Make Room Macallan – Make Way for the Rising Stars of Whisky

Make Room Macallan – Make Way for the Rising Stars of Whisky

 

The simple guiding principle that all investors aspire to and agree on is to obviously buy low and sell high. For instance, in the early noughties, you could pick up a bottle of Yamazaki 18-year-old for about £40. This month it was selling for £1000 on the UK Scotch Auction sites! The price now has completely spiraled upwards to a point where the quality of whisky has no relationship with the value of the bottle. Is purchasing a bottle of Yamasaki 18 today a good investment? That is certainly debatable.

It’s reasonable to assume that the price will continue to rise, and you are purchasing something with intrinsic value, however, it is also reasonable to think that the investment value has gone from this particular expression. The same has happened not just in the world of certain whisky bottles, but even more so in the whisky cask marketplace.  

The Macallan Effect

Currently, there seems to be an almost cult-like obsession to own an old cask from a famous single malt distillery, especially Macallan. Casks though do have a shelf life and have to be bottled at some point. Therefore, if you could find a cask of 25+ year Macallan and be able to afford the highly-likely six-figure purchase price, then this would certainly go down as a very prestigious cask to own. It is also likely that there will be many admiring, envious comments from your friends, whisky aficionados, and people in general.

Macallan distillery

You may even enjoy the reflective glow of a certain amount of local media attention. Is it a good investment though? You would have to consider that your highly-prized purchase and its value are fraught with danger. Here’s why… Firstly, how much longer does the whisky in the cask have to mature? Even if it is currently in good health, at some point the oak will start to overpower the whisky, and the value will plummet if it tastes like liquid wood. Also, if the ABV drops below 40% then it can no longer be called Scotch whisky. You’ll need to have very regular cask health checks.

Secondly, a cask of this age will only have one main exit strategy, which are trade customers in the form of Independent Bottlers. The trade is business-savvy and whisky-knowledgeable. Even if the whisky is in very good shape, they will only buy the cask for what they can sell the bottles for, adding on their margins and the taxes that HMRC encumbers all bottlers with. At this point are you even in profit? Nothing is of course certain, but the risk factor is certainly very high!

Buy Low, Sell High

Let’s return to the guiding principle of buy low and sell high. In the 1980s and 1990s, single malt whisky was only just becoming established (most of it was tipped into blends at that point). It was less than 3% of the global whisky market. In most countries, few people would’ve even heard of Macallan, Springbank, Ardbeg, Bowmore, etc. Casks of whisky from these distilleries were available at that time if you knew the right people to talk to, and compared to the prices today were incredibly cheap.

Bowmore distillery

The question for investors is, “where do I find value in the cask whisky marketplace today?” Our advice is to look at younger or medium-aged casks from distilleries whose brand equity is rising. The key milestone ages for whisky casks are 10/12/15/18/21/25 years; this is connected to the bottling market where most whiskies are bottled at this age and generally increase in value when they reach one of these key dates. Therefore, look for ‘rising stars’ from the distilleries at an age that suits your own investment strategy. Three distilleries that are currently on our stock list that fit these criteria are Glen Moray 2008 barrels, Ardmore 2009 barrels, and Craigellachie 2009 sherry butts.  

Glen Moray (founded 1897)

This Speyside distillery is owned by French company La Martiniquaise which since taking over ownership in 2008 has started investing heavily in the single malt brand. A stylish repackaging combined with a number of innovative new cask-finish expressions has since been released. Previously this distillery just made single malt for the Label No.5 blend but now is being discovered by whisky consumers around the world. 

Glen Moray

Ardmore (founded 1898)

Another distillery that is certainly undervalued. Owned by Beam-Suntory and thus a sister distillery of both Bowmore, Laphroaig and Yamasaki, this company certainly knows how to make great whisky. Ardmore until recently was hidden away in the Highlands making whisky for the Teacher’s blend. This was a crying shame as the liquid is absolutely delicious with soft peat underpinning a fruity but weighty single malt. Whisky aficionados have known about Ardmore for a while but with sales increasing the brand equity is certainly on the rise.

Ardmore Distillery

Craigellachie (founded 1891)

Owned by John Dewars & Sons and part of the huge Bacardi Company, this distillery produces a very traditional style malt, which is revered by the whisky drinking community. In 2014 a core range was introduced, and the expansion of the single malt brand around the world is there for all to see. Bacardi has a huge global distribution network – lookout for Craigellachie coming to a bar/whisky shop near you very soon… A brand on the rise.

