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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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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A Drink with… Colin Hampden-White

A Drink with… Colin Hampden-White

Colin Hampden-White

From self-confessed whisky geek since his university days to becoming a wine connoisseur and making a hit Amazon Prime TV Show about drinks along the way, Cask Trade’s Board Director Colin Hampden-White shares with us some of his many interesting career highlights.

Born at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital into a military family in 1971, Colin spent much of his childhood travelling the world living in many places including Germany, Kenya and Sudan. Despite a burning desire to become a professional photographer, Colin studied surveying and geography at Edinburgh University before becoming a quantity surveyor working in Glasgow.

His passion for photography never abated so he moved to Edinburgh and persuaded The Scotsman team to look at his portfolio of work. Unexpectedly, they gave him a job where he spent a few months working on the Edinburgh Evening News and two years at The Scotsman. Self-taught, but with a lot of help from the photographers at The Scotsman, Colin shot a wide variety of different things for the newspaper, but he had a penchant for portraits.

A move to London saw Colin freelancing for various national newspapers before landing a job with the Financial Times in 2004, shooting business portraits for a year before returning to freelance life.

Wine glass

The Greatest Whisky and Winemakers

In 2007 Colin secured representation at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery, and held solo exhibitions in London for the Greatest Winemakers and in New York named the Greatest Whisky Makers. His work was also exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in 2011. With unprecedented access to the world’s top wineries and distilleries, Colin was then asked if he would start writing about the producers crafting the products.

Colin says: “A friend of mine worked for Farr Vintners and I was invited to photograph the Bordeaux En Primeur campaign with them. I went to Bordeaux and photographed winemakers and did the same in Champagne and Burgundy. Very quickly I got a very expensive palate!”

Dividing his time between photography for the likes of Vogue Italia and writing for Lux, owned by Darius Sanai the Editor in Chief of Conde Nast, Colin improved his wine and whisky knowledge by attending as many trade tastings as possible.

Colin says: “I spent two years improving my wine knowledge and joined the Circle of Wine Writers which gave me access to the tastings, and I learned off of as many people as I could. Initially, I went through the typical journey of old-world wine – Bordeaux followed by Burgundy – and then I started to discover new-world including California, Argentina, and wines from Australia in the Barossa and McLaren Vale.”

Colin Hampden-White judging whiskies

Whisky in Words

Colin became friends with Krzysztof Maruszewski the owner of a wine investment company called Stilnovisti, who wanted to start a whisky publication. Whisky was started in Poland and Colin became the editor. In the same year, he also had the idea for Whisky Quarterly and was the founding editor when it launched in 2015. Whisky Quarterly was a luxury magazine, initially printing only 1,000 copies going to super-high net worth individuals.

By now, Colin was already a judge for the International Wine & Spirits Challenge. He then became the Chairman of the Circle of Wine Writers, where he helped to encourage a younger, more diversified and international membership. In 2016 he was honoured to be invited to become a Keeper of the Quaich in recognition of his service to the whisky industry. In 2021 became a member of the Worshipful Company of Distillers.

The Three Drinkers

Like all good ideas, the brainchild for The Three Drinkers television series was born over a dram or three at Milroy’s with co-hosts Helena Nicklin and Aidy Smith, who had a desire for digital communication.

“Once I had met Aidy and I learned he was doing a video on social channels and I knew Helena wanted to do some video work, I thought those two should work together,” explains Colin who says the trio knew someone at Amazon who really liked the concept for the show.

Colin adds: “We sat down and thought about how we were going to make it. I had an idea to go to all the people I had met in Scotch over the last six years, pitch it to them and raise the money. The executive producer is a very good friend of mine and he managed to pull in the talent behind the cameras to make it happen.”

From concept to launch was just nine months and The Three Drinkers is now in its second season on Amazon Prime.

Colin, Charlie MacLean and Director Lee

Joining Cask Trade

Colin joined Cask Trade soon after the company launched in 2019. As a Board Director, Colin initially helped with a degree of quality control and, as the company expanded and needed greater supply, he started to help source casks. Now, Colin has the enviable task of tasting samples of whisky, rum and Armagnac and sharing his notes with the Cask Trade team and customers.

Outside his role with Cask Trade, Colin divides his time between London and Sussex with his wife Caroline and is a judge for many prestigious industry organisations including the World Whisky Awards and Scottish Whisky Awards. He is also a consultant to other wine and whisky companies providing them with content, video, and writing.

What bottles can be found in your recycling bin?

Alongside the many bottles of sparkling water essential for hydration, Colin has recently enjoyed a range of wines and whiskies from around the world. With around 900 bottles in his temperature and humidity-controlled home storage room, and more bottles stored in bond, Colin has a wide variety to choose from.

