Robert Burns – the Myth, the Legend

Robert Burns – the Myth, the Legend

 

On Tuesday 25th, 2022 many Scots and whisky imbibers in the four corners of the world will raise a glass or two to the 263rd anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. At many gatherings his poetry will be read, haggis neeps and tatties consumed, bagpipes played, and ceilidhs danced. The focus point of the evening will of course be Scotland’s national drink which played a central theme in many of his poems and songs. However, in comparison with Vincent Van Gogh, his enduring fame has completely transcended his relatively short life of 37 years, so much so that the popularity of Burns Night only seems to be increasing. In this article, we’re going to explore Robbie Burns’ incredibly interesting, traumatic, but ultimately early, demise. 

Burns was born in Alloway very close to Ayr in 1759. His parents were farmers, and he grew up in real poverty, being subjected to severe manual labour for much of his youth. Whilst Burns had no formal education, it seems that thanks to his father’s homeschooling and a kindly private teacher taking him under his wing he became quite proficient in all subjects, plus Latin and French. It was at the age of 15 that he started writing poetry. Soon after this, he left home to become a flax weaver (flax at that time was used for making certain fabrics), but this soon ended when the flax shop burned to the ground.

Robert Burns

By the age of 20, his poetry was certainly becoming more proficient and prolific in no small part in his desire to woo certain ladies. He famously wrote a number of songs and poems for Alice Begbie but she rejected his marriage proposal. At the age of 22, Burns was initiated into the Freemasons. Soon after this, his father passed away and he inherited the farm with his brother. They tried to keep the farm afloat but eventually, after four years they failed. During this time Robert Burns had numerous romantic entanglements and the first of his 12 children were born.

He had an affair with his mothers’ servant whilst at the same time was seeing a great love of his called Jean Armour. She bore him nine children but sadly only three survived infancy. Burns was an adventurer who never seemed to settle very long in one particular place. All of these life experiences are seen to influence his poetry and songwriting. In fact, it was the need to feed his rapidly growing family and to pay for his voyage to the West Indies which precipitated him to release his poetry. Slowly but surely his poetry started gaining traction and his popularity started to spread. Walter Scott no less described Burns as being extraordinarily talented!

Poetry and Whisky

Burns with his newfound fame had now decided to base himself in Edinburgh. The new edition of his poems gained him a princely sum of £400 which was probably quickly used up as more affairs and children followed by numerous local women. Interestingly Burns eventually grew tired of city life and the draw of his country roots was too much, therefore in 1788 he headed back to his home county to try his luck at farming again. Here he quickly resumed his relationship with the love of his life Jean Armour and for a little financial security trained as an exciseman with HMRC.

This was quite controversial as the Scotch Whisky industry was still very much an illegal business at this time because of the extortionate tax being levied by the government. This drove Scotch whisky production underground, and subsequently, the gaugers as they were also known were the most hated officials in the land. Sadly, it was the long journeys on horseback through the harsh Scottish weather which precipitated his demise. His health quickly started to fail and on the 21st of July 1796 Burns passed away in Dumfries from a long-standing rheumatic heart condition. Through his many children, it is said that Robert Burns has around 1000 living descendants today. 

Literary Legacy

Burns’ talent was his exceptional skill at writing in a mixture of both the Scots language and the Scots English dialect. As a romantic poet, he is today classified in the same rarefied air of both Wordsworth and Keats. His famous works include poems ‘Tom O’ Shanter’ and ’Auld Lang Syne’ plus not forgetting the ‘Address to the Haggis’… The numerous Burns statues that populate the English-speaking world are testament to his growing influence and appeal. Millions around the world will be raising a toast on January 25th to this complex, controversial but nevertheless true literary genius. 

Burns and Whisky 

As a footnote, it would be remiss of me to not mention the whisky influence in Burns’ written works. In most cases, he is praising the national spirit like in Tom O’ Shanter. All this makes his late-life foray into being a hated exciseman all the more surprising. It seems that Robert Burns was introduced to whisky in his early twenties and certainly embraced it. In several of his poems, he is quite scathing on Lowland whisky describing it ‘as that rascally liquor’ but in general his mood is upbeat, celebratory, and patriotic. 

Haggis

Let’s not forget his most famous piece, aptly titled ‘Scotch Drink’…. 

‘O thou, my Muse! Guid auld Scotch drink! 

Whether thro’ wimplin’ twisting worms thou jink 

Or, richly brown, ream foam owre the brink 

In glorious faem 

Inspire me, till I lisp an’ wink 

To sing thy name!’ 

A complex character born into poverty who, despite this, became well educated and escaped his rural destiny. Burns was an adventurer who controversially worked for a short while on a sugar plantation (although it wouldn’t have been seen so at the time), he had numerous affairs and bore 12 children. After reaching fame and critical appreciation living in Edinburgh the draw of his rural roots was too much and he tried farming again. His brief foray into being an exciseman was certainly controversial at the time and sadly was the undoing of his health. It is clear though that he was a romanticist and that his poetry and songs were inspired by his turbulent life experiences, and thus his fame continues to grow. The accolades are well deserved. A true legend indeed.

For more interesting insights and information from our Masters, be sure to check out our ‘News’ page.

Whisky Drinking Culture & The Rise of the Single Malt in Asia

Whisky Drinking Culture & The Rise of the Single Malt in Asia

 

The most impressive medium and long-term growth of scotch whisky consumption is in Asia. However, in this vast continent with over 4.5 billion people, 48 countries, and accounting for 60% of the world’s population there are obviously many different cultures and traditions. Asians in fact consume scotch whisky in many different ways. In this article, we are going to explore some of the key countries and examine the disparate behaviour of whisky consumers, combined with the opportunities for the Single Malt market.

China

MAINLAND CHINA

No better place to start than with the continent’s (and world’s) largest populace. China has seen scotch whisky interest grow tenfold in the last 20 years and that trend looks set to continue. The spirit’s market is currently dominated by the local Baijiu spirit which accounts for 98% of the market! However, younger wealthier consumers are looking to drink more scotch whisky and the population overall is drinking less but better quality. This is a very positive trend that independent bottlers should be aware of.

