Cask Trade Celebrates Success In An Ever Changing Market

Cask Trade

Cask Trade is celebrating its 5th anniversary this year. A lot has happened in what has been an extraordinary time for cask whisky. CEO and founder Simon Aron reflects on the company's success and provides insights for the future.   

Many happy returns  

The cask trading sector has changed immeasurably from when I started Cask Trade five years ago. 

There are now ten times more cask traders, a thousand more independent bottlers and cask whisky has become truly global in this relatively short space of time. 

The variety and choice of casks available has risen dramatically and people’s tastes have changed as they become exposed to different distilleries and styles of whisky available to them in bottles bought from specialist shops and drunk in bars around the world. 

I have been travelling on this five-year journey at 100 miles per hour and I never imagined the business would grow this quickly. I did a three-year business plan and I knew I had identified a gap in the market and that there was space for Cask Trade. 

 A Cask Marketplace that Supports Independent Bottlers 

My idea was different. I wanted to create a marketplace, rather than just a sales platform, so I could get a second bite of the apple and buy back casks to sell on to independent bottlers so the whisky could be enjoyed. I have been a big whisky fan for many years and this was important to me. 

Selling casks in the short term is great, but in the long term that doesn’t work. The whisky has to go somewhere and, at some point, it needs to be bottled and drunk. 

Social media has created an insatiable demand for hard-to-get, limited-edition bottles. This, in turn, has challenged the independent bottlers to produce products with different finishes and unusual age statements from fancy casks. The success of this has led to most of the producers and distilleries doing the same.   

Growing Whisky Drinking Demographics    

There has been an explosion of whisky enthusiasts all over the world who are talking about, tasting and swapping drams. Not just the stereotypical male whisky drinker but women, younger people and those who would have previously only consumed their native liquor; the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans, for example, have embraced whisky. 

The demand is evident in most cities around the world. Where there might have been two or three specialist shops, now this has grown to 10 or more, and most bars have a far more interesting back shelf of whisky.   

People’s attitude to investment has also changed. The opportunity for fast investment and quick trade has gone. Mistrust and a feeling of helplessness in the international markets and global economy have resulted in a move towards less risky mid-to-long-term investments and the opportunity to put their money into alternative investments. 

Celebrating the milestones 

This unprecedented interest in cask-strength whisky has happily led to many milestones for Cask Trade. I have started two new businesses; Auction Your Cask and Regent Street Cask Bottlers. Auction Your Cask was the world’s first online auction dedicated to cask whisky and Regent Street Cask Bottlers is a bottling service for the trade and provides an exit to private clients.   

We completed our first company acquisition in 2023 and have been fortunate enough to work with the best partners in Scotland and agents around the world. 

I am particularly proud of the customer events we have hosted at the Tower of London, Phillips on Berkeley Square and Tower Bridge. These exceptional events bring together hundreds of clients who get the chance to sample very rare drams. 

Acknowledgement for the achievements of Cask Trade has been recognised by the FT1000 when we were ranked as one of the fastest-growing companies in Europe, listed in The Sunday Times Hundred fastest-growing private companies in Britain and named among the UK's most innovative new businesses’ by StartUps 100 Index

Not without challenges 

However, the last five years have not been without their challenges. We have seen many people mis-sold casks by unscrupulous traders who have tarnished the sector as a result of their bad practices.  

The rapid growth of the number of traders has led to a trend in fraudulent business practices from companies who don’t care about the product itself and have no duty to their clients. This has been a huge distraction and will continue to be a big focus of ours as we campaign to call out the perpetrators of this dishonest behaviour who are putting the reputation of the industry we love at risk.  

These challenges, added to those with the world economy, will lead to a short-term downturn for luxury goods, of which cask whisky is one.   

We have already seen the price of old and rare casks coming down slightly from the over-inflated height of 2023. However, we do have the advantage of being an asset class where a lot of products are consumed and become even rarer; so the market will go up and down, but never just down. 

Looking ahead 

On a more positive note, there are still huge international markets not yet developed including India, America and South America. Plus, on the production side, many more distilleries are on the rise and consumers are now talking about whiskies that were relatively unheard of five years ago.   

I am very positive about the outlook for whisky. I travel around the world meeting new people all the time and I see more and more of them getting into whisky, and an increase in those who are interested in whisky, and that sentiment is not going anywhere.   

Please join me in raising a glass to Cask Trade’s 5th anniversary. I will be celebrating with a whisky I tried in Singapore and fell in love with; a 40-year-old Caol Ila from my favourite independent bottler Gordan MacPhail. 

Simon Aron 
CEO, Cask Trade 

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