From bottles to casks, the investor’s journey

From bottles to casks, the investor’s journey

Know when it’s time to graduate from whisky bottles to casks.

Simon Aron

Simon Aron is the Managing Director of Cask Trade and Auction Your Cask. A passionate whisky collector of 20+ years, Simon is happy to share his journey and insights – from a whisky enthusiast and investor point of view.

I have collected whisky bottles for over 20 years and about 10 years in I started buying casks as well. But nobody really stops buying bottles, they just start collecting casks as well and call it an investment.

3 key considerations when collecting bottles:

SPACE

If you’re like me, you will end up with hundreds or thousands of bottles. You are bound to run out of space at some point and will need to rent space outside of your house. It can be a bit of an inconvenience, which brings me to my next point.

ADMINISTRATION

Keeping track of 100s of bottles, it is important to note the cost price, photograph and catalogue each bottle. It can be a long and arduous job.

RESPONSIBILITY

Whether you are keeping your bottles at home or renting storage space elsewhere, there are a couple of things to keep in mind, such as insurance. There have been several cases when an individual had an entire collection, of thousands of bottles, stolen. You also need to think about protecting the whiskies from sunlight -safe packaging, location and temperature.

And then, of course, there’s peer pressure from friends and relatives. “How much can you possibly drink?” Or “When are you going to sell and pay for your kids’ university?” These are questions you will hear quite often.

It is useful to decide on your goal with the collection. In other words, what percentage is for investment and what percentage is purely out of interest/passion. For example, making purchases based solely on packaging or because they are limited edition (above 1,5L) simply because I like it. I open about 10% of the whiskies I buy. I want to share them with other people, I bring them along to whisky tastings and dinner parties or I give out small samples as gifts. My dream is to, one day, display my entire collection in a dedicated room, if I can find a room big enough.

whisky bottles

Cask ownership

Compared to bottles, whisky casks are far easier. There’s less administration, no storage issues and you can monitor the maturation and order samples from the comfort of your home. Or you can simply go out and buy one bottle of cask strength whisky, from the same distillery, same finish and similar age, to see what it might taste like. Every cask is unique and different so it won’t be the same, but it will give you an idea.

YOUR OPTIONS ARE:

You either sell your cask after having owned it for a while or you bottle it yourself. Unless you have your own label and a way to sell the bottlers, I would almost always recommend to sell the entire cask. Either through a private deal, by selling to a company such as Cask Trade or through an auction. When you end up with several hundred bottles of the same whisky, you are unlikely to drink them all. As for giving them away, nobody has that many friends.

I first came across whisky casks in 2010 on the recommendation of a friend of a friend and bought my own cask. Back then, the only cask owners were people in the business and today, there are 50 times more independent bottles on the market. It is amazing how much and how quickly the market has matured in only 10 years.

cask whisky

IT WASN’T STRAIGHT FORWARD

I ran into several obstacles in the beginning. I’ve bought a cask that never existed and a Madeira cask that turned out to be just a regular hogshead. I’ve had casks in the wrong locations (warehouses), bought from unlicensed sellers who falsified ownership documents and was given totally inaccurate measures of Litres of alcohol and strength.

It took me 12 months to verify, re-gauge (health check) and move all of my casks. The only reason it only took 12 months was because I got into contact with Lee Tomlinson who knew exactly who to call, where to go and how to deal with the situation. He is now one of my co-directors.

SILVER LINING

Every cask is unique in its own way. As of today, there is no official index or quoted market prices. As an alternative asset, it is not heavily correlated or linked to the Stock Market or Foreign Exchange Markets. The closest appreciating asset overtime would probably be wine and property. Even then, there are fewer legal fees (taxes) and it often takes less time to mature and sell a cask of whisky than a property.

Simply put, if you don’t know what you’re doing you sometimes end up buying a cask at such a high price that the appreciation value takes longer to kick in. The silver lining is, the older it gets the more valuable the whisky. If you are in it for the financial gain, the only thing you might have to do is to wait. In some cases, I have made more money from trading casks than from my ‘day job’.

TRANSPARENCY

I started my own business because I wanted to turn my hobby into something more, but I also wanted to help others navigate through this market. At Cask Trade, we are stockists, not brokers. We buy each cask first and the paperwork, location and health of the cask is verified before it ever makes it onto the stock list.

You can always check our HMRC certifications and licenses, check bonded locations (warehouses), the health of your cask, Litres of alcohol and strength. You can request samples and try your whisky, even re-rack (basically change the taste).

