End of The Road

This part of the journey has concluded.

We’ve now reached the end of the insurance claim process and I’m at the point of payout. Now seems a good time to wrap up the procedure and the precautions and advice I have about my experience. There are links to the companies I mention in the article at the end. This is not a promotional piece but a summary of my experience of the whole process, and I feel it would be remiss of me not to share the details of the companies used and my feelings about the service provided. I’ve included some pictures of the damaged bottles and cartons.

With a quick email it was over just as quick as it started. My insurance underwriters are prepared to pay for the loss in value to my collection. 21 bottles worth just a shade under £6000 and now they assess there has been £1000 loss in value. Realistically this is the best situation I could be in as all the bottles are still drinkable and had they been written off by my insurer I would have maybe not got the chance to purchase the ones I wanted to taste. Now that decision is mine. I’m not so sure that the value now is worth what was determined it to be post flood, but that is the thing with auctions – it could well be more or I get the chance to crack open a bottle I otherwise might not have.

Looking back on the experience from the horror of the first call to inform me there has been a problem to where I am now, the experience has not been as bad as first feared and indeed has been a lot smoother than expected. Let’s look at the reasons for this, for if there is one thing I’ve discovered, planning ahead prevents or limits disasters.


Completely wrecked Strathearn Inaugural 1st Cask Release. Items like this should be on upper shelves to protect the carton

Find a decent storage area or facility

I use a storage facility in Perth. It’s about 70 miles from my house but prevents wee accidents when I maybe fancy cracking into something that I have bought as an investment. Ask the facility about their flooding record, ask about flood prevention. Look at security and the condition of the building. Is it likely to suffer flooding from a watercourse? Is it in good repair – does the roof look likely to leak? It’s always better to get an internal storage unit as it is less impacted by the changes in temperature. Going for a first floor locker prevents accidents like mine. Be aware those close to a metal roof are more likely to suffer variations in temperature and could affect your seals.

Keeping the collection at home? Keep it in a darkened place so the whisky isn’t exposed to direct sunlight or variations in temperature.


Not the most expensive bottle damaged but discontinued and going up in value. The water damage relegated this to a drinking bottle. Doesn’t affect the value greatly. Box in similar condition.

Get Insured

If using a storage facility, make you are well insured. Out of around 130 storage units in my facility, only 27 had any sort of insurance. Close to 100 units were flooded (some of the external containers did not get affected), and many of the insured only took the basic level of insurance which was £1000. However, the value of the items damaged was a lot higher and people have been left out of pocket.

I knew my items have high value, so using the facility insurance provision was not economic. So I insured via a specialist broker, Bruce Stevenson insurance brokers. Not only was this a great product, the service provided by them has been exemplary. I felt really guilty having only started my policy in April to making a claim in August, but that’s what insurance is for. I’m impressed by the friendly and efficient service I received, especially from Alexandra Richards, the broker that dealt with my claim.


Cardboard cartons don’t always make much difference to prices. The loss of this one reduces value by about 10%. The bottle dried out with little damage, but relegated to a drinker.

The process was easy – one phone call and e-mail started the ball rolling. All I had to do was access my locker, record the damage and provide the details to them. They sorted the rest. They arranged a loss adjuster to see the damage who assessed how much damage had been done. I already had an estimate by time my loss adjuster arrived, so was already ahead of the game. That is why it pays to know the value you paid for your bottles and an idea of what they are worth as time goes on.

The loss adjuster reports back to the insurance company about the damage, having taken advice from a valuation expert. Then it is just a case of waiting to see what the insurance company will do. Alistair Spence of Criterion Loss adjusters gave some good advice about my situation and was very reassuring about the whole process.

If you are storing at home, make sure your home insurance will cover you in the event of flood and fire. Just because you only paid £35 for a Speyburn Flora and Fauna in 1991, doesn’t mean that it is still worth that amount. It can be well into the £2000+. If that gets destroyed would your insurance cover you?

Indeed, those with large collections at home may find themselves seriously underinsured as most policies have a limit per item, and above that will require each individual high value item individually listed. Be aware, large collections in the home will be seen as a fire hazard, something pointed out to me by my home insurance company that uses a red telephone on wheels as its logo.


This Ruby box still had flood water in it. As it came from a drain, the contamination aspect has to be taken into account. Any damaged cardboard may still have to be
scrapped due to this.

Valuation

I now know a couple of whisky brokers, and was lucky enough to have one who valued my damaged items for a nominal figure acceptable to any tight Aberdonian. However it is important to have an idea of what your collection is worth. Companies like Rare Whisky 101 monitor the prices at auction of bottles, and will provide a valuation or you can use the Bottle Valuation Index service which you can use to track your high value bottles, but you need to buy credits to use this service. I believe other companies do valuations cheaper, but I’ve used RW101 for a few years now and find the service pretty good and accurate.

Packing

You cannot just keep your whisky collection in its carton and expect it to survive. Part of the reason my collection survived mostly intact was due to the fact I professionally packed it in Airsacs. The only bottles damaged were those not in Airsacs on the lower layer of boxes on the pallets. I’ve learnt a lesson from this and now will flat pack cartons and make sure any packing that could be damaged is now at a level that flooding can’t affect it. Of course; the roof could leak, but I’ve put PVC dust sheets over my boxes to limit the chance of damage.


It wasn’t just cartons that got damaged. Wee leaflets like this as part of the UDV Rare Malts were also damaged. While not a great issue, they are always the nice to have for collectors.

I use silica gel in all Airsacs, as well as polystyrene nuggets. Don’t use the environmentally friendly ones, as they go to a nasty goo when wet. All my packing materials come from Macfarlane Packaging. Airsacs aren’t the cheapest solution, but the alternative isn’t worth thinking about. The Airsacs on the lower layer of the pallets gave rigidity to the sodden cardboard boxes, keeping more expensive whiskies high and dry. Had this not been the case, then we would have been looking at a high 5 figure loss. If you are collecting whisky and storing it, a £200 investment in storage solutions makes sense and preserves the condition and value of your bottles.

And Alexandra from Bruce Stevenson agrees with me. For any asset it is important that good risk management and protection is key, and hopefully my insurance company sees that I made the adequate provisions for the foreseen threats in choosing a unit with flood protection, not exposed to temperature variation and professionally packed. Nobody foreseen the flood coming up from the drains and overcoming the flood prevention measures. And that’s why we insure.


One of the more severely damaged cardboard cartons.

At home, most of us will want to display our bottles. They are our whisky babies, but we need to store them where light will not fade labels or liquid, away from sources of heat and cold, away from children’s hands that might not drink it but accidentally knock it over and break it. Just be careful. It is understandable that you want to display your pride and joys, but consider where carefully. I know many people who have a whisky cupboard in their homes. Consider one yourself.

Wrapping Up

I’ve considered all these things and still got caught out. Don’t think it can’t happen to you as it can. It’s not the events that you can forsee that catch you, but those you don’t. I’m just very grateful I have had a specialist insurance policy in place which has met each one of my expectations. For around £350 the piece of mind alone has been priceless. I may have been facing a loss over a hundred times the cost of my premium so it is a no-brainer.

Moving On

And now with payment looming I now have the decision of what to do with the damaged bottles. Part of me says sell them and move on. Part of me says drink them. In the case of the 10 year old Macallan this will be happening as I know the value in that bottle, and it is a superb dram. I’m licking my lips already in anticipation and so should my friends as I will be sharing. Of course I am on the lookout for another one, but we will see what comes up. I think a new change of direction is needed. From every disaster comes new beginnings and that is the way the pragmatist in me is seeing it. There will always be new bottles to buy, perhaps with a new focus altogether. Keep an eye on the blog or my social media feeds to find out.

The one thing that bothers me about items like the Macallan 10 is that I paid £240 after fees for it. Auction prices are now £340 then fees on top of that. Although I’ve been compensated fairly, there is an emotional thing that won’t let go. I’d say that once you sell, write off or open a bottle, you need to detach yourself from it. You need to stop tracking it unless you plan to buy another. For me it’s almost like stalking an old lover to see what she’s up to, which is wrong and creepy. Move on to bigger and better things.


Slight runs on ink and bubbling of labels means the value to a collector is negligible but still holds a lot of value as a drinker due to it’s rarity. I’m on the lookout for another one and am likely to sell this one.

I have a couple of things I wish to say in conclusion. Firstly, to all those who wished me well after my disaster, thanks for your support. It could have been a lot worse, but it was very touching to have your support, even though I’ve never met most of the people on the www (world whisky web). I wouldn’t want anybody else to go through what I’ve just experienced. It’s a fact of life we never expect bad things to happen, something that could be summed up by the fact how few in the storage facility had adequate insurance or any insurance at all.

End Notes

It’s also been good to have been helped and advised by others in the whisky industry, and a special shout out goes to Andy Simpson of Rare Whisky 101. The resultant whisky geek out gave me tons of food for thought.

Lastly, I’ve had great service from my insurance company, Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers. They’ve ensured what needed to happen did at the right time, good communication and always left me with the impression that my situation was important to them. Despite not being a customer of theirs for very long, I felt every bit as valued as a customer who has used them for years.

I apologise if it seems I’m over promoting this company, but it’s with good reason. Other insurance companies are available but I can only speak from my experience with Bruce Stevenson compared to the cost of others I’ve used in the past. Bruce Stevenson has been recommended to me by several people and that spoke volumes. It’s turned out to be a good call.

Insurance can seem like that unnecessary expense that could be dispensed of to buy another bottle, but don’t lose your kingdom for the want of a nail.

Link to Bruce Stevenson insurance broker

Link to Rare Whisky 101

Link to my blog article on storage and packing

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

When it rains, sometimes it pours

not all water is good for your whisky……

It’s not often that I write an emotional piece when I think about my whisky journey, but if there ever was a time, this is probably the best time now that I’ve suffered a small whisky disaster. I more often think about this journey in where it has taken me, where it is yet to go and how long it may take. I guess that I never planned it and it will be hard to put an end to it, so really all that can be done is look to where you’ve been. The blog was a way of me moving away from the negativity surrounding the politics of the UK that had been dominating social media, a tidal wave that I had been getting caught up in and it was time to change direction. I’d been collecting whisky on an incremental basis since 2006, and it was time to make bigger inroads to the journey.