Fox Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, McLaren Vale, Australia

1991 Single Malt Islay from The Wine Society

Kentucky Owl for St Patricks Day Bottling

Viking Wines 2002 from Barossa, Australia

Volnay Premier Cru, Domaine Perrin 2009, Burgundy, France

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste 1999, Bordeaux, France

Bodegas Caro 2000 (1st vintage made) Domaines Barons de Rothschild, Mendoza Argentinian

Donnhoff Riesling Spatlese 2000, Germany

As much as I love whisky it is also my work. If I don’t want to analyse and intellectualise about whisky then I will always reach for a Johnny Walker Black Label served as is, or maybe with a little bit of water,” says Colin who has also recently been enjoying tequila and grapefruit tonic, a twist on a Paloma cocktail.

Colin enjoying a wine

What do you like most about Cask Trade, and why should people invest in Whisky Casks?

“My two favorite things about Cask Trade are the people and the transparency. What you see is what you get with us, there’s no smoke and mirrors. This is important when it comes to whisky cask purchasing.Whisky casks are able to take you on an emotional journey as well as a profitable one.” says Colin.

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

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Whisky Heroes – Ian Wisniewski

Whisky Heroes – Ian Wisniewski

Whisky Heroes

Ian Wisniewski writes about spirits, particularly whisky. He finds the production process endlessly fascinating and visits distilleries as often as possible, as he sees this as the best place to learn more. He’s also very interested in the influence of glassware and dilution in the resulting flavour profile, and in the way that we perceive aromas and flavours, through the amazing cooperation between the palate, olfactory and the brain. Apart from that, he finds it really enjoyable to experience the flavours and character of a whisky without any analysis or thought, and just to feel it.

Can you remember your first dram?
Yes, vividly. My first dram as a spirits writer was The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 year old, in the company of the then Master Blender David Stewart which added enormous significance to the experience, as I asked him how the different flavours were created. His replies ignited my passion for whisky and the production process. Scotch whisky drunk before this was entirely pragmatic and consumed with a mixer for the effect, not the flavour. 

What attracted you to the industry? 
I was always very interested in food and drink, but assumed this would remain a personal interest and that my love of the Arts would provide a career opportunity. I applied for various jobs in journalism and was offered a job by a drinks magazine, which I accepted as I really liked the editor and the location of the office, just off Jermyn Street. Within a few months I found the drinks industry fascinating as there are so many aspects; production, innovation, packaging design, advertising, PR, on-trade and off-trade, and they all need each other.

Can you share some memorable moments of your career or with whisky?
Some memorable moments are personal and emotional. For instance, walking from Bowmore distillery with a dram enjoyed on the edge of Loch Indaal, on a quiet, moonlit night. Becoming a Keeper of the Quaich and then a Master of the Quaich was amazing, being among so many whisky people in a beautiful setting, and enjoying an amazing banquet. Visiting Aberlour and being snowed in at the Craigellachie Hotel which extended the visit.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to whisky?
It depends whether you want to go for full Geek and Nerd status, or remain a normal person who enjoys whisky without being addicted to detail. For the latter it’s easy; keep enjoying whisky, there’s no need to be an authority to enjoy the flavours, they are rewarding in themselves. To attain ‘Geekhood’, attend as many events and distilleries as possible and particularly tutored tastings. If you don’t like some whiskies it’s ok to say that, you will find plenty you do like! Also, read as much as you can. There are many sources of information, but keep an open and challenging mind so that you reach your own verdicts.

How much should someone spend on a bottle of whisky?
As much as you can afford.

If you could only drink one whisky for the rest of your life which one would it be?
Bruichladdich Valinch 1986. I tasted this at a launch event hosted by Jim McEwan, who is an amazing speaker as he conveys knowledge and emotion.

Who do you consider to be a whisky icon?
It is very difficult to name one person, because there are so many incredibly talented people in the industry and so many different aspects of the industry: production, innovation, blending, coopering, packaging design, distillery design and installation, ambassadorial work, cocktail creation and whisky communicators.

The late Dr Jim Swann was truly inspirational and very generous with his knowledge, I worked with him on a few projects and discussed articles with him, and it was a truly enriching and enlightening experience. Richard Forsyth is an icon of distillery design and construction, and also very generous with his knowledge which has elevated many of my articles and books. I have also been incredibly lucky to benefit from the immense experience and insights of Dr Jim Beveridge, Dr Bill Lumsden, Brian Kinsman, Alexandre Sakon, Dr Rachel Barrie, Emma Walker and Martine Nouet.

What is your favourite whisky bar in the UK and globally?
Can I turn this into an opportunity to state my favourite bar in which I have enjoyed whisky? It is the bar at the Hotel Kamp in Helsinki. My favourite bar that specialises in whisky is in the Craigellachie Hotel, partly because of the selection available and partly because of the amazing times I’ve enjoyed there with other whisky lovers. Also, after a great dramming session, it really helps that it’s just a short journey up the stairs to get to my room…!

Desert Island dram?
Glenmorangie 21-year-old Sauternes Finish as it combines elegance with complexity and the range of flavours includes Tarte Tatin, one of my favourite desserts. I love whiskies that deliver but also retain an element of enigma and mystery, which compels me to have another sip.