Craigellachie Distillery

Conclusion

To conclude, the question that investors in cask whisky should ask themselves next time an old and rare prestigious cask comes onto the marketplace is, “should I buy a cask at the top of the market, or would I be better off having a balanced portfolio of 10/15 casks from different distilleries?” These distilleries have great potential, are aged in different casks, are from different regions, and are all at different ages. A balanced portfolio with younger and more medium-aged casks from these types of rising star distilleries can be more rewarding and certainly less risky than one prestigious old cask…!

To find out more about purchasing Scotch Whisky casks, contact the Masters today.

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It’s All About the Exit – We Offer 5 Unique Exit Strategies

It’s All About the Exit – We Offer 5 Unique Exit Strategies

 

Owning a cask of whisky has many benefits and advantages that other alternative assets don’t enjoy, but it does have a shelf life, and at some point, it has to be bottled. Gold or commodities for example have a ready-made market, and thus your exit is clear and straightforward.

However, owning a whisky cask takes a little more strategy in both your entry and exit strategies. In this article, we are going to explore the five clear exit options that Cask Trade can offer so you the investor can fully understand what is right for you, and we will explain some of the nuances and pitfalls you may not have unearthed. 

Before purchasing your cask there are a number of questions for you to consider; which distillery, what type of cask, what age of whisky, what is your budget, are you looking for a short, medium, or long-term hold? In terms of distilleries, the well-known ones are already quite expensive, which is partly due to the fact that huge investment has gone into building up their global brand equity.

The value is in looking for the distilleries that are either the future rising stars, or are not currently being marketed. The quality of the whisky they are producing is just as good as the ‘big names’ and the Independent Bottlers all around the world are keen on purchasing these casks. Whisky enthusiasts gravitate towards drinking single cask, unfiltered, unadulterated whisky, and this niche in the market is provided by these bottlers. They of course have their business model and margins, therefore, many look for high-quality but good-value whisky. This generally comes from the lesser-known distilleries. 

There are many unscrupulous brokers who are wildly inflating the prices and who cannot offer you five genuine exits, but with some careful due diligence, they can be avoided. Cask Trade is a stockist, meaning we own all the stock that we sell, and we offer the same price to trade as to private customers. We are also a fully UK licensed company and we’ll be there at every step of the way on your journey, including when you are ready to cash in on your whisky. That being said, let’s explore the five key exit strategies.

Exit Strategies

Exit No.1To sell the cask back to the company you bought it from – Cask Trade’s Buy Back Guarantee 

This sounds like an easy option. Of course, you may think that the company you bought it from will be eager to buy that cask back from you. But will they? Firstly, do they have the cash flow? Is there a market demand for your cask? Do they have enough customers/bottlers to sell it to? Are they going to offer you a price for you to realise enough (any) profit? If the company has sold the cask to you at an already inflated price, it’s doubtful they are going to make you an offer.

Of course, there is a possible happy outcome here; if you’ve paid a fair price, the cask has the potential to achieve a decent profit. If market conditions have been favourable and you haven’t achieved any profit, then you’ve simply overpaid for your cask. At this point, you only have two options available to you. You either keep the cask, or sell it. To summarise, this is the easiest, most convenient exit strategy for many investors.

Our advice to avoid the loss highlighted above is to always ask for proof or examples of how the casks have been bought back and resold in the past. The only way that successful investments are bought and sold is if there is an active marketplace.  Cask Trade is the only true marketplace globally that has an equal number of bottlers and private clients for the exit. We will make you an offer to purchase the cask back. This way, you are guaranteed a buyer, even at short notice – at 0% cost to you. Any company which cannot satisfy this important piece of criteria will not be buying your cask back from you.

Finally, a myth needs to be dispelled. Distilleries DO NOT buy casks back. Why would a distillery buy back a cask at a huge loss to themselves when they have, in some cases, 100,000s of their own casks? Only a very old, very rare, cask from a famous distillery would even be considered. If you do happen to own a 50-year-old Macallan sherry butt in excellent health, then it might be worth contacting Edrington (Macallans owner). If not, then we doubt they’ll give it the time of day.

Exit Strategies

Exit No.2 – Cask Trade can re-sell the cask for you on our stock list 

In this scenario, we’ll discuss the target price with you, and once agreed, we’ll sell the cask for you at no extra cost, apart from a small charge for a regauge and sample. This will give a health check to your cask and the sample will tell us how the cask is maturing and how it is currently tasting. When setting your price, you may want to consider; are there are any similar casks on the stock list? What is the supply and demand of those casks? Is this the right time to list it? Whisky casks tend to be more desirable to bottlers when they reach the key milestone ages of 10/12/15/18/21/25 (if your cask is, for example, 16 years of age it might be worth holding on for another two years so it can be sold at 18 years).

