What You Need to Know About Whisky Maturation

Cask Trade

Whisky Maturation Whisky Investment Casks

Whisky Maturation - How old is whisky usually? 

Most whisky drank around the world is under 18 years old. Don’t think that adverts citing the sale of a 50yr old Macallan for over £1 million are portraying the norm. It’s not that it hasn’t happened, it’s just so rare that it paints an unrealistic picture of the cask marketplace. From approximately 9000 casks sold, Cask Trade has only sold one that is 50 years old. Even on a stocklist of around 800 casks from over 40 distilleries, it’s very rare to see a 40 to 50 year old whisky maturation listed and the cask marketplace is not built on these extremes. This is largely due to supply and demand, but also due to the angels share.

What is the angels share?

Whisky, like a Rolex watch, often gains value with age and rarity, but it can also lose value. Due to the whisky maturation process, it is not always as simple as leaving a barrel in a warehouse and forgetting about it. One major factor to be considered as whisky ages is the angels’ share - the amount of liquid lost to evaporation per year. In Scotland this is about an average of 2-3% in volume per annum, in addition to a smaller percentage loss of alcohol by volume, known as ABV. The key number to be mindful of is 40% ABV. If the whisky goes below this it can no longer be called Scotch whisky and the value of the cask can drop by 50-90%.

What age whisky should I buy?

Some might be tempted to buy a cask and hold onto it for 20-30 years. However it is vital the cask is sampled and regauged (health checked) when it reaches 10-15 years old, in order to monitor the overall health of the cask and how close it is to that all-important 40%. Sampling is also important for checking the taste of your whisky, because no one cask matures the same and different whiskies will reach their optimum age at different times. When selling or bottling it is important to remember the whisky itself is constantly evolving. The best time is not necessarily a long time. If you are wondering at what age whisky from certain distilleries have been successfully bottled, a great resource is Whiskybase.com.

Key Takeaway - There’s a reason old casks are rare. They mature in different ways,  always ensure your cask doesn’t go below 40% ABV and regauge at the appropriate times to monitor the health of the liquid.

Get in touch with the Cask Trade team

If you are considering purchasing a whisky investment, contact our expert team who will be able to talk you through the options and age to match your preferences.