A Bonnie Burns Night

A Bonnie Burns Night

 

Burns Night

This Tuesday the 25th of January the Cask Trade team led by our intrepid Scottish contingent celebrated the 263rd birthday of the National Bard in style. Heading over to the excellent new (ish) Milroy’s of Spitalfields in East London was Hugh (Edinburgh) and Jack (Dunblane) where they indulged in an alternative Burns feast consisting of haggis rarebit and beef shin stovies, washed down with four of the Bruichladdich range (Octomore 9.1, Port Charlotte 10, Classic Laddie, Black Art). Milroy’s Spitalfield has over 1000 bottles of whisky to choose from plus a private tasting room and a cocktail bar. Definitely worth heading east for.

Burns Night

Myriam (Speyside) and her Celtic cousin Sarah (Cork – Ireland) travelled to Clerkenwell where the Bourne & Hollingsworth venue held an Ardbeg tasting and ceilidh. Nothing like Scotland’s smokiest whisky to kick off the evening in style! As a fortunate coincidence, two of Cask Trades’ customers were in attendance, one who was in the band. We can only assume lots of square dancing ensued as everyone greeted each other with ‘Oidhche Bhlas Burns’ and ‘Slainte Mhath’, which we believe translates to ‘Happy Burns Night’ and ‘Good Health’. Bourne & Hollingsworth have two venues in London and are known for great drinks and service.

Burns Night

Over at the Soho Whisky Club, Cask Trade director, Sir Colin Hampden-White (Edinburgh) was in attendance with Josh (Sassenach) for a great event hosted in conjunction with Douglas Laing. Pipers, Burns poetry, Haggis Neeps & Tatties were all in abundance whilst trying several of Douglas Laings whiskies, including a Ben Nevis 25 year and their own blended malt with the splendidly named ‘Timorous Beastie’.

Burns Night

Finally, Chloe who hails from the Celtic county of Cornwall and Phil (Sassenach) headed to the prestigious Scottish restaurant and bar Boisdale of Canary Wharf. Here a 4-course traditional Scottish menu was paired with Aberfeldy 12-year whisky. Personally, Boisdale arguably has the best haggis in London and their chef makes it from scratch. Truly delicious! Much consumption of whisky occurred with Glenlivet and Balvenie firmly on the menu whilst ‘Scotland the Brave’ and ‘Flower of Scotland’ vibrated throughout the restaurant played by their piper. As a twist on the evening, entertainment Scottish tradition gave way to a Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin tribute act. These singers were absolutely brilliant with all the old favourites like ‘My Way’, ‘New York New York’ and ‘That’s Amore’ had the patrons singing along. A brilliant end to a brilliant Burns Night. We should also mention a big thank you to our owner Simon Aron for his generosity in funding our Burns mischievous fun around town.

Burns Night

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Robert Burns – the Myth, the Legend

Robert Burns – the Myth, the Legend

 

On Tuesday 25th, 2022 many Scots and whisky imbibers in the four corners of the world will raise a glass or two to the 263rd anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. At many gatherings his poetry will be read, haggis neeps and tatties consumed, bagpipes played, and ceilidhs danced. The focus point of the evening will of course be Scotland’s national drink which played a central theme in many of his poems and songs. However, in comparison with Vincent Van Gogh, his enduring fame has completely transcended his relatively short life of 37 years, so much so that the popularity of Burns Night only seems to be increasing. In this article, we’re going to explore Robbie Burns’ incredibly interesting, traumatic, but ultimately early, demise. 

Burns was born in Alloway very close to Ayr in 1759. His parents were farmers, and he grew up in real poverty, being subjected to severe manual labour for much of his youth. Whilst Burns had no formal education, it seems that thanks to his father’s homeschooling and a kindly private teacher taking him under his wing he became quite proficient in all subjects, plus Latin and French. It was at the age of 15 that he started writing poetry. Soon after this, he left home to become a flax weaver (flax at that time was used for making certain fabrics), but this soon ended when the flax shop burned to the ground.

