Unicorn bottles

The Macallan’s $1.9M Fine and Rare 60-Year-Old Bottle (ⒸThe Macallan)

So, after a year of scrimping and saving, you finally scored that rare bottle. Or better yet, it was a gift, and you’re staring at it sitting on your desk. Its proximity weakens you, and despite the warning, and bells clanging, you reach out for the unicorn- YOUR unicorn. That little voice inside says “YES,” but you can’t decide- should I open it?

It’s a common dilemma for those who love a premium sipper but are not collectors. And it’s increasingly frequent, given the northward climb of premium spirits. According to a recent IWSR report, premium-and-above spirits sales increased 13% in 2022, the 25th straight year of growth for that market segment. Great news for distilleries, but consumers need to shell out significantly more to indulge their tastebuds. 

And therein lies the problem. Distilleries releasing more limited and special bottlings have driven demand to frenzied heights, resulting in skyrocketing prices and decreased availability. For many of these unique bottlings, the only place to buy is in the colletor aftermarket, and as with art, availability inversely impacts demand and prices. But the same principle holds for for super-premium brands. Unless you’re rollin’ in clover, spending $400 on a bottle makes you think twice before cracking it open.

So, what’s my advice? It depends. As a spirits reviewer, I’m blessed by opportunities to sample products frequently unavailable to the broader marketplace. As a result, my views on quality, price, and status have evolved. I recall with fond humor an event long ago when I first started writing about wine. Attending an invitation-only tasting at Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa, California, I was star-struck by the glamor- unlimited tasting of library wines, many selling in the hundreds of dollars (some selling in the thousands now). Today, I’m a bit more jaded, which brings me to the decision- to open or not to open.

So here’s the big reveal- the answer is… it depends! On what, you ask? On you, of course. You must decide if you wish to be a collector or a bon vivant, willing to pay the price for tickling your discerning tastebuds. I lean toward the latter- as life rolls on, I’m increasingly a “carpe diem” kinda guy. There are just too many great whiskies, wines, and other spirits to worry about saving bottles for the future. Besides, I don’t want to be that guy whose headstone reads, “shoulda, coulda, woulda!