The high price of luxury liquor

24 July, 2018

Dubai airport-based retailer Le Clos’ partnership with the macallan has to be one of the most successful operator-supplier relationships in the history of duty free liquor.

The companies’ understanding of the luxury retail environment and what makes the wealthiest of fine spirits collectors tick has resulted in yet another record being smashed with the sale of two rare bottles of The Macallan 1926 for a combined $1.2m (£890,000) in April.

The whisky itself was clearly an amazing liquid— distilled in 1926 and aged for 60 years in ex-sherry casks before its release in 1986. To boost its value, 12 of the 40 bottles produced were given to British pop artist Peter Blake to create a bespoke label, another 12 to Italian artist Valerio Adami to do the same. Each bottle originally retailed for £20,00, but demand for collectible The Macallan expressions has grown over the past three decades.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Le Clos, which has nine outlets at Dubai airport, has broken records with The Macallan. In 2016 and 2017 the retailer made the largest single sale in travel retail with The Macallan no fewer than three times, culminating in the wallet-busting $530,000 sale of a 29-bottle collection of The Macallan Fine and Rare whiskies, featuring vintage expressions ranging from 1937-1990.

Looking at the wider picture, The Macallan still trails both Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet in terms of duty free sales volumes. Yet, although Macallan’s new £100m-plus distillery will undoubtedly boost capacity in time, brand owner the Edrington Group is clearly chasing value over volume in duty free for the time being as these record-breaking transactions at Le Clos illustrate.

To that end, the start of 2018 saw the new four-variant travel retail exclusive The Macallan Quest Collection make its debut with DFS Group at Singapore Changi airport. The rrp range for this non-age-statement collection starts at $80 for the entry-level 1-litre Macallan Quest, rising to $250 for the first-fill-sherry-cask-matured Macallan Engima. A global roll out of The Macallan Quest Collection with high-profile promotions is now underway.

Indeed, 2018 looks set to be a banner year for The Macallan as it cements its reputation as the luxury malt whisky in Asia with a string of new and rare releases. At last month’s TFWA Asia Pacific exhibition in Singapore, for instance, The Macallan revealed its latest collaboration with French crystal maker Lalique with The Macallan Golden Age of Travel 4— a travel retail exclusive decanter in the shape of a classic 1930s motor car containing rare period whisky distilled in 1937 and limited to 50 pieces.

Other new ultra-premium expression on show in Singapore included The Macallan M Black Decanter 2017 Release – a lightly peated expression housed in a black Lalique crystal decanter – and The Macallan 50 Year Old 2018 Release, a 44% abv whisky, limited to 200 bottles, distilled in 1967 and presented in a solid oak gift box.

As for that record-breaking Le Clos sale of The Macallan, I have a feeling it won’t stand for long. At the time of writing, two bottles of Macallan 1926 were set to be auctioned by Bonhams in Hong Kong. With collectors from Taiwan, Japan and China falling over themselves to snap up rare bottles such as these, the record is almost bound to be broken yet again.

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