What do you enjoy drinking when you arent having a whisky?
Cocktails! One reason I love cocktails is the theatricality of seeing them prepared; it’s like bar counter choreography, and the sense of occasion this creates. I also love the twilight atmosphere and the design of cocktail bars. My favourite cocktails include the Margarita, with as much salt and lemon as possible, Bloody Mary which I like with a lot of lemon juice, horseradish, and celery salt (but not with Sherry). My love of citrus also explains why I’ll happily sip a Sidecar.

Polish vodka, especially Zubrowka, has such a complex flavour, and because this is the country my family originates from, there is also an emotional element. The same applies to a delicious Polish speciality, sok z czarnej porzeczki (blackcurrant juice).

Whisky Heroes

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Coby Bull’s Lapland Adventure

Coby Bull’s Lapland Adventure

Coby Bull

It’s fair to say that Coby Bull is one of life’s great adventurers. His inspiration was compounded after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 19. He made a promise that not only would he recover from the disease, but he would live life to the full by setting himself a challenge each year to raise money for charity.

These adventures started with spending three months in Thailand learning Muay Thai (Thai Boxing,) and then cycling the 330 miles from London to Paris on an old second-hand bike. The gruelling London marathon was particularly tough, as was climbing a frozen waterfall in Utah. Possibly the most dangerous challenge to date was swimming through the shark-infested waters from the old Alcatraz prison island across San Francisco Bay.

Coby sledding

Sweden to Norway by Dog Sled

All these incredible feats though were no match for Coby’s latest challenge – crossing Lapland on a sled pulled by huskies. The temperature was going to be a ‘mild’ -20c with heavy snow, ice, and wolves – all part of the fun…! The distance covered on the challenge would be 300 miles, across the top of Sweden into Norway, in just five days.

He would be living like a Laplander – building tents in the snow, open fires for cooking, and ice fishing on frozen lakes, plus the not so easy task of looking after a team of huskies. Coby’s wife on the eve of the journey helpfully pointed out that “You get cold in the house with the heating on! How are you can survive -20c?!” Even he was having second thoughts about this one…  

The charity Coby was raising money for was CHAI Cancer Care, an organisation close to his heart. Cask Trade is one of his key sponsors providing him with a very high-tech Arctic survival jacket (from the specialist Shackleton store on Regent Street no less), plus some of his other equipment. All kitted out, the next stop was Sweden for some training on how to survive in the Arctic Circle and how to control a team of huskies on a sled. This was when he truly started to appreciate what he was taking on!

Coby's Cask Trade sponsored jacket

A Summer Tent in Freezing Temperatures 

After training and winning over (bribing with snacks!) the affection and loyalty of his new team of huskies, the adventure finally began, with the first 50-mile leg of the journey through forests and across frozen lakes. Some of the initial perils to deal with were low-hanging branches and of course, the freezing temperatures. Setting up camp on the first night proved to be a major obstacle as the snow was waist deep and the hands didn’t work so well being frozen, especially with three pairs of gloves on! These relatively minor inconveniences were cemented when they realised that the tents packed for them were of the summer camping variety. Maybe ok for a weekend at Glastonbury but not so good for the bitter harsh climate up in the latitude of 65 North!

Summer tent

The next day waking up frozen solid consisted of another 60 miles of sledding through the snow, helpfully fortified by a flask of cask strength Glenallachie 18-year-old (possibly the most important donation from Cask Trade!), before finally setting up camp. The plan then was in true Laplander tradition to go on an ice fishing expedition to provide some extra valuable protein…The number of fish caught – 0. He quickly realised he was no Laplander, and the weather was closing in!

Ice fishing

Total Whiteout 

The following day proved to be particularly challenging as the weather certainly took a turn for the worse, with the temperatures plummeting and the snow so thick that the conditions were a whiteout. He could only see a few feet in front of him! This was not only scary but incredibly dangerous also. Coby said this was the toughest day, as progress was also painfully slow at about two miles per hour, and that he was so cold that he had to hold onto the sled with his elbows, as his hands wouldn’t function. Then, two of the huskies deciding to have a scrap just added to the fun. This was certainly not needed as he was now completely reliant on the dogs bringing him to safety.

There were certainly moments on this day when he thought he wasn’t going to make it. Thankfully, he eventually made it to camp and collapsed with exhaustion in his tent. The next day was a godsend as the weather had cleared and the sky consisted of brilliant sunshine. Progress was good as the huskies bounded across the frozen landscape towards Norway and civilization. He was getting closer…

Northern lights

Challenge Completed 

Two more days of being frozen, awful boil in the bag food, and all the other discomforts that accompanied him on this epic journey were still to come, but the motivation was high and it was an emotional moment when his sled finally pulled into the Norwegian husky station. He had done it! The toughest challenge to date completed. A night at the Ice Hotel beckoned. Never had the spartan accommodation seemed so luxurious. Internet,  a hot shower, and a warm bed. Pure indulgence! The next day he would be back in London with his wife and Enzo his golden retriever. He had survived. 

