Stage 4: Cask Enjoyment
All roads have been leading to this point in your cask ownership saga – enjoy the fruits of your personal Scotch Whisky cask. Whether for the joy of creation, drinking, gifting, exhibition, profiting or bragging, the cask is yours to do with as you please. Within reason.
Enjoyment is stage four on the journey from Cask to Glass which Cask 88 have joined you on. It might have been a short stanza of a few months, or a full epic spanning many years; now you have decided that the whisky in your cask is ready for its fate to be revealed!
Ultimately, this is where the road forks: will you create bottles from the cask yourself, or will you sell the cask on to someone else who will?
Hitting the Bottle
Whisky may have tremendous value as an idea; a spark of potential, but every whisky is created with the idea that it will one day be consumed – though that day could be many decades in the future. In order to be drunk, a cask of whisky must first be decanted into bottles that serve to present it properly to the world. That is usually a job done invisibly by someone else, but in this case, dear cask owner: you have chosen that the bottling falls to you.
The Four Ds
The most important decision is made: when is the whisky to be bottled? 8 years old, or 28…or even 48? What do you need to know about the personal whisky cask bottling process after that? What will you need to do? And, good to know in advance, what attendant costs are there?
A whisky can be presented simply, stylish in a tall bottle, the colour of the whisky itself being the main display feature and a label that describes the whisky within. Alternatively, whisky may also feel like it needs to be shown off in a way that will drop the jaw of any observer.
Ultimately, design is only limited by your imagination – you can bring your wildest whisky dreams to reality by collaborating with our team of talented in-house designers, or; if your plans are truly eclectic, tap into our network of artists and artisans to find the calligrapher/carpenter/metalworker/leatherworker to bring your vision to life.
Think about where the bottle will be seen. If it’s going to go in your personal bar, how will it look in context with your other bottles? If you’re planning to sell your independent bottling on third-party shelves, what will make it stand out… without looking like a yelp for attention?
If you plan to put a bottle as the centrepiece of every table at your daughter’s wedding – well, then, no holds barred, right? Ultimately, you know what you want for your whisky better than anyone else. Work with our designers to show people what you already know.
Like all creative ventures, whisky design work is complex, iterative and can take a long time to go from concept to finished item. The more complex and novel your plans, the more time they’ll likely need to execute. Start a conversation with our designers early, if you’ve got a date in mind for bottling.
Example costs for a typical bottle and label design detailed below – though these can be considerably expanded if your plans are lavish!
Keep eyes open for a supplementary blog in the near future that shows off some exciting potential design choices.
This is one to remember, as it is quite rightly very closely attended to by HMRC. One of whisky’s unusual features is the duty suspended status it carries while maturing, meaning that UK alcohol taxes only become payable on whisky at the point of bottling – a special arrangement that has led to the very particular history of this spirit. Fortunately, the tax is calculated based on the strength of the alcohol at the end of maturation, so older whiskies which have been subject to more Angels’ share are subject to less alcohol tax, despite having a higher value. Another reason to hold onto a cask for a while!
If you are bottling your whisky, you will be responsible for paying the alcohol duty. For spirits, it is currently £28.74 per litre of pure alcohol, in addition to VAT upon that sum. Example cost breakdown below.
Decanting/Disgorging/Dropping the Whisky into a Bottle
Mmm, look at that variety of Ds. Whatever you call it, bottles have to be filled if someone’s going to drink that whisky. There are several places around Scotland that have the machinery required to fill a run of bottles, affix their labels, and stop them up with corks and foils. These places charge for their services, in addition to the costs of moving the cask from the warehouse, the ‘dry goods’ to the bottlers and the bottled goods out on pallets.
The previous Ds have all assumed that you, the cask owner, are a UK resident. Many of you, however, may be overseas – maturing your Scotch in Scotland but with a plan to ship the bottles to your home territory. There are MANY countries in the world and ALL of them have their own twisted, Byzantine bureaucracy when it comes to alcohol imports. We ask you to kindly help us research these laws for your home region on a case by case basis.