At Cask Trade, we send our stock list to over 3500 customers globally. Half of these customers are Independent Bottlers, and so your cask on our list would gain exposure to a global audience of potential buyers. The real skill here is setting the right price. If you inflate the price too much, then the bottlers won’t be interested, and you are narrowing down the chances of being able to exit. Again, it’s only with a very old and rare cask that testing the waters with an inflated price might be worth the chance. This is by far the most common exit, and we have 100s of examples of casks we have bought back and resold.

Exit Strategies

Exit No.3 – Auction Your Cask 

This is an open, transparent option for your exit strategy. The process here is to pay for a regauge and sample and to set a reserve price. There is no other cost to the seller as we add on a 15% buyer’s fee. The advantage of an online auction is that the potential number of buyers is much higher and you’re casting your net much wider – in fact, it opens  it up to the whole world. 

However, there are a few questions you must ask; is your cask in a warehouse where others can take ownership? An auction is also in the public domain therefore this is not a discreet, private sale. Is this important to you? It is very different from a bottle auction as you are buying a product that you’ll probably never see and of course, it won’t be delivered to your front door. Many of the well-known bottle auction houses have failed at cask auctions as it is a very different dynamic and process. To reiterate, the person selling the cask(s) needs all the paperwork to transfer the ownership. Cask Trade has warehouse accounts all over Scotland to help this process. Anyone can buy and sell a bottle…It is not the same.

Exit Strategies

Exit No.4 – Bottle your cask

Cask Trade can facilitate the bottling process using our new bottling service, Regent Street Cask Bottlers. This service is available upon request.

Unless you have a license to retail whisky then bottling your cask is going to be purely for pleasure. Your option at this point is to either gift it, or drink it. You also might want to consider that a 10-year whisky matured in a sherry butt is likely to furnish you with 600-700 bottles. Beware – you’re going to get a very large delivery to your house! Generally bottling a cask for private consumption only works in the corporate gifting world, or for a celebration like a wedding or anniversary. You will be responsible for all the bottling, labelling, and design costs, plus all taxes and duties.

Exit Strategies

Exit No.5 – You can sell your cask to a third party 

You are free to sell the cask privately and Cask Trade can help you facilitate the sale, as long as the cask is held under our license. However, we would have to collect due diligence on the new owner and here we just would charge a nominal fee of £50 +VAT. As long as these conditions can be satisfied then it is a very simple process. 

When to exit? 

Once you have understood and considered the various options, your exit strategies should be used judiciously. To maximise your profit, it is very important that you exit at the time that is right for the whisky. On some occasions, you may want to test the marketplace and see what offers are available and then decide to continue longer on your ownership journey.

There are two limiting factor:
1) Ultimately all whisky does have to be bottled at some point, as it doesn’t go on forever.
2) It has to be of the right quality for the buyer. If the whisky is too young, then no Independent Bottler will be interested in bottling it, and if it has spent too long in the cask then it will taste of wood, which means it will have no value. Scotch whisky rules also dictate that whisky must be more than 40% ABV, and as the whisky matures it doesn’t just lose volume through evaporation (the angels share), but also alcohol strength. Therefore, if you have a very old cask and the ABV is in the low 40s then even if it still tastes very good, it will need to be bottled fairly soon. 

To conclude – if you are investing in any alternative asset, it is not just about the investing, but making your money work for you. Invest – take profit – invest again and so on. Our advice is to buy casks at different ages in different types of wood and from different distilleries. A versatile portfolio will then spread any risk and give you multiple exit points. Therefore, it is important that you not only enter your investment with the right cask at the right price, but you invest with a company that can provide you with five, genuine, exit strategies and a real marketplace. 

To find out more about purchasing Scotch Whisky casks, contact the Masters today.

Keep up to date by following us on socials: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube.

The Snakes and Ladders of Alternative Assets

The Snakes and Ladders of Alternative Assets

 

It is clear that we are in very uncertain times. The financial markets all around the world are showing underlying weaknesses and are easily buffeted by global events. What is the next source of crisis? The Euro / European banking system collapsing? A war featuring one of the major global powers? Or, just something as simple as a global recession allied with runaway inflation? 

This has led many investors to pay a lot more attention to alternative assets. Many believe they are a safer more profitable place to park your money. In this article, we’re going to explore four of these alternative investments (gold, classic cars, art, and whisky), look at the advantages and potential pitfalls, and discuss the exit strategy for each one.