All of us at Cask Trade are so proud of Coby’s achievements, his determination, and refusal to quit when the going gets tough. He is certainly an extraordinary guy. 

To date, Coby has raised £20,000 for CHAI. You can still contribute to Coby’s fantastic cause by heading to his Just Giving page.

Coby Bull and the dogs

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Meet the Masters – Jordan Edwards

Meet the Masters – Jordan Edwards

Meet the Masters

Sales & Marketing Executive Jordan is the latest member to join our quirky team of Whisky Masters. From humble bartender to Brand Ambassador, Jordan’s career in whisky has just gone from (cask) strength to strength!

How long have you worked for Cask Trade?
Just one week!

What first ignited your passion for Whisky?
Working as a bartender during my student days at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms, where they had a premium selection of Scotch. Brand Ambassadors would routinely host training and tell us the stories behind the brands, which I loved!

What are your top three favourite World whiskies and why?
Glenburgie, Glenmorangie and Glengoyne. All three distilleries were among the first I had visited and they all typically capture my favourite style of whisky!

What are your favourite flavours? Which aspects of whisky are the most important for you?
Fruity (particularly tropical) and floral flavours are my favourites, I like a whisky with a great balance of spirit character and cask influence.

Your favourite whisky cocktail?
Penicillin.

Whisky with water or straight cask strength?
With Water.

What do you like most about Cask Trade?
The people I work with and the environment I work in. It’s a whisky lover’s paradise!

Why should people invest in Whisky Casks?
Whisky casks are a fun, engaging investment that offers something for everyone with different budgets,  interests and investment timelines in mind.

To find out more about what Cask Trade can do for you, don’t hesitate to contact the team today and let’s talk whisky!

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Make Room Macallan – Make Way for the Rising Stars of Whisky

Make Room Macallan – Make Way for the Rising Stars of Whisky

 

The simple guiding principle that all investors aspire to and agree on is to obviously buy low and sell high. For instance, in the early noughties, you could pick up a bottle of Yamazaki 18-year-old for about £40. This month it was selling for £1000 on the UK Scotch Auction sites! The price now has completely spiraled upwards to a point where the quality of whisky has no relationship with the value of the bottle. Is purchasing a bottle of Yamasaki 18 today a good investment? That is certainly debatable.

It’s reasonable to assume that the price will continue to rise, and you are purchasing something with intrinsic value, however, it is also reasonable to think that the investment value has gone from this particular expression. The same has happened not just in the world of certain whisky bottles, but even more so in the whisky cask marketplace.  

The Macallan Effect

Currently, there seems to be an almost cult-like obsession to own an old cask from a famous single malt distillery, especially Macallan. Casks though do have a shelf life and have to be bottled at some point. Therefore, if you could find a cask of 25+ year Macallan and be able to afford the highly-likely six-figure purchase price, then this would certainly go down as a very prestigious cask to own. It is also likely that there will be many admiring, envious comments from your friends, whisky aficionados, and people in general.

Macallan distillery

You may even enjoy the reflective glow of a certain amount of local media attention. Is it a good investment though? You would have to consider that your highly-prized purchase and its value are fraught with danger. Here’s why… Firstly, how much longer does the whisky in the cask have to mature? Even if it is currently in good health, at some point the oak will start to overpower the whisky, and the value will plummet if it tastes like liquid wood. Also, if the ABV drops below 40% then it can no longer be called Scotch whisky. You’ll need to have very regular cask health checks.

Secondly, a cask of this age will only have one main exit strategy, which are trade customers in the form of Independent Bottlers. The trade is business-savvy and whisky-knowledgeable. Even if the whisky is in very good shape, they will only buy the cask for what they can sell the bottles for, adding on their margins and the taxes that HMRC encumbers all bottlers with. At this point are you even in profit? Nothing is of course certain, but the risk factor is certainly very high!

Buy Low, Sell High

Let’s return to the guiding principle of buy low and sell high. In the 1980s and 1990s, single malt whisky was only just becoming established (most of it was tipped into blends at that point). It was less than 3% of the global whisky market. In most countries, few people would’ve even heard of Macallan, Springbank, Ardbeg, Bowmore, etc. Casks of whisky from these distilleries were available at that time if you knew the right people to talk to, and compared to the prices today were incredibly cheap.

Bowmore distillery

The question for investors is, “where do I find value in the cask whisky marketplace today?” Our advice is to look at younger or medium-aged casks from distilleries whose brand equity is rising. The key milestone ages for whisky casks are 10/12/15/18/21/25 years; this is connected to the bottling market where most whiskies are bottled at this age and generally increase in value when they reach one of these key dates. Therefore, look for ‘rising stars’ from the distilleries at an age that suits your own investment strategy. Three distilleries that are currently on our stock list that fit these criteria are Glen Moray 2008 barrels, Ardmore 2009 barrels, and Craigellachie 2009 sherry butts.  