Robert Burns

By the age of 20, his poetry was certainly becoming more proficient and prolific in no small part in his desire to woo certain ladies. He famously wrote a number of songs and poems for Alice Begbie but she rejected his marriage proposal. At the age of 22, Burns was initiated into the Freemasons. Soon after this, his father passed away and he inherited the farm with his brother. They tried to keep the farm afloat but eventually, after four years they failed. During this time Robert Burns had numerous romantic entanglements and the first of his 12 children were born.

He had an affair with his mothers’ servant whilst at the same time was seeing a great love of his called Jean Armour. She bore him nine children but sadly only three survived infancy. Burns was an adventurer who never seemed to settle very long in one particular place. All of these life experiences are seen to influence his poetry and songwriting. In fact, it was the need to feed his rapidly growing family and to pay for his voyage to the West Indies which precipitated him to release his poetry. Slowly but surely his poetry started gaining traction and his popularity started to spread. Walter Scott no less described Burns as being extraordinarily talented!

Poetry and Whisky

Burns with his newfound fame had now decided to base himself in Edinburgh. The new edition of his poems gained him a princely sum of £400 which was probably quickly used up as more affairs and children followed by numerous local women. Interestingly Burns eventually grew tired of city life and the draw of his country roots was too much, therefore in 1788 he headed back to his home county to try his luck at farming again. Here he quickly resumed his relationship with the love of his life Jean Armour and for a little financial security trained as an exciseman with HMRC.

This was quite controversial as the Scotch Whisky industry was still very much an illegal business at this time because of the extortionate tax being levied by the government. This drove Scotch whisky production underground, and subsequently, the gaugers as they were also known were the most hated officials in the land. Sadly, it was the long journeys on horseback through the harsh Scottish weather which precipitated his demise. His health quickly started to fail and on the 21st of July 1796 Burns passed away in Dumfries from a long-standing rheumatic heart condition. Through his many children, it is said that Robert Burns has around 1000 living descendants today. 

Literary Legacy

Burns’ talent was his exceptional skill at writing in a mixture of both the Scots language and the Scots English dialect. As a romantic poet, he is today classified in the same rarefied air of both Wordsworth and Keats. His famous works include poems ‘Tom O’ Shanter’ and ’Auld Lang Syne’ plus not forgetting the ‘Address to the Haggis’… The numerous Burns statues that populate the English-speaking world are testament to his growing influence and appeal. Millions around the world will be raising a toast on January 25th to this complex, controversial but nevertheless true literary genius. 

Burns and Whisky 

As a footnote, it would be remiss of me to not mention the whisky influence in Burns’ written works. In most cases, he is praising the national spirit like in Tom O’ Shanter. All this makes his late-life foray into being a hated exciseman all the more surprising. It seems that Robert Burns was introduced to whisky in his early twenties and certainly embraced it. In several of his poems, he is quite scathing on Lowland whisky describing it ‘as that rascally liquor’ but in general his mood is upbeat, celebratory, and patriotic. 

Haggis

Let’s not forget his most famous piece, aptly titled ‘Scotch Drink’…. 

‘O thou, my Muse! Guid auld Scotch drink! 

Whether thro’ wimplin’ twisting worms thou jink 

Or, richly brown, ream foam owre the brink 

In glorious faem 

Inspire me, till I lisp an’ wink 

To sing thy name!’ 

A complex character born into poverty who, despite this, became well educated and escaped his rural destiny. Burns was an adventurer who controversially worked for a short while on a sugar plantation (although it wouldn’t have been seen so at the time), he had numerous affairs and bore 12 children. After reaching fame and critical appreciation living in Edinburgh the draw of his rural roots was too much and he tried farming again. His brief foray into being an exciseman was certainly controversial at the time and sadly was the undoing of his health. It is clear though that he was a romanticist and that his poetry and songs were inspired by his turbulent life experiences, and thus his fame continues to grow. The accolades are well deserved. A true legend indeed.

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

Whisky Drinking Culture & The Rise of the Single Malt in Asia

Whisky Drinking Culture & The Rise of the Single Malt in Asia

 

The most impressive medium and long-term growth of scotch whisky consumption is in Asia. However, in this vast continent with over 4.5 billion people, 48 countries, and accounting for 60% of the world’s population there are obviously many different cultures and traditions. Asians in fact consume scotch whisky in many different ways. In this article, we are going to explore some of the key countries and examine the disparate behaviour of whisky consumers, combined with the opportunities for the Single Malt market.

China

MAINLAND CHINA

No better place to start than with the continent’s (and world’s) largest populace. China has seen scotch whisky interest grow tenfold in the last 20 years and that trend looks set to continue. The spirit’s market is currently dominated by the local Baijiu spirit which accounts for 98% of the market! However, younger wealthier consumers are looking to drink more scotch whisky and the population overall is drinking less but better quality. This is a very positive trend that independent bottlers should be aware of.

Chinese consumers see scotch whisky as the height of sophistication and are very attracted to the history and the heritage of the category. Many whisky consumers are willing to spend over £150 per bottle and over 90% now see single malt whisky as the highest-quality spirit you can buy. Blended whisky still dominates the marketplace though, but that is rapidly changing. Many Chinese still like to drink their whisky with mixers, like green tea, evidenced in the karaoke bars and other high-energy late-night venues. This is where you will find the affluent younger generations enjoying mainly premium blended whisky.

Culturally, status and position in society are all-important within Chinese high society. There is a very strong toasting culture, and the host of any party/event will use single malt scotch whisky to show their status and generosity. Wealthy Chinese consumers prefer to buy bottles, which are placed at the centre of the table to show off the host’s status and prestige. For example, a bottle of Macallan 25-year would be purchased and the host would pour glasses to their guests and dictate the occasion with a succession of toasts. Purchasing rounds of drinks like in Western culture would rarely happen.

In conclusion, the Chinese whisky market is rapidly changing with more focus on single malts. Status, wealth, and perceived sophistication are still the centrepiece of any drinking occasion. Finally, it is worth remembering the importance of certain lucky numbers, like eight, and the lucky colour of red. A clear indication of this is in the packaging of independent bottlers and the extra demand for the ‘blue riband’ brands like Macallan. Although for anyone importing a single cask bottling they need to be aware of excessive import taxes and suffocating bureaucracy. There are a lot of hurdles to negotiate and for smaller importers – this has become a real minefield. Outside of Hong Kong and Shanghai, only a small percentage of the population speak English which is another consideration to be aware of.

Hong Kong

HONG KONG

There are certainly many different nuances that separate Hong Kong’s whisky culture from that of the Chinese mainland. Firstly, Hong Kong is a much more mature scotch Whisky market, no doubt in large part to its large, well-established expatriate population, including a strong contingent from the British Isles. Prominent early European residents included Scottish traders William Jardine and James Matheson. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when scotch whisky became popular in Hong Kong, but it is safe to say it was there from the beginning of the time of British influence.

Today whisky culture is growing fast, centred around the numerous high-quality whisky bars and stylish cocktail bars that are scattered all over HK Island and Kowloon. Consumers see scotch whisky as a journey and an experience rather than just having a drink. HK has a very diversified drinking crowd; from beginners who are interested and eager to try different styles of spirits, to connoisseurs and collectors who own and worship legendary bottles.

Some drinkers really enjoy spending time in whisky bars as they can submerge themselves into an atmosphere that screams “whisky”; they enjoy chats ranging from anecdotes to geeky whisky-making procedures. The city’s entrepreneurial heritage really shines through, with many HK consumers desiring “more”, seizing the opportunity to invest in the spirit that they love. HK drinkers always think out of the box and love to get the most out of whisky – it is no accident that Cask Trade opened an office in Hong Kong last year!

