Peter Bought A Whisky Cask For £340, Sold It for £22,000
Spiritfilled founders sat down with Peter Nicholson who we helped to sell his cask of Ben Nevis.
Spiritfilled (SF): Good evening Peter, thank you for your time and agreeing to talk to us today about your experience in investing in whisky and working with Spiritfilled.
Peter Nicholson (PN): It’s not a problem.
SF: Peter, your story’s quite unique, purely down to the return that you’ve recently achieved as well as the time frame that you were involved. So just a brief background for everyone; Peter bought a new-make cask of Ben Nevis around 20 years ago. In February 2021, we have now sold that cask to an independent bottler for around £22,000. So, Peter can you tell us a bit more about why you made this purchase all those years ago?
PN: Yes, I mean, basically my son was born in February 2000, and we had him Christened down at St. Paul’s in July, and I decided that as I enjoy whisky now as a member of the Scottish Malt Whisky Society, I thought it might be a nice idea to buy him a cask of whisky for when he reached 21 which he could then, you know, bottle himself, or sell the bottles or whatever. At the time, the only distillery that was selling casks was Ben Nevis, so I bought the cask from Ben Nevis. It was an empty cask that I bought at £340 in the November of that year, and it was filled in February 2001. Following on from that, we just received the yearly bills and invoices for the storage, etc.
SF: Great. Yes, on that - you mentioned you paid roughly, what, £400 in total, was it, for the actual cask and the spirit, or…?
PN: The cask and spirit was £340.
SF: OK. In total, yes?
SF: OK, great. So, I suppose looking back at it, £22,000 over 20 years from an initial investment of £340 is a fantastic yield. Did you ever think that that was possible when you bought this 20 years ago?
PN: Not at all, or I’d have bought 10!
SF: Haha, I am sure you would have. After purchasing your cask did you ever put much thought into it over the next 20 years or was it literally just when you received your warehouse invoice each year that it jogged your memory?
PN: Yes, I mean obviously we knew we had it, but for me it was a long-term investment and we didn’t worry about it at all, so we just paid the fees for the storage, and then we only started to think about what to do with it as Jamie got towards his 21st birthday, which is why we bought it. And so, I was just saying by the way, one of the reasons we decided to buy was he had his Christening lunch at the Scottish Malt Whisky Society in London.
SF: Oh, fantastic. Well, whisky is ingrained into him forever more! That’s fantastic.
PN: The other thing was, his very first outing when Sarah and Jamie came back from the hospital, he must’ve only been about a week and a half old or something, we took him to the Scottish Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh. So his first outing was to the Scottish Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh. It all sort of followed on from there.
SF: Well, as you say, he’s definitely got Scotch whisky ingrained into him from a young age, and I’m sure as he grows older he will enjoy it more so! Great, so having previously bought casks through us and other sources you’re quite well versed in the procedure of buying casks – how did you find the selling process?
PN: The selling process was very good. As we were approaching when we wanted to sell it on or have it bottled, I spoke to the distillery and they recommended brokers and what have you. We got a tasting done. They did a regauge and got samples, and the regauge was very good – it had retained a huge amount of alcohol, which I believe is quite unusual. And the whisky was also a very good colour and taste, and what have you. And so from there I contacted yourselves, and we looked around a bit and wondered what was the best thing to do, whether to sell it through auction or to sell it individually. What I found was that one of the brokers who was going to do the auction, they reckoned it would bring somewhere around £20-24k. But the auction wasn’t going to be held until March, and we’d talked by then and you had a guy who’d made an offer. I basically said I’d get more at auction and your guy made a better offer, and it just all fitted in so well with Jamie’s birthday, so we were happy with the price and that’s the way we went.
SF: I remember you mentioning the auction. Sometimes you can achieve better pricing – there is obviously a slight risk when you have an offer on the table already that that person’s interest might wane, if the auction doesn’t quite achieve what you want it to, so I’m glad we were able to help at that point. I mean, in its entirety, I think from us getting the regauging reports that you had done, and having agreed a price and a deposit on the cask, it was a matter of 2 or 3 weeks if I recall?
PN: Yes, absolutely. And I think part of the reason it took that long was because we were waiting to get some paperwork from the distillery. Ben Nevis were excellent all the way through, they were good to deal with.
SF: And supplied a desirable whisky obviously, which is good.
SF: Just a couple more things, Peter, then I’ll let you go. So, just generally, how did you find working with Spiritfilled?
PN: Oh, excellent, no problems at all. I mean, we had some chats on the phone, and then we met up when the two of you came up to Edinburgh, and it was nice to meet you both, face to face, as that makes dealing with things much easier than just a voice on the phone. So that was good, and from there on in it was fine. You were very helpful, you gave some good advice, and I found you really good to work with. Which is why of course, Jamie bought some more casks!
SF: Which is good! One final one for you – now that you’ve had this experience and have been through it all, what would you say to anyone who is perhaps sitting on the fence and considering buying a cask for themselves, a child or grandchild?
PN: I wouldn’t even hesitate. And I wouldn’t just buy for them, I’d buy for yourselves as well. As I was saying, most people don’t know anything about it, and I’ve learned a lot from yourselves and from stuff I’ve read now, and I would never hesitate. I’d be quite happy to buy for (not that I ever will) another son or daughter, I wouldn’t hesitate. And it’s great fun.
SF: Fantastic Peter, thanks for your time again.
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