Liquid markets: Featuring The Scotch Guy

William Meyers (aka, “The Scotch Guy”) is a criminal defense attorney in St. Louis with an unusual hobby. He is an international authority on single malt scotch. 

Modern Trader: Scotch Guy, how did you earn your street cred in the whisky biz?
The Scotch Guy: Once I discovered the world of whisky I needed to share it with others. I began by writing for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which led to writing for the Chicago Tribune, and eventually being honored as one of three authors called upon to update the industry tome “Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch,” 6th Edition, after Jackson passed away in 2007.  I also contributed to the book “1001 Whiskies You Must Taste before You Die.”  I frequently write on spirits for St. Louis Magazine.
Are you a whisky investor, trader, collector or drinker?
All of the above, but I prefer to think of myself as a scotch enthusiast. My collection has become quite an investment, which I occasionally use to trade for bottles money can’t buy. Unlike some collectors, almost every bottle I own is open to be consumed: tasted, shared and enjoyed. I have multiples so I don’t run out.
Run out?
Many of my bottles are single cask expressions, whose outturn is typically 200 to 500 bottles. Each cask produces a unique expression, which will never be duplicated.  
What is your collecting philosophy?
My collection is organized alphabetically by distillery, and from youngest to oldest expression within each distillery.  My goal is to have what I consider to be a truly great bottle from every distillery, and then to fill out with a range of young to old expressions from each distillery. I view scotch like artwork. I buy paintings I enjoy, and if they appreciate in value that’s just a bonus. 
Where does a collector trade or sell inventory for liquidity?
For a while people would buy and sell whisky on eBay, skirting the rules by calling them collectables, valued for the bottle with the contents being considered incidental. eBay has shut these auctions down. While full-service auction houses like Christies, Bonhams and Skinner auction whisky, there are dedicated whisky auction houses including Scotch Whisky Auctions, Whisky Auctioneer, WhiskyAuction.com and Just-Whisky.co.uk.
How does whisky need to be stored?
Unlike wine, which continues to age in the bottle and requires humidity and temperature control, whisky is very sturdy, and my only suggestion is to store it upright.  Over time, light and heat will cause the whisky to break down, which is why many whiskies are bottled in green or brown glass.
What are the must-attend events for whisky aficionados?
I’m still overwhelmed by the wall of whiskies at some retailers. Whisky events held in larger cities such as Whisky Live provide the opportunity to taste from hundreds of expressions and to meet master distillers. 
How many bottles are in your portfolio?
I have well over 1,000 bottles in my personal collection (left), consisting of more than 900 expressions with more than 600 bottles open. 

What makes a whisky collectible with the opportunity to appreciate in value? What factors do you look for?
Why some whiskies appreciate in value is mainly simple supply and demand. Some distilleries are mothballed, closed or demolished, so the current supply will only decrease as bottles get consumed. Some single cask and limited edition bottles appreciate due to rarity. Some bottles, such as Macallan 18, have regular price increases and continue to appreciate over time like Rolex watches. I watch the prices of bottles that I like to drink and will stock up on bottles if I think there’s a price increase on the horizon.

Tell us about some of your purchases which have appreciated the most?
I prefer scotch to bourbon, but when I drink bourbon I prefer A. H. Hirsch Reserve 16, old Willett Ryes andbourbons more than 20 years old. These bottles were more than $100, 10 years ago, before the bourbon craze, but now are incredibly hard to find and only available on the secondary market for $1,500 to $2,000 or more. Macallan and Ardbeg are two of my favorite distilleries, but as supply has outstripped demand, some of their older bottling from 15 years ago like the Ardbeg 1977 and Macallan Gran Reserva 18, which sold for $80 and $180 respectively, now sell for 10 times that at auction.
What are the primary trends that investors and collectors should be aware of that are likely to drive appreciation going forward?Ideally, whisky should be bought with the intention of drinking, with any appreciation as a bonus. That said, shuttered distilleries and older expressions from when distilleries had their own floor maltings and direct fired stills will continue to appreciate as these bottles become even rarer.
Where do we follow you for recommendations and tasting notes?
Aside from my books and published articles, I frequently post about my tastings on social media. I’m Scotchguy on Twitter and Instagram and Scotchguy.com on Facebook.  
Of your best bets here (right), which pick is most likely to appreciate materially?
I could see the Macallan increasing in value once people discover how good it is, about the same time supply starts running out. This is what happened with The Macallan Cask Strength, which debuted at $50 and now sells for over $500 for those original batches with the red label.

— Interviewed by Jeff Joseph