Purchasing New-Make Spirit – Is it as Clear as it Looks?

Purchasing New-Make Spirit – Is it as Clear as it Looks?

 

New-make spirit is the clear liquid that comes off of the still. It is usually between 68-70% ABV and will generally have quite an aromatic, pungent flavour. In this article, we are going to explore the various options for private clients and the potential upsides and downsides. 

Purchasing a new-make cask direct from a distillery 

Not many distilleries will sell a single cask to a private client, as first and foremost it is just too much bureaucracy for them to deal with. The famous distilleries like Macallan, Glenlivet, and Springbank don’t sell casks anyway, and many others don’t have the whisky to spare, as it is needed for their bottle brands.  

However, with the newer distilleries, many of them need a variety of income sources whilst they are building up their brand and waiting for the whisky to mature. For them, selling individual casks is one of those revenue streams. Keep in mind though, that these new distilleries have a cost of production that is higher than the ‘big boys’, which will be reflected in the price. In most cases, these casks are not for alternative asset purposes – they offer the whisky enthusiast the opportunity to own a cask where the distillery will bottle it at an agreed time.

The purchaser would then be liable for some significant taxation courtesy of HMRC on top of the initial price paid. The number of bottles that will be delivered to your house could vary from about 250 for a bourbon barrel to potentially over 700 for a sherry cask. This is a lot of whisky to drink/gift! We wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from going on this journey, but it is important to understand what is involved. 

Purchasing a new make cask on the open market

Many cask companies are now selling new-make spirit from a variety of different distilleries. Whilst many distilleries won’t deal directly with selling individual casks to private individuals, some of them will sell in bulk to the trade. Everybody of course wants a Macallan cask, but they are simply not for sale – the distillery needs every drop for their brand. The prices of these casks can vary widely.

So what constitutes good value? The important things to consider are: the distillery, the type/size of the cask, does the cask have naming rights, and is there any free insurance and storage as part of the deal? Through careful due diligence, you should be able to decipher if the price you are being offered is a fair one.

Another key factor to remember is that this is a very long-term investment. Are you prepared to hold these casks for 12 to 18 years? This is a serious commitment. Our advice is that diversity is the key; look for casks from different established distilleries, regions of Scotland, and aged in different types of wood. 

Why established distilleries?

There are now over 130 whisky distilleries in Scotland and at least 100 of these can trace back their history at least one or two centuries. For most of this time, these distilleries existed to make malt whisky for the blenders. However, since the 1980s, we have seen a rapid rise and interest in single malt whisky (which has accelerated in the last 10 years) amongst the growing numbers of whisky enthusiasts. Many of these distilleries now have core ranges with impressive packaging, thus it isn’t hard to imagine where these brands will be in 10-20 years’ time.

It is always worth pointing out that in 1980 Single Malt whisky was less than 1% of global Scotch whisky sales. This figure is now up to 15% and rising all the time. The value of these proven distilleries is in their history/heritage and in many cases their deep-pocketed owners, who are heavily investing in building up the brand equity. The newer distilleries have no proven track record in the whisky cask marketplace. Their sales are usually minimal and with young whisky, we have no idea how it is going to turn out when it reaches maturity. Then as a general rule with these new enterprises, not all of them will make it.  

Therefore, to conclude, purchasing a variety of new-make casks from an established distillery (and of course from a reputable cask company) can be a very savvy long-term investment indeed.

Currently, Cask Trade has in stock new-make spirit from a well-known Speyside distillery racked into an exciting variety of different casks. Please get in touch for more information.

To find out more about purchasing Whisky casks, contact the Masters today.

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A Summer Solstice Celebration of Whisky & Art

A Summer Solstice Celebration of Whisky & Art

After the success of our St Andrew’s Day event, we decided that the Summer Solstice (20/21 June) would be the perfect date for another special Cask Trade celebration of whisky and art. Once again the Alon Zakaim Gallery in Mayfair kindly agreed to host us (we’re sure this was nothing to do with Alon’s appreciation of fine Scotch whisky!).

