Glenfiddich Gallery – Is it Selling?

“Rarely am I utterly blown away by a new release these days; however, the Rare Whiskies Gallery from Glenfiddich has done just that… This is stunning.”

They were the exact words I used on the 21st of November last year to describe my initial view of the Glenfiddich Gallery collection. I still stand by that, clearly opinions are personal; however, Wm. Grant’s have done a great job on the visuals and the concept.

You can go have a play with a basic flavour profiler and get some good visuals.

Great visual results from the basic online flavour profile tool
Great visual results from the basic online flavour profile tool

You can personalise your own packaging to create separate identities for a bottle(s) should you decide to do so.

Glenfiddich Gallery Bespoke Packaging buy me

I had the utter privilege of blending some whisky with Brian Kinsman recently and there’s no way on God’s earth I would be able to do 1% of what Brian can do from an alchemistic flavour perspective. I would hand on heart believe these casks to be exceptional… Quality will not be a problem with this collection then, one would assume.

Digitally, it’s quick, slick, pretty, contemporary and cool. The liquid should be superb and this is an amazing collection from a true icon of Scotch… the distillery which started it all from a single malt perspective.

Why such low sales?

For a multitude of reasons (which we’ll come onto in a minute), on the face of it, sales of bottles from The Gallery look to have stalled. Stalled, then pretty much completely stopped.

I’m not just saying that because it’s an opinion; we’ve kept an almost monthly record of the volume and value of Gallery bottles being sold. The chart below shows the total number of bottles available across all 36 single cask variants (‘kind-of-single-cask’… but we’ll also come onto that) and what’s cumulatively sold so far, seven months after launch.

Glenfiddich Gallery Volume Sales Chart

A total of 1722 bottles are/were available throughout the whole gallery. The two months between the end of December 2014 and the end of February this year saw a bit of a rush with an average of just over 50 bottles sold per month. March and April saw just 15 bottles over that two month period. Since then, 3 bottles sold in May and 5 bottles have sold so far this month. Sales are slowing – not growing.

As a % of the available pool of stock, just 7.72% of the number of bottles available have sold. If the current trend of around 5 sales per month continues, the remaining bottles will have finally sold out in just short of 318 months, or 26 and ½ years-time. That’s longer than the typical UK mortgage term.

From a value perspective, while there’s no chart on this one, only 4.81% of the total £ value of all bottles has been sold to date.

So we have an iconic distillery (After running some early index numbers for the half year, Glenfiddich look to have moved significantly up the charts) with existing rare bottles in high demand, releasing a great collection of immensely limited numbers of single cask bottlings in pretty cool packaging…. And it’s just not selling.

Why?

Back to opinions again, but here are some of our thoughts –

  1. Consumer Engagement.
  2. Pricing.
  3. Transparency of offer and the DCI model.

Consumer Engagement –

If I’m going to spend £100k on a bottle of whisky, no matter what the Platinum offer is, I’m not going to do it on-line. I’m just not. The expectation of a prospective purchaser creating their own label (the same as for the rest of the vintages/bottles) on a bottle which looks the same as everything else but costs many multiples more seems a little incongruous to other luxury offers.

Maybe Glenfiddich will ‘hand-sell’ these to select customers and, if they sell – they haven’t yet – they will be uniquely packaged with an amazing customer experience. That said, they’re still on-line so we must assume that’s not the way things are to be done.

If I wanted to buy a car for £100,000 would I buy it on-line with no test drive and no personal involvement? Nope. No way.

These bottles are clearly designed for the gifting market but in an unproven world as we have here, they’re dangerously expensive gifts. My family/friends gave up trying to buy me whisky as a gift many, many years ago because they have no idea what I really want, and that’s great, I no longer have to look Grandma in the eye and, with seriously gritted teeth, thank her for the bottle of Whyte & MacKay Special she’s just given me.

Pricing –

Odd one. In the current market, some of the Gallery bottles seem reasonable. But with Wm. Grant’s I’m not sure what ‘reasonable’ is anymore? The 22 year old Glenfiddich single cask at the Whisky Shop is £1,200 per bottle, way more than a 22(ish) year old bottle at the Gallery. But then there’s the Glenfiddich Spirit of Speyside bottlings; older whisky at very small prices… busily undermining the value of other limited editions (but great from an auction perspective).

Then there’s sibling distillery Balvenie…. Under £75 for a bottle of single sherry cask 15 year old. Surely this is price undermining on a ‘fracking’ scale.

I’m not disputing the pricing policy of Wm Grants, all I’m saying is that I don’t understand it… As a consumer i’m completely confused, I really am… And I work with whisky pricing on a daily basis so lord knows how a less experienced buyer would know if they are getting value or not?

