Whisky Advocate

Whisky by (and buy) the cask

February 18th, 2008

The cover story in the current issue of Malt Advocate focuses on buying scotch whisky by the cask. It discusses which distilleries currently allow an individual to purchase and entire cask, as well as pointing out some of the pros and cons of cask ownership.

So, I am curious. How many of you own a cask of whisky? How many of you are thinking about buying a cask?

I owned one until 1999 when it was bottled. I (along with several friends) purchased an entire cask of Bushmills Millennium. It was distilled in 1975 and bottled in 1999 for the new Millennium. I purchased the cask early in the 1990s, so we had to wait several years before we got the whisky. Plus, I had to drive to New York City with my pick-up truck to bring the cases of whisky back home (along with the barrel head, which I also received and now proudly hangs in my bar).

It was worth it. The whiskey is really good and the price per bottle was ridiculously low. (The cask cost me $5,000 but we got something like 230 bottles from it, as I recall.)  Plus, each label could be personalized, which was nice (and a real pain in the butt for the Bushmills people to do, as the importer at the time told me).

I still have about three bottles left with my name on it (including bottle #1). Plus, I have one bottle for my daughter with her name on it, which she can enjoy (with her dad?) in about five years if she wishes when she turns 21.

13 Responses to “Whisky by (and buy) the cask”

  1. Di Blasi, Jonathan says:

    Hi John,
    First of all, thanks for your frequent blog posts and wealth of information, I’m sure many appreciate it too. (I’m new here, just been reading since your Ardbeg Renaissance revelation, wish I started sooner). I especially thank you for this new post about your cask ownership experience, as you’ll find our interest in doing just that over at The Whisky Magazine forum:
    http://www.whiskymag.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=7760&st=0&sk=t&sd=a
    We’ll have to get our hands on Malt Advocate and read your article, thanks again!! Best wishes, Jonathan

  2. sam k says:

    John,

    What are the logistics involved in getting the whiskey into the US? You mention a run to NYC for pick up. Are there allowances for delivery to control states (i.e. PA)? When the cost per bottle is considered, this seems like a great idea for a group of whisky fans to consider! Thanks!

  3. John Hansell says:

    Jonathan–However you can work it so that you can own part of a cask, I think it is great. Best wishes. But realize, the best investment you can make is a subscription to Malt Advocate, which you can get online at our website: http://www.maltadvocate.com.

    Sam–The problem with a person here in the U.S. buying a cask has always been the unknown costs on the back end–bottling, importing fees, taxes, Customs, etc. And I have no clue how to deal with controlled states. That was the sweet thing about the Bushmills Millennium cask I purchased. The $5k cost was all-inclusive. Other than the gas (and tolls) to go to NYC, there were no other costs.

  4. B.J. Reed says:

    John

    Several of us here at the Dundee Dell in Omaha invested in a “futures” case of Octomore from Bruichladdich – We might have considered a full cask but, our concern were similar to the ones you have raised about importing fees, taxes, customs and so forth. We think the answer is to go over ourselves and pick the case up when its bottled in 2012 or 2013 (or whenever Jim decides its “ready)- Of course we might all be using walkers by that time :0)

  5. John Hansell says:

    And purchasing an entire cask of whisky is a lot of whisky! Futures is a less risky way to go, because I would imagine you could get futures in smaller quantities than an entire cask.

  6. Ronald Pease says:

    I bought a hogshead of Bruichladdich Port Charlotte in a sherry cask in November of 2002. I paid roughly $1700 (1100 lbs at the time). The distillery will keep it for 10 years at no additional cost. Bruichladdich is now selling PC5 for about $120/bottle. I have not figured out how to get it here if I decide to have it bottled. My other option is to sell it back to the distillery. Considering the price I think I will find a way to get it delivered to New Mexico. Do you have any suggestions about how to get it to the US? Ron Pease

  7. John Hansell says:

    Ron, I don’t have a clue on how to get it to the US. Have you asked Bruichladdich for advise? After all, they ship casks of bottled whiskies to the US all the time. Or if the price is right, maybe they would want to buy back a percentage of your cask, to make your load a little lighter? I dunno. I don’t know what agreement you made with them in 2002. –John

  8. Thomas Ide says:

    Hi John,

    yes, getting the whisky into one’s home country once it is matured and bottled can be a challenge – not only for US residents.
    I have started buying my own casks a few years back and get a lot of enquiries to help whisky lovers have their own cask for anniversaries, clubs etc.
    The destilleries themselves usually are not equipped to deal with the specifics of different countries’ import regulations – but sometimes their local distributors can help.
    In any case, one should not underestimate the additional costs that occur when the whisky is bottled and all taxes and customs payments apply. The upfront payment to the distillery is usually just half of the story…
    But I certainly don’t want to put anyone off the idea! :-)

  9. John Hansell says:

    Thanks Thomas. I was lucky when I bought my Bushmills Millennium cask–the price we paid was all-inclusive.

  10. Carol Harris says:

    I also purchased a full cask of Bushmills Millenium because I lived in Northern Ireland at the time and it was certainly an “interesting investment” I received letters from the master distiller each year and I kept the barrel end with my cask number and name painted on.
    I actually don’t drink whiskey, so still plenty of it left.
    A real golden color and a very smooth taste (well had to try it at least once) but more of a wine girl myself.
    Price was all inclusive and delivered to my door by the time it was ready to be bottled I had moved to the Republic of Ireland.
    It is well worth a try but it was private cask only, so have to find someone with a cask…
    email newcastle@eircom.net
    Regards
    Cask 368

  11. Brendan says:

    I’m searching in earnest to find an Irish Whiskey distiller to agree to sell me a cask of their finest to hold for a number of years (when my 7 month old son is 21). I’m just starting out this research project, so any ideas are greatly appreciated.

  12. Mark says:

    I would like to purchase a cask of “Usual Good Qulity” Whisky.
    To be received in NY (all customs paid).

    Any chance I can get this for about $10 per bottle?
    I wish to use it for bartering purposes in the future.

    Thanks

  13. [...] John Hansell posts about some of his experiences with buying a Bushmills Millenium cask and then asks the community where purchasing casks is an option. [...]

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