Limited additions

Collecting rare whiskies can prove to be a lucrative investment, writes Sally Gudgeon.

Shane Kalloglian loves whisky. He owns more than 4000 bottles of it. They are rare and valuable and his is one of the most significant collections in the country. He's also an expert on fakes and has a few tips on how to avoid them.

Aged in his 30s, Kalloglian is a machinist by trade who lives on Sydney's north shore. Scottish single malts are his obsession as a collector, although he does have a few rare blended whiskies.

It all started when at 18 he collected spirit miniatures. Then he switched to big bottles. He also inherited some unique bottles from his late father, including a limited edition Johnnie Walker released in 1970 to celebrate the label's 150th anniversary.

His collection grew through “joy and obsession”, rather than an investment prospect. He had been collecting for quite a few years before he realised the bottles were increasing in value. The realisation came in 1997 when Black Bowmore (a limited edition malt from Islay distilled in 1964 and finished in oloroso sherry casks) started to fetch prices of $2000 a bottle.

There were three releases: 29, 30 and 31-year-old. They were released in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and when Kalloglian bought them they cost from $280 to $380. They are now worth more than $5000, with the first release (29-year-old) the most valuable.

Other highlights of his collection include bottles of 18-year-old The Macallan Gran Reserva, Ardbeg single cask bottlings from the 1970s, every vintage release of 25-year-old Macallan from 1958-1975, Glenfarclas from 1953 and the 1970s and the Springbank Millenium series. There were six bottlings of this Millennium series; 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50-year- olds.

The distillery also produced 500 packs of miniatures of all these ages, awarded to collectors who bought the full series. Not all the miniature sets were claimed, so Springbank repackaged the remaining ones (about 150 sets) into 200-millilitre bottles presented in mahogany boxes to celebrate the distillery's 175th anniversary. As there are only 50 sets, they are highly collectable and worth about $3000 a set.

The few blended whiskies in his collection include Friar John Cor, a whisky blended by the Distillers Company to celebrate 500 years of distillation. The good friar was the first recorded person to make whisky in 1494. It sold for $130 when released in 1994 and now fetches more than $1000 a bottle.

In general, Kalloglian's preference is for “whiskies with numbers on them,” such as vintage, limited editions, rare bottlings and single cask bottlings. Whiskies from defunct distilleries, such as Port Ellen, are also on his list. His advice to would-be collectors is “any whisky of superior class which scores over 95/100 in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible is a sure investment which will increase in value over time”.

Kalloglian runs a whisky import business in his spare time: Premium Scotch Importers.

He has seen a few fake whiskies in his time. “Beware of forgeries, be careful who you buy from and do your research first,” he warns. He nearly bought a 1935 bottle of Macallan, which was in the catalogue of a well-known auction house. He'd never heard of a Macallan from this year before, and the bottle shape looked too recent. After he questioned its provenance, the bottle was withdrawn from sale.

Is his collection for sale?

“Isn't everything at the right price?” he says.

But then he'd have to start again and there aren't as many bargains around these days.


The bottle

Check the shape and colour. Does it look too modern for the whisky's alleged age? Older bottles don't have a label protector — the raised area protecting the label. Does it have the recent innovation of laser etching?

The capsule

Is it the right colour and shape?

The label

Check all the print; spelling errors are not uncommon. Check all the information Is it historically accurate? Does it look too new and pristine for the alleged age?

The packaging

Always try to buy whiskies in their original boxes. Research the vintage — do you know of other bottlings from this year?

Check the provenance

Do you know who you are buying from? Be very wary of bargains offered on the internet.