Gold

GOLD

Let’s start with gold, which has been seen as a safe haven for thousands of years. Gold has certainly held its value throughout the centuries and for many investors, it is seen as a very important part of any portfolio. One reason for this is that in times of stock market uncertainty it tends to go the opposite way to your stocks and shares. This was no more apparent than in the banking crisis of 2008 when the price rose from $872 to $1573 – an 80% rise in three years! Gold can of course be bought physically in either coins, ingots, or bars. Alternatively, there is a whole range of gold investment funds, or you can actually invest in the mining companies themselves. All these will rise and fall on the price of gold.  

Ladders

Gold is a great hedge, and having intrinsic value it will historically retain a large part of its value. As stated previously it is seen as the ultimate safe haven for when everything else is going south. As an example, the price from 1980 to 2005 rarely rose above $250 per ounce. Since the banking crisis of 2008 to the present day, the price has risen from $500 to $1330 but with huge volatile swings in between that time. 

Snakes

With physical gold, there may well be storage and insurance costs. There isn’t really any way to diversify your holdings, gold is gold, and the price is determined by the market. Unlike bonds and gilts, it doesn’t pay any type of yield. Finally, gold is seen as a very long-term investment as the market is very unpredictable.  

The Exit

Gold has a very easy exit as there will always be willing buyers. However, being a volatile long-term commodity, it isn’t something you can plan for (like retirement), with even a short, medium, or long-term strategy. Gold is really there as a hedge against stormy waters, but to reiterate, it is the most tradable of commodities – you will always get your money!

classic cars

CLASSIC CARS

Most people who buy classic cars are not 100% in it for investment purposes. In fact, most are enthusiasts who have a real passion and love for these cars. Currently, classic cars as an alternative asset are in steady decline. In terms of purchasing a classic car, there are clearly thousands of different types of models in different states of repair. Most owners don’t just park their cars in the garage and forget about them, they actually drive them which all adds to costs, risk, and potential depreciation of the asset. 

Ladders

If you know what you’re buying and what is a fair price, then this can be an asset that can not only increase in value but give the investor immense pleasure along the way. There are a finite amount of these classic cars (like the famous Aston Martin DB5) and in some cases, the supply and demand metrics mean that the price can only go in one direction. Other options are restoration projects, where the aim is to buy a car in a poor state of repair and restore it to its former glory fairly cheaply. The same principle here applies to restoring property with potentially the same risk/rewards. Currently, the cars appreciating the fastest are the classic cars which fall into the affordable category. Last year a Jaguar Mark II (built 1959-67) gained in value from £21k to £27k for a 27% profit. 

Snakes

Costs, costs, and more costs. Unless you’re prepared to park it in your garage and wait for the market it could be an ‘investment’ that just hemorrhages money. Insurance will almost certainly be eye-wateringly high and that’s before you get to the low miles per gallon and the inevitable repairs, plus all the other costs that our dear civic leaders like to pile on motorists. Add to that the wear and tear on the roads and the mileometer ticking over all the time, it all adds up to the ultimate depreciating asset. Finally, it really helps to be an expert in this field when it comes to the buying and selling of this asset. For example, last year the Aston Martin DB7 (2002) depreciated in value from £38k to £31k for a loss of £16%. It is a hard market to predict. 

The Exit

This may not be that easy depending on the type of car you own. If it is quite an obscure make you’ll find that the market is quite small, and it could take a considerable time to find a buyer willing to pay the price you want. The general advice with classic cars is to buy one for the love and passion of owning it, and if you do manage to make a profit out of the exercise then consider yourself lucky. That being said, it is still a tangible asset that can be another hedge against the volatility and ill winds of the financial markets.

art

ART

The global art market according to Statista shrank from $64 billion to $50 billion last year, but this was mainly due to the pandemic. The art market is certainly incredibly volatile but there are huge sums of money being spent on it, and certain sectors within it are growing – for example NFT crypto digital art. In 2021 Christies shocked many in the art world when they sold a piece of digital art for $69.3 million. Online art sales have also doubled from $6 billion to $12.4 billion in the last year, again according to Statista. There are certainly some very savvy investments to be made in art, but it is very complex and certainly a bit of a minefield. Other factors to consider are the supply and demand of various artists and whether they are living or not.  

Ladders

Art, in general, is seen as a long-term investment and the market doesn’t tend to follow the same patterns as the stock market. This is why some investors like to include it in their portfolios as a hedge against another global stock market downturn. Like Classic Cars, some investors see it more as a passion project and want a particular piece of art in their home to appreciate and admire. They know it has worth, and that over time it will probably increase in value and become a valuable asset, but it isn’t the main objective. 