Summer solstice

Over two days 150 customers and their guests were treated to over 50 different drams of mainly cask-strength whisky, surrounded by the stunning art. The highlight whisky was a rare 1967 Gordon & Macphail bottling of The Glenlivet. Other drams on the menu which were very popular included bottlings from Mannochmore 13 years, Macduff 13, Speyside 23, and an Ardmore 12. The Glen Ord 11 year and the Aberlour Abunadh are also worthy of a mention.

In the main room, guests were very impressed with the iconic photography of Terry O’Neil. The full-size prints of Mohammed Ali with the Beatles, Dean Martin in a smoky bar, and Raquel Welch on a cross wearing her fur bikini from the movie ‘One Million Years BC’ provided the perfect backdrop to a wonderful evening.

Summer solstice

A huge, huge thank you to MD Simon for helping to organise the event and providing the all-important drams, and a special shout out to Alon, Maggie, and all the team at the gallery for being such generous and helpful hosts for our Summer Solstice soiree.


Cask Trade is an extraordinary cask business run by passionate experts with over 100 combined years in the industry who have created a moving marketplace for buying and selling casks that is open to all. For further details on our unrivalled inventory of casks click here.

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North British Distillery Focus

North British Distillery Focus

 

North British Distillery was founded in 1885 on the outskirts of Edinburgh by three independent blenders to break the monopoly of the DCL company (which was to become Diageo). Up until that point, all blenders and independent merchants had only one option when it came to purchasing their Grain Whisky. 

North British Distillery was built for the then princely sum of £142k and production quickly reached 3.6 million litres per annum. Business was so good that the investors made a 440% return on their initial outlay! Unfortunately, during World War I production was switched to the war effort, and it wasn’t until 1920 that whisky was being produced again.

More misfortune was to come though, as after surviving the great depression of the 1930s the distillery was completely closed at the start of WW II, as the government needed the grain for food production. Alcohol was clearly not the main priority for the politicians! North British Distillery didn’t reopen until 1949 and managed to survive the turbulent whisky crash of the 1980s. However, this century, production has increased to nearly 60 million litres per annum, under the new joint ownership of Edrington and Diageo. There is a slight irony in that it’s now under the ownership of the company that it was built to be the competition of.  

Whilst production is very high, nearly all the Grain Whisky is needed for brands like Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark, Bells, Famous Grouse, and others. Very few casks are released onto the market, making them an interesting addition to any portfolio. Independent Bottlers have been releasing some very well-received expressions. One example is the 2022 release of the Duncan Taylor 2007 Octave. 

It has been clear for some while that the interest in Grain Whisky has been increasing within the whisky enthusiast community, therefore the current 1994 North British casks come highly recommended.

We have North British casks on our current stock list. To find out more about investing in Glen Garioch Whisky, contact The Masters today!

Guyana Rum (Enmore & Uitvlugt Distilleries)

Guyana Rum (Enmore & Uitvlugt Distilleries)

 

The Enmore Sugar Factory was founded in the early 1800s and it was very common for a distillery to be attached to all factories. The famous Enmore still is very unique as it is a wooden column still, which was moved to the Diamond Distillery when Enmore closed its doors for the last time in 1993. Virtually no casks of this rum exist anymore. With tropical aging, you cannot age rum for too long in the Caribbean, certainly not for 30+ years. Therefore, these casks were moved to Liverpool in 1993 and the Guyana rum has spent the majority of its time gently maturing in the cooler climate here. 

The Enmore still is not only the world’s last surviving wooden still but also the world’s oldest operating column still, so an incredible piece of history here. The still was built in 1880, using the original plans of the first Coffey still with, 25 copper plates in the first analyser column, and 32 copper plates in the 2nd rectifying column. 