Writing the blog hasn’t always been easy. I work away from home for long periods of time and believe it or not the last thing on my mind when I get back is devouring large amounts of alcohol. I have a pre-school daughter which takes up a lot of my time. That’s why I may not be as up to date about whisky happenings, but I never intended to be. I’m just sharing my journey and knowledge, hoping that others can relate. And if this is a journey, then up until last week, the ride was smooth and getting smoother. The metaphorical road was a perfect piece of tarmacadam ridden over by a Rolls Royce with suspension so fine nothing was going to interrupt the partaking of a sneaky dram in the back seat while your chauffeur takes care of the driving. Then the journey changes, I run out of reviews, my storage locker gets flooded and before you know it, that smooth ride hides the fact that you are aquaplaning sideways across the carriageway to smash into a tree and erupt into a ball of flames.

Thats what my journey has felt like this past fortnight.


There may be trouble ahead

Aquaplaning is actually an effective metaphor, as mid August saw me return from a 16 week trip offshore to find Scotland being hit by extreme weather. I was parked up in Aberlour having a sandwich when I thought I saw the first bolt of lightning, only to be subjected to a deluge and lots of surface water on the roads. Can’t beat that experience when you haven’t driven in so long, in a strange car and the windscreen wipers are just smearing the remains of flies across the windscreen rather than moving any water. Little did I know that some parts of Scotland were going to be hit a lot worse and that included my storage unit in Perthshire.

It was a completely different climate the next day – a sunny day in upper Speyside with little memory of the thunder the day before. I was spending the afternoon constructing the behemoth of a trampoline my wife had bought for our daughter when I received a call on my phone informing me that my locker had been flooded. While the skies remained blue, there was dark clouds on my horizon.


As I remembered it and hoped it would still be. Fat chance.

I don’t know if you have ever suffered the loss of a treasured possession, but I had literally felt as though I’d been punched hard in the stomach. I knew that I had some of my bottles on shelving but the majority of the collection was in cardboard boxes sitting in pallets. I had no idea what to expect. My mind was racing through the list of bottles I may have lost and this is where the emotion kicks in. While I never intended drinking much of the bottles I had collected, I was running through bottles that I would hate to have lost, not just based on their value, but on their emotional value. Each bottle had a story. I remember the first bottles I bought that started my collection – 2 Glenmorangie Truffle Oak Reserve, purchased in 2006 during a visit to the distillery. I paid £150 each. They now auction about 3-4 times that value. Or even special bottles like my GlenDronach handfills – one of which was distilled on my 19th birthday and which I managed to handfill on my 46th birthday. My Flora and Fauna collections – even though not the greatest or the most expensive whisky, I’ve spent the time getting all the wooden boxes, nearly all the 1st editions (only 2 short now) and even have two Speyburn to complete the two sets. I’d have been horrified to lose these. As would my insurer I’d guess. Recent Flora and Fauna Speyburn auctions have seen a spike up to £2900 a bottle.

And this is the question it comes to; is whisky not just a commodity that requires monetary investment but also emotional investment? i think if you are solely buying it to drink, then perhaps not, but if you are collecting it for whatever reason then I suspect there has to be an emotional attachment. I knew this to be the case when I eventually was able to access the site to see for myself. The financial burden was covered, as I was insured, but how would the emotional burden be?


Wrecked Strathearn Inaugural Bottling. Irreplaceable.

I’ll cut to the chase – most of my treasured bottles were safe. Thankfully everything on a shelf was high enough, and those bottles on a pallet were mostly in AirSacs, which not only provided water resistance and saving most of my bottles, but also gave rigidity that prevented the boxes on the top layers hitting the water too as the cardboard box on the bottom disintegrated. Then the truth dawns – what about the bottles I kept in their cardboard cartons and not AirSacs? What if they were on the pallets? Sadly, because I well mark boxes with their contents, I realised I had some pretty expensive bottles or pretty irreplaceable bottles on the bottom layer.


this is why you insure your collection. Not an expensive bottle, but an example of water damage to a carton

It’s easy to get caught up in gloom. The best thing to do is celebrate what has survived. The aforementioned Glenmorangie and GlenDronach were safe. The rarest of my Diageo Rare Malts had also survived. But then I was seeing the Glen Albyn 1975, Brora 1982, Cardhu 1973 come out of boxes that had been devastated. My Strathearn bottles from the inaugural bottling of the first cask – both had their presentation box and certificate destroyed. My small Macallan collection took a big hit. My 80’s/90’s Macallan bottle, along with the 1824 series Amber, Gold, Sienna and Ruby – gone, although the 1824 series is largely still obtainable at reasonable prices. Glenmorangie Swamp Oak – gone. In fact, most stuff with a carton that was on the bottom layer of boxes on the pallet – gone.


The Glen Albyn 1975 26 year old was not so lucky with its carton.

It’s definitely an emotional time when you consider that most of the collectable value is gone. All the hard work gone. It’s not even as though you can claim on insurance for the hard work put in sourcing these bottles. That is when you may feel the most low. This is when we know what our connection with our drams is. Whilst mine started out being financial, as it is intended to pass this collection over to my daughter or use it to fund her place at university, I am now well aware it has gone beyond this. Perhaps you will feel the same if you have a decent collection, a sense of pride.

What I can’t lose sight of are two facts – I could have lost the whole lot, and others lost more treasured possessions than me. It all comes down with a bump when during the same bad weather people had homes, businesses and cars flooded. Other people in the storage units beside me lost personal possession such as furniture, photos, books, clothing. mementoes; it may seem like clutter to others, but they cared so much about it that they paid to have it stored. All very sad. And while my own tale is sad enough, at least it is easier for me to move on.


An example of label damage. Pity, prices are starting to rise for this one.

And I need to point out that my recent article on insurance was not only well timed, but has been reinforced by what I have witnessed over the past couple of days. People throwing out possessions, some of which looked antique had no insurance. I’ve been informed that out of 130 ground floor units, only 27 had any sort of insurance, and most of them was only the very basic £1000 offered by the storage facility. This reinforces the need to make sure you and your whisky collection are adequately covered. It’s bad enough losing memories, but don’t let yourself be out of pocket.

The bottom line is don’t think it won’t happen to you. I did but had insurance anyway. You have to remember that while whisky isn’t life or death, it’s more important than that.

I’ve an appointment with the loss adjuster next week. We’ll soon see what will be written off and what will be salvageable. Hopefully, fingers crossed that the soaked labels have dried out. I’ll keep you informed.

Yours in Spirits,

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

All content and photos are subject to copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

The Great Cask Con

Why investing in casks is can be more expensive and not as good a deal as you may think. 

I recently made a post of why buying a cask is not necessarily a good investment. So concerned about this, I’ve done a little additional research to back up an earlier article that I wrote in 2019. 


there could be a hole in your financial calculations in cask investment

Despite the title of this article, no distillery is out to con its customers. There may be dazzling marketing, but they are after all trying to sell their product. There are also companies trying to sell investments in casks, which are essentially brokers. The devil is in the detail and you really need to look at who is selling, the terms and conditions, as well as what you hope to achieve with your cask ownership. Not all the companies advertising on social media may be the best to deal with. It will also help if you know about the laws regards alcohol in bond. And having a cynical view of marketing claims is a definite advantage, as this is where the con comes in, and it is essential you read the T&Cs in detail to check if the marketing matches your expectations and the reality.

On social media, there are many adverts encouraging people to invest in whisky or to buy a cask. I see many people tagging their friends and you often see the pattern of conversation along how they think it’s a good idea, but I guess that the vast majority of them have no clue as to what the actual ‘investment’ may involve.

And it may turn out not to be the investment they think. This article is less based on opinion than the previous one, as I have done a lot more research by looking at the terms and conditions of various distilleries and cask sales. I have also been in contact with a whisky broker Mark Littler, who has been a very valuable source of information. 

As mentioned last year, buying a cask can prove to be a profitable exercise if you pick the right cask from the right distillery, along with the right cask type and age it long enough. It is a minefield with a myriad of choices that will affect your final whisky. Some distilleries will offer you a choice of cask size and type, others don’t. Some will offer you the choice of how you want it diluted prior to bottling – either cask strength or to a set level – usually 46%, but this is something you have to see in the T&C’s.


slumbering beauties waiting to fulfil their destiny in a whisky bottle

Private cask sales have been available for years, but usually this has only been through a whisky broker. Nowadays, with a large number of new distilleries emerging in a booming market, they have a slight problem – they have to wait at least three years and a day before they can release anything known as whisky. Even then, some whisky just isn’t ready at 3 years old, so they have to get income somehow. There is a practice in the USA which sees some “Distilleries” buy in a spirit to their specification from a company called MGP (Midwest Grain Products). All the “Distillery” has to do is finish the spirit to its specification. As Bourbon only has to mature for 2 years, if this can be bought and finished for 6 months or less, then the owners can sell product quickly and start recouping costs and pay off their bankers. There will be an article on this process in the future.

Although some distilleries do sell alcohol distilled elsewhere under their own brand, this is less than ideal. Ever wondered why there has been a boom in Gin? You don’t have to mature it and a whisky distillery has all the facilities needed to make their own batch gin. Another easy way is to sell new make spirit – comes out of the same stills as the ageing whisky, only it hasn’t aged as much, if at all and may be infused with other ingredients and given a proprietary name. Likely something original like ‘Aquavitae’ !! The other way to take in money quickly is cask sales. This gets a generous amount of money in quickly, and the distillery has a guaranteed sale.

Get Ready For Expense!

Buying a cask is simple enough from what I have seen however, all good things must come to an end at some point. When it comes to the end game, and the cask is ready for bottling, this is where it becomes expensive. A cask of whisky is treated as deferred duty goods – i.e no tax has been applied to the cask at the time of purchase. So, when it is time to remove from bond, these taxes are now due. 

The cask will have to be gauged prior to removal from bond. This is to assess the quantity of liquid, and also the amount of alcohol so duty can be calculated. 

Let’s assume that you’ve purchased a Hogshead of whisky which is 250 litres of bulk fluid for price of £10k. This is usually filled at 63.5% alcohol. We will assume 2% evaporation per year as an average, which will leave you with 204 bulk litres. I cannot predict what the abv will be at the end of the maturation, but 50% makes for easy maths. However, a lot of 10 year old single cask bottlings have the abv around the 60% mark which means the angels have taken the water component and not the alcohol.

