The most expensive cask of whisky ever sold at auction, to date, was a 30-year-old re-fill sherry hogshead cask from renowned Scottish distillery, Macallan. Part of Bonhams ‘Fare and Rare Wine and Whisky’ sale on 15 November 2019, the barrel sold for an eye-watering £475,000, to an anonymous buyer in Hong Kong. The whisky was placed in the barrel in 1989 and it has never been moved from the Macallan distillery. The cask will yield 261 bottles and it’s estimated each bottle will be worth £1,800+.
If after reading about those prices, you’re now thinking…’I’d like to buy a cask of whisky, and make some money myself’...what do you need to know?
One of the first elements to consider is where exactly to buy a cask of whisky from? There are several avenues you can look at – specialist sites online, whisky auctions or direct from a distillery. Some distilleries, like Isle of Raasay, allow you to choose the cask size depending on budget. A small 30-litre cask can be bought for £999, whereas the 190-litre cask is available for £5,000. There is also the option of taking a share in a cask, where a single bottle’s worth of a cask’s content is bought by individuals who all take part ownership.
Once you’ve decided on the route to purchase you then have to think about the name and reputation of the distillery.
There is a reason why Macallan whisky sells for such high prices. Firstly, they have a long, rich heritage – the distillery first opened in 1824. The brand prides itself on being passionate about quality, they publish their ‘six pillars of success’ on their website. Amongst these six areas is the fact that they use the smallest pot stills in the industry, giving maximum contact between copper and spirit, improving the concentration of fruit, rich, full-bodied flavours. Macallan’s new make spirit is selected at just under 70% ABV and is referred to as the ‘finest cut’. The distillery employs their own ‘Master of Wood’ with the responsibility of selecting oak from America and Spain to be used for their barrels and for their cask seasoning with Oloroso sherry. The distillery also prides itself on all of their whiskies being natural in colour – they do not use artificial colourants. The six pillars generally account for a production process that is ten times more expensive than standard whisky manufacture, hence the price tag to the consumer.
However, as auctions and sales show, being a high quality, the premium product certainly works in McCallan’s favour. Alongside Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, Macallan whisky accounts for a third of the world’s single malt whisky market.
I don’t think I can afford Macallan cask prices…where else can I look to buy a cask of whisky that will end up being a valuable investment?
Scottish whisky is a great place to start when thinking about buying as it tends to hold value well. The Japanese market is also on the rise and if you feel like taking a gamble then there are plenty of new markets emerging. The main points to consider are – rarity, exclusivity, awards and scarcity. Look for ‘special’ anniversary casks, distilleries that often win awards for their whisky or smaller distilleries that hold a special place in the market. Closed or ‘silent’ distilleries are distilleries that are no longer in use. The 60s and 70s were a boom time for whisky and many new distilleries were built. Unfortunately, this did not last and by 1980 many were closed or decommissioned. However, there are still casks and bottles of the whisky made at these now silent auctions in circulation. They are incredibly rare and therefore extremely valuable. If you get the opportunity to invest in a whisky cask of this type it is likely to offer a great return.
The key to making big money is getting the right advice about selling your whisky cask.
Whisky was 2019’s highest-performing luxury investment market, outpacing art, watches, antiques or cars. Investors are seeing whisky as a lucrative long-term market with expected returns of around 40% – 80% (dependent on factors such as age, distillery reputation, the strength of final whisky and cask type). Although there isn’t a regulated trading index such as the gold or wine index currently, experienced whisky evaluators will be able to help price your whisky, ensuring when you are selling a cask of whisky you get the best price possible.
Here at sellwhiskycasks.com, our team of experts will give you a free online cask valuation. We only need a few simple bits of information – the distillery a cask is from, the fill date, how many casks you have, if the cask has been regauged and your cask size. We’ll calculate the cask price, send it to you and then you choose if you’d like to sell or not. There is no obligation to sell your whisky cask if you decide you’d rather take a different route to market.
Owning a whisky cask can be a fantastic investment, with the right knowledge and some help from industry experts it can make you a small fortune*.
*It is important to note that as with any investment, the price of whisky casks can fluctuate up or down. A profit is not guaranteed.