Glen Moray (founded 1897)

This Speyside distillery is owned by French company La Martiniquaise which since taking over ownership in 2008 has started investing heavily in the single malt brand. A stylish repackaging combined with a number of innovative new cask-finish expressions has since been released. Previously this distillery just made single malt for the Label No.5 blend but now is being discovered by whisky consumers around the world. 

Glen Moray

Ardmore (founded 1898)

Another distillery that is certainly undervalued. Owned by Beam-Suntory and thus a sister distillery of both Bowmore, Laphroaig and Yamasaki, this company certainly knows how to make great whisky. Ardmore until recently was hidden away in the Highlands making whisky for the Teacher’s blend. This was a crying shame as the liquid is absolutely delicious with soft peat underpinning a fruity but weighty single malt. Whisky aficionados have known about Ardmore for a while but with sales increasing the brand equity is certainly on the rise.

Ardmore Distillery

Craigellachie (founded 1891)

Owned by John Dewars & Sons and part of the huge Bacardi Company, this distillery produces a very traditional style malt, which is revered by the whisky drinking community. In 2014 a core range was introduced, and the expansion of the single malt brand around the world is there for all to see. Bacardi has a huge global distribution network – lookout for Craigellachie coming to a bar/whisky shop near you very soon… A brand on the rise.

Craigellachie Distillery

Conclusion

To conclude, the question that investors in cask whisky should ask themselves next time an old and rare prestigious cask comes onto the marketplace is, “should I buy a cask at the top of the market, or would I be better off having a balanced portfolio of 10/15 casks from different distilleries?” These distilleries have great potential, are aged in different casks, are from different regions, and are all at different ages. A balanced portfolio with younger and more medium-aged casks from these types of rising star distilleries can be more rewarding and certainly less risky than one prestigious old cask…!

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

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It’s All About the Exit – We Offer 5 Unique Exit Strategies

It’s All About the Exit – We Offer 5 Unique Exit Strategies

 

Owning a cask of whisky has many benefits and advantages that other alternative assets don’t enjoy, but it does have a shelf life, and at some point, it has to be bottled. Gold or commodities for example have a ready-made market, and thus your exit is clear and straightforward.

However, owning a whisky cask takes a little more strategy in both your entry and exit strategies. In this article, we are going to explore the five clear exit options that Cask Trade can offer so you the investor can fully understand what is right for you, and we will explain some of the nuances and pitfalls you may not have unearthed. 

Before purchasing your cask there are a number of questions for you to consider; which distillery, what type of cask, what age of whisky, what is your budget, are you looking for a short, medium, or long-term hold? In terms of distilleries, the well-known ones are already quite expensive, which is partly due to the fact that huge investment has gone into building up their global brand equity.

The value is in looking for the distilleries that are either the future rising stars, or are not currently being marketed. The quality of the whisky they are producing is just as good as the ‘big names’ and the Independent Bottlers all around the world are keen on purchasing these casks. Whisky enthusiasts gravitate towards drinking single cask, unfiltered, unadulterated whisky, and this niche in the market is provided by these bottlers. They of course have their business model and margins, therefore, many look for high-quality but good-value whisky. This generally comes from the lesser-known distilleries. 

There are many unscrupulous brokers who are wildly inflating the prices and who cannot offer you five genuine exits, but with some careful due diligence, they can be avoided. Cask Trade is a stockist, meaning we own all the stock that we sell, and we offer the same price to trade as to private customers. We are also a fully UK licensed company and we’ll be there at every step of the way on your journey, including when you are ready to cash in on your whisky. That being said, let’s explore the five key exit strategies.

Exit Strategies

Exit No.1To sell the cask back to the company you bought it from – Cask Trade’s Buy Back Guarantee 

This sounds like an easy option. Of course, you may think that the company you bought it from will be eager to buy that cask back from you. But will they? Firstly, do they have the cash flow? Is there a market demand for your cask? Do they have enough customers/bottlers to sell it to? Are they going to offer you a price for you to realise enough (any) profit? If the company has sold the cask to you at an already inflated price, it’s doubtful they are going to make you an offer.

Of course, there is a possible happy outcome here; if you’ve paid a fair price, the cask has the potential to achieve a decent profit. If market conditions have been favourable and you haven’t achieved any profit, then you’ve simply overpaid for your cask. At this point, you only have two options available to you. You either keep the cask, or sell it. To summarise, this is the easiest, most convenient exit strategy for many investors.

Our advice to avoid the loss highlighted above is to always ask for proof or examples of how the casks have been bought back and resold in the past. The only way that successful investments are bought and sold is if there is an active marketplace.  Cask Trade is the only true marketplace globally that has an equal number of bottlers and private clients for the exit. We will make you an offer to purchase the cask back. This way, you are guaranteed a buyer, even at short notice – at 0% cost to you. Any company which cannot satisfy this important piece of criteria will not be buying your cask back from you.

