It’s Not Always Grim Up North

Taste Review #43 – Wolfburn Morven

This bottle was one of a selection of miniatures that I bought at Inverness Airport, and the Wolfburn miniature bottles were really eye-catching. The dark olive green bottle of the Morven and the similarly opaque black bottle of Northland were just begging me to buy them – honest! It was the first time that I’d actually noticed any produce from the Wolfburn distillery, so I seized the chance to buy them. I’ve been staring at the bottles in my box of samples and I’ve finally given in to try one of them.

The Wolfburn distillery is the most northerly distillery on the UK mainland, based in Thurso, up on the northern Caithness coast. According to the distillery website, the original distillery was started in 1821, but according to some records it ceased regular production in the 1850’s, but some records indicate sporadic production in the 1860’s. The 1872 map of the area shows the distillery marked as a ruin, and gone by 1877.

The new distillery was founded in 2012 and started production in early 2013. It is about 350m away from the old distillery and shares the same water source, the Wolf burn. The new distillery sits within a modern industrial estate just to the west of Thurso.


Morven (see credits)

This expression is named after a prominent hill in Caithness called Morven. At 706m, it is one of the hills that is instantly recognisable from a distance. It isn’t that easy getting that far north – the A9 trunk road is not the easiest journey to undertake, and it is probably better to take a train on the far north line. This line shows some of the most amazing scenery in North Scotland, travelling north from Inverness. The train travels through what is known as ‘Flow Country’ which is the largest blanket bog moor in Europe, and has many sites of scientific interest. By taking the train you would also visit Wick, which has the Pulteney distillery, but if you take the car, north of Inverness, you’d be able to visit Glen Ord, Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Dornoch, Balblair, Clynelish, Pulteney and Wolfburn. That would be some tour.

Thurso is also close to John O Groats, which is worth a quick visit when the weather is nice, and hadn’t been so commercialised as Lands End.

My last bit of trivia on the area is that Prince George, Duke of Kent, the brother of King George VI, died when the Sunderland flying boat he was a passenger in crashed on a hill close to Morven in August 1942.

Onto the whisky….


Wolfburn Morven

Region

Highland

Age

Wolfburn Morven has no age statement

Strength

46% abv

Nose

Smokey, but not heavily so. Slight aroma of iodine, but nowhere near Ardbeg levels. Fruit – green apples, grapes

Palate

Quite smooth. Smoke, medium peat, nutty malt, slightly tannic, peppery oak, slight fruity notes.

Finish

Sweet smoke and spice. Oaky with a bit of gingerbread.


The Dram


Conclusion

The whisky was quite pleasant, but quite obviously a young spirit. This expression has been matured in ex-bourbon casks and quarter casks. The smaller quarter casks give more wood contact, and this was evident in the tannic notes. There was in my opinion an obvious wood note where the spirit just has had too long in a quarter cask. The quarter cask is a way of maturing whisky that little bit faster with no artificial trickery, but it seems slightly overdone to me, but by no means overly so and it is still a very good dram.

It is in my opinion quite endemic in the industry where a new distillery is rushing spirit out just to start making a return on the investment. But, also in my opinion, Wolfburn Morven gets away with it. And the 2018 FiftyBest Double Gold award highlights that.

The peat isn’t heavy. It’s probably quite low, about 10-20ppm, so nowhere near as peaty as the peat monsters of the west coast islands, but enough of a bite to tell you it has seen a sod or two of the dark stuff during malting.

Like my last review of Glencadam 10, this is also at 46%, natural colour and unchillfiltered. I’d say the age of the spirit is about 4-5 years old, but this has a pleasant smoothness, is not complex but is well balanced.

I personally hope this distillery does move towards age statements, as this has the potential to be an epic whisky.

