Bourbon has become a treasured prize for collectors around the world. But whether you enjoy sipping it neat or mixing it into classic cocktails, bourbon is singularly beloved and wholly American. Bourbon is the only spirit native to the United States and, in fact, is protected by a 1964 Congressional resolution that limits its production to American distilleries. First produced in the 1820s, this unique whiskey is cherished by connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike.
Along with debating the history and mythology of bourbon, serious collectors would agree that protecting their precious bottles from unforeseen events is a topic worth exploring. What better time to dive into the world of insuring bourbon collections than the run-up to the Kentucky Derby—the iconic event known for fine horses, extravagant hats, and record-setting bourbon consumption?
The Kentucky Derby is the oldest and most famous horse race in the United States. Held on the first Saturday in May at Louisville’s historic Churchill Downs, the so-called Run for the Roses is a day of excitement, elegance, and celebration, where spectators indulge in the state’s finest bourbons while enjoying the spectacle of “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” Bourbon has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1938, and the tradition of sipping mint juleps—a cocktail made with bourbon, crushed ice, sugar, and fresh mint—is a beloved part of the Derby experience.
Investment Trends in Bourbon Collecting
Bourbon collecting has gained popularity over the past 30 years, with enthusiasts seeking out rare and unique bottles to add to their collections. Here are some trends that have emerged recently in the world of bourbon collecting:
- Limited-Edition Releases: Distilleries have been releasing limited-edition bourbons with unique flavors, packaging, bottle designs, and stories, which have become highly sought-after by collectors. These releases often have small production runs and can include special finishes, unique barrel-aging techniques, or collaborations with other brands or celebrities. Collectors are willing to pay a premium for these rare and distinctive additions to their collection.
- Single-Barrel Bourbons: Each of these increasingly popular bottles is sourced from a single barrel and not blended with other barrels. These bottles are considered unique as they showcase the distinct flavors and characteristics of a single barrel, making each bottle slightly different from the other. Collectors appreciate the variability and uniqueness that single-barrel bourbons offer, and many seek out specific distilleries or age statements for their collections.
- Vintage and Antique Bourbons: Older bottles are highly sought after by collectors. These bottles may have been aged for longer periods, resulting in unique and mature flavors. Some collectors also seek out bourbons from specific eras, such as bottles from the pre-Prohibition era, as they are considered a piece of history and highly collectible. Scarcity contributes to the collectible value of older bourbons, and skyrocketing demand for well-aged bourbons over the past three decades has sent prices into the stratosphere in the resale market. The obsessive demand for bottles aged for 20 years or more even fueled a famous bourbon heist that was uncovered in 2013 and ultimately resulted in the criminal prosecution of several longtime distillery insiders.
- Craft Distillery Offerings: Smaller-scale distilleries that produce bourbon in limited quantities have gained attention in the bourbon-collecting community. Collectors are often drawn to the unique flavors, packaging, and stories associated with craft distillery offerings. These bottles are often considered unique and rare, as they may not be as widely available as those from larger, more established distilleries.
- Customized Barrel Picks: Customized barrel picks allow a group or an individual to select a specific barrel from a distillery and have it bottled exclusively for them. These barrel picks offer a personalized and unique experience, allowing collectors to have a one-of-a-kind bottle that is not available elsewhere. Many bourbon clubs, groups, and even individuals are increasingly engaging in barrel picks as a way to curate their collection with a custom flavor profile.
Appraising Bourbon Collections
When it comes to insuring collections of bourbon, it’s important to accurately assess the value of the collection. This requires obtaining appraisals from qualified experts who can provide an estimated value for each bottle. Here are some common ways a collector may determine the value of their bottles:
- Professional Appraisers: A professional appraiser who specializes in bourbon or collections of other spirits is a great resource for obtaining a reliable and accurate valuation. Look for certified appraisers who have experience in valuing bourbon collections and can provide a detailed report with their findings. Qualified appraisers can be found through organizations such as the Appraisers Association of America or the American Society of Appraisers.
- Bourbon Collectors Valuation Services: Another option is to seek advice from experienced bourbon collectors or valuation services. These individuals or services may have in-depth knowledge of the bourbon market, historical values, and current trends, that can help to provide an estimate of a collection’s worth.
- Bourbon Auction Houses: Auction houses that specialize in bourbon auctions also may offer valuation services. They can provide an estimate of a collection’s worth based on their experience in the auction market and recent sales data. However, it’s important to note that auction estimates may be influenced by factors such as market demand, timing, and buyer’s premium, which can impact the final auction price.
- Online Valuation Tools: There are online tools and platforms that offer valuation estimates for bourbon collections based on market data and trends. These tools enable a collector to input information such as brand, age, proof, limited-edition status, and bottle condition to generate an estimated value.
Keep in mind that the value of these collections may fluctuate over time, so it’s important to regularly update the insured value of the collection. In general, it’s a good idea to appraise collectibles every 2-3 years to ensure the items are adequately covered by insurance.
The Benefits of Collectibles Insurance
For bourbon enthusiasts who have built a collection of rare and valuable bottles, insuring their investment is essential. While most homeowners insurance policies may provide some coverage for personal property, possibly including alcoholic beverages, the coverage may be limited and may not fully protect the value of a premium bourbon collection. This is where specialty collectibles insurance becomes a valuable option.
Standard homeowners policies provide limited coverage for lost or stolen property, and that’s after the policyholder covers the deductible. In addition, these policies generally only cover named perils. In contrast, specialized collectibles and jewelry insurance policies may include all-risk coverage at limits of up to $1 million (or more), which can provide coverage for perils such as:
- Accidental breakage
- Fire, lightning, and wind
- Water damage
- Mysterious disappearance
Picking a Triple Crown winner is a longshot, but insuring a valuable bourbon collection with a specialized collectibles policy is a safe bet. If your client owns a collection of bourbon, spirits, and wines (or just about anything else), get in touch with MiniCo! Our exclusive Collectibles Insurance program provides monoline coverage for the appreciated value of covered items with limits up to up to $1 million. Need a fast quote? Apply on our portal for a quote in less than 60 seconds.