Bottling Casks

Over the years i’ve purchased a few casks both on my own and with others , mainly from Bruichladdich but also from Bladnoch (a Cask of Peated Bunnahabhain called Margadale ) . As i bottle them i’ll post reports on here……

Port Charlotte Bloodtub R23

The one thing that a malt whisky fanatic would always dream of doing is owning a cask of whisky from one of their favourite distilleries and eventually bottling that cask so they would have their own personal bottling . In 2001 with the re-opening of Bruichladdich Distillery that dream came a step closer for a lot of Islay whisky lovers . I jumped at the chance to purchase a small “Bloodtub” for £195 , 32 litres of a new style of spirit called Port Charlotte , heavily peated to 40 ppm . Now it was just the case of waiting for it to mature in the old Loch Indaal Distillery warehouse in Port Charlotte (what a co-incidence !) ……. oh and paying the baby a visit or two and getting regular samples to see how the bairns growing up !  We visited our little cask once a year , drew out samples and were quite surprised at how well it matured , it was highly drinkable at 2yo though not officially whisky . On our last visit during the 2005 festival we decided that it was well and truly ready , in December 2004 it had been reracked into another fresh bloodtub (due to problems they’d encountered with some of the originals) and we didn’t want too much sherry influence .

Bloodtub R23After informing the Distillery of our intention to bottle the cask we asked for some information regarding the process . You can of course just pay the Duty and Vat and walk out with the cask but we decided we wanted the cask bottled on Islay ( it looks good on the label saying Distilled , Matured and bottled on Islay ! ) .First on the questions was what bottle will be used ? (on the site they state it won’t be the distillery shape ) It’s actually a standard shape bottle (like the ordinary Murray McDavid bottle) . The cost of bottling is £30 per 12 bottles (incl bottle,cork,capsule,basic label and carton) . What is the chargable duty ? £19.56 per litre OLA ( Original Litres of (100%) Alcohol ) or the equivalent of £8.62 on a 70cl bottle at Cask strength (it’s about 63% volume , a 70cl bottle contains 0.441 litres of the OLA , so it’s 0.441 x £19.56 = £8.62). And of course there’s the good old Vat to go on everything at 17.5% !!!!Labelling ….Can i use my own ? Yes but they have to approve it , it must in the UK include the words “Single Islay Malt Scotch Whisky” , The size of the bottle (70cl or 700ml) , the Alcoholic strength and where it came from ! ( Product of Scotland etc) . I told them i’d designed one and it seem to match all the criteria !

For a few weeks i’d been honing my label design , i’d come to an agreement with the artist Ian Gray (http://www.iangray.de) to use one of his paintings and this is what i ended up with……

R23 Label

I printed the Labels myself using a Canon printer and some Self-adhesive parcel labels .

The Big Day…….

The bottling did take place on Friday 25th November only at 12pm , we were supposed to be there but couldn’t get across due to the bad weather and cancelling of the ferries .So we had to watch it on the webcams , many thanks to all at Bruichladdich Distillery especially Simon Coughlin , Michael on the cams (cheers for capturing most of these shots ) and Mary in the shop who helped make this a special occasion for us over the webcams to make up for the disappointment of not being able to get there in person and witness it ! In the end we got 39 bottles @ 61.4% . Here’s a few captures from the Bottling process….. click on the images to see a slightly larger version

Bottling 1 Bottling 2
Bottling 3 Bottling 4
Bottling 5 Bottling 6
Bottling 7 Bottling 8
Bottling 9 Bottling 10
3 Bottles

The Bottling Made the News……

Headlines

The Costs !

This is the nasty and wallet shattering bit !

the Actual Costs……

The Original Cost of the Bloodtub……………………………………………..£195

Administration Fee………………………………………………………………….£30

Bottling Cost (£30 per case x3.35 cases)………………………………….£97.50

Duty on 39 bottles (39 x 0.7 x 61.4%= 16.76L/A………………………………….

x £19.56 duty per L/A…………………………………………………………£327.83

Vat ………………………………………………. ………………………………….£80.87

Total………………………………………………………………………………….£731.20

So if we then divide this by the 39 bottles , we get a cost per bottle of……….

