Casks vs Bottles – An Investor’s Guide by Phil Huckle

Casks vs Bottles – An Investor’s Guide by Phil Huckle

Whilst it is clear that markets are currently very turbulent, even if this was not the case I would still write the same article about Whisky Cask Investment and how this Alternative Asset compares to investing in Whisky Bottles and other Physical Assets.

The private purchase of Whisky Casks is an activity almost as old as the act of distilling the Amber Nectar itself, although the opportunity for Investors to be involved in this market is quite a modern phenomenon. There are many reasons for this, chiefly the increase in the availability of Single Malt Scotch in the 1980s and the continued growth in popularity of whisky as a hobby from the beginning of the 21st century.

It was around this time that a small number of whisky enthusiasts started to collect rare bottles and this market continues to grow to this very day – as evidenced by the increasing number of Whisky Auction Sites and the frequency of their sales. Despite the rarity of collectible bottles it is a relatively simple market to enter through visiting a specialist store, buying through an auction or from a private owner, or through one of the ballots held for rare bottlings on launch day. Buying whisky casks can be a little more difficult – and it is highly advisable that you deal with a reputable company in this sector – but this can offer many advantages to the Investor looking for medium and long-term growth compared to bottles and other alternative assets.

Whisky pouring

Firstly, let us consider Bottle Investment. Given the growing global interest in Single Malt Whisky there remain many shrewd investments to be made and the growth and profitability in this area show no sign of slowing down, but this does not automatically make a collection of rare bottles your best investment. Importantly, the liquid in a bottle does not continue to age and mature, so a 12-year-old bottle of whisky will always be a 12-year-old bottle of whisky and will only increase in value if the supply of said whisky reduces either due to being discontinued or a limited edition bottling. Many investors are also faced with time, financial, and logistical challenges such as associated auction fees, transportation costs, and the necessary storage space. The majority of investors simply don’t have the time or space either in the home or their office to lose a room for their bottle collection and to handle the administration of tracking, packing, and sending bottles – especially when serious collections can easily run to hundreds or even thousands of bottles.

Whisky Casks make for a much simpler investment, with the liquid often purchased at a much younger age and at a much cheaper price than whisky which has fully matured. In some cases, it is even purchased as a new-make spirit! Whisky tends to sell best at the ‘Milestone Ages’ of 12, 15, 18, 21, and 25 years old, and it is wise to factor this into your exit strategy when choosing your investment. A shorter-term investment for example could involve holding a 9-year-old cask until it is 12 or 15 years old, with the whisky maturing in the cask and appreciating in value during this time. I am yet to find a distillery that sells its 18-year-old Single Malt for less than their 12-year-old Single Malt(!) and the same principle applies with casks. The cask itself must be kept in a bonded warehouse in Scotland, meaning the investor does not need to find space to store it themselves.

Casks stacked

I believe it is important at this point to give a quick overview of the global Whisky market. Within Scotch Whisky the two main types sold are Blended Whisky (dominating the market at 80-85% of all Scotch consumed) which comprises many different Malts and (mostly) Grain Whisky. Single Malt Whisky, usually of higher quality and more expensive, accounts for a much smaller but rapidly growing section of the market and is expected to continue increasing its market share. Traditionally strongest in Western European Countries and North America, in recent years it has been shown that as a Whisky market matures their consumers are keen to broaden their pallets beyond famous blends such as Johnnie Walker and Chivas Brothers and explore Single Malt. This is particularly evident in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and, more recently, China.

casks outside

In fact, market trends indicate that in more and more countries consumers are turning not just to Single Malt Whisky but in particular to older, rarer whiskies. This has naturally caused a shortage of old casks as stocks of high-quality Single Malt have depleted, creating an opportunity for investors who will find their older casks will be very much more in demand. Within traditional markets, there has been a surge in the number of whisky enthusiasts who seek out even rarer ‘Single Cask’ Bottlings (usually only a few hundred bottles produced) which in turn has led to a boom in the number of Independent Bottlers meeting this demand with over 1500 of them now operating worldwide. This is before one even considers the future demand in growth markets such as India, where most Indian consumers are priced out of the Scotch Whisky market by extortionate import taxes of around 150%!

The UK Government is in active trade discussions with India to get this tariff reduced as part of a wider Trade Deal and an increase in whisky drinkers amongst a population of 1.4 billion people is an exciting prospect for distilleries and cask investors alike. Indeed, there is a strong argument for taking a position in this market now before the increase in demand is made a reality by a future trade deal.

