In the past year, Whiskybroker have seen a huge increase in the number of sales of casks within our warehouse which appear to be investment-only with no interaction at all between the owner and the cask, other than on paper. In some cases, casks may have transferred hands 4 or 5 times within a year in our warehouse, with no owner asking for the contents to be checked. It seems to us that this is an effort by each owner to sell the product on risk free for maximum profit, pushing the problem further down the chain. As warehousekeeper and bottler, we often deal with the customer at the end of the chain and there is increasing unhappiness about the outturn of some of the casks which have been handled in this manner. Inevitably, given the number of owners the casks have had, the price has been reasonably high, with 4 or 5 sets of profit, but it us who are faced with explaining to the final owner that the contents are low and no previous owner has checked. They are naturally suspicious of this, because there is no other product (especially an expensive one) where you would go out an buy an unknown quantity. They, as a novice, rarely fully understand that casks leak, but the people further up the chain do understand this and should therefore share the risk.
This reflects badly on our company and leaves people with a negative view of our business despite it not being our responsibility to check the cask contents without prompting. For this reason, we’ve decided to no longer accept any delivery orders in our warehouse without an accompanying regauge within the past month. This places the responsibility on each successive seller to adjust their price according to the contents of the cask.
The only exception to the above will be a scenario where you are selling to a trade customer who confirms that they are happy to proceed without a regauge, perhaps in cases of large numbers of casks. This requirement for a regauge will become effective in January 2021.
In addition to this, we are seeing an increasing crackdown by HMRC on cask ownership checks. It is a requirement for us to carry out due diligence checks on each customer before we open an account for them and to check these details periodically. It is all cask owners’ duty to inform us in advance of any sale, to allow us the opportunity to check if we can open an account for the potential new owner and also to check if we want to open an account for the potential new owner. The “in advance” part of the above sentence is critical and is ignored by many.
It should be assumed that Whiskybroker will not be opening any new accounts for any businesses except businesses which we sell to and have a personal relationship with. Private owners’ accounts will be assessed on a case by case basis and may also be restricted if it appears that our reputation may be negatively impacted (for example by unfairly high prices being charged to those private owners).
Having spoken to significantly larger players in the industry than ourselves, it seems that the general movement is towards cask sales no longer being possible, except in contractual situations where there is agreement that the casks will be bottled. In other words, the industry is clamping down on cask investment.
All of the above is an attempt to refocus our business on our core customers, people who buy casks to hold and to bottle for themselves or their businesses.
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