The market for rare bottles of whisky has blossomed over the past decade or so, but serious investors and collectors are now increasingly buying whisky by the cask. Purchasing an entire cask opens up a unique range of options not available to bottle buyers, including the ability to bottle your very own whisky either to sell on or to share with friends and family.
If you do decide to buy a cask of whisky, one key concept to understand is the “regauge” which is a bit like a cask health check. This simple procedure is typically carried out by the distillery and allows you to verify the amount of whisky in the cask. Regauging is especially important for all parties when buying and selling a cask since it helps determine the value of the whisky.
So, why do we need to verify the amount of whisky in the cask? You may have heard the term “angel’s share” which refers to the estimated 2% annual loss of liquid due to evaporation. Since the barrel is porous the volume of whisky in the cask gradually diminishes, and this process is even more pronounced in warmer and drier climates. Carefully controlling the lighting and temperature where the cask is stored can help to minimise the quantity lost, and using a higher quality cask will also help as they tend to lose less alcohol.
A reguage will tell you the number of litres of spirit in your cask and also the ABV or alcohol by volume. This last figure is especially important as if the ABV falls below 40% the liquid can’t legally be called whisky any more. Casks which have ABVs close to this minimum level may be given a lower valuation and are considered more risky. It is possible to raise the ABV back to over 40%, but this must be done by adding in another whisky which would typically reduce the value of the cask.
The first step is to take a sample of the whisky and measure the ABV. Then the entire cask is weighed and the cask is emptied and weighed again to determine the amount of liquid currently in the cask. From these two figures the distillery can calculate the RLA (Regauged Litres of Alcohol). For example, if the bulk litres of whisky in the cask is 400 and the ABV is 60% then the RLA is 240 litres.
A regauge should be done every three years for casks which are over 5 years old and every year for casks over 15 years old. Regular regauging needs to be done to make sure your whisky does not drop below 40% ABV. A regauge should also be carried out if you plan to sell or buy a cask if the procedure hasn’t been carried out recently.
If you want to know more about buying a whisky cask or how to go about regauging, Tomoka Casks’ expert team are on hand to guide you through every stage of the purchase process. Please contact us for more information.