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Buying your own whisky cask can be a taxing enterprise

By Matt MacPherson

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Matt (second right) with his family and the Ardnamurchan cask.
Matt (second right) with his family and the Ardnamurchan cask.

If you are a whisky fan you’ve probably thought about owning your own cask one day, I know I certainly have.

So, how does it work? Not every distillery will sell casks to private buyers but most newer distilleries, often in need of the cash boost, will offer the public the chance to buy a cask.

There is a variety of cask ownership deals out there varying wildly in price and benefits, so I’m going to try and break down the main things you should be aware of if you’re considering buying your very own cask...

The first thing you need to do is choose what style of distillate you’re after, i.e. peated or unpeated; double or triple-distilled? That will narrow your options down depending on what you choose.

The next step is deciding on cask type and size. Raasay Distillery is offering ex-Speyside Scotch whisky oak casks that hold 30 litres for £999 and at the other end of the spectrum, a 250-litre cask at InchDairnie will set you back £8500!

As a family we discussed the idea and after a few drams decided we were going to go for it.

I’m a big fan of the independent bottler Adelphi and they are behind the Ardnamurchan Distillery on the west coast which opened in 2013. My dad is from that neck of the woods so there was a nice tie-in and having visited the distillery and tasted some of the whisky I was sold.

We decided to go for an unpeated Pedro Ximenez sherry cask that will hopefully produce a whisky that will be rich, have notes of dried fruit and raisins – the cask certainly smelt like a Christmas cake! The distillery was offering these 250-litre casks for around £3500 which is very competitive.

Before you go and spend that kind of money I do need to make you aware of some more costs that are involved with cask ownership. The £3500 also pays for storage for 10 years and insurance but if you would like to keep it in the warehouse for longer there will be an annual fee for this at most distilleries.

The biggest cost arises when it comes to bottling your precious liquid, you will have to pay the duty which is currently £28.74 per litre of pure alcohol and the bottling costs on top of that.

One good thing about the maturation process is that whisky will drop in strength over time and you will lose about one to two per cent a year in evaporation. Therefore, the longer you leave it, the less you will pay in tax!

We had a cracking trip to the west coast and were looked after superbly at Ardnamurchan Distillery. Many thanks to all who were part of the process and good luck if you are thinking of buying your own!

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