We all know how important the ageing process is for whisky. And, we all recognise the role the cask plays during that ageing process, as the wood interacts with and influences the ageing spirit. But, what about storage?
It's perhaps not the most exciting aspect of owning whisky casks. But it is, nonetheless, an important consideration.
In very broad terms, there are two approaches to whisky cask storage. The first is whisky cask distillery storage, where it remains on-site, at the same place the spirit was distilled. The second is offside storage, where the cask is moved from the distillery to another warehouse location.
Here are a few of the factors you may want to consider
The basics of whisky cask distillery storage and offsite storage
Most distilleries will store at least a parcel of their casks on-site. However, the proportion of casks can vary significantly. One factor will be production volume. Another simple but fundamental element will be available space. Think about the Islay distilleries as an example: lots of production, not a lot of space! And as a result, many casks will be stored elsewhere.
Where whisky cask distillery storage is an issue, distilleries may have their own offsite warehouses. Or, they may work with independent warehouses. And, independent warehouses are a much-used solution for independent bottlers, cask brokers, and private clients. These purpose-built warehouses can cater for thousands of casks, in a professionally run setting.
Where you're using whisky cask distillery storage, you're unlikely to have any regulatory issues. A cask distilled and stored at a Scottish distillery can be called scotch (assuming all other things are true).
Where it may get more complex is if you move the cask offsite. Moving it to another warehouse in Scotland? Still scotch. Moving it to a warehouse south of the border in England? Well, you could choose to do this. But, you wouldn't be able to bottle it as scotch.
Influence of location on ageing
The location of the cask during maturation can have an influence on the flavour profile of a whisky. If we go back to our Islay example, whisky cask distillery storage on the island could contribute to those coastal notes we often associate with Islay whiskies. Move those same casks to the mainland, away from the coast, and the character may be different.
This is because the interaction between the cask and the surrounding air helps shape the whisky's flavour and aroma. Onsite storage at distilleries allows the whisky to imbibe these local atmospheric characteristics, contributing to what is sometimes called the 'terroir' of whisky.
Offsite storage exposes the whisky to different climatic conditions than those found at the distillery. Whether you choose a seaside warehouse, a warmer more humid, or a high-altitude cold warehouse, these regional variances can, to a greater or lesser extent, translate to the whisky.
One of the key considerations when deciding between onsite and offsite storage is cost. Typically, whisky cask distillery storage can be more expensive due to limited space and higher maintenance costs. Conversely, offsite storage facilities often offer more competitive rates, as they are often more specialised and have greater storage capacity.
However, it is worth noting that costs can fluctuate significantly, and its always worth getting specific quotes.
Visiting your whisky cask
You may be happy locking your cask away and, largely, leaving it be. But, you might want to visit your cask - particularly if it has some special significance to you.
Distilleries often restrict access to their warehouses due to safety regulations, production schedules, and insurance liabilities. Offsite facilities, especially those catering to private cask owners, might offer more flexible visitation options.
So if you do want to visit your cask, you might find an offsite storage facility may suit you better.
Management and security
Whichever route you go for, whisky cask distillery storage or offsite, it’s worth asking about their management and security. You ideally want to be confident someone is keeping an expert eye on your cask, that it’s safe and secure, and that it is insured (whether they insure it or you insure it).
Need help with whisky casks?
If you need help with any aspect of whisky cask purchase, management, or selling, we're here to help. Spiritfilled is an expert whisky cask broker. Oh, and while we're on the topic: all the casks we sell include three years of storage as standard. Contact us today to find out more.