Do I recommend? Yes, you should try this if you want to dip your toe into peaty whisky. Will I buy another? Not immediately, but will probably buy a full size bottle.You should definitely keeping an eye on this distillery, as with their first releases, it seems everything is in place to make an epic dram.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and 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

Morven – The track to Corrichoich and Morven Andrew Tryon under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

Other Photos – Authors own

Continuing With Cask Cost Truths and other stories

The real deal at Scotty’s Drams

Last weekend’s article (click here to read) has caught me by surprise. It was actually pretty well received, and while you may not see this looking at the site, I had quite a few comments and private messages of a positive nature which I was totally not expecting. It has been a big boost to me, especially when much of the details that I have written came from an article I wrote in March without any professional assistance. I had better watch what I write, as people might actually think that I know what I am doing!

Of course, that last statement was very much tongue in cheek, as I do try my hardest to bring you accurate information, or at the very least make you aware when it is opinion rather than fact. The pleasure of knowing your opinion is also correct or shared by the right people also is a very pleasant feeling. However there was something that was left unsaid in the last article.

The true costs and the realistic expectation

One thing I couldn’t do was give you an expectation of value of owning a cask, nor brokerage costs. I could only highlight the hidden costs and practicalities that many people may not be aware of. It was through some of the comments made after last weekend’s post that I actually researched another distillery in Ireland that never gave an idea of any tax costs, seemed to have a really low bottling charge and seemed to guarantee a return. For a brand new distillery venture, this seemed too good to be true, and the marketing did seem to skip over the not so pleasant sides of cask ownership, and the terms and conditions seemed to be a lot more basic than some of the others I had seen.

Anyway, to advance the narrative of this article, one of the people who got in contact with me after the article was Mark Littler, the broker I had used to confirm some of the information that I used. It was great to see him so enthusiastic about what was written but he suggested I write another article to give you an idea of brokerage costs, the actual range that a cask could achieve and how a broker works. To be totally honest, he wrote the article for me, so think of it as a ‘guest writer’. I hope that you find the information useful. It is certainly useful for me, as I had a couple of articles in progress, but due to child illness and other family issues, I have not had time to write another article for you though I can assure you there are plenty of metaphorical juggling balls in the air as I type.

In the quest for disclosure, I do realise that I have said in the past that I plan to keep Scotty’s Drams independent, and this article may seem like a sales pitch to some, but I would say it is a fair and balanced assessment of what you can expect if you were to buy a cask through a broker. I’m not getting paid for this input, but I felt if sources are going to give me information, it is better for me, and ultimately for you to have the full story. Plus you can’t get much better than hearing it from the horses mouth.

In my last paragraph before I hand it over to Mark, I’ll say that while this is a first for me in letting somebody else writing for my personal blog, I think that this could be a good forum for others to share their whisky experiences if they ever feel that they want to share something, either a whisky they think is great / not so great / cooking whisky / drain cleaner, a whisky based experience such as a distillery visit, or a wee story about their whisky journey. Or perhaps you can write about how much you enjoy my blog! Drop me a line using Facebook, the comments on the WordPress blog or e-mail scottysdrams@hotmail.com

Anyway – over to Mark


Mark Littler

Hi Everyone,

I’m Mark Littler – the broker that Scott refers to in his article. It is a great article and highlights a lot of the pitfalls that most people are not aware of and that we have been working hard to bring to light. I do think it would be good to show the other side of cask investment too.

In my business we help people sell their items both through private sales and auctions. We sell everything from classic cars, vintage Rolex watches, pretty much any antique you can imagine, and a lot of whisky – both bottles and casks. We have over 300 five star reviews of our service now – including lots of reviews from customers who we have sold casks for. These are customers that have been very pleased with their cask investment because they did it the right way.

To be clear, the average return is around £5,000 to £40,000 from an initial £1,000 investment. Most people who made more than average were lucky – they bought a Macallan cask for £2,500; can you imagine? Or they picked up a Springbank in the brief window they were available to the public. However from all the customers we have helped sell casks we have found there are two simple rules that if you stick to then you will likely see a good profit.

