Speyburn Surprise

Taste Review #45 – Speyburn 10

This review has gathered a wee bit of attention already. I just put out a few clues on the Facebook page as what the next review would be and the traction it gained was a wee bit of a surprise. None of you got it right, not even close! Perhaps we want a wee competition like this every now and again?

On my holidays over the festive season, I took a bundle of malt miniatures with me so I could continue building my backlog of taste reviews for when I was offshore. One of the bottles I picked up happened to be this Speyburn. There was an inwardly groan as it was yet another 10 year old, but it’s in the pile and review it we must!

John Lennon once said “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”, and in my case this was so true, as on Boxing Day I went down with a severe bout of man flu and couldn’t smell or taste a thing. We are now well into the first week of January and this will be my first dram of 2020. God knows when the review will be published, but such is life. That I can’t plan.

Speyburn distillery sits to north of the village of Rothes, in Speyside. Just to the east of the A941 Elgin – Craigellachie Road, you can see the pagoda roof stick up from amongst the trees. It is said that is is Scotland’s most photographed distillery but I doubt that is the case as there isn’t a good place to stop and take a picture, and it fades into insignificance compared to Strathisla distillery.


Speyburn Distillery, just to the north of Rothes

Speyburn has been one of those malts that have been below the UK whisky radar for some time and is almost as hidden as thet building itself. As a whisky that has mostly been used for blends in the past, it doesn’t seem to have a great deal of exposure over here in Scotland. However the current owners, Inver House Distillers have been making some good, award winning whisky. They also own Old Pulteney, Balblair, Knockdhu (AnCnoc) and Balmenach distilleries, most of which are very highly regarded whiskies in their own right. Only Balmenach doesn’t produce a branded single malt, but is also the location where Caorunn gin is produced.

The Speyburn distillery started production in 1897, which was Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee year. It is one of Charles Doig’s designs, and is marked by the pagoda style ventilator. One of Doig’s other inventions, the pneumatic drum malting was also installed here, and was in use until 1968 when malting stopped at the site.


Flora and Fauna. Possibly first official bottling but had very limited run and now worth a kings ransom.

The village of Rothes had a further 4 distilleries, 3 of which are still in production – Glen Grant, Glen Spey, and Glenrothes. Sadly, Caperdonich closed in 2002, and was demolished in 2010. It is now the site of Forsyths, who manufacture distillery equipment, and are well known for their stills. Speyburn has fared better than most, having only been silent for 4 years from 1930. It survived the Pattison Crash and also the 1980’s whisky loch, unlike its neighbour to the north, Coleburn.

Speyburn is a malt you don’t see a lot of in the UK, but that is starting to change. I believe it’s first official release was the Flora and Fauna Speyburn 12 in 1991. This is the holy grail of whiskies, as it was only produced for reportedly one run before the distillery was sold to Inver House. It is the rarest of all the Flora and Fauna bottlings, and prices are now starting to go above £2000 a bottle. Not bad for a release that only cost around £35 when available on the shelves! I’m quite happy as I have a couple in my storage unit, but obviously can’t afford to drink them, so a modern Speyburn is as close as I’ll get.

There isn’t too much to do in Rothes itself, but you can visit Glen Grant distillery, and the Macallan distillery is very close. To the north you have the option of the Glen Moray distillery to visit.

Despite its relatively unknown presence in the UK, it has done quite well in International spirit competitions, and is a top ten single malt in the US. Without further ado, let’s crack on and see what the fuss is about.


Our dram for tasting


Region

Speyside

Age

10 years

Strength

40% abv

Colour

Pale gold

Nose

Honey, creamy lemon, citrus, green apple. Some floral and herbal aromas in there. Quite a fresh smell. I got reminded of freshly laundered linen.

Palate

Quite timid on the arrival. Medium bodied, not as thin as some other 10 year old whiskies I’ve tried recently. Subtle malt notes, a hint of a toasted cereal giving a slight sweet taste. Vanilla, pineapple, herbs and a light bit of sweet liquorice.

Finish

More malt in the finish, which for me tended to be short to medium. I got some spicy oak there too which was very pleasant which rounded out to be sweet in the conclusion.


The dram under test

Conclusion

Quite a surprise. I felt that my taste and smell senses may not have returned to normal after my cold, but there was flavour aplenty in this dram. I didn’t find it that complex at all, but then maybe my cold is hiding other taste and smell sensations, but going on what I did taste I enjoyed it considerably. It has all the essences of a decent Speyside whisky. It has been matured in American Oak Bourbon casks and some ex-sherry casks, and although I couldn’t say that I picked up the sherry influence, it was still sweet enough.

