Single malt Scotch prices
What has happened in the last few years to cause all Scotches to go up so much? I can understand specific situations, like when Lagavulin was unavailable for a few months. (The rumors I heard included a distillery fire and a calculated marketing ploy; I have no idea of the true story.)
But it seems that every good Scotch has gone up WAY beyond normal inflation over the last few years -- perhaps by about a third. Lagavulin was under $50 a few years ago, and is closer to $80 now. Michel Couvreur is about $65 now and was about $40 or $45 when I discovered it a couple of years ago.
It seems totally out of line compared to increases in other spirits. I assume taxes/duties don't explain it because other spirits haven't been so affected.
I just brought back some single malts Scotches from Mexico and they were very reasonably priced. For example, a liter (not 750ml) of Bowmore 12, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, and Balvenie DoubleWood were all $40 each at the duty free. Other spirits were not similarly cheap (except Tequila, of course).
When I saw that Craggenmore was north of $50 and the Macallen I was preiviously buying for $37 was now also over $50 and the Old Pulteney that I bought for $30 a year and a half ago is now $55- i made the move to different spirits. I've rediscovered the Cocktail, Rye Whisky, and Congac.
Not so sure it's a currency issue:
The pound is weaker than it's been since 2003. Plus other UK spirits like Gin haven't gone up so much.
As for expense, I've added Clontarf (non Reserve) into my whiskey drinking to moderate the rate at which expensive Scotch bottles disappear. Not the same thing, but still very enjoyable without feeling like you're drinking pureed hundred dollar bills.
They raise the prices because they can. There's a lot of talk about this among Scotch fans. The market for single malts has been exploding, which has caused a number of brands to try to expand their market share and profits by (1) repackaging and rebranding (Glenmorangie, Highland Park, Dalmore); (2) removing age statements and selling younger whisky (nearly everyone); (3) selling exclusive expressions at sky high prices (Macallan, Bowmore, Dalmore); and (4) raising prices as much as possible on existing brands.
So far, the global recession does not seem to have done much to dampen the price increases, probably because single malts are a niche item and because of ever expanding markets in Brazil, India, Russia and China.
As to Lagavulin, a few years ago there was a legitimate shortage based on failure to age enough whisky for the increasing demand, but they sure didn't lower prices once supply caught up with demand.
It is all based on supply and demand. The Scotch marketers have done a great job and new markets for the whisky have been opening up around the globe. Scotch is hot, and the interest in single malts has been exploding. While it is great to see this happen, as has been noted, rising prices hurt everyone except the collectors.
On the plus side, it also means that other countries are getting into Whisky production. Japan and India are turning out great stuff. Enjoy them when you have a chance.
Like all things though, this is a bubble and it will eventually burst. Distilleries have always been opened when the market is hot and then have been shuttered when the demand fades away. Try to turn all your friends on to rum and then we can drink Scotch in peace.