Finally, a myth needs to be dispelled. Distilleries DO NOT buy casks back. Why would a distillery buy back a cask at a huge loss to themselves when they have, in some cases, 100,000s of their own casks? Only a very old, very rare, cask from a famous distillery would even be considered. If you do happen to own a 50-year-old Macallan sherry butt in excellent health, then it might be worth contacting Edrington (Macallans owner). If not, then we doubt they’ll give it the time of day.

Exit Strategies

Exit No.2 – Cask Trade can re-sell the cask for you on our stock list 

In this scenario, we’ll discuss the target price with you, and once agreed, we’ll sell the cask for you at no extra cost, apart from a small charge for a regauge and sample. This will give a health check to your cask and the sample will tell us how the cask is maturing and how it is currently tasting. When setting your price, you may want to consider; are there are any similar casks on the stock list? What is the supply and demand of those casks? Is this the right time to list it? Whisky casks tend to be more desirable to bottlers when they reach the key milestone ages of 10/12/15/18/21/25 (if your cask is, for example, 16 years of age it might be worth holding on for another two years so it can be sold at 18 years).

At Cask Trade, we send our stock list to over 3500 customers globally. Half of these customers are Independent Bottlers, and so your cask on our list would gain exposure to a global audience of potential buyers. The real skill here is setting the right price. If you inflate the price too much, then the bottlers won’t be interested, and you are narrowing down the chances of being able to exit. Again, it’s only with a very old and rare cask that testing the waters with an inflated price might be worth the chance. This is by far the most common exit, and we have 100s of examples of casks we have bought back and resold.

Exit Strategies

Exit No.3 – Auction Your Cask 

This is an open, transparent option for your exit strategy. The process here is to pay for a regauge and sample and to set a reserve price. There is no other cost to the seller as we add on a 15% buyer’s fee. The advantage of an online auction is that the potential number of buyers is much higher and you’re casting your net much wider – in fact, it opens  it up to the whole world. 

However, there are a few questions you must ask; is your cask in a warehouse where others can take ownership? An auction is also in the public domain therefore this is not a discreet, private sale. Is this important to you? It is very different from a bottle auction as you are buying a product that you’ll probably never see and of course, it won’t be delivered to your front door. Many of the well-known bottle auction houses have failed at cask auctions as it is a very different dynamic and process. To reiterate, the person selling the cask(s) needs all the paperwork to transfer the ownership. Cask Trade has warehouse accounts all over Scotland to help this process. Anyone can buy and sell a bottle…It is not the same.

Exit Strategies

Exit No.4 – Bottle your cask

Cask Trade can facilitate the bottling process using our new bottling service, Regent Street Cask Bottlers. This service is available upon request.

Unless you have a license to retail whisky then bottling your cask is going to be purely for pleasure. Your option at this point is to either gift it, or drink it. You also might want to consider that a 10-year whisky matured in a sherry butt is likely to furnish you with 600-700 bottles. Beware – you’re going to get a very large delivery to your house! Generally bottling a cask for private consumption only works in the corporate gifting world, or for a celebration like a wedding or anniversary. You will be responsible for all the bottling, labelling, and design costs, plus all taxes and duties.

Exit Strategies

Exit No.5 – You can sell your cask to a third party 

You are free to sell the cask privately and Cask Trade can help you facilitate the sale, as long as the cask is held under our license. However, we would have to collect due diligence on the new owner and here we just would charge a nominal fee of £50 +VAT. As long as these conditions can be satisfied then it is a very simple process. 

When to exit? 

Once you have understood and considered the various options, your exit strategies should be used judiciously. To maximise your profit, it is very important that you exit at the time that is right for the whisky. On some occasions, you may want to test the marketplace and see what offers are available and then decide to continue longer on your ownership journey.

There are two limiting factor:
1) Ultimately all whisky does have to be bottled at some point, as it doesn’t go on forever.
2) It has to be of the right quality for the buyer. If the whisky is too young, then no Independent Bottler will be interested in bottling it, and if it has spent too long in the cask then it will taste of wood, which means it will have no value. Scotch whisky rules also dictate that whisky must be more than 40% ABV, and as the whisky matures it doesn’t just lose volume through evaporation (the angels share), but also alcohol strength. Therefore, if you have a very old cask and the ABV is in the low 40s then even if it still tastes very good, it will need to be bottled fairly soon. 

To conclude – if you are investing in any alternative asset, it is not just about the investing, but making your money work for you. Invest – take profit – invest again and so on. Our advice is to buy casks at different ages in different types of wood and from different distilleries. A versatile portfolio will then spread any risk and give you multiple exit points. Therefore, it is important that you not only enter your investment with the right cask at the right price, but you invest with a company that can provide you with five, genuine, exit strategies and a real marketplace. 

