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The Warsaw Voice » Business » December 1, 2014
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Poles Attracted to Whisky
December 1, 2014   
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Polish consumers and investors are playing an increasingly prominent role on the global market for whisky. In the last two years, Poland was ranked among the top 20 importers of this drink. This is due to increased consumption at home, combined with an emerging fashion for investing in bottles and casks of whisky.

The potential of the Polish market has attracted the attention of a growing number of whisky producers and distributors. According to a study by alcohol market data provider International Wine & Spirit Research (IWSR), in the last 10 years, sales of whisky in Poland have grown at a rate of around 20 percent a year, making Poland one of the fastest growing whisky markets in the world. Forecasts predict that consumption in Poland will grow at a rate of 8 percent annually over the next five years.

For a second year in a row, the Scotch Whisky Association, a group of producers of Scotch whisky, ranked Poland among the top 20 importers of this drink. In 2012, Poland imported 19.2 million 0.7-liter bottles of the drink from Scotland, ranking 16th worldwide in terms of the purchase volume. In 2013, Poland imported 26.7 million bottles with a total value of 60 million pounds. With this figure, Poland was ranked 11th worldwide in terms of the volume of purchases and 17th in terms of value.

The increased share of whisky in the spirits segment is the result of changing trends in Poland, reflecting the increasing affluence of Polish consumers. The fashion for drinking whisky is growing, in part due to the biggest discount stores, which are increasingly promoting foreign wines and whisky.

A large group of enthusiasts who collect rare and vintage bottles of whisky has also emerged in Poland. As a result, Poland has also become an attractive and important country for producers and distributors of exclusive and limited editions of the drink. The best proof is that whisky producers and distributors have already held three global product launches in Poland, even though they rarely decide to officially launch their products outside Britain.

Such an event was held in Poland for the first time in May 2012 when Warsaw hosted the global launch of the oldest whisky from the Glenfarclas distillery. Then, George Grant, a member of the sixth generation of the Grant family, which manages the distillery, came to Poland to present a limited edition of 400 bottles of a 58-year-old whisky. A year later, the global launch of the oldest whisky from the now-defunct Karuizawa distillery in Japan took place in Warsaw. This edition consists of just 143 bottles of a 48-year-old whisky. And in May this year the world’s third oldest whisky was launched in Warsaw. The drink was produced in the Glen Grant distillery in 1948 and for 66 years had matured in an oak cask in the warehouses of the Gordon & MacPhail company. Its contents were poured into 160 numbered bottles this year.

“Of course, most Poles continue to drink cheaper blended whiskies produced on an industrial scale,” says Paweł Morozowicz, an investment portfolio manager at Wealth Solutions. “However, a group of enthusiasts and collectors has emerged in Poland who appreciate rare, old and unique single malt whisky.”

According to Andy Simpson from Whisky Highland, a whisky market research company, bottles of whisky from special commemorative editions attract the interest of both collectors and investors. This is not surprising because, due to their rarity and high demand, bottles of whisky produced as part of such editions become more expensive over time and the prices at which they enter the market are growing all the time.

The Karuizawa 1964 whisky was offered to buyers for 4,700 pounds per bottle in 2013. This year a Karuizawa whisky from 1960 is being sold for 17,000 pounds a bottle. These figures appeal to the imagination and encourage people to not only drink and collect whisky, but also treat it as an investment.

According to a report by global audit, tax and advisory services firm KPMG, one in five wealthy people in Poland invests in alcohol. Whisky is the most rapidly growing category in terms of alcohol bought as an investment at the moment. The drink is slowly winning the attention of Polish investors. More than zl.20 million has already been invested in whisky in Poland. Part of this is in collectors’ bottles, but investment in casks of whisky is increasingly popular as well.

“Cask whisky is gaining value as an ingredient for the production of blended whisky or rare editions of single-cask bottles. The average annual rate of return on investment in whisky is estimated at three to four times the return on a bank deposit. With the global increase in the consumption of whisky and limited production, the prices of casks of consumption whisky are growing rapidly,” says Krzysztof Maruszewski, CEO of Stilnovisti Investments, a Poznań-based “alternative investments” company that invests in alcohol.

Experts say investing in cask whisky is currently the safest and most attractive form of investment in alcohol. The minimum amount of investment in cask whisky is zl.25,000. The recommended investment period is four to five years. According to experts from the International Wine & Spirit Research company, global consumption of whisky will rise by about 12 percent between 2012 and 2016, a rate of growth more than twice as fast as with other categories of spirits.
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