WILLIAM Grant & Sons has launched a new private clients business as the distiller responds to growing interest in rare whisky from the collector market.
And it has marked the move by donating three lots to the inaugural charity auction by the Worshipful Company of Distillers, which are expected to fetch more than £285,000 combined.
Speyside-based William Grant said the new service, which it anticipates will capture the interest of collectors around the world, will offer connoisseurs “unprecedented, privileged access” to fine and rare drams drawn from six generations of whisky making.
It comes amid increasing demand for whisky from investors as an alternative asset class.
Family-owned William Grant can trace its roots back to 1887, and is the owner of single malt Scotch whisky brands Glenfiddich and The Balvenie.
Jonathan Driver, managing director global private clients at the distiller and a master of the Company of Worshipful Distillers, told The Herald there is “enormous interest in Scotch whisky now from the collector market” when asked why the new business was being launched at this time.
And he said much of that interest was coming from people who have been collecting wine.
“A lot of people who are collecting whisky now probably got into it through fine wine,” said Mr Driver, who has worked in the whisky industry for around 30 years. “In that market, there is a lot of personal service and building relationships. We continue to evolve the whole Scotch whisky industry. We are not alone, but certainly we are putting more effort now into talking to people who collect and do that sort of thing.”
Mr Driver said it is “still early days” for private whisky buying compared with wine, noting that “we don’t want to be too big too fast”. But already there is significant interest from around the world, notably in China, Singapore, Hong Kong and also South-East Asia, he added. Interest in the service is largely spreading through “word of mouth”, noted Mr Driver, who said the distiller was interested in developing personal and long-running relationships with clients.
Mr Driver said the private clients offering from William Grant differed to the secondary or auction market because many of the whiskies it is offering are new bottlings.
William Grant today reveals details of the lots it is donating to The Distillers One of One auction, which The Worshipful Company of Distillers is hosting with Sotheby’s at Barnbougle Castle, Edinburgh, on December 3. The lots comprise: a four-decanter set of one-off bottlings from Glenfiddich distilled in the 1950s (estimated to be worth £220,000), The Balvenie 1964 single bottle release (50,000), and a 1966 John Lennon edition from the “lost” Ladyburn distillery (£15,000).
“It’s a milestone for the industry, having a charity auction that’s not about old bottles,” Mr Driver said.
“[It is] about work that everyone has commissioned, creating unique pieces for sale for charity. That’s a departure.”
It is hoped the auction will raise more than £1 million for Scottish charities, which Mr Driver said will help disadvantaged young people in Scotland.