Your duties payable will be –

Deferred cask purchase V.A.T @ 20% = £2000

You will have 102 litres of pure alcohol. The duty is (as at 5th Jan 2019 £28.74 per litre)

102 x 28.74 + 20% V.A.T = £3517.78

So, that’s £5517.78 in tax. However, it is not the end of the charges.

204 bulk litres will get you around 290 70cl bottles. Assuming a price of £10 + VAT per bottle (which includes labelling and cork) will cost you another £3420. However, if you are going to bottle at less than cask strength, you will have more bottles.

At the best, your ‘investment’ has cost you £19637.78 – nearly double your initial investment, plus, you’ve possibly missed out of 10 years of savings interest on the initial £10000.

Next, if you have to get the cask moved to a bottling plant, allow another £700. This cost will not apply if the distillery has a bottling plant on site, but few do. 


Bert wondered how he’d tell his wife about the ‘good investment’ he made that cost him nearly double.

All of the above is summarised in a great video that broker Mark Littler has produced, and is one of a series of nine about cask purchases. You can see the video concerning the hidden costs of cask purchase here

It could be worse!

Let’s assume the worst, and your cask had 60% abv, and you want to dilute it down to 40%. I don’t know why you would want to be that crazy, but this is the worst scenario

60% of 204 bulk litres is 122.4 litres pure alcohol

therefore tax =£28.74 x 122.4 = £3517.78 

+VAT (20% of £3517.78 = £704.55) = £4221.33

To dilute to 40% you will need to add around 102 litres of water to your cask volume which will now give you a bulk volume of 204 +102 = 306 litres. Thats enough for 437 bottles

437 bottles + VAT = £5244.30

Adding everything together this brings the grand total for a 40% whisky diluted from 60% to £22,165.33

What I have not allowed for is the cost of shipping the bottles to where you want to store them. I’d probably allow around £1200 pounds as a minimum, as you are going to be shipping between 49 and 73 cases of whisky (assuming 6 bottles to a case), and a single case of whisky usually costs me around £20 within Scotland. The cost of shipping will very much depend on which courier you use, and where you live. 

The total weight of 437 bottles is going to be close to a ton, and will easily take up a small storage unit. Going by my storage costs, I pay around £100 a month for a 5.5 sq m locker and insurance up to £30000. You will have to find a storage unit that will accept such a large amount of alcohol plus find suitable insurance. 


5,5 sqyare metre storage unit with approximately 220 bottles in it.

So, the cost per bottle can vary from £68 (50% example) down to £51 (60% diluted to 40% example).  The one thing I haven’t allowed for is the length of maturation. Most cask sales will allow for 10 years storage and insurance. If you go beyond this, then you will be liable for extra fees. However, the addition of the cost per bottle isn’t likely to be overly significant. Just remember though, if you are keeping your cask more than 10 years, you are then going to have to consider the point you will bottle it at, which will require a re-gauge to obtain a duty paid sample – normally 100ml. This will incur charges. It is a worth while move, as you need to check the health of your cask, by assessing the rate of evaporation, the alcohol level, and with the sample you will be able to taste it and see for yourself. A key point here is that whisky has to be above 40% abv to be called whisky. The rate of evaporation increases as the bulk level decreases exponentially, so it is worth keeping an eye on it. 

And here is the major catch for private cask purchases.

You can’t sell it. Certainly not very easily.

You need to look very carefully at your terms and conditions. Not one of six distilleries I contacted that sell casks, not one of them would allow a private individual to sell their bottles. Some gave options to sell the cask on to an independent bottler, or for another business to commercially sell, but most of the new start distilleries are eager to protect their brand. They certainly do not want anybody trying to take away parts of their potential revenue such as single cask bottlings.

However – lets imagine that you were allowed to sell your whisky bottles, you would need –

  • A Personal Alcohol Licence (I have one, therefore I can authorise alcohol sales in Scotland on licensed premises but not my own house). The total cost for my licence plus the training was £170. I also need to refresh the training every 5 years.
  • A Premises Licence – You will need a licence for the building where you are going to be selling alcohol from.
  • Premises – You are not likely to be granted a licence for your own private home or garage, so you will need a commercial address
  • You will need to register with the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme.

Selling alcohol illegally has a maximum fine of £20,000 in Scotland under section 142 of the Scottish (Licensing) Act 2005. There could also be a custodial sentence in addition to this of 6 months in other parts of the UK. 


jail for illegally selling booze. At least you won’t have to share with Rolf Harris.

The only way you could sell your whisky bottles would be through an auction house, but there is caveats here as well…

  • You could sell the whole lot at once at auction, but going the auction house route could require you to register on the Alcohol Wholesaler scheme, for which when I looked at the form was for a business or sole trader. Therefore I imagine you’d need to set up a company.
  • You could sell the bottles in dribs and drabs, through auctioneers, but there is a problem to this as well – you risk not getting back the cost per bottle, certainly because of the next point.
  • Your bottle doesn’t have a brand. The distillery name is a trademark, and legally all you can say is that it was distilled at xyz distillery. and the type of whisky it is. You do not have to put the name of the distillery on the label, nor the age or the geographical region it comes from, but you do legally have to place the whisky type on the label, as well as the volume and the abv, as well as the fact it was distilled, matured and bottled in Scotland.
  • Selling large numbers of an unknown brand whisky, regardless of what distillery it is from will essentially flood the auction market. I’ve seen and own a bottle of Glenfiddich of which only 220 bottles were made. It isn’t that rare as such, as every now and again a bottle pops up. It is holding its value, but can’t say it’s rare enough to make me rich yet. Similarly, I own a special Tormore from Peterhead Prison 125th anniversary. Again, these crop up every now and again, but aren’t really that rare, and it is a Tormore – a distillery that provides more for blend than single malt. A cracking single malt from Robertsons of Pitlochry I bought for £59 sells at auction for £30. Pity, it was a cracking 9 year old Benrinnes. Putting a couple of hundred bottles of an independent, unbranded whisky on the market will not raise a good price.
  • I’ve noticed a softening of whisky auction prices for a lot of bottles. Things that were popular are starting to go down, even in limited editions. Some are climbing and will continue to, but I feel we are starting to feel the effect of a Glass Loch – that’s another article though! But this will affect your ability to achieve good prices.

Under the Hammer: an auction house might be the answer but has its own issues

One last big thing that you need to know about cask purchase – although it has been often reported that rare whisky is outperforming gold on the Knight Frank index since its appearance there in 2018, this is not the cask whisky they are talking about. The Knight Frank index refers to luxury products that are readily available for sale, and in this case will be the likes of your rare bottles of whisky like 25 year old plus Macallan, Highland Park, Ardbeg, Glenmorangie: – the perceived luxury whisky brands, of which these are just some examples. Remember, no matter how old your whisky gets, it will never command the same prices as the aforementioned as it just does not have the status. Remember, Aldi’s have been selling 40 year old whisky. You need to have the brand to get top whack.

Unfortunately, one of the 6 distilleries I looked at did mention the Knight Frank index, and I feel this is a bit of a misleading statement. Your whisky will not be rare or that valuable unless you can sell it back to the distillery after a few decades or an independent bottler. Your bottles, because as an individual you can’t market them, will never give you the multi thousand prices we all dream about. The only way they can maybe realise a good price in my opinion is if the distillery closes, but still may not guarantee you the money to retire on. 

Now for the good news – sort of.

The main reason for buying a cask for the majority of people is to celebrate an anniversary, marking an event or birthday, for marketing or gifting purposes, or for just the sheer hell of it because you are interested in the process. I may even go down that path one day, and buy a cheeky wee quarter cask. Where bottling your own cask may be expensive, doing it as a collective means you can maybe save money, or get a unique whisky from a new distillery. Remember what it is costing you per bottle? Don’t forget if you were to buy that same bottle in a shop, there will usually be a 50%+ mark up on it. However, if you follow my blog and see my comments on the value of whiskies I review, I would suggest to you that a whisky at 50% that is say 18 – 25 yrs old is a bargain if it only costs you £68 a bottle. A ten year old bottled at 40% that costs £51 a bottle is possibly not such a bargain, but would depend on the whisky. You’d need to be guided by somebody who knows the ins and outs of the business.


Kermit only had 210 more bottles of his private stash of Bruichladdich to consume

Your best bet all round if you want to think about buying a cask is perhaps contact a broker. They will be able to give you unbiased advice and guidance on the best way to invest in whisky casks. What’s even better is that they will have access to casks that you will not be able to get yourself – you can’t just go to any distillery and ask to purchase. A broker will have access to the casks that will make the more sensible investments long term. Brokers will have fees, but they could just be the difference to a small profit or a much bigger one. Or a nicer bottle of whisky to sip when reading my War And Peace Articles.

Lastly…….

I’d like to thank Mark Littler for his help in writing this article. If you have any questions about cask purchase, he’ll be the person to ask. His website is marklittler.com 

I have not named any of the distilleries concerned, as their terms and conditions are commercially sensitive, and it is up to you to make sure you understand what is required of you when you come to sell or bottle your cask. Remember, as in all investments, the value of whisky can go up or down, and what distillery or style of whisky is popular now, may not be popular in a decade’s time. Your capital is at risk.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

Drunk KermitPixabay.com

Storage Unitauthors own image

All other photos – Shutterstock

No Rest for the wicked

Collecting whisky- Just when you think you’d reached the end….

Briefly now to recap

⁃ We know why we want to collect

⁃ We know what to collect

⁃ We know what not to collect

⁃ We know how to budget

⁃ We know how to store

Now what???

If you are collecting for the purposes of drinking, then you are now on the simple path to enjoying your collection in the way that the distillery intended, enjoying the aromas, the taste and mouth feel, ending in a great finish coupled with a nice warm glow. Keep it up, as you have attained the situation of enjoying your collection. All you have to do is keep following my advice which is :-

⁃ Keep your whisky you aren’t drinking appropriately stored until you are ready to consume.

⁃ Make sure you don’t open more bottles than you can finish within a couple of months to ensure peak taste.

⁃ Remember the rate of evaporation increases as the bottle empties.

For the drinkers, this is where we wish them a bon voyage, as they have no need to continue to worry about their whisky.

A dream whisky collection?

For those who are storing it for investment or collecting purposes, our path has only begun. We still need to walk through a metaphorical ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’ to ensure we can meet our goals.

