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Cask Whisky Association: New whisky body aims to protect cask investors

Members and Advisors of the Cask Whisky Association gathered at The Glenturret.

Whisky fans who want to invest in Scotch are being advised to seek professional advice by a new trade body created by a small band of cask brokers.

The CWA aims to share best practice and has formed an advisory board that includes distillery bosses, a lawyer, and an insurance broker. Experts have warned previously that the reputation of the Scotch whisky category is under threat from traders selling casks without the relevant paperwork, such as delivery orders.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the trade body that represents distilleries, issued guidance in 2020 for cask investors. Colin Hampden-White, chair of the new advisory board, said: ‘The CWA exists to protect private customers from unscrupulous business practices and traders and safeguard independent bottlers from over-inflated pricing. ‘Our members are committed to, and will provide guidance on, best practice.’

Whisky author and advisory board member Hans Offringa added: ‘If you want to buy whisky, go to a trusted company and get some advice – that way you will avoid any pitfalls. That’s why I think certification and licensing is so important; the CWA provides a quality hallmark for people looking to buy and invest in whisky. There are a lot of cowboys out there and we don’t want them to discredit good companies and ruin good business.’

News of the CWA’s launch came as Wendy Chamberlain, chair of Westminster’s Scotch whisky all-party parliamentary group, wrote to the business minister responsible for the Digital Markets, Competition & Consumers Bill, seeking clarification on whether the proposed legislation will increase protection for cask whisky investors.

The Cask Whisky Association. Credit: Paul Chappells

‘Having met with the CWA, I am aware that there are many reputable organisations who want to provide good investment opportunities to enthusiasts and investors alike,’ she wrote. ‘The actions of bad actors in this field risk harming not only consumers, but the reputation of Scotch whisky and the long-term viability of the industry as a whole.’

Vikki Bruce, director of CaskNet, which is developing a digital cask register, welcomed the creation of the new association: ‘The CWA is a great step in the right direction in attempting to reduce the ‘bad players’ in the cask trading market. ‘The advisory board should prove valuable in giving guidance to brokers and buyers in what has become a disreputable marketplace.

‘It is created by a small number of cask brokers who I am sure will act with inclusivity and fairness to the rest of the market – we anticipate that the CWA will take the next logical step in working with us at CaskNet.’

Bruce added: ‘Much like the DVLA registers cars with a unique identifying number, the CaskNet register will verify casks’ existence and validate ownership, tracking the lifetime of a cask with full documentation stored on the platform, which can be made visible to potential buyers.

‘The platform will be highly valuable to brokers acting with integrity, a goal that the CWA is also striving to achieve. Better together? I hope so.’

CaskNet said that an estimated 1.1 million of the more than 22 million whisky casks in Scotland are owned privately, rather than by distilleries.

The SWA declined to comment on the launch of the CWA.

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