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.

A Comprehensive Guide to Whisky Tasting & Appreciating

A Comprehensive Guide to Whisky Tasting & Appreciating

 

Let’s set the scene…Your eagerly-awaited package from Cask Trade has finally arrived – the cask strength whisky samples are finally in your possession. Now it’s time to nose, taste, and appreciate. There is, however, more to whisky tasting than you think, and certainly, a few dos and don’ts to get the maximum appreciation when tasting this wonderful spirit. Below is our guide to help you on your journey of whisky discovery.

THE SETTING – The key here is to find the most neutral environment you can. The kitchen, for example, can be a very poor place to taste whisky, especially if there are lingering smells of cooking, coffee etc. Another pitfall is smoke, so steer clear of all cigars and cigarettes in this moment.

THE TIME OF DAY – The best time of day to appreciate whisky is actually in the morning! The reason for this is that this is when your palate is freshest and hasn’t been dulled by various meals and liquid consumption. Therefore, to truly discover the intricate flavours of these wonderful whiskies, try to taste mid-morning rather than late at night. If you wanted an excuse to drink alcohol in the morning, now have it!

THE WHISKY TASTING GLASS – The shape and quality of the glass is incredibly important in enhancing your enjoyment of tasting whisky. At Cask Trade we use Glencairn glasses in our Regent Street tasting room and for all our events. The design curves inwards which funnels and concentrates the flavours of the whisky. This style of glass is widely available and inexpensive. As an alternative, a small wine or port glass could be substituted but avoid large red wine glasses, tumblers and shot glasses.

THE WATER – We suggest a bottle of mineral water at room temperature. Ice and chilled water should be avoided as they will suppress the flavour of the whisky. Tap water can be quite variable, so is not recommended.

Pouring whisky

STEP 1- THE COLOUR

Before you start the whisky tasting it’s time to assess the colour and viscosity. If for example the whisky has been aged in a sherry cask, then look for different shades of a reddish mahogany hue. A pale golden colour will indicate a bourbon cask. Whilst age can certainly deepen the colour of the whisky, it isn’t the most reliable indicator as other factors, such as the age of cask the whisky is matured in. Pour the whisky into the glass and hold up against the light.

We find that making notes helps the process, especially if you are tasting a significant number of whiskies. An important point of difference is that many whiskies that have been bottled, have been coloured with small amounts of tasteless caramel. Whisky companies do this because the whisky does not age uniformly in the casks, so by shading the colours between batches, they get a consistency of colour. At Cask Trade you are only tasting the real, pure, unadulterated whisky, straight from the cask.

STEP 2 – THE VISCOSITY

Long legs or short legs is what you’re looking for here. Swirl the glass around and you will see what is known as the ‘legs’ tumbling down the glass. Longs legs are a good indication of high alcohol content (which should be the case with cask strength whisky), whilst slow-moving legs indicate a whisky that is quite oily.

Whisky tasting

STEP 3 –THE AROMA/NOSE

Our nose can detect literally 100’s of flavours, whilst our tongue can only detect five! Therefore, the nosing of the whisky is so key to appreciation. We suggest you start by bringing the glass slowly towards your nose and then gently smell the whisky. With high strength whisky you have to be careful, as you may anesthetise your nose. If this does happen, a useful trick is to sniff the back of your hand and this should ‘reset’ your olfactory bulb, which is responsible for your sense of smell. At this point, we recommend that you don’t swirl the glass anymore as this can release more ethanol notes, which is not what we are aiming for.

Continue to gently nose the whisky by moving the glass away and towards your nose, not forgetting to try nosing with one nostril and then the other. Again, we recommend that you make notes as you go along. We should also point out that there are no wrong or right answers here, as the aromas you are picking up are going to vary from person to person. Read the tasting notes for the same whisky from two industry experts and see how completely different they can be.

Helpful tip – If you are tasting more than one sample from different regions, then start with the non-peated, sweet, fruity, Speyside distilleries and finish with the most earthy, spicy, peaty, Highland/Islays.

STEP 4 – THE PALATE

Our palate can only pick up only five different flavours; sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and savoury. This is why when we have a cold, our food tastes quite bland. However, the tasting and drinking is the fun part, so take a small sip of the whisky and hold it in your mouth for a few seconds, swirling it from one side of your tongue to the other.

