What you need to know about maturing whisky in a wine cask:
- What the Scotch Whisky Association say about using wine casks
- Why it is important to source from the right distillery if you want to use a wine cask
- Why trademarks mean wine casks from specific Chateaus will not increase the value of your whisky
Can you mature whisky in a wine cask?
The Scotch Whisky Association states, “Scotch Whisky can only be matured or finished in new oak casks or oak casks which were previously used to mature wine, beer/ale or spirits.” There are a few other caveats, but the consensus is
Yes, you can mature whisky in a wine cask.
Should you mature your whisky in a wine cask?
Whether you like a whisky matured or finished in a wine cask will be down to personal preference and the type of whisky; Some people like peated whisky and some people prefer unpeated whisky, some like bourbon finishes and other prefer sherry. Importantly, some people like a sherry finish on one type of whisky but not another; you don’t find many heavily peated whiskies finished in sherry casks because the flavours don’t easily complement each other – there are exceptions of course.
So too, wine casks are not suited to all types of whisky. Online reviewers whiskynotes.be recently reviewed two whiskies finished in red wine casks: an Aran 2013 3-year-old and a Port Charlotte 2008 10-year-old. On the Arran they said, “Some casks simply don’t work too well with whisky in my opinion – it’s easy to drown Arran spirit with red wine.” Whereas the Port Charllotte was more successful, “This is much more like it. If you insist on using red wine casks, then choose a powerful spirit.”
As you can see, it is important to consider the source of your whisky when deciding what cask to use. Maturing whisky in wine casks is still generally an experimental business and some drinkers still consider it a bit gimmicky. Some distilleries are using wine casks successfully after rigorous testing in small batches to work out what works – and what their drinkers are interested in.
Another thing to consider is when you last saw a bottle of wine matured whisky? This is still a niche product with a niche audience and it isn’t widely available outside of specialised whisky shops and bars because the audience is not established yet.
“Scotch Whisky can only be matured or finished in new oak casks or oak casks which were previously used to mature wine, beer/ale or spirits.”
Chateau names are Trademarks owned by the Chateau and cannot be used without permission
Some common types of wine cask
Will an ex-Mouton Rothchild cask make my whisky worth more?
If you are looking at buying a cask of whisky and are considering maturing your spirit in an ex-wine cask you need to be aware of a few things.
The name of a vinyard is a trademark – that means you can’t use the name of the Chateau, Mouton Rothchild, Margaux or d’Y Quem etc. to market your whisky without the trademark owner’s permissions. You may have seen some distilleries release whiskies with these casks listed but the distilleries have much more market power than you in order to negotiate the use of the Chateau’s name.
Ultimately what this means that using a cask specifically from that vineyard will not add any value to your whisky compared to using any other wine cask. Given that a cask from a specific Chateau likely comes at a premium you should consider whether using that cask adds value to your whisky in a way you are satisfied with.
Ex-wine casks are not generally as commercial as bourbon or sherry casks – Maturing whisky in wine casks is still a process that is being refined and developed. The market for it is still in its infancy, and while it may expand with time, the current market generally values ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks much more highly – there are a few exceptions for specific distilleries, discussed below. Therefore, if you looking to buy a whisky cask as an investment then the risks associated with wine casks are higher than if you invest in a more traditional cask.
Some distilleries have a more established history of working with wine casks – Distilleries such as Bruichladdich and Glenmorangie have an established history of working with wine casks. Any distilleries with a proven history of working well with wine casks can command a competitive market value, and so if you want to work with a wine cask you should consider working with spirit that has already proven successful.
If you are looking at buying a cask of whisky and would like to discuss the options available to you when choosing the type of cask to use then you can get in touch for a no obligations chat. We are happy to discuss the benefits and things to consider for all types of cask as part of our mission to help our customers buy quality casks at a fair price.
You can call the office on 01260 218 718 or email us at [email protected]