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

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Whisky Heroes – Greg Dillon

Whisky Heroes – Greg Dillon

Whisky heroes

An award-winning drinks writer, Greg Dillon is also the founder of GreatDrams.com and has recently authored his first whisky book, The GreatDrams of Scotland; a conversational book of distillery stories, anecdotes, and historical accounts from distilleries all over Scotland. Greg co-founded GreatDrams Ventures with his wife Kirsty and in their first five years have won over 30 international awards for their limited-edition whisky releases.

Greg is also a brand strategist and social media consultant, working with brands big and small within the spirits industry to define, fix, build and grow their brands.

Greg is a judge on several whisky judging panels including:

•The Spirits Business Masters
•The IWSC
•The IWSC Packaging Awards
•World Whisky Awards 

Can you remember your first dram?
Laphroaig 10 was the first whisky I truly loved and started my whisky journey.

What attracted you to the industry?
The people, the stories, the history, and the majesty of crafting the perfect dram.

Can you share some memorable moments of your career or with whisky?
1. Winning Double Gold at the San Fran World Spirits Competition with our GreatDrams brand which was founded by myself and my wife Kirsty.
2. Being invited onto my first press trip in 2014 to Edinburgh with Ardbeg for Ardbeg Day – that was special, I kept trying to pay for the flights, hotels and drinks as did not totally get that they were hosting it so paying for it all!
3. Launching our indie whisky brand GreatDrams in 2016 with Kirsty.
4. The publication of my first book, The GreatDrams of Scotland.
5. Working with all my superb clients on the consulting side of GreatDrams, be it new product development for Scotch, Irish, American, or world whisky brands, or marketing/brand strategy to even pack copy – every project is unique and fantastic!

What advice would you give to someone who is new to whisky?
Try, try, try – go to whisky shows and sample lots of different whiskies so you start to develop your flavour preferences, understanding of the spirit and experience the breadth of options that are out there.

How much should someone spend on a bottle of whisky?
Whatever they want and can comfortably afford… Some of my favourite whiskies are sub £50 a bottle, others are in the hundreds of pounds a bottle – it is whatever you enjoy, can afford and feel you want to own.

If you could only drink one whisky for the rest of your life which one would it be?
Our very own Benrinnes 9-Year-Old PX Cask finished single cask – Double Gold winner, why not?!

Who do you consider to be a whisky icon?
So many people; Stephanie Macleod, Mark Thomson, Billy Leighton to name just three.

What is your favourite whisky bar in the UK and globally?
Black Rock.

Desert Island dram?
Some ridiculous Redbreast or Craigellachie 23 -Year-Old.

What do you enjoy drinking when you aren’t having a whisky?
Gin and light tonic.

Where do you see Scotch whisky in 5 years?
Even stronger and more innovative.

What are the future challenges for the whisky industry?
Rising production costs nowadays.

Whisky Heroes

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From Dram, to Extensive Bottle Collection, to Cask Business – An Origin Story

From Dram, to Extensive Bottle Collection, to Cask Business – An Origin Story

Akashi bottle collection

How a passion for his whisky bottle collection inspired a business plan for buying and selling casks…

Little did Cask Trade MD Simon Aron know that a small dram of Chivas Regal with his father would spark a huge interest in discovering whisky, a passion for collecting bottles, and eventually the creation of a marketplace for buying and selling casks.

“My first taste would have been with my father when I was 18 or 19 years old. It was a dram of Chivas as that was what my Dad used to drink, I liked it immediately. I never really liked coke so didn’t drink it with a mixer, although I thought Canadian Club with American Ginger Ale was very nice. My Dad had a habit that before he would fly he would always get a whisky and ginger ale; I remember how he would say to me how sweet Canadian whisky was compared to Scottish whisky and go through the different flavours with me,” remembers Simon.

Fast forward over three decades and Simon has now been running Cask Trade for more than three years. However, it was his passion for collecting bottles that led him here.

“I started collecting a series of whiskies called the First Cask. I bought one bottle and the guy said to me we are going to do a whole series of these. I bought the entire collection of 60-70 whiskies. One came out every month, it was an adult collectible much like children would collect magazines or toys,” says Simon who explains each bottle was numbered and from individual casks.

He adds: “I’ve still got every single one, they are in storage. That’s what gave me the taste for collecting.

I would buy two bottles of each, one to drink and the other to keep. They were mostly from distilleries I had never heard of.”

Bottle purchases led Simon onto distillery visits and tours of Speyside, Islay and the Highlands in Scotland.

Dictador bottle collection

At this time Simon was mainly buying from wine companies and a few shops he knew in London including the Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop opposite Royal Opera House and Royal Mile Whiskies. Then came the auctions…

“I came across the first auction site, which I believe was in Germany,” says Simon, who adds: “I would be watching the auction site, plus eBay; in the early days of eBay you could find some real bargains. You would genuinely get people clearing an old bar out and putting bottles on there and I could get some unbelievably old whisky which was a bargain. It was a wonderful source for whisky.”

