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$94,000 Scotch? Why Not, It's St. Patty's Day

Glenfiddich, the world’s most awarded Single Malt Scotch Whisky, celebrated 125 years of pioneering achievement.
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Glenfiddich, the world’s most awarded Single Malt Scotch Whisky, celebrated 125 years of pioneering achievement.

For better or for worse, St. Patrick’s Day and imbibing are often linked together in many people’s minds, and with this year’s holiday falling on a Saturday, bars and restaurants will be looking to cash in on the celebration.

St. Patrick’s Day is the smallest of all consumer holidaysin terms of how much people spend, but more Americans than ever — some 54.4 percent, according to BigResearch— are planning to celebrate the traditionally Irish holiday this year. The market researcher estimates consumers will spend about $35 on average per person on the holiday, or about $4.6 billion.

Nearly three in 10 will mark the holiday by attending a party at a bar or restaurant, indulging in traditional fare such as corned beef and cabbage and perhaps a green beer or an Irish whiskey.

Each year, William Grant & Sons, the maker of the No. 2 Irish whiskey Tullamore Dew, sees a bump in sales on St. Patrick’s Day.

But year-round the trends have been good for the whiskey business, and if you want proof consider this: William & Grant Thursday broke the world record for the priciest whiskey ever purchased at auction.

The bottle of 55-year-old Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve, a single-malt scotch whisky, raised $94,000, with proceeds going to actor Adrian Grenier’s SHFT Initiatives, a charity dedicated to sustainability causes. The bottle was one of 11 available, and the auction coincided with Glenfiddich’s celebration of its 125th anniversary.

“It wasn’t a bling decision,” said Simon Hunt, president for North America at William Grant and Sons, in an interview with CNBC. “It wasn’t someone buying to show off. It was two passionate collectors.”

Hunt said he thinks consumers are better educated than they have ever been when it comes to appreciating luxury whiskies.

Actor Adrian Grenier congratulates whisky collector Mahesh Patel as Christie’s auctioneer Rachel Orkin-Ramey announces his $94,000 bid for Glenfiddich’s Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve -- shattering the world auction record for the most expensive single malt scotch whisky.
Source: Glenfiddich
Actor Adrian Grenier congratulates whisky collector Mahesh Patel as Christie’s auctioneer Rachel Orkin-Ramey announces his $94,000 bid for Glenfiddich’s Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve -- shattering the world auction record for the most expensive single malt scotch whisky.

“What we are seeing — and you are seeing it across a number of the luxury segments — is consumers are looking for that real value, where is that authenticity, where is that story behind the brand,” he said. “Consumers are better informed than they have ever been.”

Sales of single-malt scotch rose 12 percent in the U.S. this year and are growing even faster in Asia.

New consumers to the category often start off with the comparatively less expensive, single-malt scotch that is aged 12 years, and then trade up to those that have been aged longer and command a higher price.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Christina Cheddar Berk on Twitter @ccheddarberk.

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