If you celebrate Chinese New Year (Saturday, 28 January), and even if you don’t, Vintages is offering you something to crow about in this Year of the Rooster: two bottles of rare whisky from the Dalmore distillery on the banks of the Cromarty Firth, on Scotland’s east coast. 

What we’re looking at are Dalmore Constellation Single Malts that are bottled from casks holding whiskies distilled in specific years: the 1991 Cask 1, which retails for $4,999 and the 1981 Cask 3, which has a tag of $8,999. Both whiskies have cask-strength alcohol (57.8% abv and 54.0% abv, respectively) and are in 700mL bottles. As they’re drawn from single casks, they’re very limited editions.

Both whiskies are of the highest quality but each shows distinctive and complex aromatics, flavour profiles, and textures influenced by the provenance of the casks they were finished in: Cask 1 was first used for oloroso sherry at Gonzalez Byass, while Cask 3 was previously used for brandy and bourbon made in Kentucky.

The bottles are emblazoned with Dalmore’s signature twelve-pointed stag’s head logo. (It’s funny how some people sneer at “critter wines” – wines labelled with animal images – but not at a $5,000 bottle of whisky with a stag’s head or, for that matter, Château Mouton Rothschild, with its sheep’s head.)

With any bottle that costs this much, you have to wonder whether buyers drink it or put it aside as an investment. If you drank the 1981 Cask 3, each 1.5-ounce pour would be worth about $550, while the 1991 Cask 1 would be a mere $310. Either is enough to deter you from opening when too many friends are present. 

As an investment, whiskies can appreciate very effectively if you choose the right distilleries and buy limited editions when they are released for retail sale. If you had invested in the 50 top- performing bottles in 2008 (just when most other investments were heading south), they would today be worth 250% of their original retail price.

Dalmore’s Constellation collection, which includes whiskies from 1962 to 1992, is a prime target for investment. Then again, you might just want to buy a bottle for the exquisite pleasure of drinking it during or after the Year of the Rooster.

Dalmore Constellation Single Malt Scotch Whisky, 1991 Cask 1
$4,999.00 (LCBO No. 477018)

Dalmore Constellation Single Malt Scotch Whisky, 1981 Cask 3
$8,999.00 (LCBO No. 477000)