Whisky pundits are agreed that American whiskey is in the ascendant, especially with recent rumours that a brand-new legal definition for American Single Malts is finally in the works. To understand how momentous this could be, we need to go back to 2016 when nine American whiskey producers banded together to form the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission [ASMWC].
These pioneers came up with five rules to define what until now has been a vague and amorphous label:
• Made from 100% malted barley
• Mashed, distilled and matured in the US
• Matured in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres
• Distilled to no more than 80% abv [160 ̊ proof ]
• Bottled at 40% abv [80 ̊proof ] or more
Now, some five years later, the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has finally crunched through their backlog of 200,000 submissions and is seriously evaluating this proposal to put American Single Malts on a similar legal footing to their Scottish cousins.
If approved, this new legal definition will give greater clarity to consumers and help premium American whiskey producers distinguish their products from an increasingly-crowded marketplace. In the long-term, it is likely to enhance the profile of collectable American whiskies and create new opportunities for investors.
Investors should note that the American whiskey category is also gaining traction on the secondary market, with new record-breaking auction prices achieved at Whisky Auctioneer’s August auction. The specialist auction house is well-known for presenting extremely rare and historic bottles, and their “A Century of American Whiskey: Pre-Prohibition – Modern Day” sale was no exception.
The total hammer price for the auction was $1,053,824.30 (or £768,472), more than double the total achieved at Whisky Auctioneer’s previous American Whisky and Bourbon sale according to the Whisky Wash. The top-performing lot was a Van Winkle 1975 Special Reserve 19 Year Old for Corti Brothers / Stitzel-Weller which came in at £21,500. Whisky Auctioneer believes this to be the highest price ever achieved for a Van Winkle bottle at auction.
Another outstanding lot was a bottle of Twisted Spoke 16 Year Old 105 Proof 1999 / Stitzel-Weller which went for £13,500. This represents more than a 50% increase on the last time a bottle was sold at auction back in March for £5,900 by Whisky Hammer.
“The record prices are testament to the current interest in bourbon and American whiskey,” commented Joe Wilson, head of Whisky Auctioneer content. “We are excited to see how our future plans can help to nurture and grow what is fast becoming one of the hottest segments in the secondary market.”