Buying a Whisky Cask

Let our guide answer all your questions regarding buying a cask of English Whisky

Buying a Cask of English Whisky

We’re specialists in, and massive fans of, English Whisky. We have great relationships with English Whisky distilleries all across England and these allow us to get some truly great casks of whisky.

Our retail background means we don't just sell casks, we curate a full end-to-end experience for the entire journey of cask ownership through bottling, to delivery and final enjoyment of your whisky in a glass.

  1. Some people love whisky and want to secure a larger volume at a preferential price
  2. Some people like being able to choose how long a whisky stays in cask and have the decision when to bottle
  3. Some people want to bottle up a cask for family or friends, or perhaps to celebrate a special occasion
  4. Some people like to team up with friends and hold a cask as a fun project
  5. Some people are simply interested in English Whisky as an up-and-coming luxury item
  6. Some people buy casks, hold them in storage and then sell them on once they have matured further

While casks may have the potential to appreciate in value, we do not provide financial advice. We advise our customers to drink, enjoy, even share their whisky... to invest in their future pleasure!

The number of bottles that come from a cask at bottling depend on the following factors:

  1. The size of the original cask
  2. How much spirit soaks into the wood on filling (typically about 5%)
  3. How much spirit has evaporated over time ("The Angel's Share"... usually 1-3% per annum)
  4. The size of bottle you put the whisky into (most commonly 70cl)

As an example:

- a newly filled 200L cask, aged for 5 years prior to bottling, would approximately yield:

200L x 5% = 10L on 'in fill'
190L x 2% in Year 1 = 3.8L
186.2L x 2% in Year 2 = 3.7L
182.5L x 2% in Year 3 = 3.7L
178.8L x 2% in Year 4 = 3.6L
175.2L x 2% in Year 5 = 3.5L

Approx. spirit remaining after 5 years = 172L

Which is approximately 245 x 70cl bottles.

This calculation excludes any small samples taken for tasting purposes or quality control (say, 100ml per year)

Additional examples:

- a newly filled 225L cask, aged for 5 years prior to bottling, would approximately yield:

225L x 5% = 11.25L on 'in fill'
214L x 2% in Year 1 = 4.3L
210L x 2% in Year 2 = 4.2L
206L x 2% in Year 3 = 4.1L
202L x 2% in Year 4 = 4.0L
198L x 2% in Year 5 = 4.0L

Approx. spirit remaining after 5 years = 194L

Which is approximately 275 x 70cl bottles.

- a newly filled 250L cask, aged for 5 years prior to bottling, would approximately yield:

250L x 5% = 13L on 'in fill'
237L x 2% in Year 1 = 4.7L
232L x 2% in Year 2 = 4.6L
227L x 2% in Year 3 = 4.5L
223L x 2% in Year 4 = 4.5L
219L x 2% in Year 5 = 4.4L

Approx. spirit remaining after 5 years = 215L

Which is approximately 310 x 70cl bottles.

You will be provided with proof of your full legal ownership of any cask purchased.

Importantly, it will NOT be held as an asset of Digital Distiller on your behalf; rather it will be legally in your name.

We make all the costs associated with owning a cask clear upfront. No surprises! (although there are a few moving variables... see customs duty below)

  1. The cost of the whisky itself
    - size of cask
    - alc. strength
    - which distillery made it
  2. Cask Storage
    - physical storage of the cask in the bonded warehouse
  3. Insurance
    - against loss, damage or spoilage
  4. Customs Duty
    - this is suspended until the time of bottling
    - £ depends on alc. strength
  5. Bottling
    - choice of bottle size/shape
    - choice of closure (e.g. screwcap, cork stopper)
    - label design and materials

There are maintenance costs over the cask’s lifetime. Simple cask storage and insurance is £65 per year after the first three years of complimentary insurance expires.

An independent appraiser annually checks cask values of client casks, ensuring that insurance is calculated appropriately.

If you would like to draw a sample from the cask, or order a re-gauge or a re-rack, these would incur a small fee.

If you choose to bottle the cask, then duty must be paid. Whisky in the cask is a duty-suspended product, and so tax must be paid at the time of bottling. This is calculated based on the strength of the alcohol being bottled.

If you live outside the UK, you will need to pay duty and other locally appropriate fees at the destination country.

Yes, you can nominate someone else to be the legal owner of the cask.

Most distilleries don’t have the time or operational setup to handle individual buyers wanting casks – typically they either deal in bulk or sell after bottling has taken place.

We have developed relationships with distilleries that allow us to access the casks which we can, in turn, offer to private individuals on a personal basis, and as a managed service.

New fill casks offer flexibility – they can be more affordable, but require patience as they will need time to gather more flavour and complexity with age. There is usually more flexibility of when to bottle as they continue to develop over a longer period of time. They can also make great gifts for grandchildren or godchildren, for example.