£18.75 !

We finally got to Bruichladdich on the 15th April to pick up the remaining bottles to find 2 surprises . First of all Mary has put the bottle we gave to the staff as a thank you on displaying in the Laddie bottlings cabinet and we are now part of her Laddie tour ! On opening the cases we found the Capsules hadn’t been applied (D’oh!!!) so Simon came up from Portnahaven to open up the bottling hall to apply the capsules (he gave us a sneak preview of the new bottling line ) . We were also part of the Saturday morning tour as we applied the remaining labels as Mary retold “The Legend of the Bloodtub R23 bottling “…..

Labelling the Bottles

Once again i would like to thank all at Bruichladdich for making Owning , Visiting and Bottling your own cask a truly great experience over the past 5 years , Ella , Chrissie and Lorna in the office . The now retired John Rennie and James in the warehouse for their advice and patience , Simon Coughlin and all of the bottling hall staff for pulling out all the stops to make up for the disappointment of not actually getting across to see the bottling in person . And lastly Mary in the Laddieshop , a good friend and a real gem for going beyond the call of duty , without who the legend would fade away and die……

Slainté Laddies and Lassies !

The Ultimate Set of Tasting Notes ?

Well just over a year after it’s Bottling , Bloodtub R23 has taken us to a new high , to explain i need to take you back to a Balmy Summer Saturday afternoon early this year ………
Having spent a splendid Saturday afternoon in the  Mansfield Traquair at the Royal Mile Whiskies “Whisky Fringe” we retired , having not had enough to drink ( ?!!*?$!!?), to the pub on the opposite corner joining various waifs and strays from the aforementioned event . We bumped into Darren Leitch from The Whisky Shop and talked about various whiskies , after Ardbegs , Laddies and Bunnies he casually slipped it into the conversation that he’d sent a sample of the Port Charlotte to Jim Murray earlier in the year to see what he’d thought of it …….after a few choice words including a certain four letter anglo-saxon swear word ……we wondered if it would make it into the next Whisky Bible ?
Zoom forward in time to Friday 8th December , while surfing the web i notice on Loch Fyne Whiskies site that Richard has the 2007 Whisky Bible , ringing him up , he’s most surprised that it’s in there , i can’t possibly put here what else he was also as Ladies will be reading it but anyway he did get a sale out of it !
So to today …… it arrived , in all it’s glorious technicoloured print and here’s what it says…….

Port Charlotte 4 Years Old dist 12th Jun 01 , bott 25th Nov 05 (96)
n (nose) 25  quite possibly the most coastal whisky i have ever nosed :it is as if the peat has only been diluted by seawater. This smells of rotting distilleries and malt kilns . It is unique and unquestionably the most evocative thing i have ever sniffed. I close my eyes and i am on undiscovered Islay, before i ever wrote about the place ; when i could wander around barely-known distilleries alone .No matter how it tastes , it cannot paint a picture so vividly , or bring back such a lost joy as the nose , or even a sense of loss of how things used to be .  ……I don’t know if you believe this or not, but it has actually brought a lump to my throat and a slight moistened eye . I think i should pause before tasting ……
t(taste) 24  salty, fruity, even-eventually-wild raspberries and banging on the door all the time , massive peat wanting to be let in ;
f (finish) 23 dry despite its age though enough mollased mocha to keep the peat sweet and company;
b (balance) 24 so stupendous – and moving- is the nose that it takes time to focus on what happens palate-wise.Not quite so good, as one might suspect. But still a unique and astonishingly pleasurable take on Islay .
61.4% The Whisky Shop , Gordon Homer’s Private Stock , 39 Bottles .

WOAH!!!!!