What is also amazing that this is a cheap whisky. You can pick this up for mid 20’s €/$/£ which is a total bargain. Yes, there may be cheaper bottles but you are getting a well built Scotch Single Malt for the money. In my mind I wasn’t expecting a lot and the price point was what was swaying me, but this is because it isn’t that popular a malt in the UK. Despite being widely available (Pretty sure I’ve seen it in Tesco) it doesn’t seem to have a lot of marketing spent on it in the UK which is a shame. As it seems to be a distillery that produces mostly for blends don’t let this distract you from the fact that there is also a NAS whisky as well as a 15 and 18 year old available.

If I was to pick fault with this, it’s solely because I suspect there is colouring added but not a lot. I’d also say it has been chill filtered, but most malts at this price point have. A higher abv would be a great leap forwards, but still there is nothing wrong with this whisky.

I don’t think I will go out to buy a bottle of this, but not because there is anything wrong with it. Indeed, I can recommend this whisky and if I do find myself with a Single Malt shortage combined with a tight bank account, this malt definitely hits the mark. I won’t be buying this as it has opened my eyes to Speyburn and will definitely be buying one of the older age statements. I also recommend this dram to people as is well made and would be perfect as an everyday sipper or even as a present. In this case, budget does not mean bad.

For me this presents a problem. I’m now looking at pictures of my Flora and Fauna bottles and wondering even more how they would compare. Thank god I store my stash in a different city!

Slainte Mhath!

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

Speyburn Distillery – Anne Harrison under Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Other photos – Authors own.

To Infinity and Beyond!

The Rise Of The Infinity Bottle

One of the ideas that I have seen (or should I say ‘fads’) become more prevalent in the whisky community is the concept of the Infinity Bottle. This is the bottle of whisky that just doesn’t stop giving, quite literally.

The problem if you have a large selection of open bottles but yet aren’t having a high enough finishing rate is that you may be falling prey to oxidisation of your whisky, as well as evaporation. As the bottle empties and is exposed to more and more air, this process accelerates. The only way you can really get around this is by using a wine preserving gas, but there is another, fun way to be creative and maybe make the remnants of those bottles work for you.

The infinity bottle is an empty whisky bottle, preferably over 500ml in which you can pour the last couple of drams of another bottle in. You then add to it, and eventually you have your very own personal bottle of blended whisky, which is a mixture of what you have drunk. As you drink from it, you are making room for the next addition.

Even if you take notes, what has gone into the bottle it will be an unknown as to when each component will cease to have influence. It is a living, organic thing.

I’d written it off as a fad, but when my wife gave me two 20cl stoppered bottles, my curiosity got the better of me. Struggling to work out what to do with them, and having a few half finished miniature bottles, I decided to have a go at an infinity bottle. It’s my intention to have one for peated whisky and one for non peated whisky, and we’ll see how we go.


The start of an infinity bottle


I give the bottles a good shake first, and will let it sit a couple of days to allow the whiskies to marry. I have only two rules – no blended whisky and no non-Scotch.

Have you tried having an infinity bottle? This could be a worthwhile experiment, and we can compare notes (or samples) later.

Keep your eyes peeled for my progress.

Of course, the alternative is to give your last dregs away, but I’m far too Aberdonian for that!

Slainte

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.

Apart from Buzz Lightyear. That was pinched from Google.

Break Out Your Inner Viking!

Taste Review #44 – Highland Park 12 Viking Honour


Highland Park Distillery Pagoda


Sometimes good things come from situations that you may not expect much from, and the surprise makes the good thing seem that much better. One of those things for me was a holiday in 2004. Myself and a couple of friends took advantage of a Northlink Ferry offer for 4 nights B&B and a car between Aberdeen and Kirkwall, the main town of the Orkney Isles.

To be brutally honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from the break, as it was mid April, and that isn’t a time of year that promises great weather that far north. If anything I was just going for something to do, and I was hoping my luck would be in with one of the ladies I was travelling with. Needless to say nothing that I expected or hoped for came to pass.

The holiday was fantastic. The weather came to hold for the time we were there. Orkney has so much to see. I won’t say too much, but if archeology, Vikings, World War 2 history and looking at some fairly desolate landscapes are your thing, you need to go. It is a really great place to go.

Orkney is home to 2 distilleries, Scapa and Highland Park. Both are close to Kirkwall, but Highland Park is the most northerly of the two. The distillery was founded in 1798, but wasn’t fully licensed until 1826. It still retains an olde worlde appearance with its traditional stone buildings and the fact it is one of only a handful of Scottish distilleries still using a malting floor.


Highland Park Malting Floor


I remember thinking when I saw the malting floor as to whether or not the distillery had a cat. As leaving a food source on the ground often attracts mice, distilleries often had cats as pest control. The last three distillery cats unfortunately met their end on the road that passes beside the distillery and I reckon Health and Safety would probably frown on cats in distillery now, so that’s not going to happen. Perhaps they would still be there had they been fully paid up members of the Tufty Club.


Highland Park 12 y.o – Viking Honour


And onto the dram.

Region

Highland

Age

12 years

Strength

40% a.b.v

Colour

Light honey gold

Nose

Honey, Heather, slight smoke, citrus, milk chocolate, dusty wood.