Chinese consumers see scotch whisky as the height of sophistication and are very attracted to the history and the heritage of the category. Many whisky consumers are willing to spend over £150 per bottle and over 90% now see single malt whisky as the highest-quality spirit you can buy. Blended whisky still dominates the marketplace though, but that is rapidly changing. Many Chinese still like to drink their whisky with mixers, like green tea, evidenced in the karaoke bars and other high-energy late-night venues. This is where you will find the affluent younger generations enjoying mainly premium blended whisky.

Culturally, status and position in society are all-important within Chinese high society. There is a very strong toasting culture, and the host of any party/event will use single malt scotch whisky to show their status and generosity. Wealthy Chinese consumers prefer to buy bottles, which are placed at the centre of the table to show off the host’s status and prestige. For example, a bottle of Macallan 25-year would be purchased and the host would pour glasses to their guests and dictate the occasion with a succession of toasts. Purchasing rounds of drinks like in Western culture would rarely happen.

In conclusion, the Chinese whisky market is rapidly changing with more focus on single malts. Status, wealth, and perceived sophistication are still the centrepiece of any drinking occasion. Finally, it is worth remembering the importance of certain lucky numbers, like eight, and the lucky colour of red. A clear indication of this is in the packaging of independent bottlers and the extra demand for the ‘blue riband’ brands like Macallan. Although for anyone importing a single cask bottling they need to be aware of excessive import taxes and suffocating bureaucracy. There are a lot of hurdles to negotiate and for smaller importers – this has become a real minefield. Outside of Hong Kong and Shanghai, only a small percentage of the population speak English which is another consideration to be aware of.

Hong Kong

HONG KONG

There are certainly many different nuances that separate Hong Kong’s whisky culture from that of the Chinese mainland. Firstly, Hong Kong is a much more mature scotch Whisky market, no doubt in large part to its large, well-established expatriate population, including a strong contingent from the British Isles. Prominent early European residents included Scottish traders William Jardine and James Matheson. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when scotch whisky became popular in Hong Kong, but it is safe to say it was there from the beginning of the time of British influence.

Today whisky culture is growing fast, centred around the numerous high-quality whisky bars and stylish cocktail bars that are scattered all over HK Island and Kowloon. Consumers see scotch whisky as a journey and an experience rather than just having a drink. HK has a very diversified drinking crowd; from beginners who are interested and eager to try different styles of spirits, to connoisseurs and collectors who own and worship legendary bottles.

Some drinkers really enjoy spending time in whisky bars as they can submerge themselves into an atmosphere that screams “whisky”; they enjoy chats ranging from anecdotes to geeky whisky-making procedures. The city’s entrepreneurial heritage really shines through, with many HK consumers desiring “more”, seizing the opportunity to invest in the spirit that they love. HK drinkers always think out of the box and love to get the most out of whisky – it is no accident that Cask Trade opened an office in Hong Kong last year!

Taiwan

TAIWAN

In terms of Scotch Whisky appreciation, Taiwan a more mature market than the Chinese mainland – consumption of single malt whisky is much higher and the knowledge of consumers is very impressive. Whilst brands like The Macallan and The Glenlivet dominate the landscape it is clear that consumer choice in both On Trade and Off Trade is much greater. Many consumers in Taiwan are becoming more interested in the product and its quality, rather than just showing off the label of a prestigious brand (although that is still very apparent). Taiwan is one of the few markets in the world where single malt whisky outsells blended (globally the market is 85% blended!) and food-led occasions dominate where it is drunk. Taiwan is an incredibly exciting whisky market that should continue to grow. With Taiwanese consumers becoming more knowledgeable and more willing to try different distilleries this will see increasing opportunities for independent bottlers.

India

INDIA

India is another country with a rapidly-changing whisky drinking culture. Go back just 10 years and single malt whisky was virtually non-existent here. However, the growing young and affluent middle class is discovering these whiskies and embracing them. Interestingly, other cultural shifts are also accelerating, for example, in many parts of the country it was frowned upon that the younger generation should drink in front of the older generation and that women shouldn’t be seen to drink products like whisky at all. In the cities, these old traditions are rapidly disappearing, and scotch whisky consumption is on the rise across all demographics.

Scotch is seen as an important accompaniment for food-led occasions and there is more to this than just the cultural norm. Indian food is generally quite spicy so would overpower other alcohol types like wine. However, scotch whisky with its high 40%+ alcohol strength, combined with its depth of flavour can stand up to the powerful spices and help balance the palate. Scotch though is unfortunately prohibitively expensive due to the eye-watering 150% import tariff. However good news is on the way, as the UK government is in advance talks to get this vastly reduced. A common occurrence at food-led occasions is that the much cheaper Indian whisky will be consumed on regular evenings, but when guests visit, scotch whisky is then substituted to impress and show off the status of the host. This is very apparent at Indian weddings where it is increasingly common that bottles of single malts and premium blends like Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal will be on the tables. India is clearly another country where the growing middle class combined with a shift in cultural attitudes and traditions is opening up the opportunities for single malt whisky and scotch in general.

South Korea

SOUTH KOREA

We think it is safe to say that the hardest-drinking Asians are the South Koreans. Alcohol plays a part in nearly every social occasion and the marketplace is dominated by Soju and beer. Scotch whisky has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride for most of the 21st century. Single malt whisky is growing but from a very small base, so at present is considered very niche, and even the power brands like The Macallan, The Glenlivet, and Glenfiddich have yet to gain a significant foothold. Going back to the early noughties and whisky was consumed as shots or as boilermakers by dropping a shot glass of whisky into a beer and downing as one. However, by 2010 blended scotch brands like Ballantine’s were becoming increasingly unfashionable as consumers switched to drinking white spirits like vodka. Sales started to plummet downwards, and the major whisky companies realised they needed to innovate and respond.

With the fashion for lower strength spirits and trendy bottle packaging, Diageo launched its whisky “spirit drink” called ‘W Ice’, which is a blended whisky with added date and fig essence flavouring. This was followed by ‘W Signature’ and ‘W Rare’ which were two more flavoured whiskies. Pernod Ricard responded by launching ‘Eclat by Imperial’, a 31% flavoured whisky in a perfume-looking bottle.

