The idea of leveraging whisky as a form of investment isn’t new and we’ve touched on this once before with the B28 Whisky Fund. Today we’re going to look at another: Stilnovisti Investments.
Stilnovisti is in the business of ‘alternative investments’, which is kind of like the art of turning your hobbies and collections into shrewd investments, albeit done in a professional manner, and in a way that will make the spouse only slightly less pissed with you – which is helpful enough anyway.
There several advantages when buying whisky that is increasingly in demand – demand and supply is far more predictable than conventional speculation and in many cases, which we can certainly relate to, the steady increase in retail prices are obvious and noticeable. Coupled with the fact that you actually own the product, means that even at the worst of times, you have something that can be enjoyed by itself.
Then again if you’re a regular on this website to begin with, the idea of collecting whisky as an alternative form of investment is not something that you don’t already know. Chances are, some of us (you)are probably doing it to some degree (the investment bit, not the cover-up bit). The only difference is the level of commitment we’ve invested (trouble we’re in).
However, Stilnovisti did stop short of describing their whisky arm as an investment portfolio, partly due to sensitivity about what constitutes a legitimate investment portfolio in the context of Singapore.
Not their first rodeo
Perhaps what is most surprising during our time together is learning that Stilnovisti is a company that apparently has been doing this for quite a long time, even before the whisky boom of recent years.
Operating out of Eastern Europe – Poland, to be exact – Stilnovisti’s expertise runs the gamut of art, wine and even collectors’ cars. The company also has an office in Scotland to facilitate the sourcing of casks and other administrative necessities. They deal primarily with private and corporate clientele and thusly have remained relatively low-key all these years. What most of us may not know (I certainly didn’t), is that founder and President, Krzystof Maruszewski is also one of few foreigners who was made a Keeper of the Quaich for his work in whisky. Stilnovisti On record he’s been managing funds involving whisky and wine from as early as 2006 and has managed portfolios of value in excess of £26 million.
But at its core the entity has two core businesses: one is whisky-related, the other focuses on art, which is promoted under the label of MAK Gallery. The main objective of the gallery is to facilitate contact between the artist, curator and customer, which they do in their three residencies in Poznań, Venice and London. The artworks encompass both upcoming and established artists (e.g. Jan Berdyszak and Izabela Gustowska) and traditional forms and modern installations. Essentially established as personal interests of Krzysztof’s, they came to the realisation that their whisky customers share the same interests.
I’m quite certain some of you will have friends who have already done your own bottlings (if not yourself), so what makes them any different from the many other companies that are doing the same thing, and why are we even remotely interested in talking about an entity that at heart, is essentially a financial outfit?
For one, Stilnovisti is far entrenched in the world of whisky than most of us realise, which makes for an interesting story. Furthermore, they can call upon several renowned figures in the whisky world to help them in their choice of casks, thanks to the fact that they’ve worked together on Whisky Quarterly, a luxury whisky magazine that Stilnovisti publishes.
Cue familiar faces like Dominic Roskrow of Whisky Magazine fame and Charles Maclean, one of the best-known authors in the whisky world. Colin Hampden White, a former journalist and photographer and whisky writer who currently is a presenter on The Three Drinkers on Amazon Prime, is also on board to oversee an innovative cask whisky project. These men are either Keepers or Masters of the Quaich, which you gotta admit, is a heck of a lineup to casually namedrop if anyone asked.
A matter of choice
As for the business of sourcing for casks, they’re pretty straightforward with how they go about it; they look for casks that have potential in both taste and value, either for their clients or for their own bottling needs. According to Stilnovisti, the rate of growth for the casks they have selected have never dropped below 8% per year. As for the arduous task of selecting casks, the job is essentially shared between its internal experts and their consultants. “As much as I’d love to pick every cask with our experts, their obligations and busy schedules do not allow that to happen in every instance. Our panel in the UK is working on crunching the numbers for all the casks that are coming through our hands. For those which show the best bottling potential – we do our office tastings whereas the oldest and most precious are being sent to our top experts for evaluation,” said Michal Koslor, Sales Director for Stilnovisti.
For Stilnovisti, it’s about considering the cask’s specifications and current global trends along with the taste. If they all “fit together like a glove”, that’s when it becomes a lock. That said, it also means that the earlier you can spot a cask, the more potential for profit it will have. “You should not be surprised that the best results can be achieved when you buy a cask approx at 10 years old and keep it for the same amount of time (further 10 years),” Michal explains. To date, their best performing whisky is a 21Yo Glenrothes from their Puffin range that managed a return of investment of 210%. They claim that they have casks that show even greater prospects for ‘ultra-premium’ whisky expressions. “There are many good whiskies out there, sleeping and waiting,” he adds.
No worries about empty talk if what we have tasted were anything to go by. At our meeting, they shared with us a variety of whiskies that they have bottled: 21 YO Glenrothes (Puffin label), 28 YO Bunnahabhain (Lucullan label), 21 YO Glen Keith (Lucullan label), Aultmore and Mortlach (NAS). All were excellent examples of their respective distilleries, and indeed they were pretty well-chosen with a distinct style: gentle, refined representations that will be well-received, regardless of your preferences.
But strangely enough, given their long-standing dealings with wine, Stilnovisti currently does not have any whisky that is matured or finished in wine casks. It is on the radar, however, and they are working on a project that involves ex-Lafite casks, which should be good for some headlines at the very least. Although Michal personally can’t wait to see their first single cask rum bottled soon, ‘malternatives’ aren’t exactly a priority for them at the moment but they would be happy to provide options to their clients who are interested. But he is keen on rum, in particular, given how well cult brands like Caroni are performing in the current market.
In a manner of speaking, Stilnovisti is perhaps like a one-stop-shop for your whisky needs: whether you’re looking for whisky as a form of investment (with the view of drinking some of it, of course) or perhaps leveraging on their access to casks, or simply just acquiring a couple of bottles of fine liquid.
Given the quality of the bottlings, it’s a shame that we don’t see more of them around, especially when you consider that the demand for quality independent bottlings is at an all-time high. But the fact that Stilnovisti is looking to improve its availability is an encouraging sight. Michal is still on the lookout for distributors in Singapore, so intrepid enthusiasts can have a look in if that’s something you are interested in. But for the rest of us, we can approach Stilnovisti directly if we’re interested in a bottle – or a cask.