Casks that have already had some ageing will be nearer to their optimum bottling window, and will have developed more complex flavours over time. This means they usually come at a price premium and are certainly rarer in terms of availability.

In short, it depends on what you are looking for!

Please do get in touch with us to discuss which options would best suit your needs.

Cask Sales Terms and Conditions

1. The certificate of cask ownership and these Terms and Conditions comprise the contract of sale for the purchase of new make spirit between Digital Drinks Limited, a company registered in England under number 14503378, whose registered office is 20-22 Wenlock Road, London, N1 7GU, United Kingdom (hereinafter referred to as the Supplier, CDC, our, us and we) and a Customer (also referred to as you or your, purchaser and owner).
2. The casks are only available for purchase by individuals or small groups. We require a single point of contact who will be the legal owner of the cask. on written instruction, ownership can be transferred to another, single named owner
3. Payment is due before the cask is filled and bottling costs will be required prior to bottling.
4. The wooden cask remains the property of Digital Distiller
5. Final bottle volumes will depend on cask type, age and the ABV that the whisky is finally bottled at.
6. Up to X years’ storage and insurance charges are included in the purchase price.
7. Casks are stored at Cadus Vaults in Norfolk which is an HMRC accredited bonded warehouse.
8. It is the responsibility of the cask owner to advise the company of any changes of address or ownership in writing.
9. You are welcome to visit your cask, but this must be done strictly by appointment only. We request a minimum of a month’s notice in writing for private cask visits or cask sampling.
10. You will be entitled to an annual sample of your spirit during the storage period. Upon request, we will take one 100ml duty paid sample per year which we will pass to you. Sampling directly from the cask is not permitted under any circumstances.
11. The whisky cask is purchased in an individual capacity for own use, not for resale to an individual or bottler.
12. Pricing is subject to UK duty and VAT which is subject to change by HMRC without notice.
13. Bottling will be carried out by the Distillery at the prevailing cost at the time of bottling. The cask must be bottled in its entirety. We require a minimum of 90 days’ notice of the owner’s intention to bottle their cask. On completion of bottling we can deliver at the prevailing rate to a UK address, or the cask owner can arrange for collection of the bottles.
14. Digital Distiller and all associated logos, designs and devices are the property of the Digital Drinks Limited.
15. For UK taxpayers, UK Capital Gains Tax is not applicable as whisky is regarded as a ‘tangible’, ‘movable’ and ‘wasting asset’. Whisky purchased in cask for personal use, as gifts for family, godchildren and friends, etc would therefore be exempt.
16. At the conclusion of the sale the liquid becomes the legal property of the customer and is held in bond and insured on their behalf at no extra charge.

Storage

Adnams Casks and The English Whisky Company Casks are stored at Cadus Vaults in Norfolk.

Storing your cask

You cask must be stored in a HMRC registered bonded warehouse. Duty is suspended until the whisky leaves the warehouse (usually for bottling).

We have a number of bonded warehouse partners who specialise in storing whisky casks. You are welcome to visit your cask on appointment - see the Full Terms and Conditions below.

Use this text to answer questions in as much detail as possible for your customers.

Use this text to answer questions in as much detail as possible for your customers.

Use this text to answer questions in as much detail as possible for your customers.

Use this text to answer questions in as much detail as possible for your customers.

Selling my cask

Absolutely. There are a number of different ways to do this depending on what you want to achieve.

Potential buyers could be:

  • investors
  • whisky collectors
  • independent bottlers
  • the original distillery
  • a different distillery (who might wish to use it in a blend)

You can sell at auction, via a whisky broker, sometimes even back to the distillery from whom you bought the cask.

Cask prices fluctuate based on supply and demand. You should not assume that you will always get back what you paid.

If you would like to sell your cask, please do contact us.

You should treat buying a cask of whisky in the same way as buying stocks and shares. The value of your cask in the future will depend on a number of variables:

1). Scarcity
2). The Distillery
3). Demand

It is generally true that whisky can increase in value with age, providing that:

1). The alcoholic strength doesn't dip below the legal required minimum to be called whisky (40%)!

2). Demand outstrips supply - currently there is very limited availability of English Whisky compared to scotch. It is also rare to see anything older than about 15 years at the very most.

Digital Distiller does not offer financial advice and you should consult your own financial advisor before buying a cask of whisky as an investment.

English Whisky is a growing, but new, market and therefore there is limited data available as to historical values.

It is generally true that whisky can increase in flavour (and value) with age, so buying a cask and holding on to it for a number of years can be a good strategy.

It is important that:

a). The alcoholic strength doesn't dip below the legal required minimum to be called whisky (40%)!

b). The ageing in wood doesn't overpower the whisky - older doesn't always mean better. We are happy to advise you on whether further ageing is beneficial or not.

c). We recommend sampling the cask at least once every 3 years if it is younger than 15 years old, and annually if it is over 15 years old.