To conclude, this market is unique in Asia, and whilst it retains its potential, the future success of single malt whisky is very unclear. At present, it is only 4% of the Scotch Whisky market and growth has been slow. However, there are many single malt whisky clubs in Korea, therefore for bottlers this market still retains potential.

Singapore

SINGAPORE

Arguably the most sophisticated scotch whisky (and drinks market) in Asia, is Singapore. Consumers here are rapidly switching from blended whisky to single malt (although the premium/luxury side of the blended market is still growing). Singaporean drinkers are spending more and more on alcohol and like many Western consumers are increasingly interested in the quality, history/heritage and production of the brands they are drinking. Singapore also ranks very highly for the number of top-quality On Trade outlets. This has helped in the education process and the increasing sophistication of consumers. Currently, it is very common to see at least 20-100 single malts on the back bar of many venues, which again is fuelling the knowledge and interest of the drinkers. For independent bottlers, this is a key market, with the important attraction of a large number of very high-income educated customers who are willing to experiment.

Vietnam

VIETNAM

After South Korea, Vietnam has the largest alcohol consumption in Asia. However, most of this is cheap beer and rice wine. When it comes to scotch whisky the blended brands hold sway with Johnny Walker, Chivas & Ballantine’s dominating the marketplace. Famous scotch whisky brands are seen as very attractive to the growing middle-class, and the wealthy tier of society drink a sizeable amount of luxury brands like Royal Salute & Johnny Walker Blue Label. However, single malt consumption is very thin on the ground, and it is only in the major cities like Saigon where they are available. Although scotch whisky does actually have a strong foothold in the country, and the long-term trends do point towards the average consumer having more disposable income and becoming more whisky educated. Independent bottlers need to be patient with this market, but the long-term upside is there for all to see.

Japan

JAPAN

The most mature market in Asia is by far Japan. Their links and close relationship with scotch whisky go back to the 1920s when Masataka Taketsuru opened the first Japanese whisky distillery using the knowledge he had gained working for several years in scotch whisky distilleries. Today, Japan imports more than 50 million bottles of scotch and many bars and restaurants have incredible selections of single malt whisky with Glenfiddich being the top-selling brand. Sales of single malt whisky are greatly enhanced by the extensive gifting culture in Japan, as a good-quality malt symbolises aspiration, wealth, and sophistication. This is partly responsible for the impressive knowledge of many consumers here. The quality of the whisky, the style of the distillery, the cask, the age of the whisky, and trying something interesting and different holds sway with many whisky drinkers here. The mentality is very different to China, for example. Many Japanese consumers will drink scotch with soda water as a highball, but the number of whisky clubs around the country is the key indication for bottlers that this very large, knowledgeable and sophisticated market has almost unlimited opportunities.

To conclude, as demonstrated above there is real momentum for scotch whisky in the Asian market and it is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, scotch whisky could see real growth acceleration if the 150% import tax in India is greatly reduced and the UK joins the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership with 11 other countries. Both scenarios seem likely in the near future. Will there even be enough aged stock to satisfy consumer demand, though? This is the pertinent question…

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

Cask Trade’s Trends and Predictions 2022

Cask Trade’s Trends and Predictions 2022

MORE FEMALE WHISKY DRINKERS, A REVIVAL OF CLASSIC COCKTAILS AND AN EXPLOSION OF NON-FUNGIBLE TOKENS ARE AMONG THE PREDICTIONS THE CASK TRADE MASTERS SEE FOR 2022.

Our growing team of passionate whisky enthusiasts have taken a look back over the past year that was, to share some trends they have spotted and to proffer some predictions for 2022.

2021 TRENDS

2021 was a challenging year for almost every industry and the whisky sector has been no different, as the pandemic imposed restrictions on the crucial on-trade and some distilleries were even forced to halt production.

However, there have been many positives over the last year for whisky, including the suspension of the 25% tariff in the US on Scotch, which has led to a sales growth.

With around 150 export markets buying Scotch whisky, demand from new customers with more disposable income looking to buy rare items from around the world is strong and continues to outstrip supply. A growing trend has been seen in the demographic of whisky drinkers which continues to get younger, with more women coming into the category.

There has also been new interest and growth in ‘New World’ whisky with many new distilleries opening up around the world, and Australian whisky continues to rise up the ranks with brands like Starwood and Sullivans Cove leading the way. We have embraced this trend by welcoming distilleries such as Mackmyra and Heaven Hill onto our stock list.

2022 PREDICTIONS

Can you keep a secret?

We expect to see more and more ‘secret’ casks coming to the market with undisclosed brand names. ‘Secret’ distillery means there is no specific brand name associated with the cask and therefore the price point is lower for the same quality liquid. Secret Speyside, for example, was a very popular series last year (continuing into this year), offering casks of whisky matured in an ex-bourbon barrel, a sherry hogshead and a bourbon hogshead.

Out with the old and in with the new…sometimes

A new hot sector in the cask trading industry is young casks, under 10 years old, from less explored distilleries. As a stockist, we have been able to purchase an extremely healthy supply of stock to sell to predominately younger investors who are open to medium to long-term investments.

New-make from Speyside Distillery actually featured in our very popular Trilogy Series last year offering casks of whisky matured in ex-bourbon barrels, sherry hogsheads and port wine barriques.

Cask buyers are gradually coming to realise that old and rare casks are, by definition, old and rare and therefore extremely scarce and expensive.

Although, if you are interested in adding an old and rare cask to your portfolio, we have had some big names in our inventory including a 1989 Macallan, 1990 Littlemill and 1997 Bowmore, to name a few!

Shaken or stirred?

Classic whisky cocktails will continue their revival in 2022 including forgotten classics like the Affinity, Bobby Burns, New York Sour and Barbary Coast. We also expect to see whisky highballs breaking through into the mainstream and becoming fashionable.

Our Independent Bottlers are on the Rise

2021 saw our trade clientele grow exponentially. Now, over 50% of our clients are independent bottlers, so it’s safe to say we’re trusted by the industry, which ultimately will be the end destination of your cask.  We expect to see a further 50% uplift in indie bottler clients, continuing into 2022 and beyond. Currently, we have a global reach with 100+ bottlers on almost every continent. We also supply to whisky clubs, and of course, avid whisky enthusiasts. The same price is offered to trade as it is to private clients.