Needless to say i’m as proud as punch !
Thanks to Darren for sending it in and to everyone else who has had good words to say about it .
More about the Whisky Bible at http://www.whiskybible.com

(Originally Published on the Old Spirit of Islay Website)

The Bladtub

The second cask i bottled was another Bloodtub but was at the other end of the spectrum from the PC , it was a Bladnoch ! While chatting with Raymond Armstrong we discussed how interesting it would be to see how a Bladnoch would turn out if matured in a cask that had previously held a heavily peated malt . A plan was hatched for me to supply the cask (the aforementioned PC Bloodtub) and for him to provide the Spirit . Unfortunately that was Plan A and it fell at the first hurdle , Bruichladdich “Misplaced” the Original* ! When told of our cunning plan they did graciously supply a replacement in the shape of a fresh one (what i think was an ex-fino one) , So Plan B went ahead……..

It was filled on the 22nd of October 2006 at one of Bladnochs Whisky Schools at a stronger strength than usual , about 69% . Through it’s maturation it was tested against other maturing Bladnochs and was maturing a great deal faster . It was decided to bottle it at 3 years old and a label was knocked up……..

Label_backgroundIt produced what i thought was a very good whisky , slightly different to your normal Bladnoch , Raymond wasn’t as impressed . I kept 9 bottles and the other 27 were sold on to Bladnoch forum members .

BladtubsThe Geordie Laddies Port Charlotte 10yo

The 3rd cask bottled was a 2001 Port Charlotte bought through a syndicate made up of people from the Newcastle Area , hence the name “The Geordie Laddies” . A fresh Bourbon Barrel , this was purchased for the very reasonable sum of £775 !

Geordie LaddiesIt was decided pretty early on that we were going to bottle at 10yo…… and we did ! So on the 23rd of February 2012 7 of the Syndicate headed over to Islay to see our cask bottled…….

So the day of the bottling finally arrived , it’s a day i’ve been waiting for for over 6 years following the disappointment of not getting to Islay to see my Bloodtub being bottled due to the weather knocking off the ferries .So it was an early start to the day to be at Laddie by 9am . The best laid plans don’t always work out , a few hiccups ensued but slightly later than expected we actually got to see the cask being bottled !

The first sighting of the whisky was in a little glass container to the top left of the bottling machine and i was taken aback by how much darker it was than the last sample over a year and a half ago .

Filling the first bottles

And there’s more…..

Four bottles were filled at a time and the Guys doing the filling even allowed us to have a go…...

Eddie gets his chance

My Turn !

We got our first try of the whisky at this point from a plastic jug ! Needless to say it went down very well !!!! We were also given a try of the Islay gin which was being bottled on the main line while ours was getting done .

The Caps being applied

The Numbers start growing

After getting over the shock at the strength it was still at after 10 years our next thoughts were how many bottles ? The boys thought it was going to be about 220 given the volume loaded into the filling container , we were hoping for more and we got it ! 243 bottles !

Wor Stash !!!

At this point there was a lull in proceedings to work out the costs, apply the tax sticker and box up (there wasn’t time to label so we said we’d pick the labels up the next day and put them on ourselves ) so we went off on a tour of the distillery with Mary . As usual it was a great tour with Mary , full of her wit and wisdom .

Mary introduces the gang to Ugly Betty

In The Still Room

So after the tour we headed back to the shop for a try of the Current valinch , an aced Port Charlotte just over 9 years old . By this time the boxed bottles were ready for loading into the transport and we bid our farewells to the Staff at Laddie . Many thanks to Jonathan and the 2 lads in the bottling hall for a superb morning .

