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The World's Most Expensive First Release Whiskey

What is it about this single malt Irish Whiskey that justifies the exorbitant price tag?

Devil’s Keep Whiskey, priced at £10,000, is the most expensive first release in the history of whiskey. But is it worth it?

It is the oldest ever triple distilled whiskey, which means it has been refined over three distillations rather than two, which further concentrates the aromatic and flavourful compounds, resulting in a smoother taste albeit a lower volume.

Distilled in 1991, the 29-year-old single malt whiskey is extremely rare, not only for being triple distilled, but also for being Irish. For many years Scotland has dominated whiskey through the sheer breadth and depth of its offering, with everything from lower-shelf, mass-produced blends to mid-shelf, higher-quality household names, as well as top-shelf brands.

But the Devil's Keep was made when there were only four distilleries in Ireland, and even less that made single malt. "This is the oldest triple distilled single malt ever released from Ireland," says Jay Bradley, founder of Craft Irish Whiskey Co., the company offering the bottle for sale. He explains that counter-intuitively, Ireland invented whiskey in the 14th century. "Although it has suffered a dramatic decline due to geopolitics, it is having a renaissance now. Scotland has dominated whiskey since the 1950s through the sheer breadth and depth of its offering, but Ireland is now experiencing a whiskey resurgence."

To put it into context, the last rare bottle to come from a new producer in Ireland was The Chosen by JJ Cory. It was 27 years old and only double distilled, and sold for €6,500.

The Devil’s Keep has been aged in 200 litre ‘first fill’ American oak casks previously storing bourbon, then finished in rare 100-litre French Oak barrels that held Tawny Port, before a final finish in virgin Hungarian oak for twelve days. It will be available in an inaugural release of just 333 bottles, and next year will see the further release of 666 bottles.

"It’s this holy trinity of distillation that creates the unparalleled rich vanilla, wild honey and toasted maple syrup flavour profiles," says Bradley. "It is always pure, never blended and the freshest Irish water and finest barley are used in the creation of The Devil’s Keep, which is made only on pot stills by the most skilled craftsmen."

The price-tag seems less extortionate when you consider that last year a bottle of Single Malt Macallan 1926 sold for £1.5 million, demonstrating the value afforded by some investors to the alternative asset.

According to Knight Frank's 2019 Luxury Investment Index, rare whiskey has outperformed other luxury assets. Between 2009 and 2019, the value of rare whiskeys increased by 564 percent, placing it as the number one passion investment above coins, cars, art, wine, watches and diamonds in the same timeframe. By 2019, Scotch whisky's total export value reached £4.9 billion, according to HMRC export data.

With COVID-19, investors are looking to hedge against inflation and the uncertainties of the financial markets, as well as, perhaps, seeking out a good stiff drink.