Simon explains: “Like any collector, I was always drawn to a series. You could buy one-offs, but I liked a series. As natural as possible, not tampered with or watered down. If I could find natural, cask-strength whisky, that was good, and anything with a number on it I knew was a limited release. I remember buying my first bottle of Signatory and still buy them today. It’s wonderful and I must have hundreds and hundreds of bottles of them. I loved Cadenhead’s, I thought it was amazing whisky and bought one every time they would come out.”

“The other thing I learned was that there were a lot of closed distilleries and someone suggested I should look at them, because they were never going to make whisky again. So I started buying bottles from closed distilleries and that’s probably the best piece of advice I was ever given,” says Simon.

Ardbeg Auriverdes Mor Gold Edition

An obsession with collecting

Simon stopped counting when his collection reached 3,000 bottles.

Simon explains: “It’s no more of an obsession for me than any other collector. Whether collecting stamps or very old, rare, gold coins. You want to have one of everything in the collection and the ones you don’t have, you know what they are, and you try and buy the whole lot.”

As the collection grew, so did his knowledge, and experts wised up to the popularity of creating a series of limited-edition whiskies. The appeal for Simon was the variety of whiskies that now expanded well beyond Scotland. The intrigue of different expressions or the first release from a new distillery kept Simon’s interest.

“There was another series of bottles called Rare Malts curated by Ulf Buxrud. He’s a wonderful guy, and actually a customer. Again, it was an individual series from different distilleries all over Scotland. I started collecting and of course, I was obsessed until I got all of them. It was the most amazing collection curated by Ulf and he picked the rarest of rarest malts. I had to have it,” remembers Simon who says he’s never lost the bug for collecting.

The Macallan 1978

The first cask

With thousands of bottles in storage and hundreds at his home, Simon began to realise the collection was becoming unmanageable from an administrative standpoint.

“On one of my many visits to Scotland, someone said to me if you like it so much why don’t you buy a cask of it? My initial reaction was I didn’t know you could,” says Simon, who explains: “Most people 10 years ago had no idea how you could buy a cask. There was no buying and selling going on. It was a closed market and only people in the industry kind of knew it went on. It was never advertised.”

Simon says: “I started to find out about the movement of casks around Scotland and the fact they are swapped and traded between distilleries all the time. Mainly for blends, which then left odds and sods hanging around after a particular release. These casks were just being stored in the warehouse and people didn’t know about it. Some of the casks didn’t fit the flavour profiles, some were too young, some were getting too old, there were loads of reasons.”

“One thing that I learned was how whisky was made. I got to learn about maturation, the whole process. I was interested in every aspect and fascinated by how whisky could just sit in wood and come out tasting great. Wow, that was unbelievable to me. When it goes in, it tastes like this, and when comes out, it tastes like this. It’s not like a production line, you just never know how it’s going to taste,” explains Simon.

But Simon soon discovered collecting casks back then wasn’t as straightforward as buying bottles of whisky.

“When I decided to curate and check my cask portfolio I discovered most of the casks I had bought weren’t in my name, not stored in the right warehouse, some didn’t even exist. Basically, it was a mess. I would go to Scotland to visit my cask and the company would tell me it was at one location and it wasn’t there at all. The company didn’t know where it was. On one occasion the cask had been sold to someone else, I didn’t own it and I had paid £30,000. I spent 12 months trying to sort out almost 50 casks,” says Simon.

The Dalmore Decades Collection

The business plan

In his early career, Simon had created a marketplace for computer spare parts, and he knew this model could be replicated and built into a cask whisky business in which he could thrive and enjoy.

Simon says: “Well it was the easiest business plan I could write. To do everything for new customers of casks so they could avoid what I had to suffer. And it really started by doing everything correctly. Setting up a registered company in the UK, getting all licenses so we were starting from a good point, a computer system where we could catalogue all the casks, look after them and manage them. All of that was done from day one. While it sounds very simple, other people didn’t do this, they were just selling a commodity,” says Simon, who continues: “The one thing I always knew is that I didn’t want to be a broker because you don’t have full control. You have to own the stock in order to check it and the main cause of my pain was the brokers, who were selling someone else’s stock. I had 101 different reasons to do things in a different way.”

The exit

Like with any investment, the exit points need to be transparent, and Cask Trade offers multiple options including selling casks to be bottled.

“I see casks something you have to buy back and sell again, or bottle. I always knew a key customer base would be the bottlers. The independent bottlers that existed then and still exist today are the ones who really got me involved with collecting whisky. They opened my eyes to unknown little distilleries, they were brave at releasing unusual casks, bold with different flavour profiles and finishes. I always knew I could sell to them, and I feel so proud I can work with the independent bottlers that got me into the industry in the first place. Of course, the distilleries are amazing, I love them. It’s a combination of the bottlers and distillers that spread the love of whisky-to-whisky lovers like me,” explains Simon.

As for his enviable collection, Simon has never sold one single bottle.

“I have opened a load and will always do so. I have gifted and shared hundreds of bottles, which has given me great pleasure,” says Simon, who adds: “One day I might even find a space I can put them all on display.”

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

Keep up to date by following us on socials: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube.