The rise and rise of limited edition Scottish whiskies – including festival bottlings

As whisky month comes to a close, it’s time to look at the drink’s enduring popularity and how rare whiskies are being used for good.

The past few months have seen distilleries release some of the oldest and rare expressions – from an 80-year-old single malt from Glenlivet from Gordon & Macphail to the Macallan 81-year-old. These whiskies are the last of their kind, and, as such, have a price tag to match their scarcity and craftsmanship.

The market for old, rare and limited edition whiskies has been in a boom period for a while now, with the recent Distillers One of One auction – where whisky lots were one-off bottles, casks or experiences – seeing a four bottle set of Glenfiddich from the 1950s sell for £1,037,500. This auction raised over £2 million for Scottish charities.

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While most of us don’t have a spare million to spend, this interest in whisky as an investment and the want to own something limited and unique has spilled over into the more achievable – the whisky festival bottling. And some distilleries are also using these to raise awareness and charitable funds.

William Grant is donating a lot from each of its distilleries to The Distillers One of One charity auction - Glenfiddich: The 1950s, Ladyburn 1966 David Bailey one-off John Lennon edition and The Balvenie 1964 single bottle release.

Earlier this month, Glenfiddich auctioned off 460 bottles of their 2022 Spirit of Speyside bottling, with all proceeds going to the DEC. This came after the success of a similar auction in 2021 that raised £240,000 local causes that support the Speyside community.

But festival bottlings don’t need to be for those with loads of cash to spare. I’ve bought and thoroughly enjoyed the 2022 bottling from Murray Mcdavid, Glen Moray and a 2021 release of Tamdhu, all which set me back about £50 to £90. These festival drams are often a good example of the distillery character or showcase creativity with casks or finishes and, of course, will spark memories of the festival and enjoying a drink with friends.

With the Campbeltown Malts Festival taking place next week, followed by Feis Ile, collectors will gather for the latest Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Glen Scotia and Springbank (whose recent £60 limited edition single malt release resulted in huge queues). Lagavulin and Caol Ila will be selling thousands of bottles priced at £165. While not cheap, they prove you don’t have to be a millionaire to treat yourself.

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