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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A Summer Solstice Celebration of Whisky & Art

A Summer Solstice Celebration of Whisky & Art

After the success of our St Andrew’s Day event, we decided that the Summer Solstice (20/21 June) would be the perfect date for another special Cask Trade celebration of whisky and art. Once again the Alon Zakaim Gallery in Mayfair kindly agreed to host us (we’re sure this was nothing to do with Alon’s appreciation of fine Scotch whisky!).

Summer solstice

Over two days 150 customers and their guests were treated to over 50 different drams of mainly cask-strength whisky, surrounded by the stunning art. The highlight whisky was a rare 1967 Gordon & Macphail bottling of The Glenlivet. Other drams on the menu which were very popular included bottlings from Mannochmore 13 years, Macduff 13, Speyside 23, and an Ardmore 12. The Glen Ord 11 year and the Aberlour Abunadh are also worthy of a mention.

In the main room, guests were very impressed with the iconic photography of Terry O’Neil. The full-size prints of Mohammed Ali with the Beatles, Dean Martin in a smoky bar, and Raquel Welch on a cross wearing her fur bikini from the movie ‘One Million Years BC’ provided the perfect backdrop to a wonderful evening.

Summer solstice

A huge, huge thank you to MD Simon for helping to organise the event and providing the all-important drams, and a special shout out to Alon, Maggie, and all the team at the gallery for being such generous and helpful hosts for our Summer Solstice soiree.


Cask Trade is an extraordinary cask business run by passionate experts with over 100 combined years in the industry who have created a moving marketplace for buying and selling casks that is open to all. For further details on our unrivalled inventory of casks click here.

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North British Distillery Focus

North British Distillery Focus

 

North British Distillery was founded in 1885 on the outskirts of Edinburgh by three independent blenders to break the monopoly of the DCL company (which was to become Diageo). Up until that point, all blenders and independent merchants had only one option when it came to purchasing their Grain Whisky. 

North British Distillery was built for the then princely sum of £142k and production quickly reached 3.6 million litres per annum. Business was so good that the investors made a 440% return on their initial outlay! Unfortunately, during World War I production was switched to the war effort, and it wasn’t until 1920 that whisky was being produced again.

More misfortune was to come though, as after surviving the great depression of the 1930s the distillery was completely closed at the start of WW II, as the government needed the grain for food production. Alcohol was clearly not the main priority for the politicians! North British Distillery didn’t reopen until 1949 and managed to survive the turbulent whisky crash of the 1980s. However, this century, production has increased to nearly 60 million litres per annum, under the new joint ownership of Edrington and Diageo. There is a slight irony in that it’s now under the ownership of the company that it was built to be the competition of.  

Whilst production is very high, nearly all the Grain Whisky is needed for brands like Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark, Bells, Famous Grouse, and others. Very few casks are released onto the market, making them an interesting addition to any portfolio. Independent Bottlers have been releasing some very well-received expressions. One example is the 2022 release of the Duncan Taylor 2007 Octave. 

It has been clear for some while that the interest in Grain Whisky has been increasing within the whisky enthusiast community, therefore the current 1994 North British casks come highly recommended.

We have North British casks on our current stock list. To find out more about investing in Glen Garioch Whisky, contact The Masters today!

Guyana Rum (Enmore & Uitvlugt Distilleries)

Guyana Rum (Enmore & Uitvlugt Distilleries)

 

The Enmore Sugar Factory was founded in the early 1800s and it was very common for a distillery to be attached to all factories. The famous Enmore still is very unique as it is a wooden column still, which was moved to the Diamond Distillery when Enmore closed its doors for the last time in 1993. Virtually no casks of this rum exist anymore. With tropical aging, you cannot age rum for too long in the Caribbean, certainly not for 30+ years. Therefore, these casks were moved to Liverpool in 1993 and the Guyana rum has spent the majority of its time gently maturing in the cooler climate here. 

The Enmore still is not only the world’s last surviving wooden still but also the world’s oldest operating column still, so an incredible piece of history here. The still was built in 1880, using the original plans of the first Coffey still with, 25 copper plates in the first analyser column, and 32 copper plates in the 2nd rectifying column. 

Regarding the Uitvlugt (pronounced eye-flot) Distillery, they also have a very similar storied history, which can trace its roots back to 1871. Attached again to a sugar factory, this distillery also had a famous wooden still, which was known as the Versailles Still. However, this is one of the oldest pot stills left in existence and is actually 250 years old! The still was originally part of the Versailles distillery, before moving to Uitvlugt and is now to be found at the Diamond Distillery. It is known for producing heavy, distinctively robust, and highly flavourful rum. Only two wooden pot stills are left and both are in Guyana. This is rum making from a long-forgotten bygone age, and there is truly nothing like it in the world. 

Guyanese rum uses the highly sort after Demerara sugar cane. This high-quality cane has been harvested since the 16th century and the rum industry sprung to life not that much later. By the 18th century, British Guyana could actually boast 384 distilleries! The style of rum from this region is very heavy and actually quite aromatic, with so many robust flavours coming to the fore. In our experience, it ages incredibly well and expects to find lots of toasted oak richness, and rum cake, with underlying cooked pineapple notes also coming to the fore. It truly is delicious rum. 

For private clients/independent bottlers, what to consider here is a very rare piece of rum history. Firstly, these historic distilleries were both closed way back in 1993, and this is some of the last rum made with the famous Enmore and Uitvlugt Versailles stills, in their original homes. We suggest that close attention is needed to how the rum is currently maturing. For Indy bottlers, these wonderfully-unique casks are ready for bottling now and it would certainly garner a lot of attention in the rum enthusiast world.

This would become a standout offering, in any company’s collection. Interestingly, in the last few years, there have been signs that rare rum from famous distilleries has become much more investible. Therefore, to purchase this Guyana rum cask now and to hold on to it until it reaches the milestone age of 40 years could be a very savvy move.

We currently have an old & rare 1990 Guyana (Uitvlugt) Barrel on our stock list. To find out more about Rum Cask Investment, contact The Masters today!

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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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Dalmunach Distillery Focus

Dalmunach Distillery Focus

 

It’s safe to say that Pernod Ricard boasts the most beautiful classic-looking distillery (Strathisla), the most stunning art deco 20th Century distillery (Tormore), and takes the prize for the most aesthetically-pleasing modern distillery in Dalmunach. Built in 2015 on the site of the old Imperial Distillery, Dalmunach Distillery uses all the technology of the modern age and is incredibly energy efficient, using 40% less gas/electricity and 15% less water than the industry average. When your production is 10,000,000 litres per annum, then that makes a significant difference to costs and the distillery’s carbon footprint. 

Many industry insiders were quite surprised when the historic Imperial distillery was demolished, but credit to its innovative owners who recycled elements of the old distillery into the new construction. 

At present, the plan for Dalmunach is to supply single malt whisky for famous blends like Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, and Royal Salute. For Chivas, the age of the youngest whisky in the blend is 12 years, whilst for Royal Salute it’s 21, therefore there’s still a lot of aging to do. However, so far about 50 Independent Bottlings have already come onto the market. The Duncan Taylor Dalmunach Octave Cask is one example of a bottling winning rave reviews within the whisky enthusiast community. 

The fermentation time is 56-62 hours, and the four pairs of stills are huge, with the wash stills at 28,000 litres and the spirit stills at 18,000. 

Dalmunach Distillery whisky has already shown itself to be very versatile for any exit strategy. The whisky clearly can be bottled young, and it is quite exciting to think about how special it will be when it reaches its milestone ages of 10,12,15,18. The Independent Bottlers are already very interested in these casks, and this has been driven by the whisky enthusiast community.

Other factors to consider are the famous deep-pocketed owners, who know how to make great whisky and possibly in the near future will start marketing and investing in creating the Dalmunach brand. We think that this is the time to closely look at Dalmunach before it becomes established in the pantheon of much-loved Speyside distilleries. 

 Fact File

Name: Dalmunach 

Founded: 2015 

Region: Speyside 

Owners: Pernod Ricard 

Capacity: 10m litres 

Stills: 8 

Fermentation: 56-62 hours 

Peated/Unpeated: Unpeated 

Casks Used: Bourbon & Sherry 

Current Sales: N/A 

Recent significant awards: Non entered 

Independent bottlings: Around 50 

Core Range: N/A

We currently have a delicious selection of  2018 Dalmunach Hogsheads on our current stock list. To find out more about investing in Dalmunach casks, contact The Masters today!

Loch Lomond Distillery Focus (Croftengea Peated)

Loch Lomond Distillery Focus (Croftengea Peated)

 

Loch Lomond Distillery had quite an inauspicious start. Founded in 1965 and located in the Western Highlands production originally commenced with just one pair of stills. As all the production went into blends we doubt if many people knew it even existed. In 1984 the distillery closed with the downturn in the market and that could’ve easily been the end of the story. However, new owners came in in 1987, and over the next 25 years, more stills were added but uniquely, all of them were different. Today Loch Lomond would easily win the award for most styles of whisky produced. They use 11 stills of four different kinds and are all shapes and sizes. They even produce grain whisky. 

The whisky’s reputation has also taken a while to rise up the ranks. There was a time that even the few people who had heard of Loch Lomond would’ve ranked it below Fettercairn. However, new ownership has transformed not only the distilleries reputation but also, more importantly, its sales.  

Production is increasing; last year 2.8 million litres of single malt and 2 million litres of grain were produced. A new, extensive core range now consists of a NAS, 10, 12, 14, 18, 21 & 30-year-olds, plus numerous cask finishes and limited-edition older expressions are being released.  

Hong Kong and Shanghai-based Asian investment fund Hillhouse Capital Management took over ownership in 2019. They have deep pockets and huge expansion plans. The future looks very bright for this once very unloved distillery. 

Croftengea is the name of their peated malt which is produced in limited quantities to add smoke to the company’s blends. The ppm is 35 which sits at the heavily peated end of the spectrum (Laphroaig is 45 ppm as a point of reference). These casks are relatively rare. The 2016 ones we had on the stock list which have been re-charred have a lot of life left in them yet, and would certainly appeal to whisky enthusiasts and thus the Independent Bottling market. 

 Fact File

Name: Loch Lomond 

Founded: 1965 

Region: Western Highlands 

Owner: Loch Lomond Group ( Hillhouse Capital Management) 

Capacity: 5.0m litres. 

Stills: 11 

Fermentation: variable 92 – 160 hours. 

Peated/Unpeated: 90% unpeated / 10 peated…. (also grain whisky is produced) 

Casks Used: Bourbon , sherry, Madeira,  

Current Sales: 90,000 9l cases. 

Recent significant awards: N/A 

Independent bottlings: Around 300 

Core Range:  Distillers Choice NAS, 10, 12, 14, 18, 21, 30.

We recently had Croftengea casks on our current stock list. To find out more about investing in Loch Lomond Distillery casks, contact The Masters today!

Highland Park Distillery Focus

Highland Park Distillery Focus

 

If Macallan takes the top spot for the best-marketed single malt brand of the 21st century, then there could be a very strong argument for Highland Park Distillery taking the runner-up spot. Owners of the Edrington Group (same as Macallan) have cleverly played on the Orcadian Norse history with plenty of references to Vikings, Norse gods, and other mythical characters.

The distillery itself is shrouded in mystery as to when it opened… Was it 1798 as the marketeers today are going with? Or, as some evidence suggests, did it not properly start operations until the later 1800s? Whatever the truth, the early years were very uneventful, and the distillery just made filling for blends until 1979, when showing incredible foresight, the owners start to invest in the single malt brand. The first release was an eight-year-old followed by a 12 and an 18-year. The brand quickly built up a cult following, which in more recent times has cleverly been reinforced by the brilliant marketing campaign. 

Highland Park Distillery has the distinction of being the most northerly whisky distillery in Scotland and sits on the hill in Kirkwall just above Scapa, which overlooks the famous Scapa Flow. Production is surprisingly a lot less than many people think at 2.5 million litres (Glenlivet is 21 million), and two pairs of stills operate with a fermentation time of 52 to 96 hours.

Unusually for the modern age, a significant percentage of the floor malting is done on-site (around 30%). Highland Park produces two types of malt with the peated having a ppm of 30-40 which is then blended in with the unpeated. Interestingly, the peat is very different in the Orkneys compared to what is found in Islay. For example, Islay’s peat is smokier due to having more marine vegetation that contains creosol which is picked up as tar.

Islay peat also contains lignin which comes from the trees and again adds a smokier taste. The Orkneys has no trees and so the peat is entirely composed of moss and heather. The smoke is thus lighter, more aromatic, and fragrant. This gives Highland Park a unique flavour profile, taking advantage of the island’s microclimate and fauna which is completely different from the mainland.  

Highland Park Distillery also has a wood policy which has greatly enhanced its reputation and flavour profile, as since 2004 all the whisky has been aged 100% in sherry casks. This adds an extra richness to the whisky. When you taste Highland Park, it is robust, salty, spicy but also aromatic, fragrant and fruity, underpinned by a light soft smoke. It’s not hard to understand the distillery’s universal popularity within the single malt drinking community. The Highland Park 18-year especially seems to win a number of awards and acclaim. 

From time to time, we have Highland Park casks on our stock list. As a stockist, we own every single cask we sell and will not purchase anything which is overpriced. If a Highland Park cask is available, then this is a rare opportunity to own a blue riband distillery. The success of their 40 and 50-year bottlings is evidence of how well the whisky ages. A wonderful short, medium, long-term opportunity. 

 Fact File

Distillery Glossary  

Founded: 1798? 

Region: Highland – Orkneys. 

Owners: Edrington 

Capacity: 2.5m litres 

Stills: 4 

Fermentation: 52-96 hours. 

Peated/Unpeated: Peated 30% at 30-40 ppm 

Casks Used: Sherry casks after 2004 using both European and American oak. 

Current Sales: N/A 

Recent significant awards: 2021 Double Gold San Francisco ISA for Highland Park 18 

Independent bottlings: Around 2500 

Core Range: 10, 12, 15, 18, 21, 25, 30 and 40….. Countless limited editions including 3 series of the Viking Legend series and a large number of single cask bottlings.

We have a special 2000 Highland Park cask on our current stock list. To find out more about investing in Highland Park Whisky, contact The Masters today!

Littlemill Distillery Focus

Littlemill Distillery Focus

 

It is always a touch poignant writing about lost distilleries that were forced to close through no fault of their own. Sometimes the economic ill winds blow across the landscape and there is no escaping them for certain businesses. This was the fate of distilleries like Port Ellen, Brora, Rosebank, and Littlemill during the 1980s recession. Casks from these distilleries have now become increasingly rare and incredibly sought-after. Littlemill Distillery did have a brief renaissance after its initial 1984 closure when under new ownership the stills were fired up again in 1989, but alas by 1994 the distillery fell silent forever.

We at Cask Trade are very excited to announce that a 1990 Littlemill Hogshead has arrived on our stock list. Before we go into the details of this unique, exceptional offering, we think we should delve into the history of this famous, silent distillery.

Littlemill Distillery was established in 1773 on the banks of the River Clyde just north of Glasgow, and close to Loch Lomond. Two brothers George and Archibald Buchanan already owned a successful brewery but had designs on creating something a little more potent and interesting. So, on November 2nd, 1773, King George III granted them one of the first legal licenses to distil whisky. For the next 220 years, the distillery stayed in operation until its closure.

Littlemill Distillery has played a significant role in the history of Scotch whisky production. In 1931 the then-owner Duncan Thomas (an American entrepreneur and chemist) created a new type of highly-effective Saladin Box for malting. Thomas also installed the first hybrid stills which were essentially a pot still body with tall, rectifying columns that were able to produce a number of different styles of single malt.

Up until its dying days, Littlemill Distillery continued to innovate and was known for making the most exceptional Lowland whisky with a great depth of character. Their water source came from the Kilpatrick Hills, the peat from Stornoway, and their barley from Perthshire to create what the distillery described as a beautiful ‘summer whisky’. When tasting Littlemill, expect characteristics of vanilla and floral notes on the nose, opening up to honey and fudge on the palate, intermingled with pear drops and crisp apple. If you are fortunate enough to taste Littlemill you’ll be perplexed how such a sublime, delicious whisky was allowed to go out of production.

The cask we are offering has recently undergone a regauged health check and is currently sitting at 46.4% ABV. An opportunity to own one of the last casks from one of the great, silent distilleries. This cask is now perfectly matured and now ready for bottling.

Fact File

Littlemill 31-year.

Distilled: 16/10/1990

Cask Type: Hogshead

ABV: 45.6%

Regauged 09/12/90

LOA: 53.9

Est bottles: 169

To find out more about the 1990 Littlemill cask we have in stock, contact The Masters today!

Caol Ila Distillery Focus

Caol Ila Distillery Focus

 

Translating to ‘Sound of Islay’, Caol Ila Distillery is certainly one of the most loved distilleries by all the peat enthusiasts around the world. Opened in 1846 it was bought out by the DCL company in 1927 (later to morph into Diageo), and ran continuously until the owners decided to demolish the old distillery and build a new one in 1972. This transformation meant that Caol Ila Distillery was the largest whisky producer on Islay.

This was before single malt whisky was widely available and the main purpose of Caol Ila was to make fillings for the Johnnie Walker Blend. Interestingly in the severe 1980s downturn, they started to make an unpeated version for other blenders. This did in fact allow the distillery to survive these rough times (unlike its sister distillery Port Ellen), and a little-known fact is that Caol Ila has actually continued to make a limited amount of unpeated whisky every year since.

In more recent times, Diageo has invested a lot into the single malt brand including in renovating the visitor centre, and thus nowadays Caol Ila Distillery can be considered one of the top-tier distilleries. The future certainly looks very bright.

The character of the whisky undoubtedly has its own uniqueness. Caol Ila has a distinct ripe pear characteristic, combined with smoke and salt, and underpinned by grassy notes. Distillation features tall stills and a higher cut point. The fermentation time is 55 hours and most of the malting is actually done in-house, which is very rare these days.

Maturation mainly occurs in refill bourbon casks. The importance of Caol Ila Distillery Whisky to the Johnnie Walker Blend meant there were very few distillery bottlings until the turn of the century. Today the core range consists of the entry-level NAS, plus the 12-year, 18-year and 25-year. Caol Ila of course also features annually in Diageo’s Special Releases series.

To date, there have been over 4000 independent bottlings of the brand, but casks are becoming increasingly rare as the value of this distillery to its owner increases. Any investor who is fortunate to own a cask should know how much these casks are still sought-after by the bottling companies. The award-winning 25-year expression is evidence that the whisky generally ages very well, so there would be plenty of flexibility in your exit strategy.

 Fact File

Name: Caol Ila

Founded: 1846

Region: Islay

Owner: Diageo

Capacity: 6.5m litres

Stills: 6

Fermentation: 55 hours (short) to 120 hours (long)

Peated/Unpeated: Peated with a limited amount of unpeated.

Casks Used: Bourbon, Sherry.

Current Sales: N/A

Recent significant awards: N/A

Independent bottlings: Around 2000

Core Range: 14 yr, Distillers Edition

Caol Ila 12-year Tasting Notes: 

Nose – Smoke, peppermint, poached pears.

Palate – Stewed Apples, Vanilla, Kiwi fruit.

Finish – Burning coals, Honey, Caramel.

To find out more about investing in Caol Ila casks, contact The Masters today!