Transparency of Offer and the Drink/Collect/Invest Model–

For me this is the killer as I’ve mentioned elsewhere previously.

The Gallery bottles are bottles taken from single casks; they don’t appear to be single cask bottlings. If a cask from 1987 were to actually yield just 6 bottles it would be sludge from a leaky cask; it would be splinter-sauce, probably under-proof and pretty much unquestionably undrinkable. What it wouldn’t be is a commercially viable Sherry Butt at 55.3%. So these appear to be ‘bottles from a single cask’ rather than ‘single cask bottlings’.

At a relatively high price-point, I want to know how many bottles there are, especially if I’m a collector rather than a gifter. Hypothetically, there are just three full sets of every bottle from the Gallery available. Each full set costs £200,030 for all 36 bottles. There’s absolutely no way I’d accept the risk of buying these without understanding if another 3, or 4, or 34 or however-many sets could be released at a future date.

All 36 bottles also span just 15 vintage years. If I bought all 36 current releases, would 36 more be released later? What does the future of the collection hold? The whole offer appears somewhat opaque. Who’s the key target customer? The Rare Whisky DCI (Drink/Collect/Invest) model shows what a bottle needs to do to hit the sweet spot as below.

RW101 DCI Model

To appeal to all three buyer types at this premium level, there needs to be absolute clarity. As a drinker, if I buy one of three bottles, I want that ultra exclusivity. As a collector/investor, I want to make sure my limited release is as limited as I thought it was. The recent Springbank 21 year old releases are a classic example – The first release absolutely flew off the shelves and also performed exceptionally at auction. Once the market realised all future releases were virtually identical, this in effect homogenised all releases. This in turn has crashed secondary market values which now sit well below retail prices.

I’d love to physically see a full set of Gallery bottles together; that would surely look amazing. The squat contemporised version of the classic Glenfiddich triangular bottle is one of whisky’s modern triumphs of identity. One which I’m sure would suit a collection like this exceptionally.

Unfortunately with so many variables, unknowns and pricing anomalies, I’m almost 100% certain I’ll never have that pleasure.

I find myself wondering how these will sell without significant change…

3 thoughts on “Glenfiddich Gallery – Is it Selling?”

  1. I think the pricing is what makes these so unappealing, especially to investors/collectors. At 500 pounds, you get something with widespread recognition and appeal, with proven performance. Something like a 1976 BenRiach/Tomatin, or a 1972 Glen Grant/Caperdonich. And when you step up to the 1500 range, now you’re into Port Ellen/Karuizawa/Hanyu range. I don’t think 1986 Glenfiddich from a hogshead has the cache to run with those names. If/when these bottles start to get some rave reviews, that might change, but until then, for all the reasons you noted, these don’t seem to have much to interest most people.

  2. Agree with your sentiments Chris. In comparison; Macallan, with its Fine and Rare collection could market them at high prices because they had seemingly paved the way in exclusive bottlings going back to even the early 1990’s (25 year old bottling as an example) and this combined with popularity and confidence has kept interest from drinkers, collectors and investors alike. They were then one of the few distilleries producing specials. Now everyone is doing it, the market has become over saturated, despite the overall demand for single malt globally, improving over most years. It is a shame Glenfiddich didn’t do a release like this 10 or even 5 years ago, I am sure it would have met with greater demand then. Great article though, thank you for sharing.

  3. Fascinating article. As a long-term Glenfiddich fan, whisky enthusiast and collector the gallery held a real appeal on first glance. The quality of the online presence was refreshing and eye-catching.

    I’ve been lucky enough to own and enjoy a 1975 Vintage Reserve which was priced around the entry level of the Gallery. It’s exceptional and in the time from purchase to opening it almost doubled in value. It was clearly Glenfidich. It was tasted and reviewed. It was limited and beautifully packaged.

    For the gallery drams, there are few if any reviews and I’ve not found any for the drams that interest me. I worry that the personalised packaging will mean the bottles won’t hold their value if I don’t chose to enjoy opening the bottle. An option for an official Glanfiddich label in standard, recognisable packaging would be of great interest as I believe that would imbue some confidence in the secondary market.

    Given your observation that these are not ‘single cask’ I wonder why samples to key reviewers resulting in more widely available reviews haven’t happened. Perhaps offering prospective purchasers the chance to purchase a sample would also help?

    It’s good to see that the premium bottles have more bespoke opportunities around them. I wonder if here, too, something more could be done by Glenfiddich for the lesser bottles. Distillery collection/presentation being an option seems obvious, giving them an opportunity to engage with and potentially seriously impress their customers.

    I see there is concerted activity on Facebook PPC marketing at the moment to try to push the Gallery – it’ll be interesting to see if that reflects in the monthly figures you’re recording.

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