Snakes

Many! Firstly, unless you’re an expert you’ll need to do your research and increase your knowledge. Then you’ll have to formulate an investment strategy and find the type of artwork that fits your budget, and which you think has an investment opportunity. The Art World is of course very diverse, very subjective, and very susceptible to unscrupulous practices with fakes, copies, and inflated pricing. Another aspect to consider is that with the more established, famous artists you’ll need incredibly deep pockets to get involved in this market. With newer artists whose work is clearly much more affordable, you then have the problem of how subjective this is and it is very risky. If the artist in question never establishes themselves then your investment will be virtually worthless. 

The Exit

The obvious route here for many investors is an auction house or gallery. Depending on the piece of art you are selling will determine the demand. However, it still isn’t guaranteed that you’ll make a profit and even at the top of the market, there are wild swings in the auction price. To conclude, art does have intrinsic value and if you are well researched and dealing with trustworthy people, then it can be a very profitable long-term investment and hedge against the market. Beware though, as the risks are very high.

whisky bottles

WHISKY BOTTLES

With the growing global demand and interest in Scotch whisky, the number of collectors and investors in whisky bottles has increased exponentially in the last few years. Currently on average, 60,000 bottles are auctioned worldwide, most of them through Scottish online auction companies. The market is only going in one direction at present, and the growth is set to continue, as these rare bottles are finite in their supply.  

Ladders

With this market, you don’t need to be wealthy to get involved and it can be an excellent short, medium, or long-term hold. Internet research is now very easy, and many of the best online auction sites have a plethora of historical information about each expression of whisky, and its historical pattern of growth. This makes it easy to bid on a number of bottles at each auction and build up your portfolio. The larger, individual online auctions can be around 10,000 bottles to bid on – the choice is very wide, and will vary in price from £20 to £100,000+ on average, so the involvement is easy. Whisky sealed in a bottle also doesn’t have a shelf life (unlike wine), therefore as long as it is stored properly it can be held for as long as the investor wants.  

Snakes

Buying a large number of bottles has some challenges. There will be significant transportation costs involved in the buying and selling process, plus all the auction fees themselves. Also, since 2020 any transactions occurring with EU countries now incur extra import duties and VAT. As your collection increases, this may take over a whole room in your house. There may also be extra insurance costs to factor in. For some investors, they have had to rent storage units to hold their bottles, which is another associated expense. Finally, all of the above is very time-consuming.  

The Exit

As long as the market continues to grow and prices increase, then the exit is relatively simple. Most investors send their bottles to the online auction house of their choice, and they will usually sell. Like any auction there are risks and it is advisable to set a reserve (at extra cost) for anything you deem to be valuable. The auction house will then credit your bank account within the month, minus their costs. 

Whisky bottles are a less risky option than some of the other alternative investments. It is easy to test the waters with lower sums of money, and there is more versatility in the length of time you need to hold. Like other alternative investments, this can be seen as an excellent hedge against the market and these whiskies do have real intrinsic value. One last option is that you don’t have to cash in your investment – you can just enjoy the pleasure of consuming it! 

Whisky casks

WHISKY CASKS

This type of investment is even more versatile than bottles, with many more advantages if done right. The popularity in the trading of whisky casks has increased rapidly in the last few years, with a mix of savvy investors and whisky enthusiasts dominating the market. However, with a lot of uncertainty in the traditional global financial markets, gravitation towards alternative investments was almost inevitable. 

Ladders

As with a piece of art, classic car, or a rare bottle of Scotch, if you purchase one of these items today and sell it in 10 years’ time, you are hoping that with supply and demand and price inflation, it will increase in value. With the other alternative assets, be it a physical car, piece of artwork or a bottle of whisky, the product remains unchanged throughout your hold time. However, when you purchase, for example, a five-year-old cask of whisky and come to sell it in 10 years’ time, you are not selling the same product. You now have in your possession a 15-year-old cask of whisky, which is an entirely different proposition. Your aged whisky has completely transformed in the cask – we are not aware of the same younger whisky selling for a higher price than the same older whisky…!

Another advantage is that the whisky only gets taxed when it is bottled. As an investor, you act as the caretaker of the cask, watching as it matures from, for example, three years of age until it is bottled, usually at one of the milestone ages of 10/12/15/18/21/25 years. The value of the cask can range from about £1500 for new-make spirit, right up to over £100,000 and beyond for older, rarer casks. Logistically it is very easy for the investor, as the cask generally stays in its warehouse until it is bottled. The only thing that might change is the certification of ownership, with storage and insurance costs minimal. 

