One of the first retailers to sell whisky online, this is the third version of www.royalmilewhiskies.com. The last time we upgraded our website Facebook had only just been invented, so we are grateful to all those who struggled on with version 2.0, which was something of an antique. The old website clunked its way through the most dramatic period of whisky retail in history. What’s changed in the last decade?
In 2005 if any new whisky came to market, we bought it and offered it to our customers. If a new foreign whisky made its debut we would jump on it. If a Scottish distiller released an extension to their core range we would see that as big news and dive right in. If a new limited edition came along we would beg for more allocation. We sold whisky digitally in the days when it was hard for us to get malt whisky from all the distilleries in Scotland, even if they were fully operational. At the same time, the distillers had lots of mature stock in cask, and prices of aged malts were low.
Most distilleries now have massive, constantly changing ranges. An industry driven by a decade’s sustained growth offers us more different expressions to choose from than ever before. Prices are heated by pressure on aged stocks and a bubbly secondary market, and have soared on any whiskies that are closed, Japanese, or just more than a couple of decades old. Times and prices have changed, but the questions from customers have not. In 2005 they asked “Is that Port Ellen 5th release REALLY worth £180?” We said it was a lot of money, but it did taste delicious and Port Ellens would soon be scarce. We stocked that Port Ellen, it sold out instantly and whoever bought a bottle then and still has an unopened bottle now might make £1000 profit should they choose to sell it. Now they ask “Is that Port Ellen 16th release really worth £2500?” and we say probably not but point out that Lagavulin 16 still costs around £50. For every malt where the price rises out of reach there are other new gems which did not exist a decade ago, such as Benromach 10 Year Old, Kilkerran 12 Year old or Kilchoman Sanaig.
We don’t buy everything we are offered, and we are offered most things. At the top end of pricing, we now say “No thank you” to more new releases than we say “Yes please”. We have our preferred independent bottlers such as James Eadie and Signatory and we try and cherrypick from some of the rest (there are a lot). We are going to choose between the upcoming Non-Age Statement whiskies, and try to only present the ones we think taste great (some do: don’t believe the anti-hype!) We will be very fussy about the tide of new distilleries that are about to try and sell 5 year old malts for £50-£100. Our new website has no wine, a focused range of beer, and a stripped back selection of spirits (try www.drinkmonger.com for all those).
We figure that you are whisky fans, who might want to buy from a specialist whisky merchant able to help you sort the good shouts from the bad in a very noisy malt market. We sincerely hope you choose to shop with Royal Mile Whiskies, and thank you in advance if you do.