Cask Trade has sold 1400+ casks to trade/independent bottling companies to date, which equates to nearly half a million bottles that have been bottled (or waiting to be bottled)!

Scotch whisky alternatives

The rum category is definitely the one to watch in 2022. Interest in premium rum continues its growth as rare rum bottles become more collectible. For more than a year now, we have been buying and selling rum casks and this is set to accelerate this year. In particular, we have had Barbados Rum from the famous Foursquare Distillery tend to fly off the list, and rums from Trinidad and Panama are also proving popular.

Rye whiskey is going to continue its growth. German Rye and New York Rye will start to get the plaudits they deserve.

From new product launches to distillery investments, Irish whiskey will also show huge acceleration in growth in the US and start to catch Scotch whisky in terms of its popularity. In fact, we think 2022 is the year to add Cooley Irish Whiskey to your portfolio; with Cooley you have a producer with an already very strong track record and a loyal following, especially in the all-important US market, who make great whiskey. We have Irish Whiskey on our current stock list so get in touch and let’s talk Whiskey!

But don’t just take our word for it, according to The Spirits Business, Irish Whiskey sales are at an all-time high.

Non-Fungible what?

 Non-fungible tokens (NFT to your friends) are ‘one-of-a-kind’ assets in the digital world that can be bought and sold like any other product, but which have no tangible form of their own. The digital tokens are certificates of ownership for virtual assets.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s respectively sold $65 million and $100 million of NFTs in 2021, according to a recent Reuters report (8th November 2021).

The use of NFTs by whisky brands will take off in 2022. We predict Macallan will enter this market at some point during the year.

ASIA FORECAST

Much of the trends and predictions refer to all markets we service, however we believe there will be a return to Scotch whisky in Asia in 2022.

In this market, premium blended whisky and Single Malt are leading the way and continue to put pressure on aged stock.

Single Malt whisky in China continues to grow from a small base as consumers become more educated.

Other whiskies to watch in 2022 are recommended in this article on Forbes.com including one of our personal favourites GlenAllachie.

We are Cask Trade.

For more interesting insights and information from our Masters, be sure to check out our ‘News’ page.

Myriam In Scotland – The Dramathon, Glen Moray & GlenAllachie

Myriam In Scotland – The Dramathon, Glen Moray & GlenAllachie

Sales & Marketing Manager Myriam once again returned to her Scottish roots in a recent trip back to the land of Scotch. The phrase, ‘do it for the ‘dram’ was definitely the mantra of the trip, so whether it was in aid of the Dramathon, a distillery tour, or simply for the purpose of warming the cockles by the fire, whisky was undoubtedly celebrated throughout the holiday.

The Dramathon

“When staying in Speyside, the common assumption is that the sole purpose of visiting is to tour its world-famous distilleries. While for many this is true, there is a lot more to Speyside than malt whisky, but for sure it’s always a pleasure to combine an appreciation of whisky with the spectacular landscapes the Highlands have to offer. The main reason for me visiting this year was to run the Dramathon, also known as the Speyside Single Malt Marathon, which involves running through an impressive number of distilleries along the iconic River Spey.

Outside Tamdhu Distillery

I remember the very beginnings of the event when I was working at Glenfarclas in 2014. Two enthusiastic runners came to the distillery to meet George Grant (6th generation of the family-owned Glenfarclas distillery) to pitch him the idea of running and ‘responsibly dramming’ their way through a route on the Speyside Way. The trail was to start at Glenfarclas and finish at Glenfiddich as a way of promoting tourism through a wacky combination of whisky appreciation and running.

It may seem like an unlikely pairing at first, but in other ways, it makes sense. Speyside is home to more than 50 distilleries, which is close to half of the total number of distilleries in Scotland, making it the greatest concentration of malt whisky producers compared to every other region. The area is also known for the Speyside Way; today a scenic walking trail of 137km, but historically, a vital network, the 19th century Strathspey Railway line served the whisky distilleries of Speyside for over 100 years.

The Dramathon route

Offering an idyllic countryside backdrop for a marathon incorporating the river Spey, the historic Speyside Way and the Malt Whisky Trail, it turns out that whisky and running in Speyside is a winning combination. What better way to motivate yourself than running through stunning surroundings and some of the most iconic distillery names in the whisky industry from start to finish.

With four different trails available, the ‘Full Dram’ (42km), ‘Half Dram’ (21km), ‘Wee Dram’ (10km) and the team of four relay option, there is something for everyone. Taking part in this event, you get a real sense of community spirit, with many locals supporting you at different stages along the way. I ran the ‘Half Dram’ which started at Tamdhu and continued past Knockando, Dailuaine, Dalmunach, Aberlour, GlenAllachie, Craigellachie, The Macallan, The Balvenie and Glenfiddich distilleries.

The finish line at Glenfiddich is nothing short of exceptional, with its beautifully designed architecture; the malt barn, visitor centre, still house and warehouses all surrounding you. To top it all off, a well-deserved goodie bag is presented to each runner containing a medal made from an oak stave, a generous selection of miniatures from Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder, The Balvenie and GlenAllachie, and of course, a Dramathon branded Glencairn glass to drink them in!”

Glen Moray

Today an established traditional brand, Glen Moray, originally a 19th-century brewery, was converted into a distillery and began making whisky in 1897. Marketed as a single malt as early as the 1920s when it was bought over by the owners of Glenmorangie, it took the mantel of the firm’s ‘budget’ malt which made Glen Moray widely accessible as a good quality malt at a fair price. Now owned by La Martinquaise since 2008, Glen Moray also supplies fillings for blend, notably Cutty Sark, in addition to its core range of single malt releases and regular appearances in independent bottlings globally.

With a flair for experimentation, Glen Moray is widely known as one of the first distilleries to mature its whisky in ex-wine casks. Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy, Barolo, Madeira, Sauternes, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and even Rhum Agricole and cider casks are among some of the innovative cask finishes released in recent years.

Glen Moray Distillery

In the early days, Glen Moray’s goal was to supply a widely affordable and accessible malt. This marketing strategy seems to have stuck, as production has ramped up from three million to five million litres per annum, and with the Glen Moray 12 Years Old available at most supermarkets for around £30. Perhaps this has led to the brand being the unsung hero among so many of its Speyside competitors.

