Savvy investors know that generalisations are dangerous things to make when it comes to money and how it’s spent. But even so, it may still be surprising to find out that one of the factors pushing the growth in whisky investments at the moment is the participation of that most talked-about generational group – the millennials.
Aside from the often-unfair images we might have about millennials from how they’re represented in the media, one reason this might seem surprising is that we’re also told that they are drinking less alcohol than previous generations. However, it seems that while this is true, they’re also switching from lager and wine to spirits like whisky.
This interest in whisky isn’t just for the taste either. Whatever the traditional image of a whisky collector might be, the reality is trending younger. At a Sotheby’s spirits sale in March 2020, 54% of bidders were under the age of 40, while data on visits to auction sites in general shows that the under-35s make up a larger percentage than the 50 to 64s.
This is a sign that the demographics at auctions are shifting and has been seen in the world of real estate investments too as the millennial generation has been competing there as well. With them, they are bringing a more diverse investment crowd, like 32-year-old Jessica Anwar, a whisky aficionado with a collection of more than 1,000 rare bottles from distilleries like Brora, Lagavulin, Dalwhinnie and Port Ellen.
She also invests in whisky casks, saying: “It’s interesting because you get to taste it as it matures and make the decision when to bottle it.” Millennial investors like Jessica trawl social media for news on limited edition releases as well as joining whisky clubs and visiting whisky bars to build up their knowledge.
As one such investor, 24-year-old Douglas Lau from Hong Kong, said: “Whisky has started to become fashionable with my generation. People don’t see it as boring any more.”
With older millennials now approaching their 40s, how they invest their money is going to be increasingly significant for the global markets in general and so far the signs are that they are more likely to spend on alternative investments than going down the traditional routes.
They are also a generation that grew up in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis and recession, and the signs are that seeing their parents struggle with the consequences of that has made this generation more cautious with their money.
One survey found that 65% of millennials say that living through the recession made them more conservative with how they spend their money, making them less likely to risk money on the stock markets and more likely to consider investments in tangible things, like whisky. With the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, four out of ten investors of all ages have said they are looking for alternative investments right now as a way of spreading and minimising their risks. With rare whisky rising in value by an incredible 564% over the last ten years, it’s no wonder that risk-averse millennials are investing in it in ever larger numbers.
A recent study found that 85% of millennials believe that they are old enough to be investors, with the average age of a millennial investor being just 28. As well as not wanting to take too many risks, millennials are also influenced by social factors, wanting to invest in ethical companies and sectors, which makes the traditional vintage image of Scotch whisky certainly appealing.
So the millennials have crashed the whisky investment party and are seemingly here to stay. This can only be good news for all whisky investors as it increases the demand for the rare bottles and casks with a new, well-informed and affluent audience ready to spend big on the right collector’s items.