First – buy a young cask of whisky and let it mature into an old cask of whisky. This is the premise of cask investment – the older the cask gets the more value it potentially has. This is how ALL of the customers we have helped sell casks for have made a profit. They bought their casks in the early 1990’s or 2000’s, almost forgot about them, and then came back to the market at the right time with a mature cask. 

This comes down to a fundamental law of nature – you cannot speed up time.  If you want a 15 year old whisky you have to wait 15 years for it to mature. So, if you invest in a young cask, and mature it into an old cask, you will be rewarded for tying up your capital for that period of time.

Second – they all paid a fair price for their casks. This is the real crux of the matter and what really angers me about the modern cask selling market. The whisky cask market is the last asymmetrical market out there – which is bad news for buyers.

An asymmetrical market is one where the seller has more information than the buyer.  However, the internet has been a very democratising tool and now almost every selling market is balanced. For example:

If you want to research the value of a car you can use Auto Trader.

If you want to research the value of a fund you can use Morningstar.

If you want to research the value of a house you can use Zoopla. 


As well as casks, Mark also deals with rare whisky bottles. Handy for a collector like me!

You can now verify the value of almost anything online with a quick search. The sheer volume of data available means that in almost every selling situation the buyer can almost guarantee  they are going to pay a fair price.

Except casks.

There are no publicly available indexes or price guides about the value of casks. If you are inside the industry you will have access to this privileged information and you are able to build up your own database of the value of casks which are sold on a regular basis. 

The reason for this lack of information is quite simple: casks are not generally for public consumption or ownership and therefore a publicly available index would not serve any purpose to the industry (and as such the information is kept strictly private).

Another reason for the lack of a whisky cask index is that no two casks of whisky are alike. As such you cannot ever create a meaningful index of the value of whisky casks.


Casks in storage at a cooperage

For instance, a cask of Macallan 1995 which has 210 bulk litres remaining at 52% ABV will be more commercial than an identical cask which is at 49.5% ABV. Trying to compare the value of both of these casks would be like comparing apples with pears as they are totally different (note – casks over 50% ABV are more attractive to the Asian market and so command a premium over casks under 50% ABV).

Due to this lack of market data the buyer is almost 100% reliant in trusting the people selling them the casks. I personally feel that the way some people are selling casks amounts to fraud – the sellers know the true market value of their stock, but charge significantly more as they know their buyers can’t research the correct price.

Until now! 

It’s my mission to add some much needed transparency to the cask selling market and help people buy casks in an open and honest way.

As mentioned, casks can be a great and fun investment but you just need to obey two rules.  1 – buy a young cask and expect to wait 10-15 years for it to mature and 2 – pay a fair price for the cask.

I don’t think that you can do this in the market at present which is why we are starting to sell casks.  I don’t feel it is fair that the cask ownership/investment market has been taken over by phoney companies who are solely looking at their financial gain.  It’s not fair in the industry and it is not fair on the consumer.

Most of the other brokers do not seem happy to make a small margin on the casks they sell.  Likewise, the auction houses that advertise casks for sale don’t seem to want to put accurate estimates on the casks they offer (£18-20k for a Lochindaal 2009 – come on now! £8,000 – 12,000 is what it is actually worth). 

We are open with our fees and charge a £300 brokerage fee per cask – so the price we get offered the cask at is the price you pay (plus our brokerage fee – we have to pay the bills after all). 

We’re also putting a lot of material out in the public domain to help people make an informed decision.  We’ve got a LOT of information in the pipeline, but at present we have so far published the following articles/guides to help people who are looking to buy a cask of whisky make an informed decision.

We have made the cask calculator that Scott refers to: https://www.marklittler.com/cask-calculator/

We also have made a series of 10 videos about cask investment and all the pitfalls:  https://www.marklittler.com/whisky-casks-and-the-knight-frank-index/

We have also just sent to print a 52 page magazine about cask investment going into every nook and cranny and busting all the ‘facts’ that the other brokers are using to sell their casks.

