Here at Nine Rivers Distillery, we are more than happy to field questions from the interested public, even if the two most popular questions are if a cat actually makes the major decisions and, perhaps depending on the answer to that first question, when are casks available to buy? Will Nine Rivers Distillery have a Cask Owners Club?
With respect to the first question. No. A cat really doesn’t run the show. Deng Shan is the Underboss, so the cat is technically only second in command. As for cask availability and pricing – read on.
What We Are Offering
Why would any whisky enthusiast expect any world-class distillery to peddle a simple wooden vessel with new make spirit? That’s wood-tier thinking for wood-headed people. As with everything we are doing, we’re cranking it up to 11 and redefining what we think a world class whisky distillery should be offering as part of a Cask Owners Club.
We’re delivering a complete whisky lover’s experience – a VIP Platinum Whatever all-in inclusive price of absolutely everything. For those following along at home, that means filling your cask, storing your cask, then maturing and monitoring your whisky while it ages for up to 5 years. This also includes the cost of bottling, closures, labels and shipping to anywhere in mainland China. Not in China? No problem. We can help you find a freight forwarder to get your bottled product to your country of choice – but the costs of shipping and any taxes or duties due at the destination are your responsibility.
The Old “Taxes and Bottling Fee” Hustle
Every other distillery we have seen offering casks for sale are a little bit cheeky with their marketing price. What they advertise is the cost of the cask, the new make spirit, storage for a set amount of years, and insurance.
But then, those cheeky dastards try to hide their kicker. Scroll down a bit to the bottom or the end and look for the ultra-fine print in tiny lettering: the bottling fee, taxes, and duties.
In most UK whisky cask examples, you’re going to be facing 4 quid a bottle (¥33) for bottling, £3000 in duties (£28.74 per LPA or liter of pure alcohol) and another £2000 on average in VAT. That flips your £5000 – £6000 (¥42’000 – ¥50’000) cask cost into £11’000 – £12’000 (¥92’000 – ¥100’000).
Sure, if you’re exporting the bottled product to another country, the duties and VAT will not be payable in the UK – but you’ll have to pay something similar in the destination country, plus export and import logistics to get your whisky there.
*for the record, £5000 – £6000 is currently below market average for a cask of new make whisky at a startup or young distillery in the UK.
The 9 Puddles and a Moggy Experience
The first part of what we are offering within our Cask Owners Club is the opportunity for you and up to 3 guests to come to Nine Rivers Distillery and spend half a day with one of our team who will give you a personal tour of the distillery, allowing you to get up close and personal with all aspects of production. From taking in grain, milling, mashing, fermenting and distilling, you’ll have the access that will only be available to the very highest level of VIP guests. Maybe you’ll even meet that moggy.
From there, advance onwards to taste some sample expressions so you and your guests can understand the variations in finished whisky that can be created by adjusting the mash bills (not just the roasting on the malts, but also other grain types – all of which can be used to craft whisky).
Here’s a fun fact for you: while all the grains would have to be malted barley in order to have something that can be called “Single Malt” you can still be the proud owner of a cask of “Single Grain” whisky by varying the mix of grains. Now comes the question of where to put them.
As we all should know, casks are vital to the crafting of whisky. It’s generally accepted that up to 60% of the aroma and flavour of a whisky comes from the cask alone, so the choice of cask or casks (multiple casks can be used for cask finishes) is important. Narrowing down the selection to choose the casks or casks to suit you is underpinned by taking you through various samples to nose and taste.
With a chosen mash bill and cask, it’s then time to go and hand select not one but TWO casks from the hundreds of casks we will have available for you to choose from. Then with your cask on a trolley, it’s over to the cask filling area, where you can fill your own cask with the new make whisky spirit. Whispering sweet nothings and gentle stroking of the cask is encouraged, but PLEASE, go easy on the singing. We’re not running a KTV….
Wait, No Mahogany? Em, Monogamy? Why Two Casks?
For two reasons. Firstly, because as far as we know, typical insurance for a cask would be for the original cost paid.
Assuming you’ve ponied up the rambos* (“rambos” or RMB, see detailed definition with pictures below) for a cask and waited for a number of years, you’re not actually guaranteed a whisky. For example, your cask could get vaporized by anti-whisky aliens in a stealth space ship that can teleport through the walls of our cask maturation warehouse on their nefarious quest to make all humans sober.
Either way, while it is not likely your whisky will be the subject of alien destruction, we want to make sure there’s a back up plan. Only shmucks would prefer their money back to actually getting whisky, but unfortunately that’s all insurance can do – give you back your cost. It can’t repair your dreams and magically get your whisky back to the state it was before the aliens.
Yes, we know, there are some whisky weirdos doing all that jiggery pokery in garage laboratories and passing it off as real whisky – but we’re having none of that nonsense at Nine Rivers Distillery. The tabby mouser won’t allow it.
Having a back up cask, in a separate and distinct area of the cask maturation warehouse hedges against any issues at a level that is more in line with what you, as the whisky lover, want and need. As far as we know, there’s no other Cask Owners Club in the world offering this to anyone, anywhere.
The second reason is because the maturation of whisky is a fickle process. While we can predict (within some tolerance) the final end product, whisky maturation is not an exact science. There can and will be variation. While most of these variations are “blended out” (big brands will marry together sometimes hundreds of casks together to get a stable and consistent finished product) it’s impossible to do this on a single cask bottling.