The Original Cost of the Share (Cask was £775)……………………….£77.50

Administration Fee(£30 /10)……………………………………………………..£3.00

Bottling Cost (£15 per case x 40.5  6 bottle cases=£607.50 /10)….£60.75

Duty on 243 bottles (243 x 0.7 x 64.4%= 109.54L/A…………………………….

x £25.52 duty per L/A(£2795.54 / 10)…………………………………………£279.55

Vat (£127.50 / 10) …………………………… …………………………………….£12.75

Total…………………………………………   …………………………………………£435.50

Price per bottle*………………………………………………………………………£18.06

(*This does not include the costs of getting to the Island , accommodation or van rental)

The Full weekend visit can be read HERE

The Magnificent Three !

Magnificent Three

The Bunnahabhain Margadale 10yo

Purchased from Raymond Armstrong in 2009 while he still owned Bladnoch , this was already 5yo at the time so not as long to wait as some casks ! I only visited this cask once just after it was purchased…..

Margadale-Cask-1I also got to try it and it wasn’t bad for it’s age .

Margadale-cask-2What we didn’t know at that time was the events that were going to be played out in the very near future at Bladnoch…..

Bladnoch went into Voluntary Liquidation in Spring 2014 for reasons i won’t go into here , In june of that year the administrators sent out a bill for back warehousing . Now a few of us in the cask knew each other and we started to wonder what would happen with our cask when it reached the magic bottling age of 10yo at the end of January 2015 . Unfortunately for us the proposed sale collapsed in early 2015 and the Distillery was left in the hands of the administrators who to put it mildly didn’t want to have anything to do with the bottling of privately owned cask . So we took in to our hands , tracked down the shareholders and asked for the cask to be released into the hands of Whiskybroker.co.uk (who just happens to be Raymonds son Martin) , after a few hiccups on the morning of Wednesday the 11th February  it finally left the warehouse .

Martin tested the strength as soon as he got it to his facility and found it to be 59.2% , the colour was pretty good as well……

Margadale

When Martin bottled the cask it produced 243 70cl bottles , way more than i was expecting as i thought the cask wouldn’t have been as good as quality as the Geordie Laddies but i seem to have been proven Wrong ! When Martin sent out the above photo he also sent out a proposal for the label……

Margadale-LabelUnfortunately due to the original sales agreement we couldn’t use the Distillery Name and after a discussion we decided not to risk any confrontation over the use of ‘Margadale’ but we will include it on the cask detail . Tasting notes will be posted when i pick the bottles up next week , Many thanks to Martin for his help , advice and the eventual bottling of the cask . You can find full details of his company at Whiskybroker.co.uk  

The Costs of this Bottling……

The Original Purchase of the share…………………………………………….£137

Removal of the Cask from Bladnoch (per share)………………………… £2.50

Bottling costs (24 x £2.50)………………………………………………………… £60

Duty (24 Bottles – 24 x 0.7 x0.592 x 28.22 + 24 x 0.2 x0.592 x 28.22 +

24 x 0.03 x0.592 x 28.22)……………………………………………………….. £284.51

VAT………………………………………………………………………………………. £95.40

Total…………………………………………………………………………………….. £579.41

So the cost per bottle is………………… £23.84 

Coming Soon……..

2001 Port Charlotte “Spirit of Islay”
SOI

2008 Bruichladdich “Spirit of Islay II”
SOI II

2012 Longmorn
Longmorn

2 thoughts on “Bottling Casks

  1. Hi there.

    I have a 1 year daughter called Charlotte. I also particularly like the Port Charlotte whisky. For nostalgic reasons I would therefore like to purchase a Cask of Port Charlotte Whiskey to give to her on 21st Birthday. I recently contacted the distillery and they said that they don’t do cask sales anymore however the only way to purchase one would be through a private collector. I loved reading your story above and wondered if during any of the above you came across a private cask owener ho might be willing to sell?

    Cheers,
    Adam

    • Hi Adam ,
      I very much doubt if you would be able to find a seller these days and if by chance you did it would have a very high price on it !
      Port Charlotte is a highly sort after whisky ( i think it is the best spirit Bruichladdich produce by a mile) and even bottles command a premium price !
      Good luck in your search and i hope it’s fruitful !
      Gordon

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