If you want to receive a copy of this magazine just DM me or email me with your address and I will get one in the post to you as soon as they are back from the printers (end of Jan 2020).

Kind regards

Mark Littler MA (Hons)
Owner

mark@marklittler.com


Well, what can I say but thank you for Mark for providing us with all this information, so we can all have a realistic expectation. While I have not personally met Mark, having communicated with him over the past couple of weeks, I can confirm that I feel he has been genuine, helpful and unbiased. This is an important quality, just as last week’s article highlighted, when you look at advertising on social media or even some distillery websites that are selling casks, the information isn’t always there. I am sure Mark will understand however when I say that should you wish to invest in a cask, regardless of who you choose to do so with, that this is at your own risk. The information that I have provided on my blog is to make you aware of the potential pitfalls and benefits. It is also prudent to advise you that nobody can predict the future regards regulations, tax and duties payable or what casks will be popular in the long run, as these things change.

Now that I have got myself adequately off the hook in case you sign up to buy a cask that fails to realise a profit, all that is left to say is that Mark’s website is www.marklittler.com where you can find his contact details there.

And of course, Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Or join me on my other social media channels below. Also, feel free to share, and 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 – supplied by Mark Littler

Giving Keith A Kicking

Taste Review #42 – Glen Keith Distillers Edition

There are three things always to do in the world of whisky.

1/ Take a chance

2/ Form your own opinion

3/ Keep an open mind.

Well, on this occasion I’ve managed 2 out of 3. And if Meatloaf is correct, that ain’t bad. This is going to be a pretty short review, as although I didn’t manage to keep an open mind, I was proved right in my assessment. I’ve also got to hope that my wife doesn’t read this, as it was a present from her.

Today’s dram is from Glen Keith distillery, owned by Pernod Ricard, one of three distilleries in the Morayshire market town of Keith. The other one owned by Pernod Ricard is the Strathisla distillery, probably one of the prettiest distilleries in the world and one of the oldest in Scotland. Finally, there is the Strathmill distillery, owned by Diageo. Without wanting to be disparaging about Keith, there isn’t really a lot to do, with the Strathisla distillery and the preserved Keith – Dufftown Railway – the northern terminus of the former Strathspey Railway about the only attractions. However, people in Keith are friendly, the chip shop is quite good, and the town is a regular stopping point for me journeying between Aberdeen and home.

Glen Keith is not an old distillery – it was completed in 1960, on the site of a former meal mill. It had the first gas fired stills in Scotland, but three years later steam coils were added.

Production from Glen Keith has mainly been used in blends such as Chivas Regal, Passport, 100 Pipers. There were single malts released in the 1990’s but by 1999 the distillery was mothballed. Reopened again in 2013, production had been doubled to 6 million litres a year. The Distillery Edition was released in 2017 and it is to the tasting we now move.


Glen Keith. Clean and crisp packaging.


Region

Speyside

Age

This whisky has no age statement

Strength

40% abv

Colour

Bright Gold

Nose

A bit sharp. Apple, but mostly malted barley, sweet, toffee vanilla

Palate

A bit of a mixed bag. Not too strong in the mouth, but a nice mouthfeel. A bit oily, coating the mouth. Toffee, vanilla, a slight fruitiness. Malt and wood are there.

Finish

Very short and sharp. Not smooth at all, a burn down the back of the throat. A quick hint of spice and wood, but within seconds it’s gone.


The Dram


Conclusion

This is where I can afford to feel smug and have a small ‘told you so’ moment. The one out of the three things I failed to do was not keep an open mind. I saw the lack of an age statement, the 40% strength and the relatively unknown aspect of this distillery, and I thought this won’t be brilliant. And I was right. The good thing was that I wasn’t disappointed.