There have been instances at other distilleries, where people have thrown down hard earned money to buy a cask of whisky, only to come back a few years later and pulled a face at the finished result. It happens. But that’s not an experience we think is good for whisky lovers or for Nine Rivers Distillery.
So, we hedge against aliens and off casks, with an N+1 approach – we mature two casks, as far away from each other as possible within separate and distinct areas of the cask maturation warehouse.
The cask owner is free to choose which of the two casks they would like to eventually bottle and take home, or, if you want both, then just pay the same amount again and have two casks of whisky!
And of course the cask is insured. Should, 7 gods forbid, a dragon drop down from the sky and lay the entirety of the cask maturation warehouse to ash taking both of your precious casks down in the process, you will be able to get your money back.
Every year, after each anniversary of the cask being filled, the cask owner (as a valued member of our Cask Owners Club) is welcome to visit again to sample their cask. Samples can also be sent out by post for those that are unable to visit. The cask will also be measured for volume and ABV (“regauged” as it’s called in the industry) and certified for the cask owner.
Some cask owners might choose to have their whisky bottled and sent to them at any time in the cycle of ownership, but it must be casked for at least 3 years and one day for it to be labelled as “whisky” (single malt or single grain). If it’s younger than this when it’s bottled, it will simply be labelled as “grain spirit”.
Under Chinese regulations for whisky, it can technically be called whisky after 2 years of maturation. But, as with everything we are trying to do, we’re taking things up to the next level to ensure quality is at the forefront.
When the cask owner decides it’s bottling day, then it’s time to come back to the distillery and be involved in the disgorging of the cask (emptying it), putting it through filtration (non-chill filtration of course!) and then pumping it to our bottling line where it is hand bottled.
Stoppers, capsules, and labels are next, before the finished product is ready. Labels would be produced in advance of the bottling day (with input from you, cask owner about what they would like the label to say) along with chosen stoppers and capsules, in colours that the cask owner prefers.
Of course, if you trust our judgment, we can do all of this for you on your behalf if you can’t get to our distillery or simply can’t be bothered. The important takeaway is that the option is there for you to be as involved as you want to be and we will do our best to meet any reasonable request, even if you want us to read your maturing whisky some stories as it rests (probably not Frankenstein though, let’s not tempt fate).
How Many Bottles Then Eh?
While being a member of our Cask Owners Club is pretty special, we know that most of you are more interested in the whisky! However, predicting the number of bottles isn’t an exact science for a startup distillery. We have nothing to reference, but we can suggest a number based on assumptions.
If we assume we cask at 63% ABV, have an angels share loss of 5% per year, and we are maturing the whisky for 3 years, then a 200 litre case would give back about 240 x 700ml bottles at cask strength (we would expect this to be about 54% ABV). Increasing the maturation to 5 years would reduce this to about 220 x 700ml bottles at 48% ABV.
Your Cask – You Paid For It.
While it is a commonly accepted practice for a distillery to reuse casks and in fact, many whiskies with big age statements almost always have to come from second and even third fill casks (or the whisky would simply be too woody), we take the view that a cask owner paid for that cask so they own it.
If you want to take your cask home with you, no problem at all. We can ship it to you anywhere in China or the world – although we will ask you to pay for your own shipping on the cask and you’ll probably need someone to help you outside of China to receive it. Being made of wood, some countries have rules about fumigation being necessary. Some countries won’t even allow you to import wood. It’s not our field of expertise and the best advice we would be able to give you for destinations outside of China, would be “Google it”.
Casks can be made into planters, garden furniture, and even some swanky looking drinks cabinets. There are tons of videos online about what you could do with your cask, if you have the time and the interest.
If you don’t want your cask, we’ll donate it to some local craftsmen and other local artsy people that turn them into coasters, key rings, drinks trays and other nik naks that we’ll buy back from them and sell in our gift shop to support local businesses.
How Many Rambos?
All in, assuming a single cask maturation on a first fill ex-bourbon cask, or Virgin American White Oak, including visits to the distillery, up to 5 years maturation, bottling with our standard glass, using stoppers, capsules and labels from our Private Cask range, packed and shipped to any address in China and Cask Owners Club membership – the total cost is ¥60’000 (approximately, US$9400, €8300, £7100 at the time of publishing, but please check exchange rates at the day of purchase for other currency equivalents).
Utilising a sherry, port or Madeira cask, either for a cask finish or a full maturation, will cost ¥80’000 (approximately US$12’500, €11’100, £9500).
Remember – that’s “all in”. No hidden charges. No bottling fees. No duties. No taxes. It’s all covered. But, take note, there are no discounts or rebates for exported casks, because we’d use the money saved in time and energy helping you cask owners get the finished product out of the country.
Reserve Your Cask Now
We are taking reservations on casks simply to ensure that we can accommodate demand. We have a limited capacity for hosting cask owners to fill and bottle their casks, so it’s unlikely that there will be more than 100 casks available each year.
Reservations are being made with a 5% deposit, with the remainder being required once the distillery is completely built and all hardware is installed (Q2, 2023). Deposits are non-refundable as the deposit just about covers the cost of the time and legal work involved in contracting the purchase.
Say No More – Gimme The Links.
9PAAM – Virgin American White Oak – CLICK HERE
9PAAM – Ex Bourbon Cask – CLICK HERE
9PAAM – Sherry Cask – CLICK HERE
9PAAM – Port Cask – CLICK HERE
9PAAM – Madeira Cask – CLICK HERE
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