Forget Expensive Bottles, Deep-Pocketed Whisky Collectors Are Investing in Entire Casks

$2 million bottles of Scotch are so last year.

Last summer, a Singapore-based rare whisky seller launched its new online platform, and hosted what was hailed at the time as the first-ever online Scotch whisky cask auction. Cask 88 called the auction "Maritime Malts," and it featured eight casks of single-malt that were all from distilleries located near the Scottish coast. Three months later, it held a second auction, "Fertile Heartlands," that focused on whiskies from parts of Scotland where barley is farmed.

The company's third online auction, "Against the Grain," is currently live on the Cask 88 website, and it is still accepting bids. The seven casks that are available for purchase include both malt and grain whiskies, that include a pair of two-year-old "sibling casks" from the Isle of Arran, an 18-year-old rum-barrel aged Bruichladdich, and a 45-year-old grain whisky from Invergordon that has been called the auction's "showstopper." (That might be the case, but as of this writing, the high bid is £5,200, which is significantly less than the £12,999 bid that has already been submitted for the Bruichladdich.)

Barrels of whiskey in a cellar
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"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," a Cask 88 spokesperson told Scottish Field. "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."

That's probably the truth: last November, a 30-year-old Macallan in an ex-Sherry hogshead set a new world record for a single cask of whisky, selling for HK$4.4 million ($572,000) at an auction in Hong Kong. According to The Drinks Business, the whisky in the cask could eventually become 261 individual bottles, and the $2,200-per-bottle value was itself a record for Macallan.

Although the Robb Report has described whisky casks as perhaps the "most spirited investment a whisky connoisseur can make," there are some things to consider before clicking the Place Bid button, starting with where and how it will be stored. While Cask 88 offers each buyer two years of complimentary storage, it's £50 ($64) per year after that—and it legally has to stay in a Scottish government-bonded warehouses until it's bottled.

There's also the cost of gauging it, the price of getting periodic samples of the whisky, the fees for unracking and re-racking the casks, and the additional charge for a different barrel, should you decide to transfer it during its continued aging process.

On top of that, Ryan McCafferty, the UK Sales and Operations Director at Cask 88, told Forbes that the winning bidder should anticipate paying roughly £15 ($19) per bottle for "a straightforward design in a 700 ml, 40% ABV bottle," which would cover the tax and duty, as well as the costs to bottle, label, and package it. That could come out to an additional $5 grand or so—although if you can drop the equivalent of a Honda Civic's sticker price to score a cask of whisky, that may or may not matter.

Cask 88 will accept bids on any of its "Against The Grain" casks until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Good luck, and you know where to find us if you'd like to share your winnings. Heck, we'd even Venmo you $19 to bottle it for us.

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