Snakes

There are a large number of unlicensed, offshore broking companies which have entered this market, who have questionable operating practices at best – some of these companies certainly are snakes! It is important for any investor to do their due diligence, and make sure the company they are dealing with is selling them the right cask at the right price. Investors should be aware that if they are initially overcharged for their casks, it could take many more years to get out, as your profit has already been taken! 

The Exit

Assuming you have bought your cask from a reputable company, exiting your investment is key. At Cask Trade the majority of our customers are trade/independent bottlers to whom we can offer the cask. We have five in-house exit strategies; we can make you an offer to buy-back the cask ourselves, advertise it on our stock list, or we can offer to sell it privatley through our sales team. Another option is our online, first, cask-dedicated Auction Your Cask platform. Finally, there is the option, of course, to bottle your own cask, which we can also facilitate. 

Conclusion – We see the graduation to alternative assets continuing at a pace, taking a higher percentage of any investment portfolio. It is clear that the number of options available today has never been greater. Our advice is to research, research, research and make sure you always deal with a reputable company.

To find out more about purchasing Scotch Whisky casks, contact the Masters today.

Keep up to date by following us on socials: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube.

An Insight into the World of Casks

An Insight into the World of Casks

Myriam

Having grown up in Speyside, whisky has been a part of Myriam’s heritage from a young age. What started out as a distillery tour guide job at Glenfiddich soon turned into a full-time career in whisky, from the family-owned Glenfarclas distillery, to independent bottler Elixir Distillers, to widely acclaimed William Grant & Sons. With export sales and single cask bottlings as her focus over the last seven years, Sales & Marketing Manager for Cask Trade, Myriam, gives us an insight into the world of casks and current trends.

2021 in review

At Cask Trade, we buy and sell casks on a daily basis, working with a huge variety of suppliers and customers which include both trade and private clients across the globe. We are fortunate to be working with close to 100 well-established distilleries in Scotland, which is the core of our business. We also sell world whisky, including Irish whiskey and bourbon, and rum casks.

In terms of trade customers, the cask market is showing strong growth as many continue to repeat purchase and buy multiple casks from different distilleries, ages and styles. There continues to be an increase in new trade customers globally and demand continues to outstrip supply. Some trade customers are looking to buy only a few casks a year while others are well established independent bottlers looking for hundreds of casks.

In terms of private clients, repeat purchases are common, as customers look to gradually build a diversified portfolio of casks over time. Some are already starting to see returns on casks they bought in the last year, and very much enjoy the experience of owning a tangible alternative asset that not only performs well but has provenance and heritage. Most customers already have an interest in whisky and are knowledgeable about it. They enjoy the journey of owning a cask, learning about the distillery heritage, receiving a sample, and selling it on, or sometimes even bottling it for private consumption under their own label.

Rum casks

Trends

As one might expect, whisky matured in ex-sherry casks are popular among both trade and private clients. Around 90% of the stock we sell is in ex-bourbon casks, as sherry casks continue to be scarce. Many trade customers are choosing to buy bourbon cask matured whisky and rerack into first-fill sherry hogsheads in the latter stages of the maturation for around six months to one year. This changes the style of the whisky and can increase its desirability and value too.

Sherry casks are a popular style of whisky not only because of the fruity flavour profile and darker colour it gives to the final product, but they are also valuable as a commodity. Sherry butts are often favoured by those looking for a long-term investment, as due to their 500-litre size they mature at a slower rate, therefore losing less volume and ABV % over time than hogsheads (250-litre) and barrels (200-litre).

A general trend that I’ve seen is that there are more and more casks on the market with undisclosed brand names i.e. Secret Islay, Secret Speyside, Orkney Malt, Whitlaw, Williamson etc. This phenomenon has been occurring for a few years now and although it may be difficult to understand at first, it is something we are well accustomed to in the trade. A secret distillery name means there is no specific brand name or distillery associated with the cask, which means that the price point is lower for the same quality of liquid. This encourages intrigue to sample the whisky and guess where it comes from and also gives way to creativity too. Often trade customers like to buy multiple casks so they can do a cask series i.e. Secret Speyside matured in an ex-bourbon barrel, a sherry hogshead and a bourbon hogshead. What matters to trade is the quality of the whisky, not necessarily just the brand name. Last year we bought and sold more secret distillery casks than ever before!

New-make casks are another trend which is popular and this is something we have seen happening on the market in general as a lot of the new distilleries are providing cask programmes. We supply new-make casks from time to time but so far only from one distillery whom we have been working with since the beginning of Cask Trade. It’s important to note here that new-make is typically a long-term investment which does not make it suitable for everyone. We believe it is important to buy from a distillery that has an established reputation and has already released bottlings on the market which helps us better determine its value in future. Many younger people are looking to invest and are open to long-term investment so new-make fits this profile well, as it’s a very accessible starting point in terms of value.