Although stock markets and property still dominate conventional investment strategies, at a time when the global economy continues to look shaky with continued uncertainty about post-pandemic economic recovery and geopolitical instability, I believe diversifying a percentage of your portfolio into whisky casks which are one of the only assets to appreciate in a linear fashion is a very, very savvy move.

To find out more about how Whisky Cask Investment can work for you, contact The Masters today!

Breaking News: Cask Trade Opens In Asia

Breaking News: Cask Trade Opens In Asia

 

We are delighted to announce Cask Trade Ltd has opened an office in Hong Kong servicing the whole of Asia.

We have seen an increasing demand for cask whisky from the East. Cask Trade are very excited to showcase our unmatched inventory to our existing and new clients in Asia.

For the first time, bottlers, investors and avid whisky enthusiasts in Asia will be able to buy casks at UK prices. The prices are significantly lower than anyone has been used to, and with the same seamless service afforded to hundreds of our UK investors and bottlers.

Director of Cask Trade HK, Sir Colin Hampden-White, says: “For many years I have had the pleasure of helping customers from all over Asia who appreciate cask strength whisky to taste and purchase,” says Hampden-White who is a Keeper of the Quaich, who adds: “I’m very excited Cask Trade is opening an office in Hong Kong. I can personally host tastings and be a part of our customer’s journey in selecting and buying cask whisky.”

Cask Trade Hong Kong Office

Masters of whisky appreciation
Managing Director of Cask Trade, Simon Aron, says the opportunity for growth in Asia is unprecedented. We have seen a 25% increase of our existing business in Asia already. We expect to see further increase of a minimum of 25% in sales for the entire business. This is achieved by having a physical presence in the region.
“By opening in Hong Kong, we are addressing a demand from existing and potential customers throughout Asia. We’re offering direct access to casks for whatever purpose, at competitive UK prices with complete transparency and a seamless service.” Says Aron, who adds: “Our company is all about an authentic marketplace for buying and selling casks of whisky. We have multiple exit strategies, including our online auction for casks. Auctionyourcask.com. We want to supply all bottlers, investors and of course, whisky lovers! I think the Asian market will be both surprised and delighted with our competitive prices.”

The new office based in the Admiralty District of Hong Kong will be headed up by John Wong.

John is a self-confessed whisky geek. He says, whilst the whisky scene is relatively new in the region, the level of expertise, passion and enthusiasm’s remarkable.

Drinkers from Greater China and Asia-Pacific are always seeking a diverse range of taste and flavour profiles in whisky. They look for rarity and investment opportunities with stories behind the liquid. With me on the ground in Hong Kong, I can immerse myself into the whisky community. There is nothing better than meeting face to face with a dram in your hand.” Says Wong, who explains the demand isn’t just coming from Hong Kong. “The East Asian market is unique. Our highly skilled and educated customers like to discuss whisky and learn from each other. It’s so much more than just buying and selling. We are embarking on a journey together.”

John Wong, Sales Director for HK

Whisky investment done properly

We are proud to own one of the largest and varied stock lists anywhere in the world. Our team sample, taste, health check every cask and only sell stock that we own. We hold all our own insurances and licenses and are not affiliated to any third party. Cask Trade HK enjoys all of the relevant licenses direct with the UK. This includes all of the UK HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs) licenses required to trade, store and bottle whisky (WOWGR, AWRS and Duty Representative).

With our new business in Hong Kong we are looking to build a reputation as the go-to cask company in Asia. The aim is to mirror what we have achieved in the UK.

Whisky on the rise in Asia
According to the Euromonitor report, by 2022 the value of whisky sales in China is expected to reach £2.2 billion (approx). This is 38.6% more than in 2018 and the volume of whisky sales is to reach 23.65 billion litres.

Direct exports increased from around £1.4 million in 2000 to around £89 million in 2019. This resulted in reaching an annual growth rate of over 24% (CAGR 2000-2019). Around 25 bottles of Scotch whisky are exported to China every minute.

We encourage our Asian customers to follow us on WeChat. Stay up-to-date with our Hong Kong acitivities.

Tullibardine Distillery Focus

Tullibardine Distillery Focus

 

Located just north of Scotland’s Central Belt on the road to Perth is the Tullibardine distillery. Opened post-war in 1949 it was built to make fillings for various blends and had an unremarkable first 40 years. In 1994 it was unfortunately mothballed until 2003. It was then under new ownership that the focus shifted to releasing Single Malt expressions. The new owners discovered that the cask policy that had occurred previously left a lot to be desired with mainly tired old casks. After an extensive re-casking operation Tullibardine was back in business.

