The road between Dufftown and Tomintoul is a motorist’s paradise. No traffic, challenging corners, smooth asphalt and heathery mountains on either side. At the start of August, I found myself carving up the twists and turns in my old TVR with a boot full of Scotch. I was in driving heaven. Nothing short of running out of petrol would have distracted me from my concentrated reverie!
Nothing – apart from Allt-a-Bhainne distillery. Sitting on the side of the road right under the rocky peak of Ben Rinnes, I took a double take and executed a U-turn. A pilgrimage to one of Speyside’s most mysterious distilleries was not to be missed!
If you’re familiar with the Chivas Regal blended Scotch, you’ll be familiar with Allt-a-Bhainne. It’s the main malt ingredient within Chivas. Despite producing a whopping 4 million litres of spirit a year through its four stills, hardly any is consumed as a single malt. We rely solely on select single casks bottled by independent bottlers in order for us to enjoy its secretive delights.
We are lucky enough, to currently hold a couple of 1997 Allt-a-Bhaine casks in stock! Lee and Colin tasted some of the samples and gave us their opinion on the delicious spirt. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you’re interested in more information and to request our latest stock list.
James Scott is no stranger to investing. By day he is a property investor but in his spare time his taste for whisky has turned into a profitable passion. We talked to him about how he first got into buying casks as an investment.
“The interest first and foremost came from my love of whisky, I’ve been into whisky for a long time. I first became a bottle investor but I guess as my appetite grew, it turned into hundreds of bottles and I had issues of storage and cataloguing. It became less fun so I moved into cask investment, which is much clearer and cleaner,” says James who still collects bottles for fun and particularly enjoys drinking heavily peated whisky.
James explains he first started investing in cask whisky 18 months ago.
“I started investing in casks only a year and a half ago so I am a fairly new cask investor. I decided investing in bottles was just becoming troublesome in terms of the logistics, plus the market was flattening a little bit compared to the previous 5 years. When whisky is in the bottle it doesn’t age, whereas when it’s in the cask you can leave it for a couple of years if it’s not the right time to sell,” he explains.
James’ first experience of buying a cask was not great. He advises fellow investors to work with a reputable company who understands the market and the detailed processes involved.
He says: “I bought a cask which, thankfully, I managed to sell at a break even cost but it was a very full price. Companies out there sell things at huge mark ups for no reason and therefore it will be a long time before investors see any return on their investment, let alone any profit.”
James, who admits to have invested in a lot of casks, says: “I think if you are going to invest in an asset class you should do it properly. If you are going to invest in something you may as well go into it strong. As I get to know the market much better I am making more opinioned purchases.”
He adds: “I’ve bought over 25 casks and sold about 10% of what I’ve bought and the reason for that is portfolio management. Someone offered me a profit on one and there were some I didn’t think I would make much profit on in the next couple of years. As you buy more you look at your portfolio mix very carefully.”
Why Cask Trade?
“Cask Trade was one of the first fully legit companies I’ve come across. I now see Simon as a friend and I’ve been to a whisky tasting at his house. He got into it in the same way as me – from a love of whisky, to collecting bottles and then buying casks. The team Simon has assembled really know the market inside out and it’s a great way to do business. It’s not just a business to buy and sell, it’s a ‘look after your customer’ kind of business and they have been happy to advise me on other casks I’ve bought elsewhere,” says James, who adds: “They are able to buy for you, sell for you and even bottle for you.”
Another reason James works with Cask Trade is because of the world class stock list and access to exclusive, hard-to-source casks.
“You control your own stock which means no-one else has that list. For example, I was offered a cask at £3k and the most expensive I saw same cask for was £6,000, which is a massive difference. If you own that stock that’s not happening. You are in control of that price,” he explains.
James says buying casks started out as a hobby but now admits to it being a small obsession. “I have recently sold some casks that showed a healthy 20% net return over 12 months, which I think is fair enough. Those were the casks I didn’t want to hold onto, so to see a 20% profit in a year is very healthy,” says James.
“Whisky is much more liquid as an asset class than property”, says James, adding: “In terms of cask whisky investment, it’s dealing on mass with smaller items. For example, I could sell a cask today if I wanted to realise some cash, you can’t do that with real estate as that could take months and months at a minimum.”
James has entered a cask into the next online auction taking place from 14th August. Auctionyourcask.com allows private owners and investors to sell their cask to independent bottlers and other investors all around the world. To sign up to bid in the live auction, register here: https://www.auctionyourcask.com/members/login
Know when it’s time to graduate from whisky bottles to casks.
Simon Aron is the Managing Director of Cask Trade and Auction Your Cask.Apassionate 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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!
Auchentoshan barrel – distilled on 04/12/1997 – Cask A
RLA of 74.5 at 50.0% abv
Estimated 213 bottles at cask strength
Fresh and floral with a sweet maltiness. Dried apricot, coconut sponge with custard, lychee, preserved lemon.
Sweet and fresh with pear, ginger, elderflower, cinnamon buns and hard-boiled sweets.
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
Rich and warming with butterscotch, praline, meadow flowers, white grape, toasted brioche and honeysuckle.
Sweet and fruity with a light spice. Baked apples, toffee, honeysuckle and cake frosting with a rich mouthfeel.
Rich and toasty with subtle lingering toasted malt and spices.
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:
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.
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.
Message us to request the latest stock list with more information on the casks or sign up and we’ll contact you.
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…
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.
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 WoodfordReserve 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!
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:
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.
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.
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!
At Cask Trade, we are fortunate to have a few of these rare casks that are very difficult to come by as single cask! They include ex-bourbon barrels filled with whisky distilled in January 1997 and Hogsheads containing Caperdonich from November 1997.