That being said, it seems as though it has not yet reached the status of a ‘collectors’ whisky. Whatever its reputation, in my mind what is certain, is that the cask-strength single cask releases reveal an exceptionally high-quality malt. A typical Speyside style with soft, fruity, and honeyed notes, the independent bottlings are in a realm of their own. For those that are looking for something surprising and underrated, give Glen Moray a try, you will not be disappointed by the single cask releases.”

Glen Moray Distillery

We have 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2014 barrels & hogsheads on our current stock list. We’re always happy to talk whisky, so why not start your investment journey with Cask Trade and Glen Moray today?

GlenAllachie

“GlenAllachie was founded in the heyday of the 1960s whisky boom, purpose-built to supply fillings for the growing global demand for blended Scotch whisky. The base spirit is light, honeyed and floral, typical of the Speyside style, and exactly the type of versatile spirit that is desired by blenders. Until recently, the entirety of the distillery’s four million litre annual output was produced for blending. Owned by Pernod Ricard from 1989, for many years GlenAllachie was never a recognised brand in its own right. Instead, it formed a key part of the Chivas Regal blend, contributing to the success of one of the giants of the whisky industry.

Today the distillery tells a very different story since it was bought over by the independent GlenAllachie Distillers Company in 2017. With blending requirements now a thing of the past, these days GlenAllachie solely focuses on single malt age statements and smaller batch limited editions as a full redevelopment of the brand and the whisky has been well underway. At the production stage, fermentation is longer than most, over 140 hours, which adds fruity esters and more complexity to the final product.

Glenallachie Distillery

During maturation, the spirit starts its life in ex-bourbon casks, to then be transferred into sherry casks, or other types of ex-wine casks used in the finishing process near the end of the maturation. These methods have paved the way for GlenAllachie to develop a house style of deliciously fruity and dark-coloured whiskies, typically finished in a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximinez sherry casks, like for example, the award-winning GlenAllachie 15 Years Old.

These are not new techniques but the depth of expertise, from the production stages to the selection of a range of sherry casks, wine casks and even Chinquapin virgin oak, to name but a few examples, which has led to a complete transformation of the quality and reputation of the whisky. At the head of this independent venture, distillery manager Billy Walker, previously from Glendronach, Benriach & Glenglassaugh distilleries, has successfully revived a little-known distillery into a brand with a whisky enthusiast cult-following on a global scale. If you haven’t tried the GlenAllachie 15 Years Old yet, it’s probably time to add one to your Christmas shopping list.”

Glenallachie Distillery

To find out more about investing in Whisky Casks and to speak to the Masters themselves, contact the Team today!

Meet the Masters – Sarah Leonard

Meet the Masters – Sarah Leonard

Meet the Masters - Sarah

As the newest member of the Cask Trade team, Sales & Marketing Manager Sarah has joined us from the Emerald Isles and has brought with her passion for the brown nectar and an abundance of knowledge of the Irish whiskey scene.

How long have you worked for Cask Trade?
I have been with Cask Trade for one full week and three days now, and I am loving every minute of it.

What first ignited your passion for Whisky?
My Grandad was an avid whisky collector. I loved how he described the tasting notes of whisky. Sharing a dram of whisky with him was always a special moment whether it was a birthday celebration or after a Christmas Day swim in the Irish sea.

What are your top three favourite World whiskies and why?
1. Paul John, Indian whisky. The maturation and angels share is incredibly fast which I find fascinating. They use 6-row feed barley so it makes a very interesting spirit.
2. Millstone 100 rye whisky from the Netherlands. I recently tried this when I was in Groningen and found the flavours and 100% rye grain.
3. Abasolo, this is a Mexican whiskey. I love the concept and it’s fully corn.

What are your favourite flavours? Which aspects of whisky are the most important for you?
It depends on the time of year for flavours but during the winter months, I love the red wine, nutty notes of a sherry cask finish. Glenfiddich 15 is aged in European oak sherry casks and new oak casks, and the whisky is mellowed in a unique solera vat. This is the perfect warm, spicy winter whisky to sip by the fire. During the warmer months, I love a rum cask finish. I really enjoy the tropical notes in a whisky when the sun is shining, perched on a rooftop. Since moving to the UK and working for William Grant & Sons, I have dived into the world of peated whiskies from Islay such as Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin. I also really like Bruichladdich, even though they are an Islay brand that is non-peated.

Your favourite whisky cocktail?
A paper plane or I am a big fan of a whisky highball.

 Whisky with water or straight cask strength?
Both. It depends on what I want to taste from the whisky. Cask Strength has strong, bold, powerful flavours that burst in your palate. A little water can bring out different flavours and aromas that can make the experience more refined.

What do you like most about Cask Trade?
The ethos and energy of the team is very special. Everyone is super passionate about whisky and the team is so supportive and encouraging, everyday I am learning something new about whisky. I love the genuine approach Cask Trade has to whisky cask trading. It is totally transparent, and it is establishing a marketplace for trade and private clients alike.

Why should people purchase Whisky Casks?
It is an exciting alternative asset with exceptional growth. As the whisky matures in the cask, it increases in value. Purchasing a cask is a memorable experience; picking out your own unique cask, patiently waiting until the liquid is ready to sample, and eventually, you can even choose to bottle it if you wish. Buyers have the chance to own a piece of whisky. It is an alternative to traditional assets and provides a fascinating and fun journey with great expected returns.

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! 

We currently have a delicious range of Irish Single Malt & Grain Whiskey from Cooley distillery on our current stock list ranging from 2001-2010. To find out more about purchasing Irish Whiskey, contact The Masters today!

A Comprehensive Guide to Whisky Tasting & Appreciating

A Comprehensive Guide to Whisky Tasting & Appreciating

 

Let’s set the scene…Your eagerly-awaited package from Cask Trade has finally arrived – the cask strength whisky samples are finally in your possession. Now it’s time to nose, taste, and appreciate. There is, however, more to whisky tasting than you think, and certainly, a few dos and don’ts to get the maximum appreciation when tasting this wonderful spirit. Below is our guide to help you on your journey of whisky discovery.

