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January 19, 2024

Scotch corner: can the Cask Whisky Association help clean up the industry?

By Spear's

Scandals such as the story of cask fraudster Casey Alexander, who scammed £10 million from American pensioners, have cast a shadow over the world of whisky investment of late. But the creation of the Cask Whisky Association (CWA), a body intended to disperse the dodgy smell emanating from certain corners of the industry, has not been met with universal acclaim. 

Sam Simmons of Atom Brands told The Scotsman that the organisation was made up of ‘mostly London-based investment personalities’ and accused its members acidly of ‘addressing a problem that they themselves created’. 

Step forward, cask whisky aficionado Colin Hampden-White, interim chair of the CWA’s advisory board and a long-standing consultant to one of its founding members, Cask Trade. He says the CWA is determined to bring more transparency, improve standards and help clean up advertising.

Cask Whisky Association aims to combat protect new market entrants

Crucially, he says, the Cask Whisky Association also wants to protect new entrants to the market. Hobbyist investors can be prone to buying casks that have already been bought from one broker by another, he explains: ‘Therefore margins are increasing every time it’s passed on and you end up with a cask that’s being sold to a consumer for rather a lot more than it’s worth.’ 

Hampden-White confides to Spear’s that he suspects every company operating in the market has, at one point, ‘bought a cask badly and have had to sell it at an inflated price – I think that happens in any industry. 

‘I’m not going to say that everybody’s perfect. I’m also not saying that everybody outside [the association] is bad. [But] the people inside the association we know to be behaving in a trustworthy way and using best practice.’

It’s early days for the Cask Whisky Association, which hopes to admit up to 20 applications for membersship in January.

This feature first appeared in The Hedgehog column in Spear’s Magazine Issue 90, edited by Alec Marsh. Click here to subscribe.

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