You can sell at auction, via a whisky broker, sometimes even back to the distillery from whom you bought the cask.

Cask prices fluctuate based on supply and demand. You should not assume that you will always get back what you paid.

If you would like to sell your cask, please do contact us to discuss options.

Individual bottles can sell for several hundred pounds:

There is a premium on English Whisky due to:

1). Scarcity - the English Whisky industry is still relatively young and there is limited availability for many whiskies. Several sell out quickly and completely (e.g. Bimber).

2). A commitment to sustainability and environmental care - many English distilleries, being newer, have been planned, built and are now operated with a view to minimising the impact on the planet. (See The Oxford Artisan Distillery, Cooper King)

Here are some examples of premium whiskies - single cask whiskies are even rarer and tend to sell for well over £100 a bottle.

You should treat buying a cask of whisky in the same way as buying stocks and shares. The value of your cask in the future will depend on a number of variables:

1). Scarcity
2). The Distillery
3). Demand

Whisky may increase in value with age, providing that:

1). The alcoholic strength doesn't dip below the legal required minimum to be called whisky (40%)!

2). Demand outstrips supply - currently there is very limited availability of English Whisky compared to scotch. It is also rare to see anything older than about 15 years at the very most.

Digital Distiller does not offer financial advice and you should consult your own financial advisor before buying any cask of whisky as an investment.

English Whisky is a growing, but new, market and therefore there is limited data available as to historical values.

Bottling my cask

No, you do not have to bottle.

Indeed the vast majority of cask buyers sell their cask on without bottling it.

By selling the cask while it is still in a duty suspended state, no VAT or Excise Duty is payable.

This depends on three main factors:

1). The size of the bottle you choose. This is usually a 70cl bottle, which is the standard size spirit bottle in the UK. In the USA, it is usually 75cl. Half bottle sizes are also possible, or 50cl too.

2). How much spirit is remaining in the cask when you choose to initiate bottling. Over time, the contents of your cask slowly evaporates naturally as a part of the maturing process ("The Angel's Share").

3). The strength of the final spirit. Many people will choose to bottle at cask strength, but others may choose to have the final whisky strength brought down by adding water. Obviously this will increase the available liquid for bottling.

As an example, if your cask held 150 litres of whisky and you were to bottle into 70cl bottles, you would get approximately 210 bottles.

A fixed cost of approximately £1,500 a day applies to set up and operate the bottling line for a custom bottling and labelling run.

In a day, we can bottle up to 1,500 bottles - this costs therefore approximately £1.00 a bottle if you bottle 1,500 bottles.

It is possible to bottle fewer, however due to the fixed cost of setting up the line, the cost per bottle goes up.

As an example, a hundred bottles would cost approximately £15.00 a bottle.

These are guidelines and for information only. Please enquire for specific quotes based on your individual requirements.

Yes, there are options from a simple clear glass bottle with a screwcap to fancy decanters with ornate cork stoppers.

Prices depend on fanciness!

We can advise you on label styles and costs. These can be very plain or extremely elaborate.

There is some legally required information that must be put on the label (e.g. volume and alcoholic strength).

Some distilleries will certainly permit a reference to them on the label, e.g. "Distilled in X distillery"

Costs fall across the following items:

  • Filling and labelling (setting up the bottling line)
  • Bottle or container (usually glass)
  • Closure (e.g. screwcap, cork, stopper etc.)
  • The label itself
  • Outer shipping cartons (usually contains 6 x 70cl bottles)

When should the whisky be bottled?

Exactly when the whisky is bottled... is up to you! We will, of course, provide you with guidance as to the options, and there are some important considerations, such as:

- whisky can be left too long in a cask and lose its optimal balance of flavours

- if left too long the ABV (alcoholic strength) would eventually drop below 40%, below which the spirit may no longer be classed as whisky

How will the whisky be bottled?

- sometimes the originating distillery will be able to bottle, sometimes an independent bottler will do this

- size of bottle and labelling options will be discussed with you prior to bottling. There are a range of options available in terms of bottle shape and size, closures, labels etc.

- you can arrange your own bottling if you wish, however duty will need to be paid before the cask is released from the bonded warehouse (unless it is being transferred to another bonded warehouse)

Exporting my whisky

We would not recommend this as casks are not really designed for travel!

However, it is straightforward to bottle your cask and then export the bottles.

If you are exporting your bottles outside the UK, you will not need to pay UK VAT and Duty. However local taxes in your destination country will likely become liable.

Obviously these vary, depending on country.

This simply depends on the overall weight of your bottled whisky and the destination. Contact us for a quote.

Not quite sure where to start?

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We do not offer financial advice or make any recommendations or projections regarding investment potential.