This is another semi-clumsy release of one of Pernod Ricard’s workhorse distilleries where most of the output is for their blends. The Glenallachie Distillery Edition that was released just before they sold the distillery to Billy Walker was pretty insipid. It seems that the distilling part of it was ok, as Glenallachie has gone onto make some fantastic whisky after the change of management. The Allt-a-Bhainne release didn’t get as well received as hoped, and although I liked it, it was a fairly so-so dram. It just seems that Pernod Ricard can’t handle the release of a normally anonymous ‘blend fodder’ distillery. There is another close by, Glentauchers, but the single malt there is usually released under independent bottlers, although there has been a recent release under the Ballintines branding. Indeed in the case of the Glen Keith, Glenallachie and Allt-a-Bhainne most of the success has been through independent bottlings.

It’s a shame as the packaging actually looks ok. The bottle is well presented. But the we see the 40% abv. That means it’s probably chill filtered, coloured and boring. And that’s at least not a let down, as you expect this. There was no real depth, being as shallow as a parking lot puddle. The absence of any sort of finish was the final bit of rain on my parade ground.

This has to be noted as a pretty poor effort in my honest opinion. As we have seen with my previous review for Glenlivet Captains Reserve, NAS and 40% doesn’t have to mean poor whisky. But on the other end of the scale, there is Jura Journey, a whisky that has its own special place in hell. Glen Keith isn’t as bad as Jura Journey, as it has a nice mouth feel, plus I expected a poor result. I had already bought a bottle, as this was the first permanent NAS as a core bottling, I’d stuck a bottle straight to store. Given its £20 price tag at the local Co-op, it was a no brainer to take the chance, but I might have failed. It’s politely speaking, not very good.

And the price is the crucial point. This is a whisky I feel that has been massacred by the accountants, as it has clearly been made to a price point. Perhaps a bit of finishing may make this spirit more palatable, and water did round out the rougher edges. But at 40% and with a fair bit of young whisky there, it was as rough as an armadillo’s knacker sack.

I see this on sale at other online retailers for £30 or thereabouts. If you pay that, you’ve been ripped off. £20 is about all I’d pay for this. It’s not a whisky I’d buy again, and I’m afraid I’d not recommend for anything else but cooking whisky. I couldn’t even recommend it for beginners as this would put you off. Therefore search for yourselves.

The major bummer about this was smelling the glass post-dram before loading the dishwasher. It was a lovely deep toffee aroma and very pleasant. Just too late. I might be wrong about this whisky; I’ll update the review if I change my opinion, as I seem to have given this dram a fair kicking.

Now it’s time to concoct a story for my wife….. at least she gave me the Captain’s Reserve too.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and 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.

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


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and 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

Drunk KermitPixabay.com

Storage Unitauthors own image

All other photos – Shutterstock

Aye aye Captain!

Taste Review #41 – Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve

It has been one of those days when I think it is time I reviewed another full size bottle rather than just the miniatures, plus I do have a few full size bottles that need to be be cleared. This week I added another two, possibly three into my drinking collection and another 3 into my investment collection. Going to have to get a move on in clearing the back log.


The bottle and some incidental Scotty’s Drams merchandise.


The bottle on test for this review is a Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve, which has no age statement and is only 40% abv which as you know I’m generally not a fan of. However, what got me was the fact it had an unusual finishing, having been finished in Cognac casks. Generally speaking, whisky is usually only finished in wine, port, sherry or rum casks. However recent changes to what the Scottish Whisky Association will now allow have seen many distillers experiment. Glen Moray have made a whisky this year that was matured in whisky casks that had also held cider. This Glenlivet bottle however has used a Cognac cask. Shouldn’t be an issue, after all, Cognac is just distilled wine.

Glenlivet is the valley that carries the River Livet, which rises in the hills between Tomintoul in Morayshire and Lumsden in Aberdeenshire. To the northern edge of this area lies the Cabrach, which is an area of limited farming and hilly moorland. Prior to the 1823 Excise Act, the area of Cabrach and Glenlivet was a hotbed of illicit distilling, and it is somewhat ironic that the land owner, the 4th Duke of Gordon was the one who petitioned the House of Lords to pass an act to make the taxes on whisky distilling fairer, especially when on his lands some of Scotland’s finest hooch was being made.

