Whitlaw Distillery Focus – (Highland Park) 

Whitlaw Distillery Focus – (Highland Park) 

 

The Whitlaw Hills sit behind the famous Highland Park Distillery and therefore the name Whitlaw is regularly used as a pseudonym for the brand. This is a rare opportunity to own a cask from a top-tier distillery whose popularity has just exploded in the last 30 years. The peat in the Orkneys is very different from the mainland and is composed of moss and heather, which produces more of a light smoke interwoven with aromatic and fragrant notes. Whitlaw Distillery’s style is a sweet, honeyed, and spicy malt that can be quite fruity with a long slightly smoky finish. This whisky is truly delicious. 

Highland Park’s early history is shrouded in mystery and there are conflicting opinions as to when it first opened, however, it is clear that by the latter half of the 19th Century the distillery was thriving, producing fillings for blends. It may surprise many that the first single malt bottling didn’t appear until the late 1970s but ever since then the distillery has gone from strength to strength. It’s safe to say that after the mythical cult of Ardbeg, Highland Park would come in a close second within the community. The marketing has certainly played a part in this, being cleverly themed on Norse gods and Vikings with a strong dose of Orcadian folklore thrown in for good measure. 

From an investment perspective, a Whitlaw Distillery cask is a very welcome addition to any portfolio, assuming the price is acceptable. There’s currently a number of 2018 Whitlaw casks on our stock list – we would recommend holding it for at least eight years until the first milestone age of 10 years, but it would also be a great medium to long-term investment to wait until the cask was 12, 15, 18, 21 or even 25-years-old. Whenever you decide on your exit strategy there will certainly be a long queue willing to purchase. This rates as a strong buy.

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

Dalmunach Distillery Focus

Dalmunach Distillery Focus

 

It’s safe to say that Pernod Ricard can boast the most beautiful classical-looking distillery (Strathisla), the most beautiful art deco 20th Century distillery (Tormore), and now the prize for the most aesthetically pleasing modern distillery in Dalmunach Distillery. Built in 2015 on the site of the old Imperial Distillery, Dalmunach 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 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. 

For investors, already Dalmunach has 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, and 18. The Independent Bottlers are already very interested in these casks.

Other factors to consider are the famous deep-pocketed owners, who know how to make great whisky and possibly at some point in the near future will start marketing and investing in developing 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: 10 million litres 

Stills: 8 

Fermentation: 56-62 hours 

Peated/Unpeated: Unpeated 

Casks Used: Bourbon & Sherry 

Recent significant awards: Non entered 

Independent bottlings: Around 50 

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

Bunnahabhain Distillery Focus

Bunnahabhain Distillery Focus

 

Bunnahabhain… We think it would be only right to start off with the pronunciation – Boon*ah*hav*enn – because let’s face it, if you’re not swinging a claymore sword around the Highlands you’re probably going to be slightly flummoxed. The translation of the name actually means ‘Mouth of the River’ and Bunnahabhain Distillery is located on Islay’s rugged north coast. It was built in 1881 by the whisky blenders Robertson & Baxter. Besides building the distillery, they also built houses and a community for their workers, plus a road with a pier to link to the outside world. It was certainly an impressive project. With the owners being blenders, it was clear that the destination for the whisky was only heading in one direction and Bunnahabhain became one of the central Malts for Black Bottle, Famous Grouse, and Cutty Sark. 

In the 1960s whisky boom production doubled and today they have a capacity of 2.7 million litres, which they split between roughly 1/3 peated to 2/3 unpeated. Interestingly they have really increased the phenol specification to 35-45ppm, (as a point of reference Laphroaig is 45ppm). Today, the focus is very much on building the brand as a Single Malt bottling, and under owners Distell International they have invested a lot of money with great success. The core range now consists of a 12, 18, 25, and 40-year-old, combined with numerous exciting limited-edition releases, such as the heavily peated Cruach-Mhona and the Eirigh Na Greine, which has vatted together Sherry, Bourbon, and Red Wine Casks. Evidence of this success is the fact that sales have risen 160% in the last few years and it is clear with the excellent repackaging and innovative marketing, that the brand equity is also rising fast.  

Another important factor for investors to consider is Bunnahabhain Distillery is very much revered by Indie Bottlers and so far there have been over 3000 Independent Bottlings to date! This itself is very significant because the bottling companies will certainly be interested in your purchased cask, and this can be a key part of your exit strategy. 

Currently, on our stocklist, we have a rare 2007 Bunnahabhian Sherry Butt. Our recommendation for investors here is that at 14 years old and with a current ABV of 59% there is a multitude of options open. The short-term option would be to wait until it is 18 years old, which is a very appealing age for most Independent Bottlers. Following that, the key milestone ages are 21, 25, and 30. As the current ABV is still fairly high, it is clear that there is a lot of life left in this cask. Our suggestion is to get this cask valued at each milestone age, starting with 18 years and deciding whether to exit or continue at this point. Using our Auction Your Cask sister site, set with a healthy reserve price, could be a very savvy strategy indeed. 

To conclude Bunnahabhain has certainly muscled its way into the top tier of distilleries in the last few years and with owners heavily investing behind its future growth, this has to be a welcome blue ribband addition to any portfolio.

We have 20007 Bunnahabhain Sherry Butts on our current stock list. To find out more about investing in Bunnahabhain Distillery, contact The Masters today!

 

Strathclyde Distillery Focus

Strathclyde Distillery Focus

 

 

Strathclyde Distillery is today the last grain distillery located within the city limits of Glasgow. Situated in the Gorbals, just south of the River Clyde, today it’s an important cog in the Pernod Ricard Scotch Whisky empire. Opened in 1927, the distillery went through several owners, before being bought by Allied Domecq, who used the grain whisky for their coveted Ballantine’s blend. After Pernod took over ownership in 2007 the whisky became a very valuable and integral part of their luxury Chivas Regal and Royal Salute brands. 

Over the years there has only been a very small number of official Strathclyde Distillery bottlings. There have so far been over 200 Independent Bottlings including a very well-received one from the Boutique-y company. When tasting the whisky we have found it incredibly smooth, with notes of buttery toffee, caramel, vanilla, and coconut. It truly is a very delicious, well-made whisky. 

For investors, this style of whisky is becoming ever more popular amongst those with discerning tastes, and therefore the Independent Bottlers who provide for them. This has great potential for a long-term investment strategy, as there is clear evidence that the whisky will mature well over a longer period, well past 30+ years for certain. For anyone looking to have a well-balanced but diverse portfolio of casks, then a high-quality grain whisky like Strathclyde is a must-stock.  

NB… Asian investors may well be attracted to the fact that this is the grain whisky that is a big part of the Royal Salute and Chivas Regal brands. 90% of Royal Salute’s global sales are in Asia and Chivas is the No.1 Scotch whisky brand in China. (Royal Salute Tribute to Honour, which contains 50-year-old Strathclyde in the blend, retails for £150,000 per bottle)

We have 2010 Strathclyde Hogsheads on our current stock list. To find out more about investing in Strathclyde Distillery, contact The Masters today!

Secret Islay

Secret Islay

 

 

The rumours are true! We now have some very high-quality 30-year-old whisky from a famous Secret Islay distillery, which has got the staff at Cask Trade salivating with excitement. Sir Colin Hampden-White had the extremely ‘difficult’ job of sampling a dram of this very special liquid. You can watch his tasting video here.

So why will these casks be called ‘Secret Islay’? Well, it all comes down to naming rights. Some distilleries are very happy to have their name on the casks and subsequently for the Independent Bottlers to promote their brand, whilst others want to protect their core range bottle offering, so they take away the naming rights. Obviously in this case we can’t reveal the distillery name. However what we can say is that it is a very famous well-known distillery, which makes incredible whisky!

It could be the distillery that has a huge cult following, with its disciples travelling from all over the world, to make a pilgrimage to its hallowed gates. Its special releases cause so much excitement, that the cultists will camp out for days to get hold of a bottle. 

It could be the distillery with the very high phenols which pioneered the peat freak phenomenon, which also certainly has its own share of devotees and is arguably the most famous distillery on the island.

Finally, it could be the other member of The Kidalton Three. Possibly not as smoky as the other two members but with a huge reputation in terms of quality and diversity of casks used. 

One thing to be absolutely sure, of from an investor’s point of view, is that this is a rare opportunity to buy one of the most sought after, most famous whiskies, in Scotland. Your exit strategy is certain, as there will be a whole host of other investors and eventually Independent Bottlers, lined up to get their hands on this whisky. We don’t envisage it staying very long on our stock list. There is though one potential pitfall we feel compelled to mention, which is the temptation to bottle and drink your cask might be overwhelming. You know what to do. 

To find out more about our Secret Islay whisky, contact The Masters today!

Tamnavulin Distillery Focus

Tamnavulin Distillery Focus

 

Before the whisky region of Speyside (where the Tamnavulin Distillery is located), all the distilleries in this area were collectively known as ‘the Glenlivets’. This came about because in the mid 1800s many distilleries actually just called their whisky ‘Glenlivet’ to trade on the name. A court case on behalf of the Glenlivet owners meant that all the distilleries had to use a suffix so until the 1980s you would see names like Macallan-Glenlivet, Aberlour-Glenlivet etc.

Tamnavulin Distillery opened in 1966 under the name Tamnavulin-Glenlivet, but considering they are the only other distillery that sits on the River Livet besides its famous neighbour, they certainly had every right to use the name. Initially they just made fillings for blends but sadly from 1995 to 2007 the owners mothballed the distillery.

After reopening it is only in more recent years that the Single Malt bottlings have been released. The style of the whisky is quite light and biscuity due to the half-dozen very large stills and relatively short fermentation time of 48 hours. Interestingly, from 2010 to 2013 they did make a small amount of heavily-peated spirit which is very rare for Speyside.

Today the owners Whyte & Mackay have started to release limited amounts of Single Malt with most of it aged in Oloroso Casks. For investors, it’s worth bearing in mind that Tamnavulin Distillery’s sister is Dalmore and the owners know what they are doing in terms of wood policy and luxury brand marketing.

In the last two years they have released some well-received expressions finished in Grenache, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir & Cabernet Sauvignon casks. Tamnavulin casks are very good value for money so under the guardianship of Whyte & Mackay (who have openly stated they are shifting the priority from Blends to Malts), now is the right time to invest.   

We currently have a range of 2009 Tamnavulin Hogsheads on our stock list. To find out more about investing in Tamnavulin Whisky, contact The Masters today!

Strathmill Distillery Focus

Strathmill Distillery Focus

Strathmill Distillery is hidden away in the small town of Keith in Speyside. It is one distillery that sometimes slips under the radar due to the fact that hardly any of it ever gets bottled as a Single Malt. Strathmill opened like many in the late Victorian era and its history has been quite unremarkable. Interestingly it was owned by the gin company W&A Gilbey for about 70 years before becoming part of what is now known as Diageo.

Its main function was to make malt for the famous J&B Rare Blend. With J&B being a very light style of whisky it might explain why Strathmill is fitted with a purifier pipe running from the lyne arm to the condenser. This essentially produces a much lighter style of spirit with a slightly oily character which would make sense when you think about the character of the J&B blend.

Production capacity is around 2.6 million litres and they vary the fermentation time between 65 and 120 hours using two pairs of stills. For investors, the attraction here is the rarity in finding any Single Malt from this distillery to drink. Diageo have bottled very little and you can find a 12-year with the whisky specialists if you’re lucky. Clearly, the Independent Bottlers would like to get hold of more casks of this to satisfy the curiosity of their legions of Malt Enthusiasts around the globe.

This tells us that there will be a strong exit strategy in place so if the price looks right, it would certainly be a useful addition to any portfolio. Every Strathmill Distillery expression we’ve seen has been aged in Bourbon Casks and the write-ups for the 23-year and 25-year expressions have been very favourable, so it clearly ages well.

Tasting notes: Expect to find a light, spicy, dry, and peppery style. Vanilla and grassy notes also come to the fore.

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

Tomatin Distillery Focus

Tomatin Distillery Focus

 

Tomatin Distillery 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, the Tomatin Distillery production was downsized and there has since been a slow evolution from making fillings for blends into becoming a well-known Single Malt brand. In recent years they’ve established a core range of a NAS; a 12, 18, 30 and 36-year-old with many, many limited-editions released.

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

One important point to highlight for investors is, it is clear that the distillery is taking 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 the fact that they now age their whisky in a significantly high percentage of first-fill bourbon and sherry butts. The progress of Tomatin Distillery has been slow and steady, but 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 Tomatin Whisky, contact The Masters today!

Linkwood Distillery Focus

Linkwood Distillery Focus

 

Elgin, where the Linkwood Distillery is situated, is by far the largest urban settlement in the sparsely populated region of Scotland known as Speyside. It boasts the region’s only nightclub and possibly the most bonkers statue in the whole of the UK, (Google Dandy Lion Elgin and you’ll catch our drift!) but whilst you can’t seem to travel more than a few hundred yards before you trip over another distillery, in Elgin there are only two.

Linkwood is part of the Diageo empire but it is incredibly hard to find it bottled as a Single Malt. One of the main reasons for this is that Linkwood Distillery is classified by blenders as a ‘top dressing malt’. If you think of all the distilleries being classified by blenders in league tables, you have an elite 10 which are the most sought after – these malts really add a lot of depth of flavour to a blend. Some of these ‘top dressers’ include Longmorn, The Glenlivet, Highland Park, Macallan, and of course Linkwood.

When you think that blended Scotch whisky still accounts for about 85% of the global market then you’ll understand why the availability can be very limited, as the blends are where the whisky companies still make the bulk of their profits. Linkwood Distillery can trace its history back to 1821 and they age their whisky in a variety of casks, but these rarely come onto the market.

Recently, a 37-year limited-edition was released which gained a few plaudits from the whisky writers. If a Linkwood cask comes onto the market be aware that this is a leading Premiership Malt, despite not having the fame of some of its Speyside cousins. A worthwhile investment.

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

Port Dundas Distillery Focus 

Port Dundas Distillery Focus 

 

Port Dundas is sadly no more. It was closed and demolished in 2011 by its owners Diageo when they decided to consolidate their grain whisky production at Cameronbridge. Whilst the business rationale behind that is probably very sound, it is a real shame that this famous Glasgow landmark is now deceased. Opened way back in 1811 it is doubly sad as the distillery was celebrating its 200th anniversary.

When you think of the wars, depressions, recessions, social changes and huge whisky booms and busts that it has survived it’s slightly ironic that it was finally closed in a time when the Scotch whisky industry has never been in a healthier state, and its owners never more prosperous. Port Dundas distillery itself was certainly seen as a landmark when it opened as it sat on the highest point in Glasgow and towered over the city.

In the 1860s it was merged with the Cowlairs distillery next door and then in 1877 became one of the founder members of the DCL group (which eventually became Diageo). By 1885 its mixture of column and pot stills made it the largest distillery in Scotland and production was flat-out to keep with the global boom in blended whisky. The location was perfect for the bottling; blending plants were close by as was the huge port of Glasgow used for shipping the whisky to the four corners of the world.

In 1902 another neighbour Dundashill was merged into the complex. Dundashill at that time had the largest production of Single Malt whisky and at this point, it’s hard to fathom the size of the combined site. The complex could also boast at the time the world’s tallest chimney which was 138 metres tall!  

The 20th century was tough for many Scotch Whisky distilleries, and two fires in 1903 and 1916 destroyed much of the facility – thankfully Port Dundas was rebuilt and thrived. It even managed to survive the Luftwaffe’s intense bombing campaign of 1940 and 1941. Once the war was over it was onwards and upwards and at one point was producing 39 million litres of spirit which was needed for the Haig, Johnnie Walker and White Horse blends amongst others.  

We’ve always found older whiskies from this closed grain distillery incredibly smooth to drink. They have unique complexities which whilst not as in-depth as a Single Malt are still rewarding in their own right. Port Dundas typically has notes of vanilla and caramel with a lovely mouthfeel and texture. An incredible chance to purchase such an old Cask (1999) this is worth re-gauging and sampling upon purchase but be in no doubt the liquid is excellent.

From the investment angle, our eyes always light up when it is a closed distillery because there is only a finite amount of stock and one day it will all be gone. As stated at 68.5% ABV there is a lot of life left in these casks and even at 22 years old they have a long way to go if you want them to. For this reason alone we would invest and hold for as long as you can (whilst paying close attention to how it’s maturing) because if you are in possession of some of the last casks in existence, then the laws of supply and demand are going to work very much in your favour.

One last thing to consider is that this Port Dundas Distillery has a lot of history and even if many people don’t realise it right now that can certainly change. The legend of Port Dundas could certainly grow over the mists of time.

We currently have a range of 1999 Port Dundas Hogsheads on our stock list. To find out more about investing in Port Dundas casks, contact The Masters today!