Investors who are nervous of being tied to the stock market have a new option: scotch whisky.

Maturing Scotch whisky is said to have an average annual appreciation in real terms of seven per cent. Now an online marketplace giving investors access to it has been set up by the team behind gold investment site BullionVault and an ex-Diageo director.

The platform is said to “create a liquid marketplace where many different whiskies can be bought whilst still in the barrel, early on in the maturation process”. The barrels, once bought, will not leave Scotland’s familiar bonded warehouses which store the industry's maturing stocks. Using the same online platform, investors can then later sell on the barrels they own to the brands that create blended whisky. These brands account for nine bottles in every 10 sold worldwide by the £4.5bn Scotch whisky industry each year.

Under EU and UK law, Scotch whisky must be barrelled for a minimum of three years to earn that name. Industry data shows maturing Scotch whisky returning an average of seven per cent per annum in real terms over the last 10 years. The founders say: “Now available for the first time, this compelling new asset class shows robust potential as a long-term holding in a balanced portfolio.”

Rupert Patrick, co-founder and chief executive, said: “This is a revolution in Scotch whisky investment. Previously, people had only been able to invest in whisky through buying single bottles of the spirit – with the maturity upside already gone and risking problems around storage and illiquidity – or through very expensive single-distiller programmes.”

Mr Patrick’s industry CV includes Ian Macleod Distillers, Suntory where he was managing director of emerging markets running $200m of sales, and Diageo where he led new business in Africa.

Trades on WhiskyInvestDirect’s order board cost 1.75per cent whether investors are buying or selling. All storage, maintenance and insurance costs to protect their property are covered at a rate of 15p per LPA per year (minimum £3 per month).

Patrick Connolly, certified financial planner at independent advisers Chase de Vere, commented: “It is important to spread risks within an investment portfolio and this is an interesting initiative which can allow more people to invest in whisky, an asset for which there is an ongoing demand. There is scope for this demand to increase further if we see increasing interest from the emerging markets, as we have for other alternative asset classes, which could be a positive boost for long-term prices.”

He said the platform should provide greater liquidity than is normally the case when investing in alternative assets, whisky prices had risen over time, and the ownership of the whisky was very transparent, which was also positive.

Mr Connolly went on: “However, these investments are unregulated, which means that investors cannot fall back on the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) or any other body if their investment goes wrong.

“The charges for investing in whisky are also high. While a buying and selling charge of 1.75per cent might not be excessive, storage costs can make this very expensive, especially for smaller investors, and mean that whisky will need to perform well simply to give a positive return.”

He added: “Remember that whisky doesn't produce any earnings or income and so price fluctuations are based solely on supply and demand. This means there can be some big upward or downward price movements if there are changes in the economic environment or as it comes in or out of favour.”