Regarding the Uitvlugt (pronounced eye-flot) Distillery, they also have a very similar storied history, which can trace its roots back to 1871. Attached again to a sugar factory, this distillery also had a famous wooden still, which was known as the Versailles Still. However, this is one of the oldest pot stills left in existence and is actually 250 years old! The still was originally part of the Versailles distillery, before moving to Uitvlugt and is now to be found at the Diamond Distillery. It is known for producing heavy, distinctively robust, and highly flavourful rum. Only two wooden pot stills are left and both are in Guyana. This is rum making from a long-forgotten bygone age, and there is truly nothing like it in the world. 

Guyanese rum uses the highly sort after Demerara sugar cane. This high-quality cane has been harvested since the 16th century and the rum industry sprung to life not that much later. By the 18th century, British Guyana could actually boast 384 distilleries! The style of rum from this region is very heavy and actually quite aromatic, with so many robust flavours coming to the fore. In our experience, it ages incredibly well and expects to find lots of toasted oak richness, and rum cake, with underlying cooked pineapple notes also coming to the fore. It truly is delicious rum. 

For private clients/independent bottlers, what to consider here is a very rare piece of rum history. Firstly, these historic distilleries were both closed way back in 1993, and this is some of the last rum made with the famous Enmore and Uitvlugt Versailles stills, in their original homes. We suggest that close attention is needed to how the rum is currently maturing. For Indy bottlers, these wonderfully-unique casks are ready for bottling now and it would certainly garner a lot of attention in the rum enthusiast world.

This would become a standout offering, in any company’s collection. Interestingly, in the last few years, there have been signs that rare rum from famous distilleries has become much more investible. Therefore, to purchase this Guyana rum cask now and to hold on to it until it reaches the milestone age of 40 years could be a very savvy move.

We currently have an old & rare 1990 Guyana (Uitvlugt) Barrel on our stock list. To find out more about Rum Cask Investment, contact The Masters today!

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Keepers Of The Quaich – Cask Trade’s Man on the Inside

Keepers Of The Quaich – Cask Trade’s Man on the Inside

Keepers Of The Quaich

It’s the biggest honour in whisky, a highly exclusive ‘club’ and one surrounded by much pomp and ceremony; but what do we really know about the Keepers of the Quaich and how can we get in? Cask Trade finds out…

By their own admission, the Keepers of the Quaich refer to themselves as an exclusive international society. The chosen few travel from all corners of the globe to accept their medal at a ceremony and banquet held at Blair Castle, in Perthshire. The biannual events are attended by the society’s Patrons who include many Earls, Dukes and even a Viscount.

Beyond this, the rest is shrouded in a little mystery. Fortuitously, Cask Trade Board Director Colin Hampden-White has been honoured with the Keeper of the Quaich title and sheds some light on what goes on behind the castle doors.

“The Keepers recognises those who have shown outstanding commitment to the Scotch whisky industry,” says Colin, who adds: “You can’t apply to become a Keeper, you have to be invited and nominated by two people who are already Keepers and one has to sit on the committee. After 15 years of being a Keeper, you can become a Master.”

Colin, who was nominated by the ‘godfather of whisky’ Charlie McLean and Diageo stalwart Nick Morgan, explains how he made the cut.

Colin and Charlie

“You have to have worked in Scotch industry for seven years and done something remarkable. For me it was the creation of Whisky Quarterly which, at the time, was the only upmarket whisky magazine,” says Colin who is one of approximately 2,500 Keepers around the world.

Colin adds: “The Keepers was established by five main companies in the late 80s when whisky was incredibly unpopular. It was set up for people to promote Scotch. Its main function today is still to bang the drum for the industry and reward the people that are doing that by asking them to become a member.”

But what of these banquets held at the spiritual home of the society?

“The biannual dinners celebrate Scotch around the world and are a way to say thank you to the Patrons. There is much pomp surrounding the events including being marched into dinner by a private army of pipers,” says Colin who says the Keepers even have their very own tartan.

However, Colin says the society is much more open these days and welcomes new members to the events which have featured many illustrious guest speakers over the years including former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and HRH The Prince of Wales no less!

To find out more about purchasing Scotch Whisky casks, contact the Masters today.

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