Aside: if the whisky is to be called ‘Scotch Whisky’ it must complete its maturation and be bottled in Scotland. If the bottling of the liquid happens anywhere else, the whisky loses its claim to being ‘Scotch’. Thus, you can ship bottles of Scotch whisky overseas, but not casks. Not even to England.
An Example Bottling
Let us run you through an example bottling to illustrate what you might expect from your cask over the course of its entire lifetime. This is assuming a cask of new spirit is purchased and bottled in the UK after 10 or 15 years of maturation. Warehouse service costs are based on 3 years free storage, with £65 per year for each subsequent year. I also assume that two samples are drawn for tasting, one including a full cask regauge.
For a full breakdown of ‘warehouse services’, please see the previous blog: Stage 3: Cask Maturation.
The design costs below are assuming the standard label style affixed to a ‘tall round’ bottle style, with standard cork stopper.
Table of Costs
All costs are estimated as of market prices September 2022. Bottling costs folds cost of design, 1 design revision, logistics, bottling hall fees and certification together to average £12.50 per bottle.
Ex-Bourbon Hogshead of New Make Spirit
ABV 63.5%, OLA 159
|After 10 Years
ABV 58.6%, RLA 113.7
|After 15 Years
ABV 56.3%, RLA 96.4
|Expected No. Bottles||272||239|
|UK Alcohol Duty||£3206.60||£2706.65|
|UK VAT on Duty||£641.32||£541.33|
Tall round bottle, standard label.
Transport, Bottling, Certification, etc
7/12 years storage & Insurance.
2 re-racks, 1 sample drawn.
|Price Per Bottle||£39.94||£42.58|
|Retail Value Per Bottle**
As of market values of single cask,
cask strength, IB whiskies, September 2022
*Note: These projected numbers assume that the whisky remains in its initial ex-bourbon refill cask for its entire maturation. This leaves open the potential for a re-rack into a different cask type. This may add on £600-900 to total costs, but double cask-matured whisky can be significantly more valuable – and tasty!
**Note: The estimated retail value is derived from a comparative study of similar bottles in September 2022: i.e. Independently bottled single cask expression of cask strength single malt Scotch whisky matured in ex-bourbon.
Selling the Cask
Another route to completing your Cask 88 Cask to Glass Journey can be through selling your full whisky cask on directly, potentially to a whisky blender looking for certain casks, an independent bottler or bar owner looking for a unique expression – or even the original distillery themselves depending on how their needs have changed and their own plans for bottling.
Peer to Peer
If you have a cask with us, you’ll have a relationship with one of our sales team. If you’re thinking of making a personal deal to sell your cask, simply have a word – give us an idea of some of your criteria and expected sales price, and we’ll look into our network of contacts and find you an offer. Maybe you can even cut a deal whereby you receive a certain allotment of the bottles from the cask you’ve been nurturing.
To develop that last point – there’s a chance that you are keen to bottle your own whisky rather than sell the cask on, but you find that the prospect of 200-odd bottles of single malt is a bit daunting. Talk to us, and we may come to a sharing agreement, where we purchase part of the cask run from you, and distribute the bottles through our own ecommerce platform. The best of both worlds in many ways – you get to keep the carefully created products of your own cask of whisky, while also showcasing a certain number of them to a wider audience. Talk to your sales manager and let us know.
We offer regular options to auction casks through our partnership with Spink auctioneers, who offer auction platforms to auction casks in both Asia and the United Kingdom. We are also delighted that the renowned rare whisky and wine expert Daniel Lam has joined Cask 88 and Spink. He now oversees the rare whisky auctions which include bottles and casks – and we look forward to seeing more casks of whisky being offered on this platform in the coming years. You can browse through the previous auction results HERE.
Your Whisky, Your Choice
Whatever you choose to do with your cask of whisky, take the time to appreciate that it is yours exclusively – and that you have experienced what few get to. The entire canon of Scotch whisky has been enhanced and diversified by your contribution to it – and we hope to help keep writing many such stories in the future.
The only question now is… what will your next cask be? And what will the bottles look like?