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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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!

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!

Cambus Distillery Focus

Cambus Distillery Focus

The 1820s were a transformative time for the fortunes of Scotch whisky. Firstly in 1823, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Robert Peel passed legislation, greatly reducing the taxation on whisky production. This encouraged the industry to go legal. Before that date, an excessive tax had been introduced to raise money to fight wars with France. The repercussions of this had only caused the opposite effect, with Scottish distillers migrating up to the Highlands and making their ‘water of life’ illegally, away from the prying eyes of the government.

They, of course, did not pay any tax. By reducing this punitive taxation, Sir Robert had kick-started the Single Malt Industry that we know today, with famous distilleries like The Glenlivet & The Macallan both taking out licenses in 1824 and with many others soon following suit. However, it wasn’t till the creation of blends that scotch whisky went truly international and became the success story we know today.

The Scots are great inventors, that is clear, and it was a Scotsman called Robert Stein who invented the Continuous Still. Now before we proceed, much credit should also go to Irishman Aeneas Coffey, who certainly improved Stein’s design. Although the Irish saw no use for this new type of still, the Scots embraced it. Consequently, what became known as Grain Whisky was born. 

Cambus Distillery was one of the first Grain Distilleries to open up in 1836, in the Lowland region of Scotland. In 1877 it became one of the founding distilleries in a company called DCL (which eventually became Diageo), but like many operations times were tough in the 20th century, with not only the two World Wars but also the Great Depression.

Unfortunately for Cambus, they also had a fire that destroyed the facility in 1914. Production was very intermittent until the 1950s, but unfortunately in 1993, the doors closed for the very last time as part of a large cost-cutting exercise. Sadly, the site was demolished, but in 2011 a large cooperage was opened, so at least the whisky legacy continues. 

For investors, it is very clear that whisky enthusiasts have really been warming to Grain Whisky for quite some time. Many independent bottlings have been released, as well as an increasing number of official bottlings by the likes of Diageo, with several from William Grant and Pernod Ricard. It’s clear that the demand is there. With the Cambus 1988’s we recently had in stock, a rare opportunity arose to invest in 33-year whisky from a closed, lost distillery.

Right there you have the rarity factor in your favour. As for your exit strategy, this was a short-term investment as the liquid is ready to drink and be bottled. Pay close attention to the ABV as you want to give yourself a little breathing space, because it will lose most of its value if it drops below 40%.

We should mention the whisky itself, as it’s absolutely delicious! Like all good Grain Whiskies, it is smooth and soft, dominated by notes of vanilla, coconut and hints of custard. It will still age longer, that’s for sure and remember good quality old whisky, from closed lost distilleries, are always in demand.  

 Fact File

Name: Cambus Grain 

Founded: 1806 – Closed 1993 

Region: Grain 

Owner: Diageo 

Capacity: None 

Stills: Column 

Fermentation: Grain 

Peated/Unpeated: Unpeated 

Casks Used: Bourbon barrels and hogsheads 

Current Sales: N/A 

Recent significant awards: None entered 

Independent bottlings: Around 200 

Core Range: None

To find out more about investing in Cambus Grain Whisky casks, contact The Masters today!

The Macallan Distillery Focus

The Macallan Distillery Focus


The top three selling single malts globally are Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, and Macallan. It is no coincidence that all three have played a significant role in establishing Single Malt Whisky as a premium product, which has garnered millions of passionate enthusiasts from around the world. Firstly, The Glenlivet is the pioneering distillery that is steeped in history and is the most famous distillery in Scotland by a country mile (see our Glenlivet Distillery Focus for the reasons why).

Until the 1980s, nearly all single malt distilleries just made fillings for blends. During the time when blended whisky temporarily fell out of fashion, there was suddenly a huge surplus of this whisky lying in warehouses, and the distilleries had in most cases lost their only customer – the blenders. Having been backed into a corner, many whisky companies realised that they had no choice but to bottle this single malt and hope that consumers would take to it.

Macallan Distillery

It seems laughable today that executives were so convinced it wouldn’t work, but back then they really had no choice. Step forward Glenfiddich, who was incredibly bold with the first example of a large-budget extensive marketing campaign put behind a single malt. Their courage has certainly paid off many times over and the distillery has been the No.1 selling malt ever since. Although The Macallan takes enormous credit for very cleverly marketing their Single Malt Whisky as a luxury brand.

This has not only massively enhanced their own brand equity but raised the whole category. Today, many single malts are seen as very premium spirits which command the top shelf of many bars. The packaging and labelling have all improved immensely across the industry after Macallan pioneered the way. In November 2020 Macallan launched the Red Collection which was comprised of six bottlings, with the youngest being a 40-year-old and the oldest a 78-year-old. The first set sold for £756,400!

