cream soda note on the palate, as a rush of orange oils and wet cedar spice things up. The end adds in a dry cedar and apple tobacco vibe with a hint of silken maltiness.
This is a very rare release from a dead distillery. We literally will never see this again. And when it’s gone, it’s gone forever. That’s reason enough to squirrel one of these away.
The Balvenie Single Barrel 25
Average Price: $700
Malt Master David Stewart hand-selects these Balvenie barrels for bottling. He searches through refill ex-bourbon barrels that are 25-years-old to find one that’s exactly right according to his legendary abilities. The whisky is then touched with a drop of water to help highlight the flavors and textures Stewart is looking for.
This draws deeply from woody holiday spices that are stored in an old cedar box that once held honey-dipped cigars. A flourish of orchard fruit arrives by way of spicy stewed pie filling and a honey tobacco sharp-yet-sweet buzz that leads towards a silky — almost … calm — mouthfeel. The finish holds onto the honey as notes of vanilla husks, dried wildflowers, stewed pears, and more of that velvet honey slowly fade away.
There’s a lot of great collectible bottles from The Balvenie. While their Tun drops and 30-year-old are a little more flashy, this 25 year is a touch more accessible to the casual collector and will certainly be something to hold onto for a while as people drink them, thereby making them rarer.
Mortlach 21 Rare By Nature 2020 Release
Average Price: $868
Mortlach is a Dufftown icon. The juices in this bottle are single malts that are small-batched and then refilled into former Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry seasoned casks for final maturation. The whisky was then bottled at cask strength, allowing you a full vision of what was in the barrel.
This opens with a holiday cake feel with plenty of candied fruits, spices, dried fruits, and nuts next to a touch of cream soda and a line or two of rich toffee syrup. The palate builds on the holiday cake vibe with chili-infused dark chocolate next to hints of ripe cherries and plums with a light echo of dried tobacco and cedar. The end is not too long and leaves you with a silky mouthfeel and a spicy warmth.
Anything from Mortlach that has an age over 20 years is pretty damn rare and collectible. This 21-year age statement is very unique and we will not see it again outside of this 2020 limited edition release.
Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year
Average Price: $320
This is Ardbeg’s yearly release of special batches of 19-year-old peaty malt. The whisky is Ardbeg’s signature peated whisky that’s bottled during a “haar.” That’s a thick and briny foggy morning on Islay, which imparts that x-factor into the whisky as it goes into the bottle.
You’re drawn in with a super subtle waft of soft smoke with hints of sour cream, fennel, and cold-smoked salmon on a pine cutting board that’s been washed in the sea. The palate holds onto that briny seaside vibe as it veers towards sea salt-laden dark bricks of fudge bespeckled with dried orange zest and lavender. The end circles back around to a sooty smoke that feels like a warm granite rock that’s been dipped in the sea and then rolled around in the dying embers of a fire.
Ardbeg is great at releasing limited editions we’ll never see again. This is a special release that’s worth holding onto as long as you can, as people really love drinking Ardbeg at the moment
The Glenlivet XXV
Average Price: $456
This masterpiece from Glenlivet is their iconic whisky that’s left to mature for 25 years. That whisky is then finished in an Olorosso sherry cask for that final chef’s kiss before going in the bottle at an incredibly accessible 86 proof.
Imagine the best, most bespoke dark chocolate-covered raisins from a ridiculously expensive chocolate shop and you’ll be on the right track. Those sweets are the foundation for burnt orange peels, Almond Roca candies, and sweet caramel malts with zero edges. The finish is so long that you might still be thinking about it on your death bed thanks to an orange/spice/nutty matrix of silky-whisky-smoothness (also my favorite TLC album title).
This is another whisky that you see getting poured a lot at whisky clubs, high-end bars, and amongst collectors looking to try something magical from the iconic shingle. That means these releases tend to dwindle pretty quickly, leaving the leftover bottles looking very attractive to collectors.
The Dalmore Constellation 1981 Aged 30 Years
Average Price: $6,660
The whisky from The Dalmore is very old with unique aging. The juice spends about 25 years in used American oak before it’s finished for almost five years in Metusalem Oloroso sherry casks. Those barrels are used to age sherry for 30 years before they head to Scotland to be filled with whisky. Moreover, the finishing on this whisky is longer than most whiskies are aged in general.
This leans heavily into cedar chips that have been touched by droplets of orange oils, lavender oils, and then mixed with dried potpourri. Those dried florals lean into eucalyptus, Earl Grey tea, and a touch of rose perfume filtered through a pack of Pall-Mall cigarettes. The palate leans away from the dried florals and essential oils towards bitter orange-infused marzipan with dark chocolate covering next to a hint of salted ginger candies and eggnog spices (clove and nutmeg especially) and some nice creaminess. The mid-palate really lets the marzipan and nutmeg peak as the finish leans into the creaminess of the dark chocolate with a silken brandy-drenched chocolate orange vibe.
There were only 787 bottles of these produced. Need we say more as to the collectibility of this very rare bottle of scotch?
Bowmore 54 Years Old 1957
Average Price: $155,000 and up
This bottle is a little like time travel. Released in 2012, this juice was distilled in 1957 and spent 54 years chilling, untouched, in Bowmore’s warehouse. When it was released, it was the oldest Islay malt ever released on the open market.
Tasting Notes (from the distillery):
On The Eye: Glistening warm gold. Breathe In: An elixir of blueberries and wild figs with mellow almonds, tropical fruit, and rich oaky overtones. Sip: Layer upon layer of sweet and refined ocean tastes with soft blueberries, cassis and figs, sea salt, and fresh eucalyptus. Savor: Long and whispering finish of cassis, bergamot, and star anise.
The MSRP on this was $155,000 and only available at the distillery. And, well, it’s the oldest Islay malt you can buy. Enough said.
*Uproxx is not offering investment advice and cannot be held accountable for fluctuations in the Scotch whisky market.
As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.