There is a lot to take into consideration when you are completely new to this. Luckily, I’ve got a team of knowledgeable and experienced people who are always happy to explain the process and answer all of your questions.

 

Cheers,

Simon Aron

Arrange a free, no obligation phone call, video call or send us an email and let’s talk whisky. 

Auchentoshan, triple-distilled, delicious and in stock!

Auchentoshan, triple-distilled, delicious and in stock!

Auchentoshan is arguably one of the most exceptional distilleries in Scotland; it’s the only one to continuously produce a triple-distilled spirit.

This gives Auchentoshan a distinctly sweet, clean and delicate character that has superb ageing potential. Old Auchentoshans are among the most desired whiskies in the world. Using three stills makes the spirit consistently lighter and purer.The inspiration may have come from Ireland where triple distillation was more common in the 19th century while Scotland was known for producing heavier spirit.

The distillery is on the western outskirts of Glasgow. Founded in the 1800, Auchentoshan is run by Morrison Bowmore Distillers who also run Glen Garioch and Bowmore. While it’s a familiar sight on supermarket shelves, single casks and independent bottlings are exceedingly rare.

We are thrilled to have a couple of 1997 barrels in stock! Conor Strang and Myriam Mackenzie, who have recently joined the Cask Trade team, were so kind and tasted two of the cask samples. They’re two identical casks, filled on the same day and with the same spirit but the tasting notes will convince you that no two casks are ever the same!

Whisky sample

Tasting notes

  • Auchentoshan barrel – distilled on 04/12/1997 – Cask A

RLA of 74.5 at 50.0% abv

Estimated 213 bottles at cask strength

£16,837.00

Nose:

Fresh and floral with a sweet maltiness. Dried apricot, coconut sponge with custard, lychee, preserved lemon.

Palate:

Sweet and fresh with pear, ginger, elderflower, cinnamon buns and hard-boiled sweets.

Finish:

Sweet spice, drying and floral.

  • Auchentoshan barrel – distilled on 04/12/1997 – Cask B

RLA of 62.6 at 49.3% abv

Estimated 181 bottles at cask strength

£14,147.60

Nose:

Rich and warming with butterscotch, praline, meadow flowers, white grape, toasted brioche and honeysuckle.

Palate:

Sweet and fruity with a light spice. Baked apples, toffee, honeysuckle and cake frosting with a rich mouthfeel.

Finish:

Rich and toasty with subtle lingering toasted malt and spices.

whisky tasting

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One of the TOP 12 – Glenlossie Distillery!

One of the TOP 12 – Glenlossie Distillery!

It’s rated as one of the twelve top class blenders malts! – Let’s talk about Glenlossie! Only 1% of the distillery’s production is reserved to be bottled as single malt and we’ve got TWO exquisite casks in stock

Glenlossie was founded in 1876 near Elgin, Speyside and is a part of Diageo’s portfolio. While the distillery has a theoretical capacity of 3.7 million litres of alcohol, it produces less than 2 million litres a year. This is dues to the long fermentation times of 104 hours required to achieve Glenlossie’s signature rich and oily character.

Diageo invested heavily in refurbishing the distillery in 2008 to meet the increasing demand. Many new components, including more washbacks, were added to enable production to take place seven days a week without compromising on quality.

James’ tasting notes:

Cask A

2007, Hogshead, 54.75%

  • Again, wonderful citrus, this time more orange peel, but also an earthy and subtle wave of peatsmoke from the ex-peated cask.
  • There’s a hint of lindseed oil, a touch of vanilla sweetness, and a little ginger.
Cask B

2007, Hogshead, 55.34% abv

  • Grapefruit, lime and lemon-peel – really citrussy.
  • Malty undertones, with freshly baked bread.
  • Lemon again – but this time sweeter – lemon drizzle cake. A hint of boiled sweets and sherbert.
    glenlossie

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Let’s talk Scotch, Bourbon and Blended whisky – Happy 4th of July!

Let’s talk Scotch, Bourbon and Blended whisky – Happy 4th of July!

When chatting about what I do over a pint at the local watering-hole, people often ask whether bourbon is really whisky. Once, while hosting an ‘Introduction to Whisky’ tasting event several years ago, I included a bourbon. One guest was so shocked that they almost walked out of the tasting!