What are our goals? If collecting whisky for investment or enjoyment, we cannot afford to take our eyes off the prize. This means we have to keep aware of the availability and prices. We need to know about availability, regardless of why we are gathering whisky, as availability will have a large influence on price, especially if it is no longer available in the primary retail market.

For the same reason, we need to know the prices, especially for buying within the auction or secondary retail market as we need to know if we are over paying. Being aware of price trends will make you knowledgeable if a bottle is at its top price. If you buy a bottle at this point for collecting or investment, it is not going to make much money, as it probably has risen as much as it’s availability dictates and will probably only rise in value slightly as the relative rarity rises.

For the same reason, we need to be aware when the trends are going back down, and when may be a good time to sell. I have a few bottles in my collection I know will probably not go up in value much more and therefore I have to be ready to sell. Although this isn’t a race, we need to be aware that other people will be doing the same thing and a whisky that becomes more available at auction will see a subdued price compared to one that is less common. Timing is everything.

Most value can probably be realised by buying a good quality whisky that isn’t too common that is getting discontinued. One that had a low run (ie one season) will give you lower potential numbers in the secondary market, especially if people continue to drink theirs, thus creating a demand and shrinking availability. Old Pulteney 17 might become such a whisky. Early editions of GlenDronach 18 Allardice may see a good rise. Although not discontinued yet, bottles produced at the start in 2013 would have whisky on average a lot older than 18 years old as the distillery was closed between 1996 and 2001. Bottles released now with a younger date code may not be quite so valuable.

Another way to guarantee a good return is to ‘flip’ bottles upon release. This is most common to do with whisky where it is in high demand. Some distilleries release editions specifically with collectors in mind, and this can often see prices initially way higher than the whisky is actually worth. Also, prices do often collapse down again, with those buying from flippers straight away can often overpay.

Macallan and Ardbeg seem to suffer the most from this phenomenon and it is damaging to the price. It is for this reason I do not focus on these brands. Flipping is also a subject for a future article.

No matter how good your storage, you’ll also need to tip the bottles every now and again to ensure the cork doesn’t fully dry out. A quick turn upside down is sufficient.

When you sell your collection, you should be aware of the legal implications. In the UK you legally cannot sell alcohol without a premises and personal licence. While the law may turn a blind eye to you selling a single item privately, repeated sales will risk prosecution. The only safe way to sell is to a dealer, broker or through an auction. All have their own risks, but you will get a smooth sale without the risk of not getting paid.

This is why you need to keep on top of prices, as selling to a broker or auction house may not have a guaranteed top price and will be subject to commission, which needs to be factored in when assessing potential profit.

Also, be aware that sales of some assets over £6000 in the UK are subject to capital gains tax. As I am not a financial advisor, you will need to check this out, but whisky IS such a taxable item.

Collecting whisky for investment isn’t as easy as people think, and can easily generate a lot of issues, but in summary these can be limited by

1/ Being aware of current and future availability

2/ Being aware of price trends

3/ Being aware of how to purchase at the right price

4/ Keeping records and receipts to maintain

provenance of your collection, and help preserve value.

5/ Being aware of how to correctly store your collection

6/ Being aware of how ancillary costs such as storage and packing can affect return.

Well, this is it. My ‘Magnum Opus’ completed. I do realise that I may have mentioned a few items more than once, but this is because they are important. I’ll certainly be republishing this series again in the future for newer followers of my blog, but will also attempt to update the advice as needed.

Thanks for reading, and I hope it was enjoyable and informative. After drafting the entire series on my iPhone using the Notes App, I need a drink – anybody buying one for me??

Slainte Mhath!!


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Gather Here – Storing your collection

Collecting Whisky – Part Four

If you have gotten this far, then congratulations for bearing with me. I hope that it all makes sense so far – there is certainly a lot to take onboard. And this article has a lot of detail, so sit up, look sharp and pay attention! For those of you who have just joined in or for regular readers who need a recap, links to the first three articles are here –

Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

I’m going to take a break from thinking about what whiskies are good or bad to collect and their relative values, and concentrate on something that any serious collector whether an investor, hoarder or drinker has to consider – storage.

Whisky isn’t an ornament. It’s supposed to be drunk, a fact as a hoarder and investor I accept, but also as a drinker. There is little fun in collecting if you don’t get to taste a little, and it is often the case for the less expensive or rare bottles I own that I will often buy two. One for investment, one for tasting. However this doubles my headache, as I then have to consider two lots of storage.

Let’s deal with the drinkers storage first. We need to think what conditions the spirit likes to be in. Whisky, like any other alcohol is a volatile liquid, and since it can range up to around 65%, it needs to be taken care of.

First, keep those bottles upright! Do not treat it as a bottle of wine, which does need to be kept horizontal in order to keep the cork moist. Wine is generally no more than 15% abv. Whisky has to be a minimum of 40% abv. The spirit will dissolve the cork, so not only will you have a leaky seal, you’ll have corked your whisky.

Don’t expose your precious collection to sunlight

Secondly, we need to keep it relatively cool. Being next to heat sources isn’t so much of a fire hazard, but will help that alcohol evaporate that little bit faster. Don’t assume that because it is unopened that it can’t evaporate – the seal of the bottle can fail. This can be caused by the liquid inside the bottle expanding, thus increasing the pressure of the air in the neck. This can accelerate seal / cork failure.

Thirdly, keep your bottles in the shade, and certainly out of direct sunlight. Sunlight can fade labels and cause the liquid in your whisky bottle to change colour. Furthermore, it’s a heat source so will also cause your spirits to evaporate faster.

I’ve seen a few people post pictures in the comments of my Facebook page with display cabinets, but while these may be great to look at, and I’m sure the owners have a rightly deserved sense of pride about them, I’d suggest you put the more expensive ones in a cool dark cupboard to keep your whisky better for longer. Just don’t forget to drink it or look at it from time to time.

You will also need to pay close attention to your house insurance. Many insurance companies limit the amount you can claim for one item, and may only cover a limited amount in the case of spirits. Some insurers may also be unwilling to pay out if there is a fire and they didn’t know about large amounts of spirits being kept at the property. Don’t forget, if you have a large collection, whisky will be seen as a fire risk, and your insurance company will do anything to get out of paying.

Take photos of your collection and keep receipts just in case you need to make a claim or prove provenance.

Whisky doesn’t go ‘off,’ right?

Well, right and wrong. Assuming your bottle is unopened, the seal is good and it is kept in the right conditions, your whisky should remain as good as the day it was bottled.

However, the moment you open that bottle, the clock is ticking. Whisky will not go bad as quick as a bottle of milk, but over a period of a couple of months, you may start to notice a difference in taste. This is because the air in your bottle is starting to have an effect. Also, spirit is starting to evaporate. This can make a difference, as it is the spirit that carries all that whisky flavours and helps develop the nose, mouth feel, the palate and the finish. Once this evaporates off, the change is going to be noticed.

There are ways to help prevent this from being a problem. The easiest way is to not leave it too long to drink the bottle. This way you’ll have drunk your whisky before any degradation is noticed. Of course, you maybe don’t want to drink the same dram until the bottle is finished, but don’t open any more bottles than you can finish in say a 2 month period to keep it fresh

If this is not something you can do, there are a couple more techniques that will help you, but these are more specialised. The first one is a technique called ‘gassing’ which means putting an inert gas into your bottle to displace the air, and prevent the whisky from oxidising. Argon is a common gas to use, and there are retailers that sell this as a way of preserving wine, which also suffers from oxidation.

The other (and more risky) method of preserving whisky is to remove the oxygen from a bottle by placing a lit barbecue lighter flame into the bottle. The burning butane will remove oxygen from the bottle, but there are two hazards. 1/ it’s a bit of a fire risk. Best not to do it with a bottle that is more than half empty, as there are more flammable vapours present. 2/- if the flame goes out before you switch off the gas, you will have contaminated your bottle with butane. Best avoided.

Storage for Collectors / Investment

This is where things get heavy. Failure to be careful here could have massive effects to the value of your investment or completely wipe it out altogether.

Don’t even think about keeping investment grade whisky anywhere near heat or sunlight. It needs to be as cool and consistent as possible. A cool room or cupboard is ideal for those with smaller collections. For those with larger collections, this may not be possible so we move onto the next tier of collection – a storage unit.

Storage units and insurance

This will need to have similar temperature and humidity as your home, or as close as possible. Try to obtain an internal storage unit, as these are often ventilated and will not be affected by the sun beating down on them, and are generally less susceptible to damp. But remember storage units cost money – one with storage about the size of a small van will be around the £70 level. Metal containers, especially steel shipping containers will get quite hot during summer (unless you are in Scotland, where summer only usually lasts one day, and people take their tops off once the temperature exceeds 8 centigrade.)

Internal Storage Units

Plus you will need to factor in the cost of insurance. It is usually more expensive to take the storage company insurance; you are often better using one of the specialist storage insurance companies. As a guide, I pay £540 a year for £30k of Insurance.

Don’t think you can insure it for what it’s worth, but only what you paid for it. Even then, you may only be insured for the value of a new item. Double check as to what you are covered for.

Packaging for storage.

If like me you have chosen to use a storage facility, you will be leaving your collection for some time, so it needs to be stored correctly. This can be a major undertaking but managed correctly should be little hassle.

You need to have strong cardboard boxes, and plenty of packing materials. Bubble wrap, styrofoam nuggets, or what I use is inflatable pouches called ‘Air Sac’. These are inflatable pouches that come as single, dual or triple pouches, and use a hand pump or compressor to inflate, cocooning your bottle or tin. For those of you living in the UK, I use Macfarlane Packaging who can supply Air Sac as well as other packaging materials. You can buy kits that match the amount of boxes required with the type and quantity of pouches bought.

Well packed with AirSac Pouches

AirSac was a great solution for me, as I had over 200 bottles to photograph and pack. It certainly cut down on packing time.

Inflatable pouch similar to AirSac

A good idea is to use Silica gel packs inside the pouches and/or in the tins to keep corrosion at bay. This can be induced if packing in a humid atmosphere and the bottles are then kept in cool place. Silica Gel will help mitigate this, but bear in mind you still need to change it every now and again.

You need to photograph each bottle as a demonstration of proof how it was before storage, in case of ever needing to make an insurance claim. I use a point and shoot semi- automatic camera with a light tent to photograph. This ensures a decent record of each bottle.

When taking photographs, have a bit of paper in front of it, giving the details of the bottle. This is handy if you have multiples of a particular bottle.