THE SETTING – The key here is to find the most neutral environment you can. The kitchen, for example, can be a very poor place to taste whisky, especially if there are lingering smells of cooking, coffee etc. Another pitfall is smoke, so steer clear of all cigars and cigarettes in this moment.

THE TIME OF DAY – The best time of day to appreciate whisky is actually in the morning! The reason for this is that this is when your palate is freshest and hasn’t been dulled by various meals and liquid consumption. Therefore, to truly discover the intricate flavours of these wonderful whiskies, try to taste mid-morning rather than late at night. If you wanted an excuse to drink alcohol in the morning, now have it!

THE WHISKY TASTING GLASS – The shape and quality of the glass is incredibly important in enhancing your enjoyment of tasting whisky. At Cask Trade we use Glencairn glasses in our Regent Street tasting room and for all our events. The design curves inwards which funnels and concentrates the flavours of the whisky. This style of glass is widely available and inexpensive. As an alternative, a small wine or port glass could be substituted but avoid large red wine glasses, tumblers and shot glasses.

THE WATER – We suggest a bottle of mineral water at room temperature. Ice and chilled water should be avoided as they will suppress the flavour of the whisky. Tap water can be quite variable, so is not recommended.

Pouring whisky

STEP 1- THE COLOUR

Before you start the whisky tasting it’s time to assess the colour and viscosity. If for example the whisky has been aged in a sherry cask, then look for different shades of a reddish mahogany hue. A pale golden colour will indicate a bourbon cask. Whilst age can certainly deepen the colour of the whisky, it isn’t the most reliable indicator as other factors, such as the age of cask the whisky is matured in. Pour the whisky into the glass and hold up against the light.

We find that making notes helps the process, especially if you are tasting a significant number of whiskies. An important point of difference is that many whiskies that have been bottled, have been coloured with small amounts of tasteless caramel. Whisky companies do this because the whisky does not age uniformly in the casks, so by shading the colours between batches, they get a consistency of colour. At Cask Trade you are only tasting the real, pure, unadulterated whisky, straight from the cask.

STEP 2 – THE VISCOSITY

Long legs or short legs is what you’re looking for here. Swirl the glass around and you will see what is known as the ‘legs’ tumbling down the glass. Longs legs are a good indication of high alcohol content (which should be the case with cask strength whisky), whilst slow-moving legs indicate a whisky that is quite oily.

Whisky tasting

STEP 3 –THE AROMA/NOSE

Our nose can detect literally 100’s of flavours, whilst our tongue can only detect five! Therefore, the nosing of the whisky is so key to appreciation. We suggest you start by bringing the glass slowly towards your nose and then gently smell the whisky. With high strength whisky you have to be careful, as you may anesthetise your nose. If this does happen, a useful trick is to sniff the back of your hand and this should ‘reset’ your olfactory bulb, which is responsible for your sense of smell. At this point, we recommend that you don’t swirl the glass anymore as this can release more ethanol notes, which is not what we are aiming for.

Continue to gently nose the whisky by moving the glass away and towards your nose, not forgetting to try nosing with one nostril and then the other. Again, we recommend that you make notes as you go along. We should also point out that there are no wrong or right answers here, as the aromas you are picking up are going to vary from person to person. Read the tasting notes for the same whisky from two industry experts and see how completely different they can be.

Helpful tip – If you are tasting more than one sample from different regions, then start with the non-peated, sweet, fruity, Speyside distilleries and finish with the most earthy, spicy, peaty, Highland/Islays.

STEP 4 – THE PALATE

Our palate can only pick up only five different flavours; sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and savoury. This is why when we have a cold, our food tastes quite bland. However, the tasting and drinking is the fun part, so take a small sip of the whisky and hold it in your mouth for a few seconds, swirling it from one side of your tongue to the other.

Again, at this point, we find it useful to take notes as you’re going along. Try to pick out the different types of fruit, sweetness, nutty, smoky, earthy, floral, spicy flavours that you are detecting. Also, assess the texture and mouthfeel. Is it full-bodied, or light and thin? Does it have a creamy texture? Do the flavours and texture change in your mouth?

Drinking whisky

STEP 5 – THE FINISH

How is the finish? Does the flavour linger in the back of your throat, or does it dissipate quite quickly? In essence, is it a long or short finish?

STEP 6 – THE REPEAT

Now’s the time to repeat the whole process and drink some more whisky! However, this time we recommend that you add a tiny drop of water. The water causes a chemical reaction and opens the whisky up, allowing more flavours and aromas to come to the fore. Try adding a little more water each time and notice the differences until you get to where you reach a point that suits your palate. This can actually change from whisky to whisky, depending on your own preference, and the individual reaction of each whisky to the water.

THE REFILL – How to taste whisky is certainly subjective and it is all about your own appreciation and how you like to drink it. We hope you find the above a useful guide, to maximise your enjoyment in tasting our cask spirits. Our customers are regularly invited to our special tasting room on Regent Street London to sample some of our very special casks. We hope to see you there soon.

If you’d like to visit us and you’re interested in purchasing a cask, feel free to book a whisky tasting with the Masters. Contact us here.

Scotch Whisky Growth – Will it continue?

Scotch Whisky Growth – Will it continue?

 

It’s clear that in the last 10 years, Scotch Whisky sales have grown exponentially. This has led to the price of bottles and casks at all levels of the market increasing in value – the laws of supply and demand are evidentially at work. The question that investors must ask though will this growth continue? The answer we think is yes, and in this article, we will articulate why the future continues to look very bright for the world’s favourite spirit.

Firstly, to paraphrase a former US defense secretary, let’s ponder the known unknowns. Scotch whisky is a global product with over 170 export markets, and it has certainly faced adversity in various forms including wars, political instability, government tax policies, economic recessions, and unforeseen global pandemics. However, taking all this into account we’re still confident the growth trend is going to only go in one direction for the foreseeable future, and here is why…

India

INDIA

Currently, there are over 50 million whisky bottle sales in India but Scotch Whisky only accounts for about 2% of this (the majority is very cheap Indian whisky). The stumbling block here is the eye-watering 150% tariff imposed by the Indian government. Complicating matters further, are the extra variable regulations and taxation from all 28 Indian States. This in effect, creates a very complex, expensive marketplace. When you consider that the average salary in India is a lot less than in the UK, it is clear, that only the wealthier tiers of the population can afford Scotch Whisky.

