Greedy Angels @ Whisky Live

Spirit drinkers are terribly ageist. That Checker’s Private Barrel 12 year old is only 20% more expensive than the Major’s Reserve from Glen Grant yet is 50% older, is an anomaly, as prices rise exponentially with age. Of course Checker’s spirit has an age declaration whereas the Major’s age is via personal communication from the sales team.

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The reason for exponential price rises with age is the opportunity cost of keeping cash tied up in stock (compound interest) and shrinking volumes, as angels take their share. In Scotland this can be 2.5% of volume in the first year, settling down to 1.5% thereafter. In SA, the angels are greedier, sipping 4% a year while in Taiwan at the Kavalan distillery, where temperatures can reach 47 degrees, the angels must be seriously pissed on the 8% they consume every year.

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So no wonder aged brandies are not a big feature of the SA scene. Over at Three Ships, the oldest spirit is 15 years old – a mere pippijoller by Scottish standards – yet distiller Andy Watts confides the spirit is starting to look tired. It must either be rejuvenated or bottled. So we’re unlikely to see any venerable oldies from Wellington.

From my own tasting, it seems that 12 years is about optimum for SA brandy. The Van Ryn 15 and 20 year olds are simply too expensive for the taste and I’m not convinced the quality is worth the huge increase in price. Ditto for the KWV 15 year old. Sure it was judged best brandy in the world last year, but for my money, I’ll settle for the 10. Of course when it comes to Cognac, all bets are off although that said, in the case of Bisquit, I far prefer the VSOP to XO. Go figure.