WHISKY may be the water of life. But increasingly it is being snapped up at auction, not as a drink but as an investment according to new figures which show that some bottles are now selling for tens of thousands of pounds.

The figures from Scottish whisky brokers Rare Whisky 101’s 2017 half year report shows that both the volume and value of rare Scotch whisky sold at auction has increased by record amounts with the market for the golden nectar showing unprecedented growth during the first six months of this year.

The value of collectable bottles of single malt scotch whisky sold at auction in the UK rose by 94 percent to £11.176m, while the number of bottles sold at auction also increased by almost 50 percent to 39,061.The most expensive single bottle of scotch sold during the period was a 50-year-old Macallan in Lalique, which fetched £65,210 (up from the previous best of £17,000 in 2015).

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Whisky investment analyst and co-founder of Rare Whisky 101, Andy Simpson said that rare whisky appealed to connoisseurs, collectors and investors, with most buyers fitting in to all three categories. "Right now, the right bottles of Scotch seem to be in ever increasing demand," he said. "We deal with people who will pay amazing amounts of money for single bottles which they will open and drink, which takes them out of the market and drives up prices. Often they will buy two so they also keep one as an investment."

As well as well as being of fantastic quality, commemorative bottles and single cask bottlings are also particularly good investments, he claimed, especially those made by distilleries which have closed - known in the industry as silence distilleries - such as Port Ellen (Islay), Brora (Highlands) and St Magdalene (Lowlands).

"Collectors can be the quirkiest creatures around," he added. "It's often an investment of passion – people fall in love with scotch whisky. Some people will try to buy a bottle from every distillery or every bottle that a distillery has produced."

Justine Hazlehurst, founder of tasting company Kask Whisky, said as well as Macallan, Ardbeg and Bowman and whiskies from closed distilleries Japanese whiskies such as Karuizawa, Yamazaki and Hanyu were also popular at auction.

Geoff Kirk, of Macallan said that the single malt's popularity at auction was down to the "the consistent delivery of high quality products...More recently, the Macallan has sought to stretch the boundaries of how single malt can be perceived by offering unique, limited editions through its brand partnerships."

Investing in whisky - what to look for

1 Epic quality whisky, such as The Caol Ila ‘Managers Dram’ - price has risen from £350 in 2008 to about £3,000 in today's market.

2 Small batch, hard to get whisky, limited/commemorative editions: Balvenie’s first batch of ‘Tun 1401’ has increased in price from £150 to £3800. Macallan’s William & Kate ‘Royal Marriage’ in 2011, also £150 now fetches £1,500 per bottle at auction.

3 Golden oldies: Laphroaig’s old versions of its then standard 10 year old bottles in the 1970’s now sell for well over £1,000 a bottle.

4 Age matters: Macallan’s contemporary 30 year old bottlings sell for around £2,000 per bottle.

5 Valuable vintages: Scotch distilled in the fifties and sixties is in exceptionally rare making it valuable to collectors.