Since 2006 numerous cask finish expressions have been released using Port, Marsala, Sauternes, Madeira, Moscatel, Burgundy as well as Sherry. Interestingly a vintage series was also released which included a 40-year and a very rare 60-year expression. The bottle repackaging also looks fantastic which has only added to the credibility of the distillery. For the liquid they produce about three million litres per year with a 55 hour fermentation time. The style is generally quite sweet and floral, arguably more reminiscent of a gentle Speyside rather than a big bold and spicy highlander. The excellent news for investors is that it is remarkably good value still. Certainly worth adding to any portfolio.

We have had our entire 2021 stock allocation, so when it comes to Tullibardine you know we mean whisky business…!

We currently have a range of 2014, 2015, and some Old & Rare 1993 Tullibardine casks on our stock list. To find out more about investing in Tullibardine Whisky, contact The Masters today!

Glen Moray Distillery Focus

Glen Moray Distillery Focus

 

 

Exciting times at the Glen Moray (pronounced mur-ree) distillery. Formerly a brewery that in 1897 was converted into a distillery to take advantage of the late Victorian whisky boom. The distillery is located in Speyside just outside the town of Elgin and production has reached a very healthy 5.5 million litres per year and a fermentation time of 60 hours. Today most of the production goes into the million-plus case brand Label 5 which is very popular in the world’s largest Scotch whisky market – France. However, since 1999 sales of the Single Malt have been steadily increasing with a whole host of interesting distillery bottlings being released. In more recent times a number of cask finishes have come onto the market with port, Madeira, Chenin Blanc, Rhum Agricole, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy and of course a Sherry cask finish as well. In 2015 they released a very well-received peaty version. This exciting innovation has certainly driven sales and reputation and is another distillery that is moving up the ranks…

Since Glen Moray has long been maturing whisky in an unusually wide selection of casks, we are now starting to see these surprising finishes coming into their own. We have 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2014 barrels & hogsheads on our current stock list. We’re always happy to talk whisky, so why not start your investment journey with Cask Trade and Glen Moray today?

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

Glenrothes Distillery Focus

Glenrothes Distillery Focus

From a personal point of view we’ve always liked Glenrothes Distillery. Phil Huckle our Brand Exec used to host a few tasting at Berry Bros (the previous owners from 2010 to 2017) and got to sample quite a bit of the range. It was around this time that they started releasing many different special editions. It was clear that this was a very versatile whisky that prospered in a whole range of different casks and at different ages. Phil even remembers tasting a peated cask which was very impressive. In more recent times though the brand has been sold back to previous owners the Edrington Group. They have since continued investing in the promotion of the Single Malt bottlings side of the operation. 

The distillery itself has a very familiar history in the fact that it was born in 1878 in the late Victorian boom-time years. The whisky was considered excellent fillings for blends and to this day is a key part of both the famous Cutty Sark & Famous Grouse blends. Today they are producing about four million litres of spirit with 44 mashes per week. Interestingly they also have a cooperage on-site where they repair many casks for the distillery and the Edrington Group in general. This is a very complex classic Speyside malt which ages very well. It is medium-bodied with lots of rich nutty spicy notes.
 
From an investor point of view, this distillery is already established as a growing Single Malt. It certainly doesn’t hurt that its two sister distilleries are Highland Park and The Macallan and we see the value of Glenrothes just continuing to rise.

Independent bottlers will snap this malt up and the fact that two years ago a 50-year-old expression was released (£25,000 per bottle!) shows it ages well and there is a versatile exit strategy. They also age the bulk of their whisky in the increasingly rarer sherry casks which are also in demand. To conclude, this is a very investible distillery which could easily join the blue riband club of its two famous sisters. A valuable addition to any portfolio.

 

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

Irish Grain Whiskey – The Emerald Isles’ Secret Gem

Irish Grain Whiskey – The Emerald Isles’ Secret Gem

Irish Grain Whiskey is generally great quality and delicious. Why then is such a fantastic spirit managing to slip underneath the radar? Certainly Irish whiskey is undergoing a renaissance right now. Very soon the number of distilleries will rise from 13 to 35. In 1987, there were only four when the Cooley distillery opened its doors for the first time. The interest in Irish Pot Still and Blended whiskey is reaching stratospheric proportions. Quite rightly winning plaudits left right and centre. Partly thanks to our American cousins, who cant drink enough of the Irish liquid gold. There is a real shortage in aged stock. This is being reflected in rapidly rising prices.

