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A Private Owners Guide to Bottling Fine Whisky
The majority of private owners of whisky casks are looking for an assessment of their options. The purpose of this article is to help answer questions that private owners may have about bottling their whisky casks.
Its always recommended that private owners bottle at cask strength as this minimises the number of bottles that you get making it cheaper for bottling and requiring less storage space. The materials needed for a single malt presentation include: tall round clear bottle, varnished wood topp stopper cork, gold coloured pure tin capsule and plain white outer cases. For private owners the use of a simple black and white label would be sufficient. On it would be your name, distillery from which the cask originated and the cask details including date of fill, cask number, strength etc. If you plan to print your own be aware that labels printed on ink jet computer printers are likely to have the ink run if the whisky is spilled on the label. A colour laser printer is however a very good option for short run label production.
The typical hogshead cask will yield around 280 bottles at a strength close to 60% alcohol. If you were to bottle at 40% this would entail the addition of around 120 litres of water and would require an extra 171 bottles to contain the increased bulk volume. It would also mean that the whisky would need to be chill filtered to maintain it's clarity and brightness as the reduction in strength causes the whisky to become cloudy. Chill filtration impairs the flavour of the whisky and is therefore avoided by purveyors of fine malt scotch and it is normal for such products to be bottled at such high strength, i.e. 46% or more.
There are options for defraying or deferring some of the costs involved:
Many people form a syndicate with family or friends. This reduces the cost burden but of course you get less of the whisky. This is not usually a problem as it will take five years to get through one cask at a bottle per week. A private syndicate who are not buying and selling can be treated in the same way as an individual private owner and does not currently need to be registered with Customs & Excise.
The majority of the expense when bottling is incurred in the form of duty and VAT which is also levied on the duty. You can choose to store your bottled whisky in a bonded warehouse. If you can locate one locally, and they are happy to support a private owner, then you can store the whisky under bond and pay the duty and VAT as and when you remove the goods for use. You are likely to be charged pennies per case per week for bonded but please do confirm this with your chosen warehouse in advance.
Kevan Jones is the Director of Craigton Packaging Ltd., they are a small privately owned company that specialises in very short run bottling operations. The majority of their work is single cask bottling for trade customers servicing the specialist malt whisky sector, although they also deal with private owners and syndicates.
Craigton Packaging Ltd. are based in Paisley and service UK and international customers.
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