Boom in whisky casks shows no sign of ending

Cask 88 online cask auctions is getting ready to hold Against the Grain – its third auction.

Bidding will open next Friday, 31 January, at noon, before closing on Sunday 9 February at 5pm.

This auction is notable for the diversity of liquid on offer, including both malt and grain whiskies, new-make and well-matured spirit, and an eclectic range of cask types – proving that there is a whisky for every palate.

This is the third auction hosted on Cask 88’s new online platform for cask auctions. When the platform launched in June 2019, it was the first and only online platform dedicated to auction of whisky casks.

The first auction in June/July 2019 was titled ‘Maritime Malts’ and featured seven casks of Scottish whisky, all from Scottish distilleries with a strong link to the coast. Nearly 300 bids were received across seven casks on the block and the closing value across the auction totalled £129,382.

The second auction ran in September 2019, themed ‘Fertile Heartlands’ in honour of the rich history of barley-growing for the whisky industry in Scotland. All the casks in this auction originated from distilleries notable for their attention to sourcing prime barley for their spirit, or located in Scotland’s top regions for barley growth.

The casks on offer in the latest auction range from a pair of new make Arran casks, one peated and one unpeated, each with a pre-sale estimate of £4,000 – £6,000, to 18 year old Bruichladdich matured in an ex-rum barrel (£15,000 – £18,000) and the auction’s ‘showstopper’: 45 year old grain whisky cask from Invergordon (£50,000 – £60,000). Also included is a 5 year old Glentauchers maturing in a first fill sherry hogshead, a 10 year old grain whisky from ‘silent’ distillery Port Dundas and a 14 year old Bunnahabhain.

Casks have been submitted to the auction by private owners and investors.

Cask 88 told Scottish Field: ‘Demand for Scottish whisky casks has soared recently, exceeding even our own expectations. The most rare and collectible casks we find are sold before the ink is dry on the cask list.

‘We want to give all our clients an opportunity to own these incredible casks of whisky, and to participate in the joy and excitement that comes with a cask auction. And so we decided to launch the Cask 88 Online Cask Auctions.

‘Ours is the first dedicated online platform for the sale of whisky casks by auction, and we’re proud to be introducing discerning whisky collectors around the globe to some of the most sought after casks on the planet.

‘We offer expressions ranging from relatively young casks that will grow in quality & value as they mature, to extremely rare & old expressions that are in huge demand. Our quarterly auctions will consist of a finely curated selection of exceptional Scottish whisky casks.’

Cask 88 is meeting the current demand for whisky.

The spokesman said: ‘Demand for Scottish whisky casks has soared recently, exceeding even our own expectations. The most rare and collectable casks we find are sold before the ink is dry on the cask list.

‘Whisky was identified as a top performing luxury investment in 2019 and recent increases in rare bottle prices have completely outstripped other more established alternative investments, such as wine, art and gold.

‘The interest in rare bottles is undoubtedly driving interest in whole casks of whisky, as private collectors seek more unique and premium products to add to their portfolios. Consumers are also gaining stronger awareness of the dual channels of appreciation that cask whisky enjoys (the whisky naturally gains value as it matures in the cask, in addition to the rise in value that comes with an increase in demand), and also of the fact that the provenance of casks can be traced with more certainty than that of bottles.

‘The interest we see comes from international markets. We started off this business in Asia (hence the eighty-eight in our company name, an auspicious number in Chinese culture) and we still complete a large portion of traditional sales in the region. Interest in our auctions has come largely from Europe and the US, though we have also seen activity across Asia and Australasia, so it’s fair to say there is demand from all reaches of the globe.

‘We want to give all our clients an opportunity to own these incredible casks of whisky, and to participate in the joy and excitement that comes with a cask auction.’

Is it the same customers who are bidding, or different people?

The spokesman explained: ‘Though a large portion of our traditional sales are conducted in Asia and Europe, we have seen interest in the auctions in particular from the UK and the US. This indicates that we’re reaching a whole new audience with the cask auctions. We are only on our third auction, so it might be quite early to draw conclusions, but we have seen many bidders returning to our second auction, alongside new registrants and bidders.’

And they believe the market still has room for expansion.

‘We see enormous scope for the market to grow. Casks have been traded between distillers and independent bottlers for many decades, and private collectors have only recently started investing in this sector in significant numbers. Given the huge interest in whisky at the moment, we expect interest in casks to increase, and for more and more private individuals to start bottling their own whisky.

‘Over the last couple of years, established bottle auction sites have auctioned the occasional cask of whisky, with great, sometimes record-breaking, results. Since we launched our first auction in the summer of 2019, the first online platform dedicated to online auctions of whole casks, we have seen more auction platforms open up, looking for a slice of this new market. It’s an exciting new period of the whisky industry and we’re proud to be at the very forefront of it.’

Each of the casks undergoes a verification process to confirm proof of ownership, recent cask information and history. Each is sampled and reviewed by Cask 88 in-house team, who, among them, have sat on tasting panels for, and advised, top names in whisky, such as the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, the Waldorf Astoria, the Peninsula Shanghai and The Scotch Whisky Experience.

All casks over three years of age must have been regauged within the last 18 months to be considered for the auction.

Potential bidders will need to register before they can view active auctions and receive authorisation to bid. A buyer’s commission of 10% is added to the hammer price of all lots. Cask88 accept payment via bank transfer/BACS and all major credit and debit cards.

The final hammer price includes the cost of the cask and the first two years of storage. All other costs related to storage, removal from bond, insurance, regauging, sample withdrawal, transportation and bottling will be the sole responsibility of the buyer. This includes VAT and any UK excise duty.

Once they have made their purchase, buyers will be eligible for the same level of service as provided to all clients of Cask 88. Support is offered throughout the period of cask ownership, including secure warehousing. Casks are stored in a bonded warehouse in Scotland, and after purchase, clients are welcome to visit their cask and to have samples delivered to them.

If buyers choose to bottle the cask down the line, Cask 88 offer packaging and labelling design services and support clients throughout bottling and export of the final product.

As the auction comes to a close on Sunday 9 February at 5pm, each new bid will extend the auction time by five minutes. Bidding for each cask will officially close when a period of five minutes has passed without a new bid on the cask.