Casks

Whisky styles versus price

For the first cask purchase, often the lower value price points of the younger whisky casks are the most popular around the £2-£3k range. That being said, clients aren’t afraid to spend significantly more depending on the distillery and cask. Prices per cask vary depending on the age, cask type, volume & ABV % and notably the availability of casks on the private market, as well as the distillery’s global reputation and popularity. Naturally, if the cask is rare, this demands a premium, but this is not to say that all casks from well-known distilleries are expensive, it depends very much on their age and availability. More often than not there is more demand than supply, and with some distilleries, it is more difficult to access stocks than others.

Many of the distilleries we work with are rising through the ranks and gaining more global reputation through the premiumisation of their brands. A change of distillery owner may also have a significant impact on the brand, for example, when Glenrothes distillery was bought over from Berry Brothers by Edrington in 2017. Glenrothes was already an established brand with a stand-out quality single malt, but now as the sister distillery of Macallan, it gives the brand further recognition and prestige by association. Many distilleries have changed owners over the years and this is something that supports a balanced portfolio of casks as you just never know which distilleries will be the rising stars of the future.

Most customers will buy more than one cask and they understand the value of a balanced portfolio which includes casks from different distilleries, ages and cask types, allowing for brand diversity, and flexibility in the exit strategies and investment timeframes. Casks between six to 12 years old are popular as these casks are still relatively young, and therefore high fill levels and high strength. This means that they can mature for many years allowing for medium to long-term investment.

Glenlivet distillery

An older cask requires more management i.e. periodic regauging (checking the strength and volume of the cask) and of course, it comes at a higher price point too. If looking for a short (2-4 years) hold then these older casks are often better suited as you can exit at older ages i.e. 15 years old and above which fetches a higher value. The general trend is that for the most part clients are looking for a medium (5-7 years) to long-term (8-10 years+) investment timeframe.

In terms of trends in the trade, there have been more Non-Age Statements and younger single malts from as young as five years old being released from distilleries across the board. There has also been a growing number of independent bottlers globally and many distilleries releasing single casks or limited editions of lesser-known single malts. In general, we see brand premiumisation in both official releases and independent bottlings of an increasing number of distilleries.

Independent bottlers aren’t afraid to bottle younger whiskies and therefore broaden their appeal for those wishing to try single cask whiskies that won’t break the bank. By comparison, old & rare is increasingly sought after and again both official releases and independent bottlings are championing this category, with many rare bottlings selling out in minutes. Demand is strong across all age categories, be they young casks or old & rare. What matters is the quality of the liquid, and if you’re buying from a well-established distillery, you are buying into a recognised brand that produces sought-after, quality whisky.

Glenallachie Distillery

My best sellers

Caol Ila is always a favourite with Ben Nevis a close second, followed by GlenAllachie. Other classic frontrunners include Bowmore, Springbank, and anything from Islay!

Many of the well-established distilleries are gaining more popularity as they premiumise their brands like Glenrothes, Glen Garioch, Aberlour and Benriach to name a few.

Among the secret distillery casks, Whitlaw or Orkney Malt (Highland Park) and Williamson (Laphroaig) are hugely popular.

Rum casks

Scotch whisky alternatives

Customers who previously only bought Scotch whisky in early 2021 are now also buying world whisky (particularly Irish whiskey and bourbon) and rum on an increasingly regular basis. This is a global trend as we see trade customers from Europe, USA and Asia buying rum and world whisky, and occasionally some cognac too. Since the beginning of the year we have been buying and selling rum on a regular basis and we believe that the rum category is definitely one to watch!

We are Cask Trade.

For more interesting insights and information from our Masters, be sure to check out our ‘News’ page or get in touch with Myriam at: myriam@casktrade.com

Cask Trade’s Trends and Predictions 2022

Cask Trade’s Trends and Predictions 2022

MORE FEMALE WHISKY DRINKERS, A REVIVAL OF CLASSIC COCKTAILS AND AN EXPLOSION OF NON-FUNGIBLE TOKENS ARE AMONG THE PREDICTIONS THE CASK TRADE MASTERS SEE FOR 2022.

Our growing team of passionate whisky enthusiasts have taken a look back over the past year that was, to share some trends they have spotted and to proffer some predictions for 2022.

2021 TRENDS

2021 was a challenging year for almost every industry and the whisky sector has been no different, as the pandemic imposed restrictions on the crucial on-trade and some distilleries were even forced to halt production.

However, there have been many positives over the last year for whisky, including the suspension of the 25% tariff in the US on Scotch, which has led to a sales growth.

