Confessions of a retailer: Cask 88By Owen Bellwood
As the rare whisky market enjoys record sales, Cask 88 director Patrick Costello discusses how he sources some of the oldest expressions available.
How would you describe Cask 88?
We help clients discover and purchase world-class whisky. We offer a cask-buying and selling service, and have access to whisky from more than 40 top distilleries, and we are able to support clients through every stage of the cask-buying process, from cask selection and maturing, to bespoke bottling and labelling.
Where did the idea for Cask 88 come from?
Cask 88’s founders have long had an interest in collecting rare and unique whisky. They began sourcing bottles and soon word of the company’s success travelled. We now have a clientele from around the world, including London, Hong Kong, Beijing and New York.
Where did your interest in whisky come from?
I started collecting whisky in 2011; it was a hobby that grew into a career. As a student, I worked in the cocktail bar industry, and this sparked my passion for high-end spirits. The first whisky I really enjoyed was The Dalmore King Alexander III, which three friends and I finished while visiting distilleries.
How do you source the whiskies and casks you sell?
We have great relationships with distilleries and also source from private collectors, brokers and independent bottlers. Many of our clients are looking for official expressions from the big name distilleries, and we work closely with distilleries to make this a reality. We travel the world to find elusive and sought-after bottles.
What preparation goes into each purchase?
Clients brief us on what they want then we work to source the bottle or cask. This often involves a lot of travelling, sampling and testing for quality. We only sell casks we think are good enough for bottling.
Do you have a wish list of distilleries you’d like to work with?
GlenDronach is my personal favourite, so working with them would be a dream come true. The Macallan is everyone’s favourite, and Bowmore is a distillery whose team I’d be delighted to work with.
What is the most memorable whisky sale you have worked on?
We recently advised the sale of a world record-breaking cask of The Macallan at a Hong Kong auction. This was an extremely special cask for us. Matured in a Sherry hogshead, this was a full cask of The Macallan 1987 single malt Scotch whisky. Making this cask even more special, it doesn’t only hold the title of most expensive cask sold at auction, but it is also the most expensive per-bottle cask sold at auction worldwide.
What are the biggest challenges you face working at Cask 88?
There is enormous demand for rare and old whisky, which is great for business, but it presents its own problems. When we have a busy month, the demand can greatly exceed supply; that means that there will not be enough to go around.
Who is your typical customer?
Of course, they’re all fans of rare and old whisky. Some are collectors seeking a vintage bottle; others may be looking to buy a cask of whisky to bottle for an event, or commemorate an occasion.
What has been the key to the success of Cask 88?
We provide an excellent and efficient service, build up trust and develop our reputation. Most importantly, we have developed great trading relationships. We intend to host more events and have a stronger brand presence on the ground. This year, we’ve started working with some amazing Scottish artists to produce beautiful packaging and branding for our independent bottlings, and we hope to do more of this in the future.