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Your own whisky cask: How Das Cask stands out

Buying your own whisky cask has traditionally been much more difficult than it has to. With Das Cask, we set out to change this. This article explains some of the challenges we’re trying to solve, and how Das Cask stands out from other cask offerings in terms of pricing and convenience.

(Note: Das Cask will be available soon. Stay tuned by subscribing to our newsletter.)

Where to get your own whisky cask

What if one of these was your own whisky cask?
What if one of these was your own whisky cask?

In Scotland, where most people go look for their own cask of whisky, very few distilleries allow you to buy a cask. Usually, buying a cask directly from the producer is possible in three cases (the examples below are from November 2017):

  1. The distillery has a permanent cask offering.
    (Examples include Isle of Arran, or Mackmyra and Jack Daniel’s outside of Scotland)
  2. There is a regular (often annual) cask ownership program with a limited number of casks, often quickly sold out.
    (Example: Strathearn)
  3. They are launching, and are offering an initial cask ownership program to raise some cash to help fund the first years operation until they can sell their bottled whisky.

More often than not, it’s not as easy as calling up your favorite whisky distillery and ask them to reserve a cask for you. (Although you should try just that, who knows?)

The point is, for most of these, cask ownership programs are a side business, so the information is harder to find, and ordering usually involves some back and forth over email.

And of course, the cask ownernship programs may be ended at the discretion of the distillery. If you read an old forum post from someone who bought a cask at their favorite distillery, chances are that particular cask ownership program is no longer available.

If a distillery doesn’t offer to buy a cask directly from them, you can also try independent cask brokers, like Whiskybroker.co.uk or Cask-brokers.com. They can usually provide you a list of casks they currently have on hand, some even already aged, for you to choose from.

How Das Cask stands out
Das Cask is our main product. That’s what we focus on, so we’re not going to stop it, and we do everything we can to make it as easy as possible to buy one of our casks. 

How much does your own whisky cask cost?

Most cask offerings will list the price for the spirit, the storage and the insurance up front. With varying cask sizes, options, currency and duty fluctuations it’s hard to give accurate and general information, but most cask offerings will start around the 1,900€-mark, usually for a first-fill Bourbon barrel (190 liters), and can go up to 5,000-6,000€ for larger casks. Peated new make spirit tends to be more expensive than unpeated, when the choice is available.

That’s already quite a bit of money, but it doesn’t end there. You need to add costs for handling, bottling, duty on the alcohol and VAT.

Here is a realistic example calculation for a cask of whisky from the UK, based on various offerings we’ve seen. (The prices are shown in £ and € and have been rounded to the nearest integer for readability.)

Example calculation for a cask of whisky in the UK  Price (£)  Price (€) % of total price
Upfront price (spirit & storage) £3,000 3,387€ 33%
Bottling (roughly 300 bottles) £768 867€  9%
UK duty (currently £28.74 per lpa) £3,503 3,955€  39%
Extra fees (handling, transportation, etc.) £150 169€  2%
UK VAT (20%) £1,484 1,676€  17%
Grand total £8,905 10,053€ 100%

That’s right, the listed price is often less than half of what you’d pay in the end! In this example, which is rather typical, the UK duty is the biggest cost. Duty rates vary from country to country and regulations are complex, but in any case, the duty on such a big cask will be a very large chunk of the price.

Note that this does not include any shipping.

How Das Cask stands out
With Das Cask, German customers pay the German duty on alcohol, wich is currently at 13.03€ per lpa. That’s 60% lower than the UK duty, and since the cask size is smaller, the duty will amount to roughly 190-240€. EU customers who wish to get their whisky shipped to their own country may have to pay the duty rate from their own country, which in many cases will be lower than the UK duty and, given the amount of alcohol, will certainly be much lower than the figures above. We will gradually open up our offering to more and more EU countries as we go, but if you are interested in our product and we don’t currently ship to your country, get in touch and we’ll figure something out.

Would you care for 17,500 wee drams of whisky?

If you buy your own whisky cask from the usual channels, it is likely to have a capacity somewhere between 190 and 500 liters bulk. Depending on cask size, length of maturation, bottling strength etc., you would end up with 200-500 bottles of whisky.

Now, there’s a few things you can do to manage those quantities:

  • Obviously, you can share a cask. That’s our favorite option and we heartily recommend it (even if you get your cask somewhere else!), because in addition to whisky, you get lifelong memories of a shared adventure with your friends, which is priceless.
  • You can give away bottles. That’s a great gift! But beyond your close friends and relatives, you will have to get creative to find a way to bring this down to a manageable number of bottles for yourself. We recommend gifting a bottle to each guest at your child’s wedding, though we’re sure there are other good schemes to mass-gift your personal whisky.
  • Swap some bottles with other cask owners, if you know any. You’ll have the same number of bottles, but this will introduce some variation at least.
  • Hope that the angels are very, very thirsty.

So how much whisky is enough, and how much is too much? We think most cask offerings simply leave you with too much whisky, even though the experience is often fantastic.

How Das Cask stands out
For Das Cask we will use smaller, 30-liter casks, which should yield around 25-35 bottles if bottled at cask strength. Sharing your whisky cask with one or two friends, and giving away a couple of bottles will leave you with a very reasonable amount of whisky.

It’s not over yet

Once your whisky cask has finished maturing, you still need to get it into bottles and get those bottles into your house. Usually, the distilleries can help by making recommendations, but very few offer a turnkey solution.

Many whisky distilleries do not bottle themselves, but cooperate with large bottling plants for this. These bottling plants may not want to take an order for a single cask, so you may have to contact a bottler who can do this (one distillery recommends The Creative Whisky Co.). The whisky brokers listed above may be able to help here as well.

Distilleries may also have an opinion on what you can put on the label, besides the obvious regulatory constraints, so coming up with a suitable label may be more work than you anticipated. The bottler may or may not help here.

Finally, you have to ship this large number of bottles (usually packed in cases of 6, 9 or 12 bottles). You may want to insure the shipment, since it is quite valuable.

How Das Cask stands out
Das Cask takes care of everything for you, including labeling, bottling and shipping, so you can just enjoy the experience without having to do plenty of additional research.

Conclusion

I’m sure you will share our conclusion: Buying your own whisky cask is a lot of fun, but needlessly complicated and costly. With Das Cask, we have set out to provide the best cask ownership program in the whisky industry, with affordable pricing and a hassle-free experience.

So, are you ready to order your Das Cask yet? Ahem, well, we’re not quite ready yet ourselves. So subscribe to our mailing list below, and stay tuned: when we start taking orders you’ll be the first to know.


Photo credits:
“What if one of these was your own whisky cask?”: Photo by Yves Cosentino, Flickr, CC BY 2.0