A whisky's flavour is developed as it ages in its cask. So, whisky cask storage is as important as the initial distillation. But, unlike distillation, whisky cask storage isn't often written about - remaining largely in the shadows. So, we thought we'd write a short article on the subject.
Where are whisky casks stored?
Whisky casks are typically stored in large warehouses. There are two main types of whisky cask storage warehouses: dunnage and rack warehouses.
Dunnage warehouses are the more traditional of the two. They tend to have stone walls and compact earth floors. Casks are stored up to three racks high. These warehouses are the romantic ideal - low, dark and musty, as full of atmosphere as they are of whisky. But, they are less practical, storing less volume, and with access to casks sometimes difficult.
Rack warehouses are the more modern of the two. They tend to be tall metal-sheet warehouses. They are well organised, divided into sections, with space for forklift trucks and other equipment to operate. As the name may suggest, racks are a key component of these warehouses - giving the ability to stack casks many rows high. This makes them somewhat more practical than dunnage warehouses for bulk storage.
Where can cask warehouses be found?
For a whisky to be called scotch, the whisky cask storage has to be in Scotland. But where precisely in Scotland can vary massively.
Broadly speaking, casks can be stored in one of three locations. The first example of whisky cask storage would be on-site at a distillery. With, for example, Glenfarclas, all their whiskies are made and stored on-site. In the case of older distilleries, these are often dunnage warehouses.
While on-site storage can work well for small to medium sized distilleries, space can be a limitation for larger distilleries. In this case, their whisky cask storage may be off-site. They might own additional land where they've built purpose-made rack warehouses to store the large volume of whisky they produce.
The third solution is third-party bonded warehouses. This option is particularly useful for private owners, cask brokers, and independent bottlers. Such sites can store casks from a wide range of distilleries, for a large number of clients.
How long do whisky casks stay in storage?
Scotch whisky has to be aged for at least three years. Often, however, they can be aged for much longer - 10, 20, 30 years or more. So this makes safe, secure whisky cask storage vital.
But there are additional subtleties. Where a cask is stored can affect how its flavour develops over that time - from the micro-climate of the region the warehouse is located in, to even where in the warehouse the cask is racked. This can be for a range of reasons. Some say outside influence, like the nearby sea, can influence flavour. And fluctuations in temperate will certainly influence flavour, as the whisky is pulled into and out of the wooden staves at differing rates.
Learn more about whisky cask storage.
If you'd like to learn more about whisky cask storage you can download our free Whisky Cask Investment Guide here. And if you'd like further help with whisky casks, contact one of our experts here. We even include three years of storage with all the whisky casks we sell!