And of course, keep a list of what is in each box. I have given each bottle a code, based on the distillery name, and that helps me keep track of individual bottles.

Packaging list for a collection.

Here is a photograph of my photography packing and storage and set up

1/ Bubble wrap. 50cm wide

2/ AirSac Pouches

3/ AirSac Hand Pump

4/ Tape Dispensing gun (I have 2, one with clear tape not shown.)

5/ Silica Gel Packs

6/ Camera. I use Nikon Coolpix P7100 as it has pretty good auto function but I can also go manual if a label is proving difficult to capture. You can use a smart phone, but make sure your photos are backed up at least in one other place and perhaps also on a memory stick at another address.

7/ Styrofoam nuggets. Help fill out packing box voids

8/ Sellotape / Scissors / Pens / Post Its for labelling bottles.

9/ Photo tent.

Not shown – Laptop running Spreadsheet program to record Bottles, What box they are in, ABV, etc…. Also cardboard boxes and fragile labels.

A handy tip is to keep packaging that you receive if you buy bottles at online auctions or online stores. This helps pad out the boxes. Also consider putting ‘This Way Up’ labels on your boxes so your whisky doesn’t destroy your cork by being on its side or upside down.

Reuse packing. It’s often the best

A packed and labelled box

A well packed store of around 200 bottles

I hope this hasn’t put you off. It is a big effort, but if you have chosen wisely, packed carefully and have patience, big effort can bring big rewards.

Slainte Mhath!

Next Article – it’s in storage, what now?


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Internal Storage Hills Self Store CC BY-SA 4.0

Collecting Whisky – Part 3

An affordable plan is needed!

In my second article, I outlined the things that would and wouldn’t be collectable, and I hope that was helpful. But now we move further down the line and make another big decision – what is the budget for collecting?

For those of you just joining the series, links to the first two articles are at the end of this article.

It can never be underestimated how much you want to spend. Pick a limit and stick to it. You might feel that I am being a bit of a dictator on this, but if you are going to be collecting using online auctions, this can rapidly be addictive and can see you reach your limit.

Don’t overstretch the pennies

It goes without saying that once you have decided what you want to collect, you need to thoroughly research the prices that these items sell for. You will find that the internet is your friend, as you can search if the bottle is available in retail, or how much these go for at auction. The advantage of looking at auction sites (and you have to be smart by looking at more than one), you can also see trends in prices.

An example setting a budget would be saying you’d spend up to a fixed amount every month or any other appropriate period of time. Of course if you don’t spend your budget, you could maybe carry it over to the next period. The important thing is not to over stretch yourself. Don’t assume that you can just sell a bottle if you over stretch yourself. You might not get back what you paid for it.

Another point If collecting a series, make sure you will have the budget to complete the series. This is because if you cannot complete the series, what you have bought may not realise as much value if you come to sell.

A good example is the Flora and Fauna series. 26 bottles. Some are still in production (around 9) and can be bought for under £50. Most of the discontinued ones are available at auction between £120-£450. The Speyburn bottling was only made for one run, and is quite rare – expect to pay £1000 – £2000 per bottle.

Be thorough with your research

Of course, perhaps time is not an issue for you, most collectable bottles will usually come back again at some point. They aren’t always drunk, and they may make a reappearance. Certainly I’ve seen the same bottle of Glenmorangie Swamp Oak Reserve turn up at auction more than once. Don’t look for it now…. it’s going nowhere for a while. – wink wink!

Eventually it may be the case it will be affordable, but leave it too long and the price may well go beyond your reach. This is why you need to consider if you will be able to afford to collect a series.

I can’t advise you on what budget to set, as it all depends on what interests you, and how much disposable income you have.

Lastly, before setting a budget, also factor in storage costs if you want to collect a sizeable collection. This will depend on location, but I pay £65 per month plus another £50 a month for my storage unit. Having said that, mine is not a drinking collection, although I do have a separate drinking stash.

How to make the most of your budget

The only way to maximise the buying power of your budget is to have a plan. And like the character Hannibal from the 80’s TV series ‘The A-Team’, it’s great when a “plan comes together.” And this is why it is a bad idea to just spend your money without careful thought.

If you are on the path of creating a drinking collection, many whiskies have similar tastes, so you need to do the research to find out where they sit within the flavour map. Personally, I don’t like to keep to the one sort of malt whisky. Although I do enjoy a peated whisky, I’ve gone off Ardbeg, so I’d not collect the whiskies that are similar to Ardbeg. I’m more of a Laphroaig fan.

Random doesn’t work….

The thing I’ve been itching to say is that there is very little advantage either to a collector or a person who will drink their whisky to just collecting any bottle. Random doesn’t work efficiently. You certainly will not always get the value that sees that bottle go up in price. If you are drinking it, that isn’t so bad, as you are only 28 drams away from a new purchase. Still, you might have to endure a bottle of blandness or lose face by offering it to guests. The kitchen sink may provide the answer.

What you need to find is focus, and the best thing to do is have a collection policy. Not only will this help you get a good gathering of bottles, but will help protect your wallet.

What is a collection policy?

Quite simply put, a collection policy is a targeted approach to collecting in which you focus on a specific area. Some collectors may only collect bottles from a specific brand or distillery, some concentrate on bottlings from a specific area. I have used this concept to great effect which has meant I am not buying random bottles. Examples of policies I have used are:-

  • a bottle from the three distilleries that were in Inverness.
  • a bottle from each of the distilleries in Dufftown. Only exception was Parkmore which closed in the 1930’s and the remaining barrels were destroyed.
  • a bottle from every distillery I pass through between where I live and Aberdeen. As this requires driving through the heart of Speyside, it was a major undertaking and I still need one or two bottles.
  • Complete the Flora & Fauna collection. I’ve almost completed 2 complete ranges with nearly every first edition, plus all wooden boxes.
  • Will be starting on the distilleries of the Lowlands once I complete a previous policy.

Having a plan helps

It’s worth remembering that in all of this, I have been looking for the limited edition bottles rather than the mass produced products of these distilleries. So far Glenfiddich was the hardest, as I didn’t want to spend an absolute fortune of it, but as Glenfiddich is a popular brand, rarer bottlings are a bit harder to come by. The one I picked was one of the last whisky batches made by the distillery while it still used coal to fire the stills. If I did get a mass produced whisky, I made sure it was discontinued.

Think about what your collection policy would be? What interests you? If smokey and peaty is your thing, consider collecting Islay and other West Coast Malts. Perhaps you want to collect all the malts from a geographical area; in Scotland there are 5 areas – Highlands and Islands, Islay, Speyside, Campbeltown and Lowlands. There are only 9 distilleries on Islay, but Ardnahoe has not released anything yet. There are only 3 distilleries in Campbeltown (Springbank, Glen Scotia and Glengyle) so this can help focus spending and collecting.

Some people only collect from one or two distilleries, although this is usually the ‘premium brands’. Macallan also is a popular choice, but I have a particular opinion on this which many of you may disagree with. The problem with Macallan is that quite a lot of people buy the bottles on release just to sell them straight away to cash in on demand (also known as flipping). It is my opinion that this actually harms the long term value of the whisky, as people are buying on the secondary market at inflated prices. One of the many examples would be the release of Macallan Genesis. Originally retailed at £495, this was released to commemorate the opening of their new distillery. Within a month they were appearing at auction for £4000+. Now you can pick one up at auction for under £2000, which is still a healthy profit for a seller, but not so good for the first buyers on the secondary market who paid double. How would you feel if you paid £4000? That means other bottles will have to do well of you still want to turn a profit.

However, it only takes a distillery to fall out of favour and you’re investment may be at risk. Those with high value bottles will be trying to sell on, and the market will become saturated, dropping the price even further. I’ll be writing an article about Macallan and my thoughts in the future, but the point I want to make is that perhaps it is best not to put all your eggs in one basket.

Whatever you decide to have as a collection policy, I’d recommend as far as possible to purchase numbered or less common bottles, but still in demand. There is no point in collecting something anybody can buy easily, as there will be no scope for an increase in value.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading this far. I appreciate that there is a lot to go over but this will focus your mind, you’ll have a targeted and coherent collection, and your bank account will be at less risk of being prematurely and needlessly emptied.

To summarise

⁃ set a budget and do not exceed it

⁃ Consider a collection policy

⁃ Only collect worthwhile bottles

⁃ Try to diversify your collection

In the next article I’ll be looking at how to keep your collection

Slainte Mhath!

for those catching up….

Article 1 Beginning a collection.

Article 2 What is and isn’t collectable

This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or liking sharing this article by clicking on icons below.

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Collecting Whisky

Dealing in Drams – Part Two

In the first part of this series of articles, we looked at the reasons for why people want to collect and the basic rules of collection. In this article, we step it up a notch and look at one subject in more detail.

  • What is and isn’t collectable

I’ve decided I want to collect whisky – so what do I have to do now?

Congratulations on your choice in wanting to collect whisky. You are in for such a great experience. Despite only having 3 ingredients (as long as it doesn’t get colour added) it is amazing how tastes can differ depending on things like cask selection, age, bottling strength, still shape, fermentation time, how the barley is malted or even where the warehouses for maturing the whisky are located. All of these play a part in bringing together a flavour sensation to your palate if you choose to drink what you have collected.

In my last blog post about collecting, I mentioned a few key points. These are now going to have to be seriously considered. The primary one is budget – you will have to set one, as it is not going to be fun to collect if you run out of pennies to pay for things like rent, food, petrol and other bills

What is collectable?

If you are collecting to drink or just for fun – anything is collectable, but keep reading on in this article, as it may help you focus, and to attain a truly great collection.

If you are collecting to make money, then there are far more things to look into. Just buying any bottle will be a waste of money. You need to research and to see what is in demand and short in supply. Some people concentrate on what can be argued as ‘premium’ malts such as Macallan, Highland Park, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg and Bowmore, others concentrate geographical areas, some only collect limited editions.

While I say anything is collectable, not everything is worthwhile collecting, especially if making money is your end goal.

Things that are not generally worth collecting in the world of whisky:-

1/ Miniatures

I’m going to get this one out of the way quickly. There is a collectors market for miniature bottles, but it’s limited. The range of miniature bottles that are worth collecting are typically very small, generally Connoisseurs Choice from Gordon & MacPhail. Bottles are typically tin screw caps and do not seal as well. There are issues is that the whisky within can be contaminated by the waxed cardboard seal inside the cap, as the whisky was never meant to be collected – it was meant to be drunk. And that’s what I do with my collection of miniatures – I buy them if there is a bottling I have in my collection and want to taste. I also buy them to do taste tests for you, as it saves me having to buy the full bottle.

Recent chat with somebody in the Whisky Retail trade suggested that it is harder and harder to get miniatures, as firms discontinue doing them, as most of the cost is down to the glass bottle.

2/ Anything involving a ceramic bottle or jug.

There is a massive inherent problem with ceramics. In fact there are a few. The obvious one is that ceramic isn’t see through. There is no way of verifying the condition or the level of the whisky within. It may be filled with tea. If you crack the seal open to look and find it’s all fine, you have just destroyed your investment.

Ceramic is also porous. Any problems in the glaze, and you will notice spots on the outside as whisky filters through.

Lastly, ceramic is more fragile than glass. Any sort of chip or scratch, and the limited value falls massively.

I’ve only really seen one ceramic release that has tempted me but I’ve resisted – there is a Glenfiddich in a Wedgewood container. But regardless of the whisky or the reputation of the ceramics, do your self a favour and leave the ceramics for the Antique Roadshow or your Grandmother’s sideboard.

3/ Anything from a supermarket shelf

If obtaining a collection for drinking is your goal, then there isn’t really anything wrong with buying from a supermarket, as you are drinking to consume. However don’t expect much in the way of premium or collectable whisky to be there. This is because supermarkets won’t stock the whisky you need to make a great collection – the amount of people willing to spend £120 on a 21 year old whisky in Asda is very low.

The offerings in a supermarket are going to be mass produced and not particularly worth anything unless they are really popular and get discontinued. You will rarely make much money off a whisky under £100 unless this is the situation. There are exceptions, but I will cover these later.

4/ Low quality whisky

Why would anybody want to collect low quality whisky? If you are intending to drink it, you’d be wanting to impress those you share it with, or you’d prefer hopefully to enjoy the finer things in life. There is no point in having a cabinet or collection full of whisky from a supermarket, unless that is what you like to drink.

While there is nothing really wrong with cheaper whisky, it has obviously been made to a price point. The time taken to make it and mature it will have been less. It will have been made in large batches which DOES affect the quality. And without any doubt, it will be lower strength, chill filtered and have colouring added to appeal to the mass market. This is not the finer end of the scale, and unless there is a demand after it gets discontinued, it will never make money. The chances of there being demand is low, as consumers move on to the next bottle of gut rot.

Anything from Aldi and Lidl is generally a no-no, but on the odd occasion they have released a good whisky that has impressed both the critics and the general public. The 40 year whiskies released by Aldi hit public and industry acclaim, and regularly hit auction prices over £200. Not bad for a bargain malt that cost £38.

5/ Collections being pushed by their producers.

I left this one until last, but it’s something that is bit of a personal rant, and I feel leads those just starting to collect whisky down a garden path littered with ‘dog eggs.’ My recent visit to Oban Distillery showed the distillery shop crammed full of the Diageo Game of Thrones series. Plus it was pushed by the guide at the end of the tour. While this is collectable, let me tell you why I wouldn’t bother.

⁃ the bottles are all Non-Age Statement. There could be a good whack of young, cheap whisky in there.

⁃ The price per bottle is in the £38 – £65 range – reinforces the point above.

⁃ The whisky will probably be a mix of editions that already exist but will you open it to try it? Will it be any good? The primary reason for buying should always be the quality of the spirit. While I’m sure it won’t be trash whisky, it won’t be the finest.

⁃ It is mass produced, unnumbered bottles. There will be thousands of them going about.

⁃ To make money, you have to sell it. If there are thousands of bottles, once Game Of Thrones (or whatever theme is current) leaves the current consciousness, there will be less of a demand for it. Who will you sell to? Probably every whisky drinking Game of Thrones fan will have one. Any self respecting whisky drinker won’t drink stuff made for TV programme geeks as they know it’s just a marketing ploy to sell more whisky.

Game Of Thrones. All coloured and Chill Filtered

Collections themselves can be worth collecting. I have a couple of complete series of different ranges, but none of which have been pushed as a specific collectable item. Plus, my collections are worth a lot more than the original price, and once fully out of production should realise a good investment.

With all this in mind, we need to think about what will be worth collecting.

What should I want to collect?

1/ Aged or Vintage Whisky

While we know that just because a whisky doesn’t have an age statement or vintage on it mean that it is inferior, it is worth noting that any age reference on a whisky seals the deal. People will then know what they are getting.

2/ Limited Editions

Not all ‘Limited Editions’ are really that limited. See my rant about Game Of Thrones, which actually just means they are limiting how much they will market it while there is demand. Also, just because something is labelled as rare, doesn’t mean to say it is. Take a look on an auction website to see how many whiskies with ‘rare’ or ‘limited’ there are – my point will be instantly proven.

The truly rare whiskies cost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds, and are worth that much not just because of age, but perhaps their bottle. Whenever Macallan release something new and limited, the value only spikes due to those flipping their bottles. One example is the Folio releases. Folio 4 has just been released, it cost £250, so the whisky in it isn’t rare or old. But by people flipping them as soon as they were released, prices hit well over £1000. Yet they aren’t that rare. It’s all just hype. A truly rare whisky in my opinion has less than 50 bottles.

Worthwhile, yet affordable limited editions don’t have to be that rare but they do have to be in demand. One such collection would be the Rare Malts series of Diageo, which is now discontinued, having been replaced by annual Special Releases in 2005, but the Rare Malts collection is usually under 6000 bottles, the range contains some cracking whiskies, many of which have disappeared forever due to the distilleries closing and being demolished. There is a steady demand for these bottles, as it seems some people still drink them, but nowadays you’ll only find them on the secondary market in specialist shops or auctions.

One of 9000.

Try to buy whisky which had less than a run of 10000 bottles and you may stand a chance.

3/ Silent Whisky

This is generally a good buy. However, you need to be smart. Silent whisky is from a distillery that has been closed. It’s even better if it has been demolished – you then know that only the barrels in existence are all that remains to be bottled. I’ve a few bottles like that – Imperial, St Magdalene, Millburn, Glen Mhor, Glen Albyn. Even if the distillery still exists and is possibly able to be reopened, the older whisky will still be valuable. We will soon see when the original Clynelish distillery (known as Brora), Port Ellen and Rosebank become re-activated.

Whisky like this is always in some sort of demand and will perform adequately in regards to value improvements.

The Holy Grail is a limited bottle from a silent distillery.

4/ Good Quality Whisky

Finding quality whisky isn’t hard. You need to see what is popular, what is selling well, what gets talked about in the forums, whisky magazines, Facebook etc. Just collect at least a bottle or two. Get recommendations in specialist stores, such as a whisky shop or a quality off-licence. Odds on are that it will eventually be discontinued. If you have a wee supply, you’ll be in prime position to sell for profit at auction.

5/ Discontinued Whisky

Keep a watch for quality whisky that has, or will be discontinued. It has to be popular, as you need to hope people will drink what is on secondary market. Once they do, the limited availability will drive prices up on the secondary market.

I’ve bought a couple of bottles this way, and am realising good potential returns. I got the heads up about Bunnahabhain Moine Oloroso 2017 being a decent dram and not available to get in the shops. However, careful scouting online saw me buy 2 of the last available bottles I could find in retail. What I paid for two of them, some people are bidding the same amount for a single bottle at auction. Happy days for me.

6/ First / Last Bottles

When the first produce of a distillery is bottled, this can be a widely anticipated event. There are quite a few smaller distilleries that have opened in Scotland recently, and these are proving to be popular. First bottles are a good bet – if the distillery proves it has a good whisky, your bottle will increase. On the flip side, if the whisky isn’t so great and the distillery folds, you will have a rare bottle (although distillery failures are not that common nowadays). Similarly, last bottles are good too, but are much harder to obtain. I’ve a bottle from the last cask filled at the Dallas Dhu distillery, but it won’t be the absolute last bottle, as nobody is fully aware if independent bottlers still have casks in storage.

7/ Whisky Series

Allied Distillers special editions 2005

There is a lot to be said for collecting whisky series. There are one or two that are worth while collecting, need not cost the earth, and need not be too rare. Some of them may not make much in profit, some may be expensive, and some you need not collect all the available bottles in the series, but for the cheaper ones, it is advisable. If you are looking for an expensive series, try looking at things like the Glenfarclas Family Casks – the older the vintage, the more expensive it is to buy. The headline picture of Scotty’s Drams FB page is the Allied Distillers range released in 2005 from 6 of their distilleries. All are 15 yr old, and includes the only official bottling from Imperial Distillery, unless the owners have some older casks still in stock. Bottles are in the £50 – £120 range. Tomatin had the 5 Virtues of Earth, Air, Water, Fire and Metal. Of course, there is the Flora and Fauna range, but it is getting harder to find all of the 26 bottles that were released.

Conclusion

What we have learnt from this article is that there are definitely some things you should collect, and others you definitely shouldn’t collect. But even with the guidance that I’ve provided, there are still many ways not to be focused. Resist your temptation to just buy bottles randomly. You could end up with some duds. What you choose to collect will primarily be set by what budget you set, and how much you wish to spend on individual purchases.

Slainte!

Next article

  • Setting a budget
  • Collection Policies

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Collecting Whisky

Dealing in Drams – Part One

One of the most popular questions I get when people discover that I have a collection of Scottish whisky is “what bottles are worth collecting?” There is no easy answer to this, and when thinking what I would have to write to cover this, it was just too big a subject to blog about in one go, so my collecting advice is going to be given out over a few weeks.

This series will contain over the next month

  • Why Collect?
  • Good initial rules of collection
  • What is and isn’t collectable
  • Advice on how to collect
  • Advice on maintaining your collection
  • Advice of how to store your collection
  • Advice on how to sell your collection

While I mention certain bottles, it is not an explicit recommendation that you have to buy them.

Any advice is only based on my own experience. Be aware the value of bottles can go up or down.

Reasons for collecting vary from person, and what I would find worth collecting may not be so good for others. As I keep on saying, the past 10 years or so have seen a massive increase in the popularity in single malts, and this has seen many different bottles emerge, and also many disappear. Collectors are a group of people which many of the big corporate drink companies are starting to target, although not all the offerings are actually good quality or value.