For Grain whiskey, yes some brands have come on to the market. If you look around you’ll find a very small handful of expressions from Teeling, Kilbeggan & Midleton. However all the whiskey is quite young and clearly only small quantities have been released. Cooley for example did release a 15yr & 18yr under their Greenore brand. (And it actually won a lot of awards). Although it was soon discontinued as only 5,000 and 4,000 bottles were available. Why is so little of this whiskey available? Is it any good? As an investor why should I get excited about this? Well we’re going to laydown why Irish Grain Whiskey could be a very savvy investment and addition to any portfolio.

Cooley Grain and Single Malt Samples

Irish Grain Whiskey is of course a very important component of any Irish Blended Whiskey. Until recently most of it was made by the Midleton distillery down in Cork for their very successful Jameson brand. Very little grain whiskey was aged anything more than a few years. Recently the demand for Jameson and other Irish blends has skyrocketed. Jameson alone has gone from 500,000 cases to 7.5m in just 25 years! What has also caught Irish distillers by surprise is the increasing demand for blended whiskey. They are desperately short of both older Malt & Grain casks. With all these shortages it means that very little Grain Whiskey has ever been released. 

Is there even a market for Irish Grain Whiskey? The simple answer is absolutely, especially if you have older aged casks. At the moment you can only find younger expressions on the market. This is because most of the older casks are being tipped into blends. Recently we acquired some Cooley 2009 & 2010 Grain Whiskey casks and these are a great investment. Right now it tastes amazing so imagine how its is going to be in 10 years! These casks are certainly undervalued because there is very little older Irish grain whiskey lying in warehouses anywhere. Secondly it was distilled by Cooley. Their award winning Greenore 15yr & 18yr expressions prove how fantastic the whiskey is. Thirdly the age of the whiskey is 11 & 12 years old respectively. It is already at those magic numbers which are very appealing to consumers and thus Independent Bottlers.

This investment could be kept for a short while until it was 15 years old. Or, wait until it was either 18 or 21 years. This is when the value should’ve accelerated upwards even further. Our suggestion for your exit strategy is to put these casks up for auction with our ‘Auction Your Cask’ facility (with a reserve of-course). And see where the value goes. You could be very very pleasantly surprised.  

To find out more about Irish Whiskey Investment, contact The Masters today!

Tormore Distillery Focus

Tormore Distillery Focus

Traditionally there has only been a handful of Tormore Distillery Bottlings and these have not always been a priority for owners Chivas. Before addressing the liquid it’s worth noting that the distillery itself is absolutely stunning and before the building began on Macallan’s new site, Tormore would well lay claim to Scotland’s most visually unique distillery. Built in 1959 by famed architect Sir Albert Richardson it looks very palatial being made out of Scottish granite in a two-toned colour scheme. There is also a clock tower and everything is trimmed in copper and oak with beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding it. Unfortunately, it isn’t open to the public but is easily accessible from the main road so if you’re in the region it’s worth going out your way for the photo album. 

In its short history it has already had four owners and the main purpose of the distillery is to make Malt for the Ballantine’s blend (number two top-selling whisky in the world after Johnnie Walker) therefore not much Single Malt is released. However, there are a number of independent bottlings on the market and this distillery certainly has a cult following with whisky enthusiasts. Production is now up to 4.8 million litres and this a very smooth light fruity whisky, with some nutty characteristics on occasion.

If you can find it the 16-year-old (non chill-filtered, 48%) is an example of how good this whisky is and it’s a shame that it is such an important part of various blends that it is hidden from so many whisky enthusiasts around the world. From a whisky cask investment strategy there are a lot of ducks in a row here. Firstly, the whisky is very high quality. It is also relatively rare, produced by a good whisky company, and very much in demand by independent bottlers and whisky enthusiasts/collectors. At present, cask prices offer excellent value for money – so there are many, many positives.

We currently have a range of 2016 Tormore Barrels on our stock list. To find out more about investing in Tormore casks, contact The Masters today!

Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery Focus

Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery Focus

 

Pronounced ‘Alt a van yer’ which translates as ‘Milk Burn’. A burn is of course Scottish for a small stream, although the relevance of Milk remains a mystery to many!

