Ever since I developed my interest in Irish whiskey I’ve always thought about how one day I’d like to purchase a cask. There is something very romantic in my eyes, about having your own cask sitting in a warehouse, slowly extracting all those wonderful flavours. Life will go on at a frantic pace outside the warehouse but inside all is calm and the magic is happening.
I started to research the possibility of purchasing one early last year and I learned that some newly formed distilleries offer the chance from day one to be part of their journey and become a cask owner but at multiples of thousand of Euro my dreams of ownership were slipping away. While I understood they weren’t going to be cheap I was a little shocked at the prices being quoted as they were ranging from €3,000-€10,000. I quickly learned that if this was going to happen then I was going to have to share the dream with someone else.
Unlock phone, contacts, enter name, its ringing….. ‘Hi Dad, eh, I was thinking of buying a cask of whiskey, would you like to share it with me?. Now I was fully expecting to be told off but was pleasantly surprised when I was told ‘Go do some research and come back to me’.
I started to look around in more detail at the options out there for purchasing. Who is selling? What price? What type of distillate are they offering? What cask type is it going in to? Terms and conditions surely apply, I thought!
I did my research and I compiled a list of those who were offering cask programmes. I did my cost spreadsheet which looked at price of cask and it’s potential return. I looked into the type of distillate that was being offered and the varying cask types that were being used and having factored all this into account a decision was made: step forward The Echlinville Distillery
The Patrons Promise Private Reserve was the name of the Echlinville cask programme, a programme which I understand has since finished. What appealed to me about this particular programme was the wide variety of cask sizes on offer. They had everything from re-worked ex bourbon 60L cask right up to and ex sherry butt 500L cask and several options in between and you had a choice of filling your cask with either their Pot Still or Single Malt distillate. I made a call to the distillery and spoke with a man called Jarlath who ran through all the necessary information with me and having had this conversation I was full sure that this was the best option for us.
I sat down my with father and we came to decision that since it was out first cask purchase we wouldn’t go to mad. The option was there to purchase one of the 60L casks and that’s what we decided to do. Another call was had with Jarlath and the decision was made to fill our cask with their Pot Still distillate. Jarlath was so confident that this was the right liquid that he was filling a cask for himself as well, that was good enough for us!
The price of the cask was coming in at £1,330 and if pre-paid then future bottling and labelling was set at £300. A total cost therefore of £1,630 for a cask which was expected to yield between 100 to 120 bottles. This of course is not an exact science and the actual amount won’t be known until the day we fill them when factors like evaporation or ‘The angels share’ will be realised.
A date was set for us to visit the distillery, see our cask and return the necessary paperwork. My father and I set off for the County Down coastline at 07:30 and little did we know the amazing day we had ahead ourselves. We snaked our way through beautiful County Down with the wonderful Strangford Lough on view and through such picturesque towns like Comber, famous for it’s whiskey in the past and who knows, maybe the future?
We arrived at the distillery around 10:00 and were greeted by Ann-Marie who showed us into the boardroom of the distillery where Jarlath awaited us and where we would sit for the next four hours eating freshly made scones with jam and cream, drinking coffee and of course, tasting the Echlinville range which unfortunately I couldn’t partake in as I was driving! Must plan that better next time!! What were we doing for four hours I hear you ask? We chatted and about everything and anything! Up for discussion was politics, Brexit, whiskey, football, motorbikes, cars, current plans for the distillery, future plans for the distillery but the one topic that really got my attention was how Echlinville is one big family. I think it’s a safe to say that there isn’t any another distillery out there where so many family members, friends and locals are involved. Jarlath explained who was who and how they have tried their hardest to keep everything local and to date it’s working and long may it continue.
We were delighted when distillery owner Shane popped in for a chat and his local knowledge and passion for the whole project, along with that of Jarlath’s and all at the distillery, was evident. Having realised that time was getting the better of us we left the board room for a tour of the distillery. Jarlath was a most excellent guide and went into great detail regarding the distillation process etc which my father was fascinated by, given his engineering background. We saw how hands on it is for everyone at a distillery the size of Echilinville and that it really is one collective effort.
Having completed the tour and the necessary paperwork it was time to go and see the cask! Since first deciding to buy the cask my father and I thought it might be nice to get more of the family involved and up stepped my brother and brother-in-law and as a result of this the cask became the O’Connell & White Cask No.1222
As part of the agreement our cask will now rest in Echlinville for a minimum of five years, when we can then decide to bottle it or continue allowing it to mature and develop for a longer period. We get to ‘visit it’ and check on how it’s doing and if and when we do that, I’ll have someone else do the driving!
All in all the whole process was a fantastic journey and I can now say that I own my own cask of Irish Whiskey!
I’d like to thank Ann-Marie, Jarlath, Shane and all the crew at Echlinville for being so welcoming.
Now…… who else has cask programmes???
Hope you enjoyed reading.