However, the good news is on the way. Having left the EU, the UK government is now free to pursue its own trade policy, and negotiations with the Indian government are at an advanced stage to vastly reduce this tariff. When this happens, combined with India’s 1.4 billion population and rapidly growing number of middle-class, we expect Scotch Whisky sales to rocket upwards.

China

CHINA

Sales of Scotch Whisky have grown tenfold in the last 20 years in China, and whilst the tariff is very low at 5% there are major challenges in this market. Number one is the issue with fake whisky, which takes away a large percentage of sales and the reluctance of the authorities to enforce penalties on the bootleggers. However, the positives for this market are that the Chinese consumer is now much less tolerant of these shenanigans and is starting to demand the real liquid.

Another optimistic trend is the growth in Single Malt Whisky and older more Premium Blends. The Scotch Whisky companies are investing a lot into China and it’s hard to see anything but very positive growth for the years to come. China also has a huge population of 1.5 billion, so even a small percentage increase in consumer demand will have a significant increase in total sales.

Asia Pacific

ASIA PACIFIC

Market trends have predicted the fastest growth for Scotch Whisky in this region than any other in the world. Higher disposable incomes in the Asian Tiger economies of countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore are expected to be the main driving force. One interesting trend is the growth in Single Malt Whisky and the Whisky Enthusiast market in general. In many countries Blended Whisky leads the way and establishes the market, then as the consumer becomes more knowledgeable the demand for older whiskies and Single Malt brands increases.

Economic growth in this region is expected to develop faster than anywhere else in the world, therefore even if Scotch Whisky just grows in-line with GDP, the increase in sales will be very significant indeed. The UK government is also signing several FTA’s in this region including in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and is expected to be invited to join TTIP in the near future. (The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership).

South America

CENTRAL/SOUTH AMERICA

Similar to Asia, this region has incredible growth potential. Brazil and Mexico have become large Scotch Whisky markets and countries like Chile, Argentina and Columbia are growing fast. Consumers in this region see Scotch Whisky as very aspirational and when they reach a certain level of income, they want to be seen to be drinking the famous brands, almost as a status symbol. There are plenty of economic and political challenges in this region (see Venezuela) but the positives are certainly outweighing any negatives at present.

USA

USA

This is the most valuable market in the world for Scotch Whisky and spirits in general – again there are many positives to consider. The 25% extra trade war tariff that was imposed on Scotch imports has now been suspended for five years, which should mean that sales will pick up again for 2021.

The UK and US governments have started negotiations on a long-term free trade agreement which will at some point be finalised and signed.

Again, this will accelerate the sales growth in Scotch Whisky in its most important market. The US market is very mature with many knowledgeable consumers who purchase the older expressions of Single Malt Whisky. Good growth in this market will put increased pressure on the more mature aged stock, thus increasing prices.

Africa

AFRICA

In recent years, South Africa has become a very important market fuelled by the rising number of middle-class people in that country. Africa overall has great growth potential but is starting from a very low base in terms of sales.

However, the potential upside is huge and whisky companies have started to invest in countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and Angola. This is the hardest region to predict, but due to the expanding number of middle-class consumers, the signs do look very positive.

Eastern Europe

RUSSIA/ EASTERN EUROPE

Despite the challenges of 2020 the two largest markets of Russia and Latvia still managed to grow by 14.2% and 11.9% respectively! The future certainly looks bright in this part of the world. Trends here show that wealthy consumers see Scotch Whisky as a real aspirational status symbol. Denied to most consumers trapped behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ they are certainly making up for lost time. Russian consumers are increasingly drinking more Single Malts like Macallan and are attracted to the older luxury brands in general.

CONCLUSION – Currently, Blended Whisky accounts for about 85% of all Scotch Whisky consumed, with the rest mainly made up of Single Malt. The long-term global trend shows that the real growth will come from Single Malt Whisky and the Premium Blends. This will put more pressure on aged stocks and will keep the price inflation moving at a healthy rate. Consumers are becoming increasingly aspirational and are drawn to brands that have real history and heritage.

This is the ace card for the Scotch Whisky industry as this is something they have in abundance, and the marketing and packaging of these brands has improved immensely over the last 10 years. Whilst there are a number of smaller new distilleries opening all the time, the demand for their whisky is at present unclear. However, sourcing casks from the many established distilleries has become increasingly harder as the demand goes up.

Finally, with all the FTAs that the UK government are currently signing and that are in the pipeline, this can only help the future sales of a global export like Scotch Whisky. To conclude, when looking at the global market all the long-term trends are heavily pointing upwards, and even scratching beneath the surface reveals that the growth potential is huge, especially in many of the emerging markets. We feel that despite the incredibly challenging 2020 all the indicators point to the Scotch Whisky Industry continuing its success, and the economic pressures of supply and demand pushing prices and investments higher for the short, medium, and long term.

Sources: Scotch Whisky Association, Scotch Whisky Industry Review, British Government.

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

Myriam’s Distillery Focuses – Lindores Abbey & Isle of Harris Distillery

Myriam’s Distillery Focuses – Lindores Abbey & Isle of Harris Distillery


Sales and Marketing Manager Myriam Mackenzie had the pleasure of returning to her Scottish roots on a recent trip to Scotch-land, where she enjoyed visiting a few fantastic distilleries.

Lindores Abbey Distillery

Lindores Abbey Distillery

A recent visit to Scotland included a tour around Lindores Abbey Distillery in Fife. A relatively new distillery, founded in 2017, it is referred to as the spiritual home of Scotch whisky. The site and abbey ruins are steeped in history and lay claim to the first written record of whisky production dating back to 1494. Friar John Cor, a monk at the Abbey of Lindores, wrote a letter whereby he stated that by order of King James IV, he was instructed to make “aqua vitae, VIII bolls of malt”. Distillation of aqua vitae (meaning ‘water of life’ in Latin) was popular in monasteries at the time and later commonly referred to as ‘uisge beatha’ in Scottish Gaelic. Today, this historic spirit is widely known as whisky.