James Grant founded the Caperdonich distillery in 1897 by and built it across the road from Glen Grant distillery. He originally named it ‘Glen Grant Number 2’ as the distillery was built to increase the Grants capacity to match an increased demand from the market. It was, therefore, built as a replica of Glen Grant, including identical stills, water source and barley.
Interestingly, a pipe was fitted between the two distilleries as they were both, in essence, producing the same spirit. That way, new make spirit from Caperdonich could be sent across the street to be put in casks at Glen Grant. Stories tell of locals trying to access the “whisky pipe” in the dead of night. At the start of the 20th century, there was a crash in the whisky industry, known as the Pattison Crisis. This event resulted in Glen Grant Number 2 closing in 1902.
Glen Grant Number 2 lay dormant until 1965 when the distillery was revitalised by The Glenlivet and Glen Grant. The distillery had to be legally renamed in 1967, as laws had changed since 1902 that forbade distilleries from sharing a name. That is how Caperdonich, meaning secret well, was born and the distillery started producing whisky again.
Since then, Caperdonich’s spirit character had mysteriously changed and was no longer a replica of Glen Grants. It was mostly destined for the blending market, with the majority heading into Chivas Regal and Passport blends. Most of the Caperdonich produced was drunk young as a component in blended whisky. As a result, There is very little Caperdonich left, in casks, aging as a single malt. Pernod Richard purchased Caperdonich in 2000 and closed the distillery for a second time in 2002. The buildings were unfortunately demolished in 2011.
Caperdonich produced an elegant and floral whisky. Similar to Glen Grant but with less of its signature green apple character and more spice and plenty of fruit. Caperdonich’s distinctive and delicious whisky style, combined with its rarity, has resulted in a significant increase in demand since the distillery stopped producing new whisky in 2002. The demand and reputation of Caperdonich is reflected in the prices of recent single cask bottle prices. – Most coming in at £200-£500 a bottle for Caperdonich aged 20-24 years old.
Following our 2009 Macduff casks are two hogsheads from 2007. Macduff produces some of the sweetest and most honeyed spirit in all of the Highlands. It’s the main component in Dewar’s, not only the best-selling blend in the USA but the most awarded blended whisky in the world!
It is very rare to find Macduff as a single malt, let alone a single cask. It’s a superb alternative to whiskies such as Glen Moray and Fettercairn, and at an excellent price of 10-year-old whisky (equivalent to £15 a bottle!) a perfect cask to start your journey into cask ownership.
Global markets have suffered huge losses and as the COVID-19 epidemic continues, assets across the investment spectrum have depreciated ahead of what is likely to be a global recession.
In these uncertain times, investors are looking for a safe haven. Cask Trade has recorded its best month ever in March. We have had a big uptake in interest from Asia, in particular Hong Kong and Singapore.
A word from the managing director
Simon Aron says casks of whisky are fast becoming the investment choice for people looking for an alternative that is less uncertain. “Whisky is one of the only assets that appreciates the older it gets. It is still completely detached to financial markets, which makes it a safe haven for investors.”
“Asia has really woken up to whisky. Especially since the economy in Hong Kong, Singapore and China gets back to some sense of normality,” says Simon. “Our new Asian customers are very enterprising. They have a love of whisky so they keep some, bottle some of the casks they are buying and generally trade others. They enjoy our keener prices and transparent way of business, as well as our excellent stock which I believe is the best in the world.” – Feel free to message us if you would like to gain access to our latest stock list.
Whisky on the rise
In the last 10 years, whisky has far outstripped the more established alternative assets such as art, cars, wines, watches and jewellery and is now one of the most coveted objects of desire. In 2019, whisky was one of the top performing luxury investments.
Results of The Knight Frank Wealth Report’s new unique luxury investment index reveals whisky was one of the most coveted objects of desire.
The report says Rare Whisky has grown in value the most over the last 10 years at +564% and increased by +5% in the past 12 months; and states casks remained in huge demand. By comparison cars have seen an increase of 194%, art by 141% and wine by 120%.
“I have received calls from hedge fund managers in New York looking for financial modelling on large portfolios of cask whisky.” Says Simon, and adds: “Through any economic downturn alcohol sales remain constant and even go up.”
Are you in it for the £££? Well, let’s talk numbers! Either was, surely, there is something in our extensive stock that will catch your eye. Whether you are a first-time buyer or a seasoned investor, we are happy to answer all of your questions.
Glen Garioch (pronounced ‘Geery’) is one of the very oldest whisky distilleries. It was established in 1797 in an area of Aberdeenshire. – Renowned for producing the finest barley in all of Scotland.
Glen Garioch is owned by Suntory (who also own the world-famous Yamazaki and Bowmore distilleries) and is popular in duty free and the Asian market. These distilleries produce millions of litres of spirit a year. In comparison, Glen Garioch remains a small distillery, distilling 700,000 litres a year. It focuses on tradition and quality.
The distillate, while capable of producing excellent young releases, is best aged for over 15 years. Old releases of Glen Garioch are renowned for being especially complex and balanced. Especially when aged in the more sympathetic subtle traditional ‘refill’ bourbon casks.
When tasting the samples of our 2008 casks, we were delighted to find that they exemplified this distillery’s unique character with plenty of sweet malt and delicate floral flavours.
Our casks were distilled in October of 2008, being currently 11 years old. I would recommend holding them for at least four years until they are 15 years old. But these would ideally be bottled at 18 years old, a true sweet-spot for this whisky.
These have been in high demand and if you are interested in learning more, do not hesitate to get in touch with us!
Leo tried a different 2008 Glen Garioch cask to James’, to compare, find out what he thought about it – on Youtube!