Are Whiskey and Cognac Money?

Cognac Meets the Test for Money.

Are Brandies, Whiskey, Wines & Beer Good Forms of Money?

Can whiskey and cognac be used as currencies?

What about other commodities, drugs and consumables?

If they can be used as money why aren’t they?

Would $1,000 worth of whisky or cognac bought five years ago, be worth more or less than $1000 or silver or gold?

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Cognac as Money

It would seem that distilled spirits, like Cognac (a specific type of brandy) whiskey, vodka and other liquors could be used a money and currencies.

Let’s put cognac to the test that gold passes with flying colors. We ask is it durable, divisible, portable, fungible, store of value and unit of account. I add two further questions to the test – does the putative money have intrinsic value and relative scarcity?


Cognac and other spirits, like whiskey have extremely long shelf lives, far longer than beer or wine and is not generally subject to spoilage. While cognac is durable in the sense that it lasts, it is not durable once it is put to use, i.e. consumed. Gold on the other hand can be used and reused an infinite number of times.


Cognac can be divided by the barrel, gallon, liter or drop.


Cognac can be exchanged easily in small bottles (plastic) (at the higher value per ounce of cognac to wine or beer, small amount can function At some point, the smaller the size, the larger the premium on the product as a portion of the value price to cover the packaging. This, however, is no different than the mintage of smaller coins which cost more than larger sized coins.

Compare a small 50ml (1.6 ounce) bottle of cognac worth about $4 to a 475ml (16) ounce can of beer at $3 a bottle. A small wallet can easily carry $40 worth of cognac (ten small bottles). The same dollar amount of beer would require someone to lug around a case of brew to transact business. Early cognac makers had an advantage when shipping their product vs wine growers when the tax was per barrel as they could ship a greater value in product and get taxed a lesser percentage of their overall shipments than wine sellers. Bottle and barrels may break, but plastic and other more durable container can largely eliminate durability issues.


Cognac is generally fungible by either the designations based on aging (VS, VSOP & XO etc), or by brand. Certain brands are more coveted than others. But cognac entirely fungible unless such distinctions are made. A 750ml bottle of Salignac cognac might set the buyer back about $15-$20 while a same size bottle of Rémy Martin’s Louis III will cost well over $3,000.

Store of value

Cognac has been a desired product since it was first created in France in the 16th century. A bottle of cognac tends to hold its value as its supply is limited (The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) requirements include, among other things, that the product must originate and be made in a specific are of France).

The price of cognac tends to hold its value subject to supply and demand. The vagaries of taste for alcohol, however and other reasons, perhaps health/religious (prohibition) concerns may make cognac and other alcoholic beverages less valuable over time. Or such prohibitions may increase its value

Unit of account

A unit of account can value goods and services because it is divisible, fungible and countable. As such, one ounce of cognac can be valued the same as ten ounces of cognac, unlike one acre of land vs another acre.

I add Intrinsic Value to the test- Does someone want it? Cognac, whiskey and other spirits are highly coveted. Even if half to three quarters of the population does not drink alcohol, there are enough people who do that provide the demand for it. When the Nazi’s invaded France, they confiscated the gold AND the fine wines and cognacs of the country.

I also add Relative Scarcity– while many may prefer beer or water to cognac, these beverages are more easily obtained and thus less valuable. The process of making cognac is painstaking as grapes have to be picked, wine made and then distilled. The distilled wine has to be blended and aged in oak barrels for years before bottling. This process requires expertise and cooperation from mother nature. In addition in order for brandies made in the fashion, called cognac, they have to be made in the Cognac region of France, create is scarcity. That scarcity does add to it value when coupled with demand.

Report Card: Gold A+, Cognac B, Beer D

Why aren’t gold and cognac and other commodities used as money?

Cognac is not used as currency for some of the same reasons as gold. Not many people use them so they are illiquid mainly because of legal tender laws. Capital gains taxes on sales of commodities like gold or cognac, also hinders hinders their use further, as well as the book-keeping that would be required to keep track of one’s gains and losses each time gold or cognac were used to make a transaction.

Try the test with other items that might be used as money like cigarettes, marijuana (too plentiful after all it is a weed) and other legal and illegal drugs (capsules are perhaps more fungible than cognac and lighter than gold), shells, furs, oil, stamps, diamonds and other items of value.

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