George Smith started his distillery in Glenlivet in 1824, and such was his reputation that many other distilleries in the area appended the word ‘Glenlivet’ to their names. Partly this was because they were in the Glenlivet area, but at one time Glenlivet was used pretty much in the same way as Speyside is used now. However, after the death of George Smith, his son took legal action to stop other distilleries riding on their coat tails. This was only partially successful; Smith was the only distillery allowed to use The Glenlivet name, but other distilleries were allowed to hyphenate their name with the word Glenlivet being used as a geographical marker.

The other distilleries in Glenlivet are the Tamnavoulin distillery which was opened in the 1960’s, and the highest distillery in Scotland, Braes of Glenlivet Distillery opened in 1973, but has changed its name to Braeval in order to avoid confusion with its much bigger and more famous neighbour


Glenlivet Distillery


The distillery has only been fully silent once during World War 2 due to a lack of barley, and once reopened, it didn’t take too long to get up to pre-war production levels.

The Glenlivet distillery currently has the largest capacity of any single malt producer in Scotland. This is massive 21 million litres a year of spirit, which will make a good few bottles. It’s nearest competitor is Macallan at 15 million litres a year. Mass production always concerns me, as it often feels quantity is more important than quality but let’s see…


Region

Speyside

Age

Glenlivet Captain Reserve has NAS

Strength

40% a.b.v

Colour

Rich gold

Nose

Honey, Malt, Apricot, cinnamon buns, rich, dried raisins, grapes

Palate

Sweet. Stewed berries, red grapes, raisins, citrus. Quite creamy and smooth. Slightly waxy mouthfeel.

Finish

Opened up with a short to medium finish. A great explosion of warmth going down your throat but not harsh. Milk chocolate note towards the end of the event.


Captain’s Reserve dram


Conclusion

My initial curiosity about this bottle was the fact it was finished in a cognac cask. I’m going to have to confess with the lack of an age statement, 40% abv, I wasn’t expecting too much. I knew it would be a decent dram, but I was not prepared for how good it is.

As much as I comment about lack of ABV and age statements, as well as the fact it is probably chill filtered and coloured, I am not a whisky snob, and I have to say that this one is a cracker. Indeed, before I finished my review, the dram was gone and I really could use another. Maybe there’s crack cocaine in it. Quite more-ish.

This is a surprise indeed, and despite there not being much complexity, this is a very easy drinker, and would be good for a beginner, or those who like just a whisky that isn’t challenging, but has enough engagement to keep you interested.

This was bought for my Christmas last year, and I’ve only just opened it. It was a present from my wife, and I don’t know how much it cost her. I’m just glad that I thought this might not be a core release forever more, and have a couple in store.

Even the packaging suggests quality, with a very eye catching purple box and the same colour contained on the bottle label

You can buy this for around £45, and it is good value. I’d make a guess that there isn’t a lot of young whisky in there, which further gives an impression of value. Would I buy another? Yes I would.

A recommended try and would be a worthy addition to your drinking stock.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and 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

Distillery photo – Iggy-x. Used under GNU license version 2

Other photos authors own.

Don’t Forget the E’s!

Whisky Selection – Easy as A, B, C and D!

Over the past four weeks, I have been going over the checklist of how to make your selections whilst wondering what bottle on the shelf is going to float your boat. This has been based on a concept from a fellow whisky blogger Aqvavitae which he did a video blog which you can see here. It’s a brilliant presentation and I’d encourage you to watch it, if only to see that although I’ve used Roy’s concept, I have not plagiarised him. The points he makes are universal, and I feel I’ve added some more points. Look through his stuff on YouTube, perhaps subscribe. I enjoy his stuff, and he’s a thoroughly decent bloke.