Macallan’s product placement in the James Bond movie Spectre was another piece of marketing genius (albeit very expensive) that featured their 50-year-old expression. Macallan has also shown great innovation with its distillery design which ironically some have compared to a James Bond villain’s lair. The initial cost was a cool £140,000,000! It’s hard to believe that in 1978 the global marketing budget for Macallan was a cool £50! A clear example of how little thought at that time was put into marketing the brand as a single malt bottling.

The Red Collection

Macallan Distillery was founded in 1824; this was a significant date, as it was just after the excise act of 1823 which fundamentally changed how Scotch whisky was taxed. This was to encourage the industry to go legal and swept away a lot of the excessive taxation and regulations that were enforced previously. The early days were a struggle for the company and like many distilleries in the area, they used the ‘Glenlivet’ name for about 50 years before being forced to rename their whisky Macallan-Glenlivet, after a court case over trademark.

For the next 100 years very little happened, although the whisky was highly sought-after by the blending houses, evidenced by the number of stills increasing from six in 1965 to 21 in 1974. With the 1980’s global crash in blended whisky, the distillery owners had no choice but to focus on single malt bottlings. In 1984 the first of the 18-year range was launched; this was the initial, tentative step on the ladder to the top. Macallan was on its way to becoming the most revered, luxurious whisky brand in the world.

Macallan Distillery

The next catalyst for growth occurred when the Edrington Group bought a majority stake in the distillery for £601,000,000 in 1999. The new owners then started Macallan on the path to position the brand as a luxury product. Initially, the main focus was on aging and finishing the whisky in sherry casks and then gradually shifting from blending to exclusive single malt bottlings. Some highlight releases included the 50-year and 60-year in Lalique decanters, the ‘Tales of The Macallan Volume I’ which had a price tag of £60,000, and the Quest Collection which featured a 52 and a 72-year. All these limited releases were expertly packaged and marketed. Macallan pioneered the way and raised the whole category in terms of the perception and exclusivity of single malts. 

The production style is certainly unique. Macallan Distillery uses very small stills with very acutely angled lyne arms. The Master Distiller also takes a very small middle cut between the heads and tails of the distillation. With very minimal copper contact the new-make of Macallan is quite heavy in style, the consequences of this meaning it needs plenty of aging. The general opinion is that Macallan really comes alive in sherry casks after at least 15 years of maturation. That aside there have been plenty of well-received bourbon cask bottlings, and the double cask maturations have also won plenty of plaudits. The extensive core range today consists of 10 expressions with the 12, 18, 25, and 30-year sherry casks certainly being the most popular (and expensive!).

Macallan Distillery

From an investment perspective, Macallan casks are incredibly rare but they do become available on occasion. We just recently sold a 1989 bourbon cask in a private sale, so they do exist. However, we strongly recommend that a full health check is carried out and the samples are tasted by at least a couple of independent experts. If at that point all the key factors are favourable regarding age, quality, ABV and longevity, it then comes down to price. In terms of demand and prestige, this is the No.1 blue riband malt in Scotland.  

Fact File

Name: The Macallan 

Founded: 1824 

Region: Speyside 

Owner: Edrington Group 

Capacity: 15m litres 

Stills: 21 

Fermentation: 48+ hours 

Peated/Unpeated: Unpeated  

Casks Used: Sherry, Bourbon,  

Current Sales: 700,000 9l cases. 

Recent significant awards: None entered. 

Independent bottlings:  Around 2000 

Core Range: Sherry cask matured – 12, 18, 25, 30-year……../ Triple Cask – 12-year……../ Double Cask – 12, 15 and 18-year.

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

The Glenlivet Distillery Focus

The Glenlivet Distillery Focus


Glenlivet Distillery opened in 1824 when George Smith, a local farmer and former illicit distiller, took out the first legal license after the change in the law. Before this date, most malt whiskies were distilled illegally, thanks to draconian government tax laws on whisky production. Many Scots refused to pay the tax, so they hid away from the prying eyes of the excisemen, in areas of Scotland like Speyside and in particular the Glenlivet valley.

Distillery Exterior

Illegal Beginnings

It was estimated that over 200 illegal stills were operating at any one time in the valley because it was the perfect place to make whisky. They had barley, peat, and water all close by and most important of all, only one pathway into the valley. This meant that they could use the hills above as lookouts so the excisemen could be spotted a long way off, which helped them evade capture. The illegal Glenlivet valley whisky forged a great reputation around Scotland and one theory to this was that, as it was made in such a remote area, that it had to be stored in small oak casks called ‘ankers’ before it could be transported south, to be sold and traded.