Taiwan

TAIWAN

In terms of Scotch Whisky appreciation, Taiwan a more mature market than the Chinese mainland – consumption of single malt whisky is much higher and the knowledge of consumers is very impressive. Whilst brands like The Macallan and The Glenlivet dominate the landscape it is clear that consumer choice in both On Trade and Off Trade is much greater. Many consumers in Taiwan are becoming more interested in the product and its quality, rather than just showing off the label of a prestigious brand (although that is still very apparent). Taiwan is one of the few markets in the world where single malt whisky outsells blended (globally the market is 85% blended!) and food-led occasions dominate where it is drunk. Taiwan is an incredibly exciting whisky market that should continue to grow. With Taiwanese consumers becoming more knowledgeable and more willing to try different distilleries this will see increasing opportunities for independent bottlers.

India

INDIA

India is another country with a rapidly-changing whisky drinking culture. Go back just 10 years and single malt whisky was virtually non-existent here. However, the growing young and affluent middle class is discovering these whiskies and embracing them. Interestingly, other cultural shifts are also accelerating, for example, in many parts of the country it was frowned upon that the younger generation should drink in front of the older generation and that women shouldn’t be seen to drink products like whisky at all. In the cities, these old traditions are rapidly disappearing, and scotch whisky consumption is on the rise across all demographics.

Scotch is seen as an important accompaniment for food-led occasions and there is more to this than just the cultural norm. Indian food is generally quite spicy so would overpower other alcohol types like wine. However, scotch whisky with its high 40%+ alcohol strength, combined with its depth of flavour can stand up to the powerful spices and help balance the palate. Scotch though is unfortunately prohibitively expensive due to the eye-watering 150% import tariff. However good news is on the way, as the UK government is in advance talks to get this vastly reduced. A common occurrence at food-led occasions is that the much cheaper Indian whisky will be consumed on regular evenings, but when guests visit, scotch whisky is then substituted to impress and show off the status of the host. This is very apparent at Indian weddings where it is increasingly common that bottles of single malts and premium blends like Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal will be on the tables. India is clearly another country where the growing middle class combined with a shift in cultural attitudes and traditions is opening up the opportunities for single malt whisky and scotch in general.

South Korea

SOUTH KOREA

We think it is safe to say that the hardest-drinking Asians are the South Koreans. Alcohol plays a part in nearly every social occasion and the marketplace is dominated by Soju and beer. Scotch whisky has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride for most of the 21st century. Single malt whisky is growing but from a very small base, so at present is considered very niche, and even the power brands like The Macallan, The Glenlivet, and Glenfiddich have yet to gain a significant foothold. Going back to the early noughties and whisky was consumed as shots or as boilermakers by dropping a shot glass of whisky into a beer and downing as one. However, by 2010 blended scotch brands like Ballantine’s were becoming increasingly unfashionable as consumers switched to drinking white spirits like vodka. Sales started to plummet downwards, and the major whisky companies realised they needed to innovate and respond.

With the fashion for lower strength spirits and trendy bottle packaging, Diageo launched its whisky “spirit drink” called ‘W Ice’, which is a blended whisky with added date and fig essence flavouring. This was followed by ‘W Signature’ and ‘W Rare’ which were two more flavoured whiskies. Pernod Ricard responded by launching ‘Eclat by Imperial’, a 31% flavoured whisky in a perfume-looking bottle.

To conclude, this market is unique in Asia, and whilst it retains its potential, the future success of single malt whisky is very unclear. At present, it is only 4% of the Scotch Whisky market and growth has been slow. However, there are many single malt whisky clubs in Korea, therefore for bottlers this market still retains potential.

Singapore

SINGAPORE

Arguably the most sophisticated scotch whisky (and drinks market) in Asia, is Singapore. Consumers here are rapidly switching from blended whisky to single malt (although the premium/luxury side of the blended market is still growing). Singaporean drinkers are spending more and more on alcohol and like many Western consumers are increasingly interested in the quality, history/heritage and production of the brands they are drinking. Singapore also ranks very highly for the number of top-quality On Trade outlets. This has helped in the education process and the increasing sophistication of consumers. Currently, it is very common to see at least 20-100 single malts on the back bar of many venues, which again is fuelling the knowledge and interest of the drinkers. For independent bottlers, this is a key market, with the important attraction of a large number of very high-income educated customers who are willing to experiment.

Vietnam

VIETNAM

After South Korea, Vietnam has the largest alcohol consumption in Asia. However, most of this is cheap beer and rice wine. When it comes to scotch whisky the blended brands hold sway with Johnny Walker, Chivas & Ballantine’s dominating the marketplace. Famous scotch whisky brands are seen as very attractive to the growing middle-class, and the wealthy tier of society drink a sizeable amount of luxury brands like Royal Salute & Johnny Walker Blue Label. However, single malt consumption is very thin on the ground, and it is only in the major cities like Saigon where they are available. Although scotch whisky does actually have a strong foothold in the country, and the long-term trends do point towards the average consumer having more disposable income and becoming more whisky educated. Independent bottlers need to be patient with this market, but the long-term upside is there for all to see.

Japan

JAPAN

The most mature market in Asia is by far Japan. Their links and close relationship with scotch whisky go back to the 1920s when Masataka Taketsuru opened the first Japanese whisky distillery using the knowledge he had gained working for several years in scotch whisky distilleries. Today, Japan imports more than 50 million bottles of scotch and many bars and restaurants have incredible selections of single malt whisky with Glenfiddich being the top-selling brand. Sales of single malt whisky are greatly enhanced by the extensive gifting culture in Japan, as a good-quality malt symbolises aspiration, wealth, and sophistication. This is partly responsible for the impressive knowledge of many consumers here. The quality of the whisky, the style of the distillery, the cask, the age of the whisky, and trying something interesting and different holds sway with many whisky drinkers here. The mentality is very different to China, for example. Many Japanese consumers will drink scotch with soda water as a highball, but the number of whisky clubs around the country is the key indication for bottlers that this very large, knowledgeable and sophisticated market has almost unlimited opportunities.

To conclude, as demonstrated above there is real momentum for scotch whisky in the Asian market and it is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, scotch whisky could see real growth acceleration if the 150% import tax in India is greatly reduced and the UK joins the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership with 11 other countries. Both scenarios seem likely in the near future. Will there even be enough aged stock to satisfy consumer demand, though? This is the pertinent question…

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

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.

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!

A St Andrew’s Day Celebration of Whisky & Art

A St Andrew’s Day Celebration of Whisky & Art

Table of Drams

The Patron Saint of Scotland was honoured in style across two nights of St Andrew’s Day celebrations hosted by Cask Trade at the Alon Zakaim gallery in Mayfair this week (29/30).

An evening of whisky and art was enjoyed by more than 150 customers and their guests who enjoyed a rare opportunity to taste over 40 drams of cask-strength whisky in the stunning surroundings of the fine art gallery on Cork Street.

Colin and the Glassmates

Invited guests were taken on a dram journey with highlights including Tullibardine 13 years old Sherry Hogshead, Royal Brackla 12 years old Bourbon Barrel, Caol Ila 14 years old Bourbon Hogshead and Speyside Distillery 24 years old Bourbon Hogshead.

Tasting under the glow of the gallery’s Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art, the Cask Trade celebrations concluded with an extra special dram of Benromach 40 years old Old Cask, a limited release of just 1,047 bottles.

Benromach 40 YO

Cask Trade is an extraordinary cask business run by passionate experts with over 100 combined years in the industry who have created a moving marketplace for buying and selling casks that is open to all. For further details on their/our unrivalled inventory of casks contact click here.

Alon Zakaim Fine Art will be showcasing a range of works by Modern Masters such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Henry Moore as well as iconic photography by Terry O’Neill and Chris Smith until Christmas.

Guests

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Benromach 40 YO

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!