Right, now I’ve established the bona fides of my content, let’s look towards a summary of the past four weeks. I’m going to have short, sharp easy to remember points that don’t go into too much detail that will help you avoid picking a dud.

A is for Age is there an age statement on the bottle? If not, you have no idea of the baseline quality you are getting for your money.


Age Statements Give a Quality Benchmark

B is for Bottling Strength low ABV means it’s been diluted already. Aim for higher ABV where you can lower it yourself to find where you enjoy it!

C is for Chill Filtering look to see if it states non chill filtering. If it has been, something is missing. Whisky above 46% doesn’t need it, but not to say it hasn’t been chill filtered to some point.


Age Statement, High ABV, Non Chill Filtered and no E150a. The Octomore X4+10 scores full marks


D is for Dye Whisky is a natural product and it shouldn’t have colouring. Something that isn’t dyed can tell you a bit more about the cask.

There is one caveat however………

Just because you follow my advice, it doesn’t mean you will hit the jackpot every time. Whisky is a personal taste where everybody will have a different experience with aroma, palate, finish and appearance. My advice will only steer you away from the banana skins or the mass produced whisky that might not be the finest. 

What you really need to do is sometimes take a chance. As you will have seen or will see in the near future, that had I applied the ABCD to some of the whiskies I have reviewed, I’d have missed out on some pleasant drams. Dalmore’s King Alexander is NAS, 40% and coloured. We’ll also take a guess it’s chill filtered to a degree, yet still very pleasant. I’ll not mention the other malts yet as they have still to be published – I like to keep you guys guessing what’s next.

Don’t Drop the E’s

Nothing to do with drugs, our ABCD needs some E’s.

Education. A wee bit of research

Experience. Don’t be afraid to try.

Evaluate. Does the whisky appeal to you? What pulls you into the dram? What puts you off?

Enjoy. Needs no explanation. Remember your experience of the dram may change as you go down the bottle. It may get a lot better.

One tip I’ll give you all is to consider buying miniatures online. It may be an expensive way of working out of you’d enjoy a full bottle, but will save your hard earned for going towards something a bit more to your taste. Both Master Of Malt and The Whisky Exchange sell samples of many full size bottles of all varieties and ages. It’s worth doing this to Or keep a lookout at auction.


Flora & Fauna 3cl miniatures from The Whisky Exchange. Allows me to try before committing to a full size purchase. Or experience what I can’t afford.


Tasting at a bar can be a wee bit hit or miss, as you aren’t generally taking your time to savour, and your palate won’t necessarily be as clear to taste all the nuances.

Anyway, after writing four epic articles over the holiday season, I’m keeping this one short.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and 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.

Don’t be a Daftie!!

Taste Review #40 – Daftmill 2006 Winter Release

At the time of writing, this has been a week where everybody seems to have lost their minds (There’s just been a General Election in the UK), I thought that Daftmill would probably be the best whisky to try next. There’s certainly a lot of dafties of all descriptions on-line at the moment, so one more won’t be noticed. However, Scotty’s Drams is a place where we can leave that all behind as it’s solely whisky matters that we are interested in here.

Also, judging by my estimated time of publishing, this should also be the first review of the year, so Happy New Year to you all, and I wish you all the best for 2020.

Situated just to the west of Cupar in Fife, Scotland, Daftmill is a single farm distillery. This means everything takes place on the farm, though being on a working farm means that the distillery is silent for half the year. Distilling takes place in two separate three month periods, from November to February and for three months after spring. Being a small distillery which has a capacity of 20000 litres a year inherently limits production further and consequently isn’t the easiest bottle to get your hands on. Indeed, I’ve never seen one on the primary market, only at auction.

Normally, limited releases like this don’t interest me, as they are often only available at vastly inflated prices on the secondary market thanks to the demand and the greed of flippers. However this was soon to change as I managed to get a small sample from Roy at Aqvavitae.com and one smell of this sample made me realise that one sample would not be enough therefore I had to buy a bottle to drink.

