Thursday, September 27, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

I have always heard that prices are the same in Great Britain as they are in the United States, only they're in pounds instead of dollars. For example, consider McDonald's. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese value meal might cost $5 over here; in London, it might cost £5. Same thing with Ralph Lauren or Brooks Brothers (yes, apparently they do have these over there): a shirt that costs $50 here might cost £50 over there. Since the dollar:pound exchange rate is now close to 2-1, that means that a whole lot of stuff is twice as expensive in Britain as it is in the US. Of course, all of these examples are American imports. For some things made in Britain, like Hilditch & Key or Turnbull & Asser shirts, it's possible to get them for a lot less money in London than in Houston. I had assumed that what's true for British shirts would be true for Scotch. After all, shipping it in bottles across the Atlantic ocean has to add considerable expense, and then there are the high American excise taxes that have to be paid. Plus, Scotch is largely regarded as a luxury liquor in the US, which provides an incentive for American wholesalers and retailers to jack up the price. And don't forget about the fact that the US is really 50 separate markets due to state liquor regulation, which further increases the price. Well, I was wrong.

Consider Clynelish 14 year old. Its price (for the 700 ml bottle used in the EU instead of the 750 ml bottle used in the US) from Oddbins, a prominent UK wine and spirits retailer is
£27.99. From Sam's, a major Chicagoland liquor store, it's $41.99. Now, it's true that the Oddbins price includes VAT while the Sam's price doesn't include sales tax, but when you adjust for that and bottle size, it's still cheaper at Sam's. (The comparison is more even when you compare Oddbins to Spec's -- for some reason, the Spec's price on Clynelish is significantly higher than the Sam's price.) And Clynelish is actually not typical -- the comparison is even worse for some more common Scotches. Macallan Fine Oak 10 year old: £26.99 vs. $39.99. Glenlivet 12 year old: £24.99 vs. $29.99. Glenfiddich 12 year old: £28.99 vs. $29.99. What accounts for the price disparity? I have no idea. Maybe liquor excise taxes in the UK are even higher than they are in the US.

All of the tasting notes for Clynelish mention that it's "waxy." I hadn't previously gotten that, but last night I did, at least on the nose. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. It's not that I dislike Clynelish, and I am happy that I tried it, but there are other whiskies in its same style that I like better and cost less. So I will probably not rebuy this once the bottle is gone.

No comments: