For most of us, buying a bottle of a Single Cask scotch whisky (such as the Glen Scotia Single Malt single cask pictured above) is the closest we will get to purchasing an individual cask of whisky. But assuming you have the money to spare, is it even possible to buy a cask?
Some Scotch whisky distilleries will allow you to purchase a cask, however this is definitely not the case at all distilleries in Scotland. A few of them will allow you to buy a cask and have it stored and matured at the distillery’s warehouse, hopefully without too much loss of angel’s share in that time (i.e. evaporation). The most common type of cask available to purchase is a barrel, usually holding 190-200 litres.
One such example of a distillery offering different cask options to purhase is Raasay Distillery, where they have recently launched the opportunity to buy casks both big (190 litres) and small (30 litres), so you can choose the best option depending on your budget.
These are available to purchase online or in person at the distillery, and the new 30 litre ex-Speyside Scotch whisky oak casks make the island’s first expression more accessible to whisky lovers and will sit proudly alongside the 190 litre first-fill ex-American whiskey casks currently offered by Raasay Distillery and maturing in the island warehouse.
“We wanted to make our first single malt more accessible in these new smaller casks. Depending on the angels’ share, after three years we expect to get around 40 bottles from the 30 litre casks, each offering a distinctly different character of Raasay whisky to our other bottlings.” Alasdair Day, Raasay Distillery Co-founder
After the maturation process is completed over a minimum period of 3 years, the new make spirit inside the cask will become Scotch whisky and the distillery chosen will then either have the product from the cask bottled (in effect, a Single Cask bottling just for you) or allow you to mature it further depending on the conditions agreed in advance.
Every single cask is unique: you can fill two identical casks with the same spirit and put them in the same warehouse for the same period of time, and they will still turn out slightly different. This unpredictability is part of what makes buying whisky by the cask so fascinating.
It is worth noting when looking at the price of casks that usually there are additional costs involved over and above the price paid for the casks itself, these tend to include:
- UK Duty
Distilleries that tend to offer the opportunity to purchase a cask predominantly tend to be those that are newer and smaller (in general), and the funds obtained from the sale of casks will help support their development and provide much needed capital.
“You could pay as little as £1,500 for something fairly young from a distillery that’s reasonably easy to get hold of, but something that’s 20 years-plus from one of the big names could cost in excess of £500,000. We’re currently looking at one potentially worth over £800,000.” Andy Simpson, Rare Whisky 101
Other Scotch whisky distilleries offering this service include (click on link for more details):
Ardnamurchan Distillery (private cask scheme currently closed)
Alternatively, you can purchase a cask of whisky from a 3rd party.
Before you purchase a cask, please research and here is a link to advice from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) for guidance on personal investment in Scotch whisky casks.
There are a number of 3rd party options such as:
Mark Littler Ltd. – an independent whisky broker, specialising in the valuation and sale of whisky bottles and casks. Interestingly, they provide some unique services focused firstly on education, such as their Whisky Cask Cost Calculator, the cask investment video guides and an in-depth 46 pages guide to buying and owning a cask of whisky (pictured below) which they will send out via email for free if you contact them.
Mulberry Bank Auctions – holds Bi-Annual Whisky Cask Sale offering mature and maturing whisky casks for investment or bottling and sold under bond
Related articles on the topic:
- Bottle topper: Buying Scotch whisky casks the latest craze as demand soars globally (The Globe and Mail)
- Buying rare whiskies by the cask (FT how to spend it)
- ‘I invested £500 in barrelled whisky by using a trading website’: How to make a mint from your malt (This is Money.co.uk)
- Is whisky a good investment? Since a 30-year-old Macallan cask sold for US$580,000, buyers are snapping up barrels of Scotch – and not just to drink (South China Morning Post)