Are five-and six-figure liquors worth the price? Sherry-Lehmann CEO Chris Adams talks ultra-premium luxury, who's buying, and why?
“There’s no letdown in the bottle,” says Sherry-Lehmann CEO Chris Adams of the rarefied liquors he has sampled.
No one is better placed than Chris Adams, CEO of Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits, to explain the newest trend in liquor—ultrapremium, limited-edition treats—as individual sales of $10,000 or more occur almost daily at the store.
Why do New Yorkers so readily pay $50,000 for a bottle of whisky or cognac? What people are looking for is something that few have access to: a spirit of which there may be just one bottle or perhaps a dozen on the planet. It’s what distinguishes true luxury from the next tier.
Limited editions of rare liquor aren’t new; it’s just that they’ve recently exploded in reach and popularity. Yes. You didn’t hear a lot about The Balvenie’s Winchester collection in 2000, but you hear a whole lot about it now. It all started after the 2008 recession, especially around 2010, when the markets began to recover.
Who’s the customer for these elite editions? This is a younger clientele [than traditional collectors], mostly in their 30s—lots of people involved in real estate, in particular. These younger buyers have an intellectual curiosity, and they want access to something more fully formed than just a bottle on the shelf. It’s about the terroir, the backstory and history.
They’re enthusiasts. The demand has stunned us. If they’ve wanted [one bottle], they now want three; if they’ve bought three, they ask for six.
Is there investment potential, too? I have little doubt that limited supplies will continue to propel increased prices in the secondary markets.
Tell us about some standouts. We’ve always done well with Louis XIII [owned by Rémy Martin], which is ultra-premium luxury, but the Black Pearl [a 2014 Louis XIII limited edition] blew me away. You realize you’re smelling something so complex and distinctive, which has been made using certain barrels [handpicked by the cellar master]. I expect high demand on the Balvenie DCS, which is a unique tribute.
You’ve tasted so many of these rarities; are they worth it? Look, luxury is like theater: You’ve got to put on a great show, with depth, character, and texture. There’s no letdown in the bottle.