Simply put, Scotch is whisky made in Scotland, bourbon is a variety of whiskey (note the ‘e’) made in the USA. But let’s dig deeper…

BOURBON

While most associated with Kentucky, bourbon can be made anywhere in the USA. It must be made from over 51% corn (with the rest of the malt bill made up of rye, wheat and barley). And aged in new fill (or ‘virgin’) charred American-oak barrels for a minimum of two years. On the other hand, Scotch whisky ages for a minimum of three years, and usually in second hand (or ‘re-filled’) barrels that were previously those used to age bourbon whisky.

While most Scotch whisky is mass-produced and blended from numerous malt and grain distilleries, most whisky lovers enjoy Single Malt Scotch. This  usually ages twice as long as bourbon whisky in a much cooler environment. As a result, the drink is softer and subtler than bourbon which is usually full-flavoured, oaky and spicy.

bourbon

SINGLE MALT SCOTCH

People often view Single Malt Scotch as the higher quality whisk(e)y which is not a wise assumption to make. While the Scotch Whisky Association’s rules are strict, they still allow for the use of caramel colouring E150A; this is banned in bourbon. Especially when drinking entry-level whiskies, a cheap bourbon is often a better choice than a cheap Scotch. Next time you’re out, compare a Woodford Reserve to a no-age-statement Glen Keith. I know which one I’ll be drinking!

For an older dram, you’ll probably be wanting to go for a Single Malt Scotch. The evaporation rate of bourbon is so great that it’s rare to find one that’s anywhere near 12 years old, let alone 21! The use of less active oak casks, 100% malted barley, and a slower maturation, results in a much more complex flavour. With hundreds of distilleries and cask types to choose from, the choice is endless!

scotch

At the end of the day, I drink young Bourbon and old Scotch and keep bottles of both…

Let’s talk blended whisky

We are delighted to be able to offer a strictly limited number of casks of Blended and Blended Malt Scotch Whisky of the highest quality and at fantastic prices.
With a bottle of Chivas Regal 25-year-old costing £269, we’re able to offer you a 29-year-old cask strength, single cask Blend at approximately £68 in-cask. Ranging from 1990 to 2004, from Barrels to Sherry butts, these are my top picks:

blended scotch

1991 Blended Scotch Whisky, 29 years old

This exceptional Scotch Whisky was first blended together in May 2016 using over 35 of the finest Single Malt & Grain Whiskies from regions all over Scotland. In order to create more depth, the Blend was recasked into 1st Fill ex Bourbon American Oak Barrels and allowed to mature for a further 4 years.

Tasting notes:

Walnut in colour, the nose shows floral and honeyed sweetness followed by a pleasant yet lively zesty citrus fruit, berry and raisin combination giving it a smooth but very complex nosing experience. Perfect balance of fresh oak and spice which gives it a beautiful caramelised roundness finished by just a hint of peat smoke in the background.

On the palate an explosion of flavours from sweet vanilla, caramel and honey quickly followed by raisins and a rich fruity texture (due to a high percentage of sherry-matured whisky). This leads to a lingering and very pleasant oak and peppery mouthfeel which is enhanced from the 3 years of finishing in 1st fill ex Bourbon American Oak Barrels.

1995 Blended Scotch Whisky, 24 Years Old

First Blended in 2010, the spirit has spent time a combination of ex 2nd Fill Oloroso Sherry Butts and 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon White Oak Barrels.
This is a complex and powerful Blend which includes whiskies from over 45 of Scotland’s finest Single Malt Distilleries. From the Highlands and Speyside region to the Lowlands and Islands and 3 Single Grain Distilleries, many much older than 1995.

Tasting notes:

A deep Mahogany colour, the nose exhibits stewed fruits and honey followed by a malty richness, vanilla and a raisin sherry sweetness with a hint of citrus and subtle smokiness. The palate is rich and smooth with dark raisins, star anise and baked fruits followed by a peppery smokiness. Luscious and lingering on the finish, with fruitiness and a soft vanilla finish followed by a final hint of peat smoke.

 

Take note, blended whisky is exempt from the Malt tax, 25% tariffs introduced by the World Trade Organisation in 2019, on all Single Malt Scotch Whisky imported to the USA. This makes our blended whisky the perfect option for our USA-based independent bottlers!

Want to talk about your options as a whisk(e)y lover, collector or an investor? Message us and whether you are a first-time or a seasoned buyer, we’ve got something for you!

Cheers,

James Russell

james russell