Again, at this point, we find it useful to take notes as you’re going along. Try to pick out the different types of fruit, sweetness, nutty, smoky, earthy, floral, spicy flavours that you are detecting. Also, assess the texture and mouthfeel. Is it full-bodied, or light and thin? Does it have a creamy texture? Do the flavours and texture change in your mouth?

Drinking whisky

STEP 5 – THE FINISH

How is the finish? Does the flavour linger in the back of your throat, or does it dissipate quite quickly? In essence, is it a long or short finish?

STEP 6 – THE REPEAT

Now’s the time to repeat the whole process and drink some more whisky! However, this time we recommend that you add a tiny drop of water. The water causes a chemical reaction and opens the whisky up, allowing more flavours and aromas to come to the fore. Try adding a little more water each time and notice the differences until you get to where you reach a point that suits your palate. This can actually change from whisky to whisky, depending on your own preference, and the individual reaction of each whisky to the water.

THE REFILL – How to taste whisky is certainly subjective and it is all about your own appreciation and how you like to drink it. We hope you find the above a useful guide, to maximise your enjoyment in tasting our cask spirits. Our customers are regularly invited to our special tasting room on Regent Street London to sample some of our very special casks. We hope to see you there soon.

If you’d like to visit us and you’re interested in purchasing a cask, feel free to book a whisky tasting with the Masters. Contact us here.

Scotch Whisky Growth – Will it continue?

Scotch Whisky Growth – Will it continue?

 

It’s clear that in the last 10 years, Scotch Whisky sales have grown exponentially. This has led to the price of bottles and casks at all levels of the market increasing in value – the laws of supply and demand are evidentially at work. The question that investors must ask though will this growth continue? The answer we think is yes, and in this article, we will articulate why the future continues to look very bright for the world’s favourite spirit.

Firstly, to paraphrase a former US defense secretary, let’s ponder the known unknowns. Scotch whisky is a global product with over 170 export markets, and it has certainly faced adversity in various forms including wars, political instability, government tax policies, economic recessions, and unforeseen global pandemics. However, taking all this into account we’re still confident the growth trend is going to only go in one direction for the foreseeable future, and here is why…

India

INDIA

Currently, there are over 50 million whisky bottle sales in India but Scotch Whisky only accounts for about 2% of this (the majority is very cheap Indian whisky). The stumbling block here is the eye-watering 150% tariff imposed by the Indian government. Complicating matters further, are the extra variable regulations and taxation from all 28 Indian States. This in effect, creates a very complex, expensive marketplace. When you consider that the average salary in India is a lot less than in the UK, it is clear, that only the wealthier tiers of the population can afford Scotch Whisky.

However, the good news is on the way. Having left the EU, the UK government is now free to pursue its own trade policy, and negotiations with the Indian government are at an advanced stage to vastly reduce this tariff. When this happens, combined with India’s 1.4 billion population and rapidly growing number of middle-class, we expect Scotch Whisky sales to rocket upwards.

China

CHINA

Sales of Scotch Whisky have grown tenfold in the last 20 years in China, and whilst the tariff is very low at 5% there are major challenges in this market. Number one is the issue with fake whisky, which takes away a large percentage of sales and the reluctance of the authorities to enforce penalties on the bootleggers. However, the positives for this market are that the Chinese consumer is now much less tolerant of these shenanigans and is starting to demand the real liquid.

Another optimistic trend is the growth in Single Malt Whisky and older more Premium Blends. The Scotch Whisky companies are investing a lot into China and it’s hard to see anything but very positive growth for the years to come. China also has a huge population of 1.5 billion, so even a small percentage increase in consumer demand will have a significant increase in total sales.

Asia Pacific

ASIA PACIFIC

Market trends have predicted the fastest growth for Scotch Whisky in this region than any other in the world. Higher disposable incomes in the Asian Tiger economies of countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore are expected to be the main driving force. One interesting trend is the growth in Single Malt Whisky and the Whisky Enthusiast market in general. In many countries Blended Whisky leads the way and establishes the market, then as the consumer becomes more knowledgeable the demand for older whiskies and Single Malt brands increases.

Economic growth in this region is expected to develop faster than anywhere else in the world, therefore even if Scotch Whisky just grows in-line with GDP, the increase in sales will be very significant indeed. The UK government is also signing several FTA’s in this region including in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and is expected to be invited to join TTIP in the near future. (The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership).

South America

CENTRAL/SOUTH AMERICA

Similar to Asia, this region has incredible growth potential. Brazil and Mexico have become large Scotch Whisky markets and countries like Chile, Argentina and Columbia are growing fast. Consumers in this region see Scotch Whisky as very aspirational and when they reach a certain level of income, they want to be seen to be drinking the famous brands, almost as a status symbol. There are plenty of economic and political challenges in this region (see Venezuela) but the positives are certainly outweighing any negatives at present.

USA

USA

This is the most valuable market in the world for Scotch Whisky and spirits in general – again there are many positives to consider. The 25% extra trade war tariff that was imposed on Scotch imports has now been suspended for five years, which should mean that sales will pick up again for 2021.

The UK and US governments have started negotiations on a long-term free trade agreement which will at some point be finalised and signed.

Again, this will accelerate the sales growth in Scotch Whisky in its most important market. The US market is very mature with many knowledgeable consumers who purchase the older expressions of Single Malt Whisky. Good growth in this market will put increased pressure on the more mature aged stock, thus increasing prices.

Africa

AFRICA

In recent years, South Africa has become a very important market fuelled by the rising number of middle-class people in that country. Africa overall has great growth potential but is starting from a very low base in terms of sales.

However, the potential upside is huge and whisky companies have started to invest in countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and Angola. This is the hardest region to predict, but due to the expanding number of middle-class consumers, the signs do look very positive.

Eastern Europe

RUSSIA/ EASTERN EUROPE

Despite the challenges of 2020 the two largest markets of Russia and Latvia still managed to grow by 14.2% and 11.9% respectively! The future certainly looks bright in this part of the world. Trends here show that wealthy consumers see Scotch Whisky as a real aspirational status symbol. Denied to most consumers trapped behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ they are certainly making up for lost time. Russian consumers are increasingly drinking more Single Malts like Macallan and are attracted to the older luxury brands in general.

CONCLUSION – Currently, Blended Whisky accounts for about 85% of all Scotch Whisky consumed, with the rest mainly made up of Single Malt. The long-term global trend shows that the real growth will come from Single Malt Whisky and the Premium Blends. This will put more pressure on aged stocks and will keep the price inflation moving at a healthy rate. Consumers are becoming increasingly aspirational and are drawn to brands that have real history and heritage.

This is the ace card for the Scotch Whisky industry as this is something they have in abundance, and the marketing and packaging of these brands has improved immensely over the last 10 years. Whilst there are a number of smaller new distilleries opening all the time, the demand for their whisky is at present unclear. However, sourcing casks from the many established distilleries has become increasingly harder as the demand goes up.

Finally, with all the FTAs that the UK government are currently signing and that are in the pipeline, this can only help the future sales of a global export like Scotch Whisky. To conclude, when looking at the global market all the long-term trends are heavily pointing upwards, and even scratching beneath the surface reveals that the growth potential is huge, especially in many of the emerging markets. We feel that despite the incredibly challenging 2020 all the indicators point to the Scotch Whisky Industry continuing its success, and the economic pressures of supply and demand pushing prices and investments higher for the short, medium, and long term.

Sources: Scotch Whisky Association, Scotch Whisky Industry Review, British Government.

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

Six Different Types of Whisk(e)y a Whisk(e)y Lover Should Know

Six Different Types of Whisk(e)y a Whisk(e)y Lover Should Know

Have you ever faced the issue of not knowing how some of the most common and famous whisk(e)y styles differ from each other? Anyone who calls themself a “Whisk(e)y Lover” should be aware of the wide variety of this world-famous beverage which is now readily available in your local bar or retailer.

The key differences that arise in Whiskies produced worldwide can be attributed to four major factors:

1. The type of grain used.
2. The production process.
3. The location of origin.
4. The maturation period.

Based on the factors mentioned above, Whiskies are divided into numerous types globally. Here, I have compiled for you a list of different whiskies produced on the planet so that the next time you’re looking to make a purchase you’ll know how they differ from one another.

1.     SCOTCH WHISKY

All producers have to follow a very strict set of rules to be able call their spirit Scotch Whisky. Made entirely in Scotland with either malt or grain, the spirit has to be mixed and aged in oak casks of a maximum 700 liters volume for a minimum of more than three years. Only when these Scottish whisky-making laws are followed to precision can a bottle be labeled Scotch, with a generally smoother earthy and smoky flavor profile that differs with regions.

