The magic of a whisky warehouse

Visiting whisky distilleries in Scotland

A trip to Scotland is always a pleasure. It's a beautiful part of the world, rolling green mountains punctuated by crumbling dry-stone walls, babbling streams, and free roaming sheep. Scotland is full of history and character, with great food, and even better drinks. And it's this latter element that often takes us to Scotland; their drinks, specifically, scotch whisky.

If you visit Scotland one thing we can thoroughly recommend is a visit to a whisky distillery. Many have fantastic tours (though it is worth checking in advance, particularly given the current pandemic situation). It's a chance to see behind the scenes, and it's something we’ve loved doing for years.

We’ve found there are two distinct parts to any whisky distillery, typified by the science and by the magic of making single malt scotch whisky. The distillation halls are busy, noisy working environments. There’s an air of excitement which surrounds the gleaming metal of the stills. This is where the science of distillation happens. It’s where the new make spirit that will, in three plus years time, become single malt whisky is first made. But the bit of the distillery tour that really excites us is the dunnage whisky warehouses. This is where the magic happens.

What is a dunnage warehouse?

Traditional dunnage warehouses have been used to mature whisky in Scotland for centuries. They are low buildings, just tall enough to stack around three whisky casks on top of one another while providing plenty of air circulation. They are typically built with stone walls and a bare earth floor, covered by a grey slate roof. 

In recent years dunnage warehouses have started to be replaced by racked warehouses. In these modern metal-clad warehouses whisky casks can be stacked far higher, with wide tracks for modern machinery like fork lift trucks to be used. This makes racked warehouses an arguably more efficient use of space. 

But, it’s dunnage warehouses which have a real magic to them. They are dark and mysterious. They have the cool air of anticipation. And the smell, the scent of whisky in the air, is incredible. It's a heady mix of maturing whisky, old wood, and lightly damp earth. It’s intoxicating.

Why are dunnage warehouses important?

Dunnage warehouses, indeed all types of warehouses, play a vital role in the creation of single malt scotch whisky. In Scotland, a whisky has to be matured for a minimum of three years before it can legally be classified as a scotch whisky. But in reality, many whisky casks slumber in dunnage warehouses for many years, in some cases for decades. The casks will spend far, far longer in the warehouse than they ever did in the distillation hall - or likely than they will in the whisky shops the bottles eventually end up in.

Why is this important to the value of whisky casks?

It is this slumber in oak cask that gives scotch whisky the majority of its flavour, around 70% in fact. And that passage of time adds value to the whisky cask; they appreciate in value as the whisky matures. Herein lies the opportunity for whisky cask investors to buy, hold, and mature whisky casks; selling the casks for a profit once the whisky has increased in both age and value.

Spiritfilled are experts in this process. We understand whisky, and we understand whisky cask investments. If you’d like to invest in whisky casks, we can help. Use the form below to contact us today. And, we can even recommend a dunnage warehouse or two to visit.

If you'd like to learn more about investing in whisky, complete this form and we'll email our Ultimate Guide to Whisky Cask Investment

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