So, why do people collect whisky? Having thought it over, I think it can be summarised as these reasons:-

Fun

There is no mistaking that collecting whisky can be fun. It all depends on your outlook. Perhaps you like the thrill of the chase by adding at auction for unusual bottles. Maybe you like the research of the distilleries to see what bottles are collectable, and in turn learning something about the character of that distillery.

There’s also no disputing that if you are planning to drink what you collect, that decision can fall into the category of fun. To be able to revel in the kudos of having a specialist selection in your drinks cabinet could also be a large source of satisfaction from having collected it through one means or another.

To store tastes and memories

As the whisky industry expands at such a rapid rate, the older casks become fewer and fewer. Perhaps you remember a whisky that is now discontinued that you really enjoyed, or there is a dram that resonates with a special personal memory. It could be an idea that if you want to preserve this, you might wish to maybe buy a few bottles.

As the older casks dwindle, ‘recipes’ of blends and malts will change. Case in point that comes to mind is the 15 year old Glendronach. Its production had to be stopped in 2015, as the casks necessary to make the malt were exhausted. After a three year break, it’s back, now known as Glendronach Revival. However similar it is to the original 15 year old, it isn’t the same, and an original 15 will always be worth more than the Revival. I’m not saying it will make a lot of money, but it will be one to consider looking at as a low cost option.

To invest

This is an entirely a subject in its own right. Before going down this path, you need to have goals, knowledge, patience and somewhere to secure your investment. In following this aim, you may still have fun in building a collection, but may never taste it.

To trade

I’m not meaning to sell in a commercial sense, but perhaps a bottle is collected on the knowledge that you never will open it, but you appreciate that it may hold some value in the future and can be sold or traded to get something you want to drink that has become more scarce.

Whatever your reason for collecting, there are some very basic rules that you need to abide by, and these don’t seem to get mentioned anywhere else. They are common sense, but worth repeating anyway.

1/ DO NOT SPEND MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD.

This is the most important rule, and this is why the font was made bold. Speaking from a UK perspective, a decent bottle of single malt can vary from £40 to £150 in a supermarket. You may be £70 – £100 for an 18 y.o, and £120+ for a 21 year old. In specialist retailers some will be up to £500+ for the older or more unusual. You might be able to afford it at the time, but the amount you can spend over a year may not be sustainable. You will need to set a budget, and stick to it. Trust me, it is easy to get out of control.

2/ Make sure you have somewhere to keep your collection

No point in building a collection if you have nowhere to keep it. And in an investment scenario, you will need somewhere with little temperature variation, and depending on its value, somewhere secure.

It is worth bearing in mind that a large spirit collection is a fire hazard. Many home insurers limit how much you can keep at home. Check your small print. Plus, if collecting as an investment, nearly all home insurance policies have a maximum insurance value for individual items. You may need to consider a secure storage unit and specialist insurance.

3/ Collect quality and not quantity.

Especially true for investment whisky. Some things will not make money as there is no demand for it (Bells Decanter anybody?) or a bottle of Famous Grouse. Mass produced bottlings will not make anything or very little unless they are discontinued or there is a recipe or packaging change. Even then, it may be very little profit.

Better to buy a good quality whisky over a couple of mediocre ones. Sure, for the price of a decent malt you can buy two bottles of Famous Grouse, but the decent malt will form memories, will give you an experience. Grouse is just a generic blended whisky.

Even if you don’t want to invest and prefer to drink your collection, quality always wins over quantity. Is it not better to have the finer things than always going for the ordinary and blend? By experiencing the finer things, you will expand your whisky experience and gain knowledge of different flavour profiles; in doing this you may unlock the door to the treasure that can be gained by a good whisky. Going generic means you’ll never experience much different, unless collecting the boxes it comes in is your thing.

4/ Do not expect to make money

Whisky is not designed to be collected. Or at least that used to be true. Brands like Macallan are making editions that are specifically for collectors in mind. However, if you are collecting for investment, there is a possibility that brands fall out of favour. What might be the brand of the moment may not be in 10 years. Whilst with Macallan, Highland Park, Talisker, Lagavuilin, Ardbeg and Laphroaig this may not be so much of a risk, it depends on the bottling.

To be fair, you should, with careful choices, be able at the very minimum to maintain the value in pace with inflation. But one example that springs to mind is Convalmore. I’m a fan of Convalmore, the Dufftown distillery that closed in 1985. I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog so I’ll keep it brief. The 1977 vintage of the 28 year old and 36 year old as part of a Diageo special release have done relatively well. The latest 32 year old from 1984 hasn’t. From a £1200 retail price, it can be found for around £1000 retail, and as low as £500 at auction. I’ll deal with this more in a future blog. People buying for investment either got a big shock, a bargain, or a whisky they are now going to drink.

And if it all goes horribly wrong with whisky collecting, at least with intelligent choices, you’re going to have a decent drinks cabinet to drown your sorrows!

Slainte Mhath!

Next article focus – How do I define what is and isn’t collectable?

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Roll out the barrels!

With the explosive expansion of the Scottish whisky market, and indeed the global market, one of the things that is becoming more popular in the world of whisky is the purchasing of casks as an investment. I am often asked if this is a good idea. While I cannot profess to be an expert on such matters, let’s look at the issues that surround such an endeavour.


Before I go any further, I would strongly recommend that you pay attention to the disclaimer at the end of this post. Any investment is at your own risk.


Many distilleries whether or not they produce and bottle their own product will in some way release their own casks for sale. Some of the more uncommon Scottish malts are only seen through this release of stock, as are some silent distilleries still in the hands of the former operators. Independent bottlers such as Gordon and Macphail, Signatory and Douglas Laing are well known and will source casks using this method and have their own bonded warehouses, but this is intended whisky for bottling and eventual consumption.

Sleeping Beauties – dunnage warehouse

It is becoming more prevalent for new distilleries to offer cask spirit for sale as an investment, and this can be a popular choice, as well as a way of supporting a newly founded business. These new distilleries are often founded by people who have been in the business a long time, but there are still many variables to consider.

1/ Purchase price.

The price of a cask can vary immensely with size. A Hogshead is typically 250 litres, a butt 500 litres. Prices required for investment may range from a couple of thousand pounds up to several thousand.

2/ Whisky Type

Are you just being sold the standard distillery output or can you choose to have a malted barley that has been dried with peat?

3/ Cask type.

What sort of whisky do you hope to have as an end result? Do you have a choice of cask types? In Scotland the law dictates these must be Oak casks, but these could be previously used for Port, Sherry, Wine (usually red), Rum, Cognac or most common is ex Bourbon casks.

Do you get a chance to pick the amount of charring the casks have? This can have a great affect on colour and flavour, as well as an effect on evaporation rate as charring increases the amount of wood surface area the spirit can reach.

4/ What type of storage does the cask have, and where is it stored?

Is your cask going to be kept in a traditional earthen floor dunnage style warehouse or a modern rack style warehouse? Is the location of the warehouse coastal or inland? This will also play a big part in the taste of the final spirit. Remember as the Angels Share of spirit evaporation goes through the wooden casks, the porous wood will also absorb moisture in the outside air. Coastal distilleries often have a maritime note of salt air in their taste.

Casks await their turn

5/ How long do you want to keep it in storage?

If you have invested a significant sum in a cask, you have to be prepared to wait. By law, it will not be whisky for three years after it was distilled. Even after three years, the whisky may not be ready for drinking. Over the course of your ownership, the cask can be sampled to ensure things are on track, as a bad barrel can have a disastrous result on your investment. The barrel can also be re-gauged to assess current volume and level of alcohol content.

The minimum age of storage I would suggest is 10 years, but the longer the better. Just remember your alcohol and volume will be evaporating away. It is important with older whiskies to be sure of the alcohol content, as to be called whisky, it has to be 40% alcohol or above. A good way of calculating what you lose to the angels share is to allow about 2% a year.

Some whisky cask sales may not include storage costs and this has to be factored into the cost of your investment. This leads into my next consideration –

6/ What do you hope to achieve with the cask?

Here is where it gets truly complicated. It can be made simple if you simply sell the cask on, either back to the distillery or you sell it through an auction with the barrel never leaving the bonded warehouse. The latter may be the best way to maximise your investment.

If you choose to remove it from the bonded warehouse for bottling, you will then be liable for excise duty. Current UK duty for spirits is £28.74 per litre of pure alcohol. So if you have a 2o0 litres of liquid in cask of whisky at cask strength of 50%, the duty payable is £28.74 x 100 (50% of 200). Plus 20% VAT. Oh, lets not forget the 20% VAT of the initial cask price, as buying a cask is tax deferred goods.  There is unlikely to be any capital gains tax, as currently whisky casks are seen as wasting goods. However this could change in the future, so best keep your accountant sweet.

What will you do with the bottles? It is possible, depending on the size of cask bought to obtain a yield of around 250-500 bottles. And here is the rub – you can’t sell them unless you have the correct licences. This will be at the very minimum a Premises licence for your premises, and you will also have to hold a Personal Licence as the premises manager, unless you already own your own licensed premises. Not so easy, eh?

The option of selling via an auction may be the path to take. However prices are not guaranteed and just depend on who is viewing the auction, and the level of demand. You may only see a decent return from an older whisky, a whisky from a distillery with good provenance or a combination of both. Selling by auction has a further problem of that you may struggle to sell more than a few bottles at a time. Flooding the market with the same bottling will drive the prices down if you try to sell more than a handful of bottles at a time, even spread across several auction houses. Here is where you need to have a whisky at an age, strength and with a popularity that will garner enough interest and therefore demand. Selling at multiple auctions will also expose you to more expenditure to auction fees, reducing any potential profit. Ideally, if you are going to sell at an auction, sell the unbottled cask. This let somebody else deal with the headache of bottling and spirit duty. You will have to consult how to do this with the distillery you have stored it in and a reputable specialist auctioneer – see my previous blog about on-line whisky auctions here or contact auction houses such as McTears in Glasgow who regularly sell whisky at auction.

Personally I feel if you are intending to bottle it, then investment isn’t really your end goal unless you are able to sell them. A lot of people use their own bottled whisky to give away as a celebration of a life event such as a marriage, significant birthday etc., and therefore make no profit.

What’s in your cask?

7/ Provenance.

