By Arjan Bharadwaj
In the film Skyfall, evil Silva (actor Javier Bardem) has a challenge for James Bond (Daniel Craig) after the villain has captured the girl. Bond has to show that he does not care for her (even though he does). So, Silva places a shot glass of whisky on her head and both men have to take turns to shoot the glass (if they miss, the girl’s head would get blown, obviously).
All this is fine except for one problem—the whisky in the glass is a (then) 50-year-old Macallan, a 1962 Fine and Rare Vintage, which both men have sipped before. If you think Bond’s reluctance to take a shot comes from his affection for the girl, think again: that connoisseur of all things fine is probably cringing at having to spill valuable whisky!
What makes vintage whisky so exclusive and expensive? While a 12- to 18-year-old bottle of malt (on an average) could cost between $50-100, a 25-year-old can cost over $350.
The reason is fairly obvious: age makes the whisky taste better. The wood from the barrels, in which the whisky is aged, tends to break down the rougher flavours in the alcohol, leaving you with a smoother taste. The longer the alcohol is in there, the smoother it gets.
Every year, different companies/magazines/fan-clubs create lists of the world’s most valuable whiskies. You can look at them from the perspective of taste or cost; so here’s a list that combines both.
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (approx. $70): The Independent declared this Canadian to be one of the world’s best last year. With a strong essence of spices, butterscotch, vanilla and cinnamon, makes its price fluctuate too, according to the newspaper. The same article also rated Amrut Fusion ($65), the Indian whisky with hints of cocoa and coffee, fairly high. Amrut Fusion was also voted the world’s third best whisky by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in 2009.
Craigellachie 31-year-old: “The texture is rather dry and almost chalky, with initial nectarine flavours giving way to pepperoni before a green, hoppy, beery character comes in on the long finish. There’s a hint of bonfire in there too.” That’s how the winner of the World Whiskies Award 2017 described the single malt. The malt, from a tiny town in Speyside Scotland, took over from the 2016 winner, Old Pulteney Vintage 1989.
Booker’s Rye 13-year-old: Jim Murray, who stunned the world in 2014 by naming Japanese Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 as the world’s best, and gave the honour to Crown Royal last year, added Booker’s to his book of surprises. His Whisky Bible described this whisky as one with “an intense flavour profile with pronounced, well-balanced notes of wood and oak from the longer aging process”.
Balvenie 50-year-old ($35,000-40,800): A single barrel left to age half a century ago has developed with hints of honey, citrus, oak and spices. This was sold as a limited edition of just 88 bottles.
Dalmore 62 ($135,000): Only 12 bottles were released, and in a staggered manner since 2002. In 2005, a man bought a bottle for $32,000 at a hotel bar and drank almost the entire bottle in one sitting, according to the Gazette Review. Rare bottles have been spotted, including at select duty free shops.
Glenlivet 50: The 50-year-old bottle from the second release in The Glenlivet Winchester collection went on sale late last year for $26,000 a bottle. Only 100 bottles of this liquid were made available.
The Macallan “M” ($628,205): This is supposed to be the most expensive whisky in the world, sold for almost $630,000 at a 2014 Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong. According to reports, 17 craftsmen worked for 50 hours each just to make the whiskey’s bottle—40 of the bottles were destroyed because of imperfections before perfection was attained. The Macallan’s Lalique Cire Perdue 1946 ($460,000) is another one, bottled in a Lalique (René Lalique) decanter created as a work of art, not just as a whisky container. The whiskey itself came from three casks laid down in 1942, ’45 and ’46.