Palate

Quite sweet, honeyed, which then opens up to a creamy, silky wood and heather taste. Floral notes. Light smoke there that has come with the use of peat, but by no means peaty.

Finish

Smokey wood, syrupy. Quite a solid, but medium finish. Lightly smoked wood.


The Dram


Conclusion

It’s been quite some time since I’ve had any Highland Park and I am kicking myself. I shouldn’t have left it so long. It’s actually a pleasant dram, with plenty of sweetness and heathery honey notes. Although the official line from the distillery is that it has been matured in Sherry casks, sources tell me that some of the casks are ex bourbon. It’s a shame that producers can’t be a bit more up front. It doesn’t make a difference – it’s still a great drink.

As Highland Park is owned by Edrington, the owners of Macallan, this is part of a luxury brand of whisky, and Highland Park can command good prices at auction. I’d be wary of non-age statement HP in the same way I am with Macallan whisky, as premium prices don’t always give you a truly premium whisky, but this 12 year old is great and I could thoroughly recommend it.

My sample cost me £5.65 from The Whisky Shop Dufftown, and a full bottle should be around the £30 mark, but can be cheaper on offer.

Definitely recommended.

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

Colin Smith / Highland Park Distillery Pagoda / CC BY-SA 2.0

Lakeworther / Malting floor at Highland Park Distillery CC BY-SA 3.0

All other photos – Authors own.

Happy Birthday To Us

one year of Scotty’s Drams

The saying about time flying when you are having fun has never been so true in this case. Who can believe that it is now one year since I published the first post on my WordPress site? I certainly cannot believe it. For it was sitting in a hotel room in Krakow, Poland – sick to the back teeth of crap on Facebook that I decided to do something that would perhaps distract me from it.

And it is fair to say that it has done. What has it done for me? Well, I’ve been forced to try whiskies that I normally wouldn’t; I’ve had to research and add to my knowledge of the whisky industry; I’ve had to be creative and try to write something that I wouldn’t normally do. All while sandwiching it between a busy career in the energy industry and having a toddler in the house.

As I say continually, I make no concessions on how basic the blog is – I often have to upload it over a very basic internet connection, and when at work don’t always have the time to write. But I hope that for those of you that have bothered to read this that you have appreciated my content and insights – I have certainly enjoyed your input, as on many occasions it has challenged me to look into things a bit deeper.

I do hope that you continue to enjoy what I write – from time to time the weekend articles may repeat themselves to just remind us of the important things, and because I might not have had time to write anything appropriate.

What is important to me is that if you enjoy something I have written or posted, then click like, please share it, especially with your whisky loving pals. Give me feed back. The problem with using a Facebook based site is that due to the algorithms that determine what followers see, if you don’t interact, then you start missing out on posts. More to the point, the more interaction, the more encouraging and worthwhile it becomes for me.

Many people have vBlogs on YouTube; thousands of thousands have written blogs. Many have made their content to be exclusive if you subscribe and pay a monthly amount. I have not done this, and to a large degree, nearly all my samples or bottles are self funded. And this is how it will continue.

Thank you for the first year – let’s make sure the second year is just as successful.

Lastly, you can see Scotty’s drams on Twitter and on Instagram as well as Facebook. Click on the social media links below.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here



Photo Credit

Candles Spelling Happy BirthdayEd g2s (Used under Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The Wrong Glass….

There is definitely a wrong type of glassware for Whisky.

This article is written at a moment when I am definitely not time rich. So this is probably going to be the shortest article I’ve ever written so far and it contains a confession but also a handy tip, which I am sure none of you will really need, but you never know.

Like most people, I am prone to making the odd silly mistake, and the latest one occurred just after I arrived home from being overseas. I had a small snack, went through to the study and saw a bottle of whisky that is in its later stages of life and getting near to the kill zone, I thought I’d take a quick swig to see if it had improved any with oxidisation.

Bad move.

You see, what you may forget is that you just don’t know what has been hanging around the front of your mouth having just eaten, and I am ashamed to say it was 5 minutes after I put the bottle down I noticed sediment. Or rather a couple of food particles. Now, I’m quite partial to a meaty whisky, but not one from the contents of the local chip shop.

If this has happened to you (and I’m not looking for confessions) you have to get this out of there as soon as possible. Same goes for cork if you have had a failure of the seal as you do not want the taste of your whisky tainted. I had to use an unused clean coffee filter mesh and a clean jug to empty the bottle in to, then a funnel and paper coffee filter to get the whisky back into the bottle. Result – bottle now sediment free.

While the debate over what is the best glass to use rages eternally, with each person having their own view, I can tell you without any hesitation that the bottle is definitely NOT the best glassware for serving.

Take the time, get your favourite glass, and sit down to relax and enjoy the whisky.

🤦🏻‍♂️

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.

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

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