The whisky is only worth something if there is a demand for it. For younger distilleries, people may not be so familiar with the brand, and therefore the demand and the price may stay low. Some might buy on the history of a distillery, such as Lindores Abbey, where the first production of whisky in Scotland was recorded or a silent distillery where the supply of New Make has ceased and available bottles are limited. The kudos of having a cask from the first runs of a distillery may also be a good bet, however as I have bought two bottles from the first cask of whisky made at a Perthshire distillery, I can say I’ve not made anything on them yet as the distillery hasn’t had time to mature decent stocks and isn’t well known on a global stage. It may finally increase in value once the reputation of the brand increases.

On the other hand, distilleries with a proven provenance reduces the chance of a bad whisky, and increases the chance of a return, as brands like Glenmorangie, Macallan and Glenlivet are well known world wide – people know they will get a quality dram out of them, although I and others find Macallan often trades on their reputation, and many recent non age statement releases have been insipid to my taste. It will be enough to say the initial cost of the investment maybe a lot higher for these brands.

There is however some food for thought on this matter. The February auction at Whisky Hammer saw a Hogshead of whisky distilled in 1989, making it just shy of 30 years old, with 156 litres remaining at 44% abv sold for a hammer price of £161,500. Add auction fees, the final cost is £181,000. With a potential yield of 220 x 70cl bottles, that places the spirit in the bottles at £822 excluding any excise duty and VAT before bottling costs and other expenses.

Would the whisky live up to that price? Possibly. As somebody who has tasted a nip 60 year old 1938 Macallan and paid over £200 for the privilege, it was superb with a taste I’ll never forget and an even greater, smooth finish, but that was a one off and truly part of whisky history. However you have to be able to sell the whisky in your cask to realise your investment, and that is the big risk in tying your money up for years and potentially not a great return if you are not careful in selecting what whisky to invest in.

Your cask will also be one of a kind, as no two casks are exactly the same. Where and how it was stored will all make a difference, so you will be depending on distillery reputation.

Continuing on the concept of provenance, 10 years is enough time for brands to fall out of favour and demand to trickle away. Like any stock exchange, the value of your investment can go down as well as up, and luxury items are the one thing to go down in value during recessions, and choosing a brand leader name is no guarantee of safeguarding the value of your cask.

Lastlyy ou also have to bear in mind that you have no brand – you can’t label the bottle or even describe the whisky as something like ‘The Glenlivet’ as these are trademarks. You will only be able to say where it was distilled. This takes away a bit of provenance compared to an original bottling, and will not be worth as most as such. This is why independent bottlers often are able to supply older whisky a lot cheaper than the equivalent distillery bottles.

8/ Whisky Brokers

With all this considered, there is another option that may be available to you, and that is dealing with a whisky broker. That way you may be able to purchase a share in a cask, reducing the cost of your investment, but then you are putting the trust in the broker for cask selection. The cask that you buy into may not be New Make spirit, but a whisky already old enough to bottle. If it is from a reputable distillery, you are more likely to see a return – having shares is makes it cheaper to get a cut of an older whisky, and you can spread the amount you are prepared to invest across more than one cask.

My personal choice is to not invest in casks, but rather bottles, where it is easier to see trends in prices and you often do not have to wait years to realise a profit. It is also easier to sell of portions of your investment as needed, rather than having to sell a whole cask. The purchase of whisky bottles as an investment has its own pitfalls, but that’s another article……

DISCLAIMER

I am not an expert in whisky cask investment, and this article only discusses the potential issues you may have in such an enterprise. Please consult an expert if you are thinking of such a purchase, and hopefully the information here will enable you to make intelligent queries. Be aware that the value of any investment in any commodity can go down as well as up, and always factor in the potential extra costs before you proceed.

Please consult HMRC regards any tax liabilities. Information regards spirit duty and Capital Gains Tax is correct at the time of writing (March 2019)

Regulations for the sale of alcohol is taken from the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. I do hold a Personal Licence for the sale of alcohol in Scotland and am aware of licensing implications. Be aware that different regulations apply in England & Wales, Northern Ireland and world wide. You are committing an offence if you sell alcohol without the relevant licence, or if you do not use an appropriate licensed business to sell on your behalf (auction, merchant or broker). Please consult with your local licensing board for further information.

Whisky Auctions for Beginners

There is no doubt at all that there has been a massive surge in the popularity of whisky, and no more so can this be seen in the proliferation of on-line auctions. This can be a good way of building a collection for drinking, for investment or for finding that unusual gift. So how do these sites work, and what are the advantages and the pitfalls of using these sites?

Getting Started

A quick search on Google will reveal several websites that offer specialist whisky auctions. I’ll supply links at the end of this blog post for these, so if you are interested, you will be able to see for yourself and decide if the whisky auction scene is for you. The sites I am registered with are Whisky Auctioneer (in Perth), Scotch Whisky Auctions (Glasgow), Global Whisky Auctions (Glasgow) , Just Whisky (Dumfermline), Whisky Online Auctions (Blackpool), Grand Whisky Auctions (Invergordon), Whisky Hammer (Ellon, Aberdeenshire), and Whisky Auction.com (Germany). Of course there will be many more sites world wide, but these are the ones which I use due to them being close to where I live, or have reasonable shipping charges.

Usually all of these sites require a small, non-refundable payment to register, typically £5 / €7 to try and discourage spam accounts, and also to ensure the person registered with the site is over 18. It’s as simple as that. And now the whisky world is your oyster.I

Start Bidding

And now it is time to scan through the site to see what interests you. Once you find something that you wish to purchase, then its time to place a bid. Before you place any bid, there are a couple of things that you need to take into account in order to keep yourself financially safe, and perhaps bag yourself a bargain.

1. Know the how much you are willing to spend. This is this most important thing you need to take account of. By not sticking to this, you are at risk of spending more than you can afford, or perhaps more than the item is worth. It is also worth remembering that the hammer price is not the final price that you will pay.  The final cost will be the hammer price, plus somewhere around 10-15% commission. You will also have to pay VAT on the commission, which in the case of businesses is not VAT recoverable. If you are getting the item delivered you will also have the courier costs and the optional insurance which is typically 3%. An example would be a hammer price of £50. 10% commission +VAT = £6. Delivery costs typically £10 for a single bottle. 3% bottle insurance £1.50. Total cost £67.50. Although this may be a small increase, the effect of the commission etc increases greatly as the price of the bottle goes up.

2. Know the value of what you are buying. This may not be the most obvious, but is very easy to get caught out on. To be honest, I have been caught out badly with this once, but thankfully got away with it. The thing is that auctions can be fun, and it is very easy to get carried away, hence why the most important rule is the first one above. However if you don’t know the value of what you are bidding on, you can easily be overpaying. This can be avoided by doing your research prior to bidding. Search other auction sites, or google the bottle to see if there is a trend in the price, and to see what they generally go for. It is then you decide whether or not what you want to spend is sufficient, or if you need to adjust your limits upwards or downwards. Don’t just go on the last sale price or only from one site. You might find that one site does manage to get slightly better prices than others.

3.Google Google Google. While this post is concentrating on auction sites, don’t limit your research to just whisky auction sites. It could be that the bottle you are bidding on is still available in the shops for less than the typical auction price. One great success I have had recently was when I was recommended the 2017 Bunnahabhain Moine Oloroso. This was out of production, and the video blog I was watching was saying how if you see one on a shelf, buy it! Well, I did a thorough Google search, and as had been advised, every site was saying sold out. I was just away to give up, but scrolled through one last page and lo! and behold – a retailer with 2 in stock. A split second later, I had both bought for £157 including delivery. I then looked up auction prices and found typical price is £120-£180 for a bottle! And remember the additional costs underlined in point 1. This has made my bottles a very worthwhile investment. The only explaination why the price in auction may be higher is that perhaps the bidders are in a country where particular bottles are not available or they are desperate to obtain a bottle.

4. Don’t be tempted to up your maximum bid. As the auction draws to an end, you may find yourself outbid. In many auction sites, as the price goes beyond certain thresholds, the minimum bid increase goes up. For instance, below £100, some sites only allow bid increases at a minimum of £5, but above £100 it may rise as high as £10. Beyond £500, some sites have a minimum increase of £50. You can see how it will get expensive very quickly. Only increase your maximum bid if you are fully comfortable in doing so. Remember that it is ok to walk away, as most bottles I have walked away from have appeared in another auction within a year, and I’ve often got them cheaper.

5. At the end. At the end of the auction, if you have the highest bid, then you win the bottles. If an auction ends at 7pm, the auction extends by between 5-10 mins if there is a bid within a set time before the auction ends. This is to defeat sniping software and gives people the chance to up their bids. Depending on the site, some extend the whole auction until there is no new bids for 5 mins, and others only extend the auction for each individual bottle. So you may win a bottle, but other bottles are still availble for bidding. TOP TIP If you are desperate to win a bottle, sometimes it is better to bid, but keep your maximum bid right to the end – as people are usually only informed that they have been outbid by e-mail. Given the delays in the system, you can always put in a last minute bid, and hope that the person you are bidding against doesn’t have their email program running. This is a bit sneaky but is entirely within the rules of every auction site. However this may start a bidding war, so be careful!

6. Pay your bill. Not long after the auction ends, you will get a bill for your purchases. These often require payment within a week, but some of them require payment within 3 days.

Purchase Cheap Whisky

One of my favourite ways of getting new whisky to try, is to search the entire auction, but set the search results to display low to high prices. At the bottom end of the auction are usually the mass produced blends such as Famous Grouse or various blends used for export, and also miniatures. I’m a big fan of this method of bargain hunting, and usually go for the miniatures. This can work out a lot cheaper than buying the same whisky in a bar, and you can still get aged whisky as well – a recent purchase of Benrinnes Connoisseurs Choice miniatures included a 1968, 1972, 1973 and 1978. One caveat is that whisky sold in Scotland is subject to the minimum price laws, which dictate a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol. This has meant some auctioneers placing minimum initial bids to cover this.

Have Fun!

I have to say that I enjoy the excitement of an online auction, and if you follow this guide, you should remain safe. Of course, what you bid on is solely a matter of taste, but be sure not to exceed your limits. The time I got caught out, I bid over £1400 for a Glenfiddich only worth £500. I only got away with it as somebody else bid £1500. They didn’t pay, and claimed that their computer had been hacked. This was probably not the case, and it is more likely drunk bidding. So stay sober and just wait for your newly acquired drink to arrive!

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