Lindores Abbey Distillery

With a modest annual production of 225,000 litres which is set to expand further this year, the family-owned distillery shows clear dedication to heritage and craft. They use local barley grown in the surrounding fields which were under the original ownership of the abbey in the 15th century. This year saw the release of their very first whisky: the Lindores Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky matured in a selection of ex-bourbon barrels, ex-sherry casks and ex-wine barriques. A visit to the warehouse gives the impression that the owners are open to experimentation with different types of cask maturation. Among the typical bourbon barrels used in the industry, I also noted an interesting selection of casks of varying sizes from Spain, Portugal, and even Australian wineries. They proudly refer to their cask selection and ‘Kingdom of Fife’ barley on the label, but notably also their team of ‘Lindores people’, as well as a thank you to those who have contributed to their story by buying a bottle.

A beautifully presented distillery inside and out, when you visit it you instantly feel you are part of their story. The still room has an impressive view which overlooks the abbey ruins and the visitor centre contains local historical artefacts, including some of the original pillars of the abbey. The tour involves a great deal of history too which is what ultimately inspired the building of this new distillery and community at Lindores. In the words of the late whisky writer, Michael Jackson, “for the whisky-lover, it is a pilgrimage”.

Isle of Harris Distillery

Isle of Harris Distillery

Located in the Outer Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland, the Isle of Harris Distillery was founded in 2014 by a group of investors who shared a passion for whisky, the island community, and the landscape of Harris. Among them, a former marketing director for Glenmorangie who now manages the distillery. The core values behind this unique enterprise represent the rich heritage and warm hospitality of the island. Known as ‘the social distillery’, they seek to employ people with connections to Harris or from the island itself and train them in the art of whisky-making. This brings much-needed employment to a modest island population and it’s beneficial for tourism too. Harris distillery now welcomes over 100,000 visitors a year.

Isle of Harris Distillery

Everything about this community-driven project has been carefully crafted, from the distillery layout to the final product. When you walk into the warehouse, there’s a sense of creativity and individuality as well as a homage to tradition. The casks bear the emblematic Harris logo as well as the hand-written messages and names of the investors who bought the first casks laid down by the distillery. Also in the warehouse is an art installation of staves, another thoughtful addition and dedication to those that helped fund the beginnings of the distillery. I’m proud to say ‘The Mackenzie Spirit’ is engraved into one of these staves!

Today the core product is Harris gin; a smooth refreshing gin made from nine botanicals with locally harvested sugar kelp, presented in an iconic bottle that is inspired by the sea. Yet to come, is the whisky – a non-chill filter natural colour whisky which is to be named the Hearach (translating as a person from Harris in Scottish Gaelic). There is no release date yet for their whisky, all we’re told on the tour is that ‘we’re not in a hurry’. In the meantime, you can taste the peated new-make spirit made from concerto barley and at the end of the tour you are offered a dram of Highland Park 12-Year-Old as a nod to the style of whisky the distillery aspires to create.

To find out more about investing in Whisky Casks and to speak to the Masters themselves, contact the Team today!

Meet the Masters – Alan Ng

Meet the Masters – Alan Ng

Alan


As the newest member of the Cask Trade family, Alan is helping John Wong head up our new Hong Kong office and is joining us as a Sales & Marketing Executive and fellow Whisky nerd.

How long have you worked for Cask Trade?
I started working in Cask Trade at the end of July. So I have worked for almost a month!

What first ignited your passion for Whisky?
I joined a wonderful whisky tour when I was traveling in Edinburgh. That was the first time I tried single malt Scotch Whisky and I have fallen in love with whisky ever since.

What are your top three favourite World whiskies and why?
1. Caol Ila from Scotland
It has a taste of soft smoke and peat which makes a perfect balanced whisky.
2. Cooley from Ireland.
Irish Whiskey often gives a smooth mouthfeel and elegant fruit flavour because of its unique triple distilled method.
3. Kavalan from Taiwan
Kavalan whisky provides a strong oaky and spicy flavour, especially those matured in a sherry cask. You will definitely love it if you are a sherry-casked whisky lover.

What are your favourite flavours? Which aspects of whisky are the most important for you?
It is really hard to pick one favourite because I like many of them. But if I really had to choose one, it would be peat.
I would say the taste of the whisky is the most important for me. Every single whisky has its own distinctive taste because of its uniqueness. I will never get tired of having whisky every day.

Your favourite whisky cocktail?
My favourite whisky cocktail would be an Old Fashion. I like the flavour when the whisky is mixed with the bitters, it tastes so amazing!

Whisky with water or straight cask strength?
It depends. Straight cask strength can give you a strong, powerful and full flavour of the whisky, meanwhile, whisky with water has a nice elegant and comfortable taste. So, why not both?

What do you like most about Cask Trade?
I like working with the people here in Cask Trade, very friendly and helpful to each other.

Why should people invest in Whisky Casks?
Whisky Casks are really a nice long-term investment as older whiskies are getting more and more rare and expensive, so it would be a very good foresight to invest in Whisky Casks.

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!

John’s HK Office Tipples – Braeval

John’s HK Office Tipples – Braeval

John and his dram

Braeval bottled by The Good Spirits HK, 1997/2021 58.4%, supplied by Cask Trade

From time to time I will share with you whisky lovers about drams I have at the office – we definitely do not promote worktime drinking – except when drinking is part of the job…!

Indie bottlings have long been a field where drinkers and connoisseurs hunt for something “special” – may it be flavour profile, cask type, or even label design, indie bottlers never fail to amaze us. Last month we talked about how rare it is to see an indie Balvenie, today we are going to explore something more recent.

Braeval Distillery, originally known as Braes of Glenlivet, is considered quite unique and has rarely been seen as a single malt until recent years. The stills at Braeval Distillery feature thin swan necks and upward sloping lyne arms – designed to create a light style of distillate. Let’s see how this affects the performance of the whisky!

Enough talking, let’s go back to the whisky:

Nose: Wildflowers, Fresh Peach, Honey, Vanilla and a little bit White Oak

Palate: The floral aroma lingers, Honey, Banana and more Yellow Fruits

Finish: Juicy fruits along with a hint of warm oak spice

To find out more about John and our new Hong Kong office and offerings, get in touch today.