During this time, the whisky was exposed to the positive effects of the cask (which wasn’t really understood at that time), so the whisky tasted smoother and had more flavour. In 1822 the famous visit of King George IV to Edinburgh occurred and incredibly the King asked to try the highly-illegal Glenlivet whisky. After much denial of its existence, a local judge was persuaded to relinquish his prized possession and the King was suitably impressed.

Glenlivet Casks

The Royal Approval 

Now, this is where history gets a bit murky, but there is evidence that the King lobbied the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Robert Peel), to improve the plight of the Scottish distillers. The following year the taxation was massively reduced, to encourage the industry to go legal. George Smith took advantage of this, but it was a very courageous move, as his fellow illegal distillers in the valley felt he was bringing the authorities into their secret lair and thus ending their livelihoods. He had to have an armed guard outside his distillery 24/7 and protect himself with a couple of pistols, which he carried with him constantly. Many new legal distilleries were burnt down in this time, but Glenlivet Distillery survived and things settled down after a few years.  

George Smith was certainly a pioneer and he developed a new pair of tall lantern-shaped stills, which produced a spirit that was floral, sweet, and fruity. This new, official Glenlivet whisky built upon the previous illegal reputation and soon became the most sought-after in Scotland. Demand outstripped supply and it used to sell for at least double any other whisky at that time. George Smith’s Edinburgh agent Andrew Usher used Glenlivet in the first-ever marketed blended whisky, Usher’s OVG (old vatted Glenlivet)!


Another interesting occurrence at that time was that the many distilleries emerging in the area we now call Speyside, also called their whisky ‘Glenlivet’, trading in on George Smith’s distillery (even though they were actually nowhere near the valley itself). At one point, 27 distilleries called their whisky ’Glenlivet’, including famous names like Macallan, Aberlour and Cragganmore. Eventually, it was left to the son, John Gordon Smith, to take the other distilleries to court, in a very famous 1880 London legal case.

The court ruling was that only one distillery was allowed to solely call itself ‘The Glenlivet’ – the other distilleries could still use the name, but only as a suffix with their own name. Therefore, as an example, Macallan went from calling their whisky ‘Glenlivet’ to ‘Macallan Glenlivet’ and this continued until the 1980s, when every distillery then just went with their own name.

The US Market

We thought it pertinent to mention Glenlivet Distillery’s huge popularity in the all-important US market. In 1933, after the end of prohibition, the distillery owner Captain Bill Smith-Grant MC travelled out to America, to see if he could win any contracts for his whisky. He did, and one famous contract he won was that of the Glenlivet 12-year, which would go on to become the exclusive whisky on the luxury Pullman trains. At the time these trains then transported the rich and famous, before air travel took off. This established Glenlivet as a major brand over there and to this day, it is the number one single malt, with a great reputation. From an investor’s perspective, there will always be American buyers interested in purchasing Glenlivet.


A little bit about the liquid and distillery today. They have recently expanded to 14 pairs of stills, producing 21,000,000 litres of spirit per year! The tall lantern shape stills, which go back to George Smith’s original design, produce a whisky, which has a very sweet, ripe fruit flavour. If you look on a flavour map of Scottish distilleries, you’ll have Ardbeg & Laphroaig at one end of the scale, with Glenlivet Distillery at the opposite end. There are too many expressions and bottlings to list, but Glenlivet ages fantastically well at all ages and in all different types of casks. Every two years they release a new 50-year bottling (The Winchester Collection), and Gordon McPhail has a Glenlivet 70-year which they released in 2010. It was distilled in May 1940 during WWII!… 

From a cask investment point of view, you know that Glenlivet will age very well, the liquid is very high quality and there will always be buyers (especially from the US). It is always worth looking very closely to add any blue riband malt to your portfolio. 

 Fact File

Name: The Glenlivet 

Founded: 1824 

Region: Speyside 

Owner: Pernod Ricard 

Capacity: 21m litres 

Stills: 28 

Fermentation: 54 hours 

Peated/Unpeated: Unpeated  

Casks Used: bourbon, sherry, French oak, Cognac, rum 

Current Sales: 1 million cases 

Recent significant awards: The Glenlivet 18 is the big award winner of the range. Too many awards for the range to mention. 

Independent bottlings:  Around 2500 

Core Range: Founders Reserve, Caribbean Cask, 12, Captains Reserve, Nadurra Peated, Nadurra Sherry, Nadurra 1st fill bourbon, 15, 18, 21, 25, 50. 

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