The distillery itself was built in 1975 by the Seagram group (and sold to Pernod Ricard in 2001) and like all 70s architecture has never looked aesthetically pleasing. Now the good news – the liquid is very good. The distillery was built to make malt whisky for some of Seagram blends including very popular million case brands like Passport, 100 Pipers and Something Special. Very little whisky has been released for single malt bottlings so it has become quite collectible. Production is now just over a healthy four million litres per year with the distillery working seven days and 25 mashes per week to keep up demand. Fermentation time is 48 hours and they produce two distinct styles. Firstly a more traditional Speyside style which from my notes had hints of vanilla, cinnamon, grapefruit, and honey, and a peaty style with a phenol content between 10 and 20ppm. This peaty style has a wonderful soft smoke balanced by vanilla sweetness.

We have some beautiful 1997 Allt-a-Bhainne Barrels and Hogsheads on our current stock list. With this whisky, you have a high-quality liquid combined with rarity on the market and we can confirm that it does age well, with one highly-rated independent bottling aged 22 years. 

To find out more about investing in Allt-a-Bhainne casks, contact The Masters today!

Heaven Hill Corn Whiskey Distillery

Heaven Hill Corn Whiskey Distillery

 

Let’s start with the definition of Corn Whiskey as there is always some confusion on this. Whilst other forms of American whiskey have to follow the same rules when it comes to cask maturation i.e. aged in charred first-fill white oak casks, corn whiskey has a lot more latitude as it doesn’t have to be aged. If it is then it can be in used barrels of any description. It also has to have a mash bill of at least 80% corn whilst bourbon only has to be 51%.  

Located in Louisville Kentucky and still family-owned to this day, the Heaven Hill Distillery first opened its doors after the prohibition in 1935. Today they make a whole variety of highly respected and sought-after brands including Heaven Hill, Pikesville, Elijah Craig and Evan Williams. 

The Corn Whiskey casks we have available have a fascinating story. They were distilled back in 2009 and initially aged in the traditional American white oak barrels until 2018 when it was shipped over to the UK. They were supposed to be re-racked back into bourbon casks but incredibly there were none available and all they had to spare at the warehouse were five ex-Glenrothes sherry puncheons, so the Corn Whiskey was filled into them. This has created one of the most fabulously unique whiskies we have ever tasted. We recently tasted from the five sample bottles sitting at Cask Trade HQ. When nosing them your senses immediately pick up warm rich red fruits with ginger, raisins, and hints of chocolate orange before giving way to an underlying wave of vanilla, coconut, and spicy corn/rye notes. These three years it has spent in the sherry casks have certainly been transformative. All the casks are also still sitting at impressively over 65% ABV! 

Looking at this from an investor’s perspective this is an opportunity to own a very unique whiskey. Currently, in the US there are a growing number of distilleries that are now making Corn Whiskey, and we are also seeing an increasing number of independent bottlings appear. We have also started seeing Corn Whiskey appearing at many whisky shows which is more evidence of its growing interest. Independent Bottlers will be queuing up for these casks because they are so unique and the whiskey is simply delicious. The exit strategy is there to see for any investor. Finally, it’s made by the Heaven Hill distillery which is very highly respected, award-winning and with great heritage. 

Heaven Hill have also just opened a new $19,000,000 visitor centre. This is clearly a distillery looking to the future with real confidence and the image of this brand is only going to grow

To find out more about investing in Heaven Hill Corn Whiskey casks, contact The Masters today!

Orkney Island’s Cask

Orkney Island’s Cask

The Orkneys sit just above the Scottish mainland and it is certainly a mysterious magical place steeped in folklore and strange traditions. The local culture certainly feels different and this has translated into the whisky-making with both of the island’s distilleries making very unique high-quality Malts. Whilst they have very different styles, from an investment point of view there are many similarities.

Both are owned by famous powerful whisky companies, and both are very sought after by whisky enthusiasts, collectors and investors alike. They both produce Malt whisky which is absolutely from the top drawer and both are steeped in fascinating history and heritage. One distillery produces a very robust powerful malt that is full of spice, heather, hints of smoke and is also fragrant and honeyed. The other smaller distillery produces soft, sweet, smooth, light, floral malts with strong hints of citrus and honey.

From an investment point of view if the cask says Orkney then as there are only two distilleries it is cast iron that you are buying into a top division malt. If the price is right then it will be a valuable addition to any portfolio.

We are due to recieve an exciting delivery of Secret Orkney Malt to add to our stock list. Watch this space…! To find out more about investing in Orkney Malt casks, contact The Masters today!