• Guest Author

Charles Beamish, Founder of Beamish International, Shares His Top Tips on Rare Whisky Collecting

Following a career in financial services, Charles Beamish's first venture into the whisky industry was in Whyte & Mackay, overseeing its private clients' business. He then went on to start his own global whisky advisory firm; Beamish International. The company, which was founded in 2018 uses its long-standing relationships and expertise to create the opportunity for clients to directly access highly sought after whisky from the top distilleries across Scotland. Beamish shares his top ten tips for starting your own rare collection.


Charles Beamish of Beamish International meeting with a client
© Beamish International | Charles Beamish of Beamish International meeting with a client

1) Understand Your Purpose


Consider why you want to collect rare whisky. Reasons may be to build a respectable collection for drinking, or as meaningful gifts for loved ones or colleagues, or perhaps even as a legacy purchase to pass down to the next generation.


2) Relationships And Knowledge


If practical, attend tastings and auctions to immerse yourself in the sector and build relationships with experts in the field who can advise your collecting habits. There are individuals in the field who have made it their life mission to have an exhaustive knowledge of the Scotch whisky industry. Access their knowledge by speaking to them or reading their books. As an advisory firm, we work with Charlie MacLean MBE, a Master of Quaich and known as the ‘Godfather of Whisky’. He has published numerous award-wining books on Scotch whisky.


© Beamish International | Tasting held for a client by Beamish International
© Beamish International | Tasting held for a client by Beamish International

3) Work With An Advisory Firm That Works Directly With Distilleries


While the route to market for many distilleries may be via secondary routes, choosing to buy rare whisky can enable the buyer to have access through an advisory firm to a distillery, as a private client. This is the only cast-iron method of guaranteeing a rare liquid is genuine and high quality, as there is no middleman between liquid and buyer. We manage direct-to-distillery bottle and cask acquisitions for our clients.


4) Know The Language


As with any specialist field, whisky has its own terms and definitions. Understanding the difference between independent bottlers and original bottlers or learning to look for the nuances between an Amontillado cask and Oloroso cask is key. Understanding whisky language enables you to read labels correctly, understand tasting notes and ultimately find liquids that suit your taste and collecting purpose. We educate our clients in how to understand whisky industry language as part of our service.


© Beamish International | Charles Beamish of Beamish International running a client meeting and tasting
© Beamish International | Charles Beamish of Beamish International running a client meeting and tasting

5) Set A Budget


Keep a budget in mind for your collection and try to stick to it. A cask or rare bottle collection can easily break the million-pound mark, so being aware of the prices you are operating in is key to avoid overspending. Research current pricing for the desired brand, looking at auction records and news on sales. Always use existing market references to understand why a price may be higher or lower than expected as there may be a reason behind this.


6) Fakes And Frauds Awareness


Research by Glasgow University in 2018 found that around 40% of whiskies on the secondary market (auction houses and merchants) are fake or fraudulent, so ensuring a cast iron provenance back to the distillery is vital. Always check the bottle integrity and the condition of the label. Whether buying in the primary or secondary market, acquiring distillery-letterheaded paperwork confirming the provenance of the bottle is vital. This gives it legal proof of its authenticity.


7) Collect Diverse Styles Across Different Regions


Don’t restrict yourself to one style of whisky in one region. Whisky is about emotion and feeling, and on certain days you may feel like a fruit-laden Speyside whisky while on others crave a peaty Islay whisky.


© Beamish International_Charles Beamish and Charlie MacLean of Beamish International visiting a distillery
© Beamish International | Charles Beamish and Charlie MacLean of Beamish International visiting a distillery

8) Look Beyond The Big Brands


It can be easy to be swayed towards only collecting whiskies from big brand owners, but the best collections are carefully curated from a mix of large and small distillers. Consider trying whiskies created by smaller producers that may not be the most visible in the market.


9) Invest In Top Quality Glassware


The glassware not only enhances the tasting experience it allows you to enjoy the whisky with all the senses. A whisky glass is designed to maximise the enjoyment of the liquid, tapering towards the top to direct aromas towards the nose.


10) Don’t Be Afraid To Open Your Bottles And Enjoy


Rare whiskies have been made by skilled Malt Masters who intended their products to be consumed. Try to taste and share the rare spirits that you have collected. Many whisky buyers buy two bottles – one for their long-term collections and one for enjoyment. Some bottles even come with a sample bottle so that you can enjoy the liquid without touching the bottle.


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Website: beamishinternational.com | LinkedIn: Beamish International Ltd