Unlike spirits investors who seek out rare bottles based solely on their potential for monetary appreciation, collectors are interested in distilled rarities for their own sake, either as a special spirit to personally enjoy and share with others, because of a brand’s interesting history, or simply as a hard-to-find bottle that fills a niche in an already well-stocked home bar. “Start with what you enjoy most,” advises Jeff Zacharia, president of Zachys Wine Auctions, Inc. Whether that is a single category, such as bourbon, or a particular style, such as peated malts, “collecting is about enjoyment,” he says. It also pays to be informed about the spirits world, not only to broaden your knowledge and appreciation of spirits but also to become aware of new variations coming out and others that are being discontinued, thus very possibly becoming even more collectible in the near future. Whisky collector Mahesh Patel, creator of the sourcing service Whisky Concierge, recommends that novice collectors attend events and join local spirits clubs to learn more about their particular passions. “Learn from the experts,” he says. “Try to buy your products from respected retailers who carry premium spirits [and] connect with other collectors, who can advise you on certain bottles.”
Zacharia suggests establishing good relationships with reputable dealers and buying from accredited spirits auction houses. Both methods can help guard against inadvertently purchasing counterfeit whiskies, which are becoming more prevalent as the growing number of collectors has fueled an increased demand for rare bottlings. Zacharia points to a few brands that are solid additions to most collections: Scotland’s the Macallan and Highland Park, as well as Yamazaki and Nikka from Japan, and some limited-edition bourbons from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. To that, Patel adds Scotch whiskies including Ardbeg, Bowmore, Dalmore, Balvenie, and Royal Salute. Although the hunt for and acquisition of rare bottles can be both challenging and rewarding, most experts agree that collecting them is largely—and quite literally—a matter of personal taste.