2.     IRISH WHISKEY

Typically distilled three times, Irish whiskey must be made in Ireland by law. Distilled using water and caramel coloring, a yeast-fermented mash of grain or malted cereals is aged in wooden casks for at least three years to make this signature drink. The Irish like to boast that their whiskey has a smoother finishing flavor in comparison to Scotch. This is debatable.

3.     JAPANESE WHISKY

As the name suggests, Japanese whisky is explicitly produced in Japan. Made using double malted or peated barley, the Japanese brewers age the spirit in a wooden cask by a process similar to making Scotch. Japanese whisky comes only as single malts or blends, has a drier and smokier flavor, and is world-famous for its high quality. The first Japanese distiller served an apprenticeship in Scotland and started distilling in Japan in 1923. Japanese & Scotch whisky have many similarities for this reason.

4.     BOURBON WHISKEY

Primarily made from a mash containing at least 51% corn, this distilled American whiskey must be stored in charred oak casks and made entirely in America to qualify as Bourbon. Sweet tasting Bourbon available in American liquor stores does not contain any additives and has a bit of smoky flavor and reddish appearance due to fermentation in charred oak casks.

5.     TENNESSEE WHISKEY

Classified as bourbon under NAFTA, Tennessee whiskey defines a unique whiskey style produced in the Tennessee state of the USA. State law requires all Tennessee whiskey producers to make the beverage in-state and filter it through sugar maple charcoal using the Lincoln County Process before aging. The rest of the distillation process is similar to Bourbon.

6.     RYE WHISKEY

Like bourbon, Rye whiskey is also produced in North America but with a mash of at least 51% rye and is aged for at least two years in charred barrels. Since rye is a type of grass and a member of the wheat family, it imparts a spicy or fruity flavor to the rye whiskey found in any spirits store and is excellent for making whiskey cocktails.

WHISKEY OR WHISKY?

What do you call it? Whiskey or Whisky? Even though this question confuses even the most veteran drinkers, how it is spelled depends on where it was made. Irish traditions dictate using Whiskey with an e, which was carried to the Americans. On the other hand, Scottish distillers prefer using Whisky without an e, followed by the breweries in Japan and all other countries.

Now that you’re aware of all the vast varieties of whiskey and their differences, I’m sure tackling tricky whiskey situations at the local supermarket or having spirited discussions with fellow whiskey lovers will not be a problem.

Author bio:
Andrew Christian works as a store manager in Arrow Liquormart, a famous liquor and wine store in Littleton, Colorado. He loves his combination of nature, wine, and nerdy friends who appreciate his homemade wines.

https://arrowliquors.com/

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

Fact File on American White Oak Barrels

Fact File on American White Oak Barrels

The use of wooden barrels was first made famous by the Romans, who used oak barrels to transport wine. Barrels of oak has since then been in continuous use due to their many unique properties like high density, strength, toughness, and rot resistance.

Used wooden barrels have been preferred by spirit makers to ferment and age different spirits globally, but American White Oak Barrels are the ones in most demand. Apart from the strength, durability, liquid tightness, and suitability to coopering, essential chemicals such as tyloses, hemicellulose, lignin, vanillin, tannins, lactones, etc., make white oak barrels an ideal choice for ageing spirits.

Considering oak’s profound effects on the taste of various spirits, you need to understand it’s the minor details that make oak barrels the first choice of any brewer on the planet. Their contribution to the texture, aroma, and flavours of the spirits stored inside them are so awe-inspiring that even Google is bored of telling people where to buy wooden barrels.

Whisky barrel

Let me tell you everything you have ever wanted to know about barrels of oak and their use in making premium quality alcoholic beverages.

The spirits stored inside oak barrels experience three broadly classified effects on them:

AS A FILTER – The activated carbon present in charred White Oak Barrels filters out undesirable impurities, making it easier for the stored alcohol to seep into the wood cracks.

AS AN ADDITIVE
– Various sugars, oils, and other chemicals present in oak barrels seep into the spirits, and add to the finished beverage’s texture, flavour, and aroma.

AS AN ENHANCER – The American White Oak Barrel also interacts with the alcohol to impart natural finishing tones by slowly converting chemicals like tannins into acetals and acetic acid into fruity esters.

Moreover, various chemical constituents of the American White Oak Barrel Wood influence maturing spirits in different ways:

HEMICELLULOSE – Consisting of simple sugars that break down when heated, they provide body to the spirits by adding wood sugars for toasty and caramelized aromas, flavours, and color.

LIGNIN – A binding agent that holds the wood cellulose together, they yield vanillin when heated to add sweet, smoky, and spice aroma to the spirits.

TANNINS – Naturally occurring preservative compounds with a slightly puckery astringent taste, they help maturation by enabling oxidation and creating delicate fragrances by forming acetals in the stored spirits.

LACTONES – Resulting from lipids in the American White Aak Barrels, they increase dramatically during toasting or charring and impart a solid woody and coconutty taste profile to the spirit.

CELLULOSE – An essential component of the plant cell wall, it has virtually no effects on spirits stored for under seven years. After six or seven years, it starts breaking down into glucose sugar.

The American White Oak Barrel

Quercus Alba, also known as the American White Oak, dominates the barrel industry thanks to the mandated use of new charred White Oak Barrels for alcohol ageing. Spirits aged in charred American White Oak Barrels mature more quickly than those aged in non-charred or toasted barrels.

The charred layer of the American White Oak Barrel wood also functions as a charcoal filter, absorbing the sulfur compounds and serving as a passage for alcohol through the pores. American White Oak Barrels tend to be stronger in flavour, often described as cherry-cream soda, vanilla, or coconut, and whose oils result in spirits with a slightly thicker, creamy texture.

The American White Oak species also contains more sweetness, more spice, and more tannins. The sugar flavours are typically more stewed or cooked, reminiscent of fig raisin pudding and campfire smores. There’s an additional weight given to the alcohol due to the more prominent presence of toasted sugar.

Lastly and strangely, sometimes American White Oak Barrels can often impart a dill weed smell depending on the toasting level and ageing time. It is hard to believe that either dill or coconut, dramatically different smells, can be the hallmark aroma of White Oak Barrels.

Kegs and beer

Life Cycle of the American White Oak Barrels

Over 600 species of oak are found globally, and the United States alone has over 90 of them. From the forests to the distilleries and your home, the life cycle of White Oak Barrels is a rather fulfilling journey of never-ending usefulness.

The Harvest

Word around the cooperages is that an oak tree needs to be at least 75 years old to be mature enough for making good Oak Barrels. Many other criteria like straight trunks, mature fibers, closed pores, etc., also need to be considered before harvesting. The American White Oak Barrels are made from the high-quality timber of the locally found Quercus Alba species.

The Seasoning

Once the wood has been harvested, coopers start seasoning long pieces of oakwood called staves by air-drying them for a couple of years. Seasoned staves are then toasted to make them pliant and soften the woody flavours.

Barrel Building

Coopers bend the wooden staves to make new Oak Barrels. Rumours suggest that a skilled cooper can assemble an utterly leak-proof barrel in just a few minutes without using any glue or fasteners!

Fermentation & Ageing

Now that the White Oak Barrels are ready, they can be used to ferment or age a wide range of spirits such as wine, whiskey, bourbon, rum, tequila, sherry, and much more. Newly-made charred American White Oak Barrel is mandated to be used as Bourbon Barrels in the United States.

Continuous Re-use

It is well known that used wooden barrels are not thrown away; they are repeatedly refilled with different spirits to impart subtle flavours into the alcohol; the older the Oak Barrel, the more subtle its flavours. Oak Whiskey Barrels are often reused by Scottish whisky distillers to age their premium scotch.

Upcycling Prospects

Once damaged, these old and used wooden barrels can be used in several ways to add unique rustic decor elements to any establishment, even your home. Just cutting wooden barrels in half will give you two beautiful chic planters for your garden.

Now that you know so much about the American White Oak Barrel, I hope it will no longer be a problem to figure out where to buy wooden barrels and whether those used wooden barrels are genuine White Oak Barrels, or not.

Author Bio:
Rachel Moore works as a Marketing Manager at Rocky Mountain Barrel Company. Rocky Mountain Barrel Company provides used wooden barrels for spirits, like bourbon barrels, whiskey barrels, rum barrels, and wine barrels. Rachel Moore loves her combination of nature, wine, and nerdy friends who appreciate her homemade wines.

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