With around 150 export markets buying Scotch whisky, demand from new customers with more disposable income looking to buy rare items from around the world is strong and continues to outstrip supply. A growing trend has been seen in the demographic of whisky drinkers which continues to get younger, with more women coming into the category.

There has also been new interest and growth in ‘New World’ whisky with many new distilleries opening up around the world, and Australian whisky continues to rise up the ranks with brands like Starwood and Sullivans Cove leading the way. We have embraced this trend by welcoming distilleries such as Mackmyra and Heaven Hill onto our stock list.

2022 PREDICTIONS

Can you keep a secret?

We expect to see more and more ‘secret’ casks coming to the market with undisclosed brand names. ‘Secret’ distillery means there is no specific brand name associated with the cask and therefore the price point is lower for the same quality liquid. Secret Speyside, for example, was a very popular series last year (continuing into this year), offering casks of whisky matured in an ex-bourbon barrel, a sherry hogshead and a bourbon hogshead.

Out with the old and in with the new…sometimes

A new hot sector in the cask trading industry is young casks, under 10 years old, from less explored distilleries. As a stockist, we have been able to purchase an extremely healthy supply of stock to sell to predominately younger investors who are open to medium to long-term investments.

New-make from Speyside Distillery actually featured in our very popular Trilogy Series last year offering casks of whisky matured in ex-bourbon barrels, sherry hogsheads and port wine barriques.

Cask buyers are gradually coming to realise that old and rare casks are, by definition, old and rare and therefore extremely scarce and expensive.

Although, if you are interested in adding an old and rare cask to your portfolio, we have had some big names in our inventory including a 1989 Macallan, 1990 Littlemill and 1997 Bowmore, to name a few!

Shaken or stirred?

Classic whisky cocktails will continue their revival in 2022 including forgotten classics like the Affinity, Bobby Burns, New York Sour and Barbary Coast. We also expect to see whisky highballs breaking through into the mainstream and becoming fashionable.

Our Independent Bottlers are on the Rise

2021 saw our trade clientele grow exponentially. Now, over 50% of our clients are independent bottlers, so it’s safe to say we’re trusted by the industry, which ultimately will be the end destination of your cask.  We expect to see a further 50% uplift in indie bottler clients, continuing into 2022 and beyond. Currently, we have a global reach with 100+ bottlers on almost every continent. We also supply to whisky clubs, and of course, avid whisky enthusiasts. The same price is offered to trade as it is to private clients.

Cask Trade has sold 1400+ casks to trade/independent bottling companies to date, which equates to nearly half a million bottles that have been bottled (or waiting to be bottled)!

Scotch whisky alternatives

The rum category is definitely the one to watch in 2022. Interest in premium rum continues its growth as rare rum bottles become more collectible. For more than a year now, we have been buying and selling rum casks and this is set to accelerate this year. In particular, we have had Barbados Rum from the famous Foursquare Distillery tend to fly off the list, and rums from Trinidad and Panama are also proving popular.

Rye whiskey is going to continue its growth. German Rye and New York Rye will start to get the plaudits they deserve.

From new product launches to distillery investments, Irish whiskey will also show huge acceleration in growth in the US and start to catch Scotch whisky in terms of its popularity. In fact, we think 2022 is the year to add Cooley Irish Whiskey to your portfolio; with Cooley you have a producer with an already very strong track record and a loyal following, especially in the all-important US market, who make great whiskey. We have Irish Whiskey on our current stock list so get in touch and let’s talk Whiskey!

But don’t just take our word for it, according to The Spirits Business, Irish Whiskey sales are at an all-time high.

Non-Fungible what?

 Non-fungible tokens (NFT to your friends) are ‘one-of-a-kind’ assets in the digital world that can be bought and sold like any other product, but which have no tangible form of their own. The digital tokens are certificates of ownership for virtual assets.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s respectively sold $65 million and $100 million of NFTs in 2021, according to a recent Reuters report (8th November 2021).

The use of NFTs by whisky brands will take off in 2022. We predict Macallan will enter this market at some point during the year.

ASIA FORECAST

Much of the trends and predictions refer to all markets we service, however we believe there will be a return to Scotch whisky in Asia in 2022.

In this market, premium blended whisky and Single Malt are leading the way and continue to put pressure on aged stock.

Single Malt whisky in China continues to grow from a small base as consumers become more educated.

Other whiskies to watch in 2022 are recommended in this article on Forbes.com including one of our personal favourites GlenAllachie.

We are Cask Trade.

For more interesting insights and information from our Masters, be sure to check out our ‘News’ page.