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Issue 58 - Beware bargain barrels

Whisky Magazine Issue 58
August 2006


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Beware bargain barrels

Just when you thought you'd heard the end of whisky investment scams, Ian Buxton says the true story will be in the drinking

Iwas reminded of this old adage when browsing around eBay recently. There I saw what looked like a real bargain – a hogshead of 10 year old single malt starting at offers of more than £200!

Out came the calculator. Assuming normal evaporation, that should be enough whisky for 36 cases of 12 bottles at 40% abv.

Bottling will cost around £30 per case for a small run like this, even allowing for a nice bottle and handsome label.

Surely one of my friends in the trade could be persuaded to retail this at, say, £25 a bottle? “Buxton's Specially Selected Mystery Malt” – it had a ring to it. I had to find out more so I contacted the seller.

A curious tale emerged. The owner of the whisky worked in IT and had bought the cask in 1995 – a victim of one of the dodgy investment scams that were around back then. He paid £1,145 for the new fillings, believing he'd see annual returns of around 20 per cent. Even today as a private individual you can buy 200 litres of new made Islay single malt in a fresh bourbon barrel for £775 so you can see why this particular scam attracted the interest of the boys in blue. During the decade his cask had cost him another £200 or so in warehouse rents and insurance.

But, he wasn't actually the victim.

Fortunately, he'd paid by credit card and the bank had reimbursed him the capital cost so any advance on £200 would represent a return for this “investor.” He told me the whisky was Tobermory, but didn't have the faintest idea about...

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