Whisky: Wartime nip on sale for £23,000

Contents of barrel from 1940 amongst one of the oldest and most expensive Scotch whiskies ever to be offered for sale

When John Urquhart gave the instructions for Cask 339 to be filled with raw single malt whisky at the Glenlivet Distillery in February 1940, he had good reason to consider the spirit as precious.

A month earlier, as the phony war of 1939 began to translate into the grim realities of events such as Dunkirk, the British government had begun rationing with  malt whisky production slashed by a third.

For three years during Second World War, whisky production at Glenlivet ceased altogether and Cask 339 was largely forgotten.

But amid the chaos of war, it is unlikely that, some 70 years later, Mr Urquhart would have dreamt of just how precious the liquid he was laying down would eventually become.

The contents of the barrel yesterday became among the oldest and most expensive Scotch whiskies to be offered for sale when the final 100 bottles of the single malt were unveiled at Vancouver airport in Canada with a £23,000 price tag a bottle.

The Glenlivet 70-Year-Old, which comes complete with a handblown crystal decanter and sterling silver stopper, is the latest in a line of ultra-rare and hyper-pricey whiskies being put on the market as Scotch defies the economic stagnation.

A bottle of Dalmore 62 single malt sold for a world record £125,000 at Singapore Airport last year, making the decision to target Vancouver – a major hub for flights between North America and South East Asia – not quite so outlandish as it might seem.

David Urquhart, the grandson of the John Urquhart who laid down Cask 339 and is now masterminding the marketing of the Glenlivet as head of the Gordon & MacPhail family company, said: “Our family has passed its knowledge and expertise of Scotch whisky from generation to generation. The Glenlivet 70 Year Old is an exceptional single malt. We’re proud to be able to share this with the rest of the world.”

At a price.

But the pitching of the Glenlivet 70-Year-Old as a tipple of choice for billionaires and plutocrats is just the high profile manifestation of a shift in global whisky tastes which is seeing demand for single malts – regarded as the connoisseur’s Scotch – rocket worldwide.

Exports of single malts grew from £576.7m in 2010 to £744.6m last year - a 29 per cent increase which outstripped the rate of growth of all Scotch exports, including blended whisky. In total Scotch worth £4.2bn was sent abroad last year – a 23 per cent rise, with Brazil becoming the fastest growing market, followed by Singapore and Taiwan.

Single malt still only accounts for 18 per cent of all exports. But the kudos surrounding names such as Laphroaig, Macallan, Glenfiddich and Auchentoshan means that as markets mature and young professionals in emerging economies who once drank blended whiskies develop a taste for more refined Scotch, demand for niche brands is going to rise steeply.

That, at least, is what growing numbers of distillers in an industry which has grown exports for seven consecutive years are hoping as they invest heavily in their single malt products.
Rosemary Gallagher, of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “Demand for both blended Scotch and single malts is increasing from mature markets and young, affluent consumers in emerging economies. While blended Scotch still forms the vast majority of exports, as consumers become more knowledgeable about Scotch, single malts are also growing in popularity.”

Morrisons Bowmore, the Japanese-owned distiller whose brands include Bowmore and Auchentoshan, this summer announced an 86 per cent leap in pre-tax profits driven by sales of its single malts and increased its stocks of the whiskies by nearly £6m.

Arran Distillery, a relative newcomer to the premium whisky market after it opened for business 16 years ago, is increasing its production of its single malt by 15 per cent this year to 400,000 litres in the expectation of burgeoning demand in Asia and Latin America by the time the spirit matures in a decade.

Managing director Euan Mitchell said: “We’re thinking long-term and are laying down extra stock now to ensure we can capitalise on the increased demand for single malts ten years down the line.”

Such bold expansion has led to some industry observers raising the spectre of the last time Scotch producers dramatically increased production in the 1970s by around 200 million litres and economic factors such as the oil crisis and the collapse of the Japanese economy led to a slump and the closure of distilleries.

But, with around £2bn of investment being pumped into the Scotch industry, producers are confident there will be no repeat of this scenario because of the economic awakening of future whisky connoisseurs in places from Nairobi to Bogota.

Diageo, the market leader whose sales have increased by 50 per cent in the last five years to £3bn, announced this summer that it is investing £1bn in the next five years to increased whisky production by up to 40 per cent.

Paul Walsh, the company’s chief executive, said: “Over the next 15 to 20 years there will be two billion new consumers coming into legal drinking age who have the economic wherewithal to access brands such as Johnnie Walker. If the extrapolations are correct, what we are putting in place will not be enough to supply the new consumers in 20 years’ time anyway.”

Quite whether this new wave of malt lovers will have the wherewithal to spend £23,000 on the wartime water of life that went on sale in Vancouver Airport’s duty free aisles this week remains to be seen.

But it seems a truth spotted by Winston Churchill during the Second World War remains current.

In April 1945, as production of whisky restarted, Churchill wrote: “On no account reduce the barley for whisky. This takes years to mature and is an invaluable export and dollar producer.”

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Ricky Gervais performs stand-up
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering