Strathdearn Distillery Focus

Strathdearn Distillery Focus

 

Strathdearn Distillery (a.k.a Tomatin without distillery naming rights) in many ways has had quite a remarkable rollercoaster history. Located in Inverness close to the Western edge of Speyside, the distillery opened up in 1897. Post-World War II it underwent a huge expansion going from two stills up to 23 and making it Scotland’s largest distillery. However, the timing was awful as Scotch whisky had just gone into decline and by 1985 the distillery had gone bankrupt and into liquidation.

The saviour arrived from an unexpected source as the distillery was bought by company Takara & Okara and it was the first Japanese foray into Scotch whisky. Under Japanese ownership, Strathdearn Distillery production was downsized and there has been a slow evolution from making fillings for blends into becoming a well-known Single Malt brand. They have in recent years established a core range of a NAS, 12, 18, 30, and 36 years old with many, many limited editions released.

In 2010 Tomatin started making a limited amount of peaty whisky which was called Cu Bocan then in 2018 a very rare 50-year-old expression was bottled (£10,000). Today production capacity is about five million litres with a varied fermentation of between 55 and 110 hours. They age in a variety of casks and like many distilleries you can find many different finishes.

One important point to highlight for investors is that it is clear that the distillery is making their foray into establishing themselves as a premium Single Malt brand very seriously. An example of this is how much they are investing in their wood policy and they now age their whisky in a significantly high percentage of first-fill Bourbon and Sherry Butts.

The progress of Strathdearn Distillery has been slow and steady and the liquid has certainly improved since the dark days of the 80s. This has meant that they have slipped under the radar a bit, so adding the odd cask of Tomatin could be a very savvy long-term play for any portfolio. The value is still certainly there.

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

Blair Atholl Distillery Focus

Blair Atholl Distillery Focus

 

There are so many distilleries who owe their existence to their close relationships with certain blended brands, and this could not be more true than with Blair Atholl Distillery and Bell’s. The distillery is located in Pitlochry in Perthshire and can trace its history all the way back to 1798! In 1896 the Bell’s blend was launched and with Blair Atholl as an integral part of the recipe, its future was secure. This relationship was further cemented when Bell’s bought the distillery in 1933.

In more recent years the distillery came under the ownership of Diageo who opened a fantastic visitor center in 1987. This is important because even though very few bottlings of the Single Malt have been released, general knowledge and affection for the distillery are actually quite well spread. Blair Atholl Distillery is actually Diageo’s most visited distillery and ranks number four in Scotland overall.

The style of the whisky itself can be described in one word; ‘nutty’. This comes from the production which involves cloudy worts and a very short distillation. The whisky also has a really rich depth of flavour, which lends itself perfectly to aging in Sherry Casks. However, because certain flavours are needed for the Bell’s blend most Blair Atholl is aged in Bourbon Casks. Interestingly very few official bottlings have ever been released, although there are a large number of independent bottlings of all different ages which can be found.

From the investment perspective if you can find Blair Atholl in a Sherry Butt then quickly snap it up because the whisky will be absolutely delicious, and every single Independent Bottler will know this and will be very keen to bottle it. This is your main exit strategy. Conclusion – Blair Atholl in a sherry cask is a very strong buy.

To find out more about investing in Blair Atholl casks, contact The Masters today!

Springbank Distillery Focus

Springbank Distillery Focus


You just have to love everything about Springbank Distillery – you really do. From talking to a lot of whisky enthusiasts over many years this is the name that always crops up. It is real, genuine love and there are many solid reasons for it. In no particular order; they’re from Campbelltown and one of the last distilleries standing from a region which used to have over 20, they make great whisky, they support the local community, they don’t go in for flashy marketing campaigns, and they make the whisky the old way with part of it using direct fire heat and worm tubs.

Springbank only use local farmers for their barley, again feeding into the local support. They make three distinct styles with a heavily peated (Longrow), a medium peated (Springbank) and an unpeated (Hazelburn). They also have a limited sustainable production of about 750,000 litres spread across the three styles but with 80% being Springbank. Another rare aspect of the Springbank Distillery is that it is still the same family-owned since 1828!

Nowadays the vast majority of distilleries are owned by huge corporations which in some ways has helped the global distribution and investment, but it’s nice to have at least one distillery hanging on to its original heritage. Springbank age their whisky in a mix of casks and whilst they are very traditional their goal is to create great whisky for their customers, so they have been very proactive and innovative in using different types of cask finishes to create new flavours and exciting new expressions.

Springbank Distillery whisky itself is complex, powerful, oily, full-bodied but also fragrant and fruity. Longrow is much heavier with very powerful smoky, peaty flavours whilst Hazelburn is triple distilled which makes it generally much smoother, with a blend of toffee and orchard fruit flavours. From time to time we get the odd Springbank cask in stock, although they more frequently feature in our Auction (Auction Your Cask) – our most recent auction saw a 1994 Springbank Sherry Hogshead sell for a rather remarkable £71,000 (hammer price)…! We promise you they won’t last very long. Our advice is don’t look at the price, just melt the credit cards and buy it. You won’t regret it!

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

Ruadh Mhor Distillery Focus

Ruadh Mhor Distillery Focus

Ruadh Mhor Distillery (heavily peated Glenturret) is certainly one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries and it claims to be the oldest (1775) but with some minor digging that is plainly not true. Maybe they started distilling around 1818? The distillery did survive the turbulent 1800s but by 1921 they were bankrupt and the distillery was closed until 1959.

It was only in the latter part of the 20th-century with considerable investment from Remy-Cointreau and then the Edrington Group that things started to turn around. What really put the distillery on the map was the very popular Famous Grouse Experience which opened in 2002. In the 21st-century Single Malt expressions started to be released with a Sherry cask, a triple cask and the Peated cask (which gained a bit of a cult following).

Regarding the liquid, with a very long fermentation time of 120 hours and one small pair of stills production is only about 150,000 litres per year. About 10,000 litres of this produces a few batches of their heavily peated malt, named ‘Ruadh Mhor’ which translates as ‘Big Red’.

In 2018 the distillery was sold to the luxury Swiss jewellery and glassware group Lalique. They have instantly invested in new equipment to treble production and brought in two of the Macallan team to oversee this and launch new products. It certainly looks like they will try to reposition the brand on the Premium/Luxury end of the market, so interesting times lie ahead.

To find out more about investing in Ruadh Mhor casks, contact The Masters today!

Royal Brackla Distillery Focus

Royal Brackla Distillery Focus

Located on the Western Edge of Speyside in the Highland region is the Royal Brackla Distillery. It is only one of two distilleries today that are allowed to use the ‘Royal’ name (Royal Lochnagar being the other) due to receiving a Royal Warrant from the then King William IV way back in 1835 – it was known as ‘The King’s Own Whisky’.

Legal distilling on this site started in 1812 which was back in the days when most highland whisky would’ve been made illegally so the founder Captain William Fraser would not have been popular with the local community, but eventually when the whole industry turned legal the distillery started to thrive. For most of its history, Royal Brackla Distillery trundled along just making Malt for Blends with the famous Dewar’s and Lawson’s brands being the main recipients.

In 1998 the distillery was bought by the Bacardi group but it wasn’t until 2015 when Royal Brackla really started to be promoted as a single malt. That year a 12, 16, and 21-year core range was released and more recently a number of well-received limited editions all finished in either Port, Muscatel, Palo Cortado, PX, or Oloroso Sherry have become available. Bacardi has big plans to expand Royal Brackla’s popularity around the world especially in Asia, and they have also repackaged the brand with a much more premium image.

It is very clear that things are moving in an upward trajectory. Current production is now at around four million litres with a fermentation time of 68 hours with four pairs of stills in operation. The whisky is unpeated and has a fairly robust, fruity spicy style, not a million miles away from its Speyside neighbours down the road.

From an investment perspective it’s hard to see how you could go wrong here; the deep-pocketed owners clearly have big plans, popularity is growing, the brand image is becoming more premium and the price is still far below the illustrious malts down the road and most important of all the whisky is very good – The Royal name isn’t going to hurt either! 

To find out more about investing in Royal Brackla casks, contact The Masters today!

Miltonduff Distillery Focus

Miltonduff Distillery Focus

Today the Ballantine’s blend from Miltonduff Distillery is selling around eight million nine-litre cases per year; that’s about 96,000,000 bottles! Not too shabby to be only behind the global juggernaut that is Johnnie Walker in sales. Why is this relevant? Well for those of you who have tasted this fantastic malt you’ll know how difficult it is to find. The simple reason for this is that these huge global blends of course need plenty of Single Malt Whisky and the heart of Ballantine’s is Miltonduff (with Glenburgie the other key player).

Miltonduff distillery itself is located just South West of Elgin in Speyside and opened like many in the area in 1824 after the change in the tax laws. Production today is up to 5.8 million litres with a fermentation time of 48 hours, producing a very classic Speyside-style whisky. The ones we’ve tasted are quite floral with plenty of citrus and orchard fruits, peaches and a hint of spice. Three years ago Chivas Bros released a 15-year Malt but there are a few Independent Bottlings to try and track down.

From an investor point of view, this is a very astute addition to your portfolio for a number of reasons – firstly, it’s rare. Its owners, as stated earlier, need a lot of it for Ballantine’s. Secondly, this means it is in demand even more so from independent bottlers so your exit strategy is more than secure. Thirdly this could easily be a superstar Malt because the liquid is very good – for that reason it is underpriced a little.

It’s always worth reminding yourself about the bigger picture – whilst Single Malts have seen fantastic growth and interest this century it’s still blends that make these whisky companies the majority of their income. Very simply this is a buy. If any casks did become available then we wouldn’t dither.

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

Glentauchers Distillery Focus

Glentauchers Distillery Focus


Glentauchers Distillery is another paid-up member of the Speyside 1890s gang. Located in Keith this light floral style of whisky has always been a favourite of certain blenders including Buchanan’s, Black and White, Teachers, and today very much an important part of the huge number two selling Ballantine’s Blend.

Production is a decent 4.2 million litres from three pairs of stills and interestingly there are plans from the owners to become the first carbon-neutral distillery. From the perspective of an investor, there have been very few official bottlings of this particular malt. Recently in 2017, a 15 year was released. The liquid is very good, and floral and citrus notes tended to dominate. Independent bottlers will be very keen to get their hands on any Glentauchers casks so there will be an exit strategy readily lined up. So far we have mainly seen bottlings from Gordon & Macphail.

There are very strong signs that more official bottlings will be released from the owners which will mean this distillery rising up the ranks. Considering the rarity of this Malt, who the owners are, and the demand from independent bottlers Glentauchers is a smart addition to any portfolio.

We currently have a very special 2009 Glentauchers First Fill Barrel on our stock list. To find out more about investing in Glentauchers casks, contact The Masters today!

Glen Grant Distillery Focus

Glen Grant Distillery Focus


If the whisky quiz question was ‘Which Single Malt Whisky was the first to be sold post-war in large quantities and in which country?’, very few people would guess correctly that it was from Glen Grant Distillery in Italy in the 1960s. Glen Grant used to be the No. One selling Single Malt in the world but in more recent times has dropped out of the Top 10.

However, for investors, this isn’t necessarily a detraction as the liquid is proven and the current owners (Gruppo Campari) are certainly putting the investment in. The comeback is on! A distillery that was opened by owners who grandiosely named a valley after themselves was probably always destined for great things. Opened in 1840 the early history of the distillery was quite unremarkable. However, the Grants certainly made a name for themselves by having the first electric lights installed in a distillery in 1861, having the first motor car in the Scottish highlands, and most importantly of all being the driving force that brought the railways to Speyside.

John Grant who was known as ‘The Major’ was an engineer by trade and also a great entrepreneur. He was the first to introduce purifier pipes and designed new unique shaped stills plus, and Glen Grant was the first distillery to start exporting. With sales increasing a new distillery was opened up next door and called Glen Grant No.2 but this was soon mothballed in 1902 when whisky sales slowed. Eventually, this distillery reopened in 1965 and became Caperdonich.

However, it wasn’t until the 1960s when Glen Grant’s truly remarkable contribution to Scotch whisky history occurred. Armando Giovinetti was a British/Italian import/exporter based in London who after a visit to the distillery in 1961 bought 100 cases of Glen Grant 12-year-old with the intention of selling this in Italy. When you look at this in the context of the time period this would’ve been seen as a very strange order as Single Malt whisky was virtually impossible to find as 99.9% of it went into Blends so to try and sell it as a Malt was probably seen as a bit eccentric, to say the least.

Giovinetti though started to build the brand by first selling it into hotels and then more into the mainstream and discovered that the Italian consumer was really developing a taste for it. Another much larger order was put into the distillery but this time for a five-year-old expression as the demand was for a lighter style which seemed to suit the Italian pallet better. The other advantage of selling the five-year-old is that it was much cheaper so could be priced the same as a blended whisky.

It was clear that most Italian consumers would’ve had no idea what a Single Malt was but they loved the whisky and sales quickly skyrocketed upwards. Within a short period of time sales had reached 250,000 cases and this was the first example of a six-figure sale of any Single Malt brand anywhere. Glen Grant stayed as the No. One, selling global Single Malt right up to the mid-1980s. The brand then slowly started to lose market share to its rivals and it wasn’t until 2006 when Campari took over that the turnaround started to occur.

First, a complete repackaging was put in place followed by a series of special releases including a 50-year-old. Today production is up to over three million litres per year with plans to massively increase this further. The style of whisky is medium-bodied and very classic Speyside with lots of bold rich fruit flavours. The whisky ages very well in sherry casks but these are becoming increasingly more difficult to find. For the investor, this is an opportunity to own a very famous distillery that makes very good whisky.

Campari is clearly putting the investment in and has plans to restore former glory and get the brand back to the upper echelons so the whisky could well be undervalued. Either way, there’ll always be independent bottlers who would be interested in this Malt so there is a secure exit strategy. What is worth exploring is holding onto the cask for a longer investment as the whisky does age very well.

We currently have a very special 1997 Glen Grant Hogshead on our stock list. To find out more about investing in Glen Grant casks, contact The Masters today!

Fettercairn Distillery Focus

Fettercairn Distillery Focus

 

It seems that Fettercairn Distillery is still fighting the perception that it isn’t a good quality malt. Once that word of mouth spreads amongst the whisky drinking community it is a hard reputation to shake. For anyone who is put off by what they’ve heard or they tasted it a while ago and weren’t impressed we implore them to revisit this distillery.

The cure for Fettercairn has actually been quite simple as they just invested heavily in much better casks and have re-racked basically every cask in their warehouse. This has essentially transformed the quality of their liquid. Whisper it quietly amongst your whisky friends (so as to not offend anyone) and tell them this is now a very good whisky.

As for their set up they produce whisky in a very traditional way with small stills, wooden washbacks and an open mash tun. The style of Fettercairn is quite full-bodied, nutty, and underpinned by quite tropical fruit notes. Production is now up to about 1.5 million litres per year. Fettercairn Distillery was founded in 1824 and like many struggled to survive in the early years with a fire, sporadic bankruptcies, wars and global depressions causing the distillery to open and close on a regular basis.

Under Whyte & Mackay’s ownership from 1973 to 2009 very little was bottled as a Single Malt and it is only in the last 10 years where there has been more focus on building the brand. A core range of 12, 28, 40, and 50 years are now all available and the repackaging has enhanced the image. Today most of the liquid is aged in first-fill bourbon casks which gives the whisky a little bit of added sweetness.

For investment purposes, it is clear with the huge investment that the owners have put into Fettercairn that they see great potential with the brand. The limited-edition releases are all selling out very quickly which shows that they may be finally winning over the fickle whisky enthusiast market and there are now many different special cask finishes coming into play. If you are going to buy into Fettercairn then the time to do it is now as the momentum is building behind this once unloved distillery.

We currently have a very special 2008 Fettercairn Barrel on our stock list. To find out more about investing in Fettercairn casks, contact The Masters today!

Check out our Fettercairn Virtual Distillery Tour here.

Deanston Distillery Focus

Deanston Distillery Focus

Deanston Distillery is located about 40 miles to the North-West of Edinburgh. Opened in 1965 on the site of a huge former cotton mill Deanston is starting to carve out a name for itself after a stumbling start. In the 1980s Scotch whisky was experiencing some tough economic times so the distillery was closed for nine years but with new owners, it slowly started to recover.

With a long fermentation (85 hours) and a slow distillation, the new make spirit is quite waxy in style. It clearly ages very well in all manner of casks as in recent years expressions finished in Virgin Oak, Muscat, Pedro Ximenez, Pinot Noir, Bordeaux, Calvados & Port casks have all appeared. Their 40-year release a couple of years ago has been well received which is a great testament to its longevity in the cask.

As a side note, they are winning plaudits for being one of the greenest distilleries in Scotland using the water turbines to create all the power needed, with enough excess to sell onto the national grid. Single Malt enthusiasts are starting to discover this malt and Deanston pride themselves in all their bottlings being free from caramel colouring and chill filtration.

This certainly scores points in the enthusiast community. Currently, Deanston Distillery doesn’t have the illustrious image of the big boys but could be a very savvy long-term play….

We currently have a range of 2010 Deanston hogsheads on our stock list. To find out more about investing in Deanston casks, contact The Masters today!