I quickly realised that one full bottle wouldn’t last long and given the rarity, I decided to buy another one for my collection if I could find one at a decent cost. One soon turned up so now I have one in my collection and one that’s open. I still haven’t opened the sample to drink but decided rather to open the full size bottle in order that I can share it with friends.


I’ve done it. The most expensive bottle opened to date on Scotty’s Drams


One of the good things about Daftmill is that Francis Cuthbert is insistent that this whisky is for drinking and not for flipping and a single cask release #68 has not been bottled for sale but have been bottled for sale as drams in selected bars only. This is quite innovative and means that it takes away some of the unicorn aspect of this spirit and allows true whisky enthusiasts a chance to try it without breaking the bank in buying a full bottle. See this article.

There are more and more single cask releases available, some released through Royal Mile Whiskies or Luvians bottle shop in Cupar and St Andrews. Some single cask bottlings are realising high prices at auction.

As Daftmill is a working farm, there is no visitor facilities, as farm work takes priority. However, it’s location is close to other distilleries that do – Lindores Abbey, Kingsbarns and Eden Mill distilleries are all close by, as is the historic town of St Andrews. Or why not try a visit to Dundee? Certainly an exciting regenerating city that is worth a look.

And onto the dram.

Region

Lowland

Age

12 years

Strength

46% a.b.v

Colour

Golden straw.

Nose

Creamy, velvety, rich toffee, peaches, citrus, pineapple, vanilla

Palate

Buttery, pastry. slightly waxy. Barley sugars, vanilla. A touch of pepper and nutmeg.

Finish

Drying, Medium length. Slightly bitter notes, lemon meringue, oak. On a hard exhalation there was a mint choc note.


The Dram

Conclusion

One of the things I have to say that this dram brings immense joy and sadness. The sadness is that I cannot really afford to buy another bottle of this dram. The joy is multi-fold that I am enjoying such a lovely whisky. Very well balanced. This one has been matured in 1st fill Bourbon casks, which will be American Oak, and as such have definitely influenced the creamy and vanilla notes that are present in this whisky. The aroma has quite a fruity note, with juicy oranges in there and I detected peaches and pineapple, but to get that I had to put my nose right into the glass and take a sharp intake of breath.

In the mouth it hits an excellent balance between creamy and oily, giving a very pleasant mouthfeel, but it is a bit drying. A hint of spice appeared after I added some water, but even though this is 46% it didn’t really need water.

The finish wasn’t as impressive as I had hoped given the wonderful nose and palate, but it’s still very pleasant. It took a while to get some of the flavours, but still engaging enough. I expect this dram to improve as the level in the bottle goes down


The lower full level got opened. The JE Benrinnes is up for tasting at some point.


Suffice to say that this is close to a unicorn dram, so there won’t be a lot available. I know of a good handful of these that have been opened, and as there was only 1625 bottles released, if you see one in the wild at a price you can afford, jump on it. You’ll thank me. have two bottles, and I had to pay at auction £168 for one and £212 for the other and while admittedly a bit steep given that the release price was £95, that’s the going rate on the secondary market, and has since climbed. This hopefully is the peak price, although it’s an early release and prices may drop for other editions as supply increases. You still have a lot of people desperate to try this whisky, and that is also driving prices up. As it goes, if you want one the cost will vary and there is sense in not chasing one too hard just yet unless you HAVE to try it, as one will turn up. But now there is now another 3rd release open, and will now never return to the secondary market, and therefore the price for this edition will invariably climb. However, this will make the Cuthbert Family happy knowing that another of their whiskies have been opened and enjoyed.

Keep your eyes open for these being released and certainly take a peak on the Daftmill website www.daftmill.com

Lastly, is this the best whisky I have tasted in 2019? All I will say is that it’s up there in the top 5, but over the years there has been whiskies I’ve enjoyed more. It goes without saying that Daftmill will definitely be a distillery to watch.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and 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.