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Tag: Whisky


Securing Liquid Gold: Safeguarding Whisky Casks in HMRC Bonded Warehouses.

By Darren Hughes (Head of Stock and Logistics at WIUK® and Speyside Bonded warehousing)

In the heart of Scotland, where the rolling hills are adorned with amber hues and the air carries the distinct aroma of peat, lies an invaluable treasure trove – whisky casks. These barrels, filled with liquid gold, are not only a testament to Scotland’s rich distilling heritage but also a significant economic asset. Stored in His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) bonded warehouses, the security of these whisky casks becomes paramount. WIUK ® delve into the measures taken to safeguard these precious barrels.

HMRC Bonded Warehouses: The First Line of Defence

HMRC bonded warehouses are high-security facilities designed to store goods that are subject to excise duties, such as alcohol. These warehouses play a crucial role in ensuring that taxes are paid on alcoholic beverages before they are released into the market. Whisky casks stored in these facilities benefit from the strict protocols and surveillance systems implemented to deter theft and maintain regulatory compliance.

Surveillance and Monitoring Systems: Keeping a Watchful Eye

State-of-the-art surveillance and monitoring systems are the backbone of whisky cask security. These systems employ a combination of CCTV cameras, motion sensors, and access control measures to monitor every corner of the warehouse. Any unauthorized access or suspicious activity triggers immediate alerts, allowing security personnel to respond swiftly and effectively.

Temperature and Humidity Controls: Preserving the Elixir

Whisky, a delicate spirit, matures best under specific conditions. HMRC bonded warehouses are equipped with advanced climate control systems to maintain stable temperatures and humidity levels. This not only ensures the quality of the whisky but also acts as an additional layer of security, as any attempt to tamper with these conditions would be detected promptly.

Inventory Tracking and Management: Every Cask Accounted For

Each whisky cask within the bonded warehouse is meticulously catalogued by a unique cask number and an AYS date and are tracked through a sophisticated inventory management system. This digital record-keeping enables warehouse managers to monitor the movement of each cask, making it nearly impossible for any cask to go missing without raising immediate alarms.

Physical Security Measures: Fortifying the Fortress

Beyond the digital realm, physical security measures are in place to safeguard the whisky casks. Fences, gates, and restricted access areas create a perimeter that is challenging to breach. Security personnel, trained to handle various situations, patrol the premises, ensuring a visible presence that acts as a deterrent against potential threats.

Opening a private account

Opening a private account at an HMRC bonded warehouse in Scotland involves a series of steps and considerations, as these facilities are primarily designed for businesses engaged in the import, export, and storage of goods, that hold a WOWGR licence, WIUK ® are working with several independent bonded warehouse that will open private accounts for our clients without the need of having a WOWGR licence or having a WOWGR licence.

Be prepared to provide necessary documentation when opening an account, like when purchasing a cask from WIUK ® you will need to provide personal identification, proof of address, and any business-related documents if applicable.

Clearly communicate the purpose of the private account and the type of goods (e.g., whisky casks) you intend to store.

Understand Costs and Fees:

Ensure compliance with all relevant regulations and legal requirements. HMRC bonded warehouses are subject to strict regulations, and adherence is crucial to avoid legal issues.

Security Measures:

Understand the security measures implemented by the warehouse to safeguard stored goods. This may include surveillance systems, access controls, and physical security measures.

Inventory Management:

Inquire about the inventory management system in place. A robust system ensures accurate tracking and management of stored goods.

Discuss Terms and Conditions:

Review and discuss the terms and conditions associated with opening a private account. Clarify any doubts regarding responsibilities, liabilities, and access to stored goods.

Visit the Warehouse:

WIUK® can arrange a visit to the warehouse to personally assess the facilities and discuss your needs with the management.

Storage and insurance fees:

Storage fees are typically charged based on the volume of whisky casks or pallets being stored and the duration of storage.
Warehouses may have different rates for short-term storage (e.g., a few months) versus long-term storage (several years).
Some warehouses offer tiered pricing based on the quantity of whisky being stored, with discounts for larger volumes.

Insurance fees cover the cost of insuring the stored whisky against various risks, such as theft, fire, natural disasters, and accidental damage.
Insurance fees are often calculated as a percentage of the declared value of the stored goods


WIUK® have spent over 2 years verting different bonded warehouse that provides transparent and detailed billing statements, outlining all charges associated with storage and insurance.

Regular communication with the warehouse regarding fees and any changes in rates is essential to avoid surprises.

WIUK® can arrange a visit to the warehouse to personally assess the facilities and discuss your needs with the management.

If you would like more information on which warehouses will open a private account, or you would like to discuss whisky cask ownership, please contact us at [email protected] or call 01343 610 224 to arrange a chat with one of our whisky experts.


UK-India FTA could double size of Scotch

The The CEO of Chivas Brothers has said the forthcoming UK-India trade deal could double the size of the Scotch whisky market in five years.
Chivas Brothers chairman and CEO Jean-Etienne Gourgues

“We have a duty of care to ensure our use of water is as efficient and responsible as possible.”

Ruth Piggin, SWA

Discussions over the UK and India’s forthcoming free trade agreement (FTA), which could remove the 150% import tax on whisky, are currently underway.

If approved, Chivas Brothers chairman and CEO Jean-Etienne Gourgues said the move could double the size of the Scotch whisky market in five years.

“More importantly in the long-term, there is a huge base of Indian whisky brands in the market, and that there is fantastic potential of innovation for prestige and luxury whiskies, where Scotch whisky is beautifully positioned,” he said.

Ballantine’s and Chivas Regal would be the focus for the business in India, with the first innovation to come from Ballantine’s Finest, followed by Chivas, and Royal Salute “down the road”, Gourgues explained. “We will really target more activities in the coming years for the two brands. The FTA will heavily support that.”

Last week, Pernod Ricard released its financial results for the first half of fiscal 2023, with organic sales up by 19%.


The firm’s Scotch whisky arm, Chivas Brothers, reported a 23% organic sales increase during the six-month period. Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, Royal Salute and The Glenlivet each experienced double-digit growth, with increases of 34%, 17%, 37% and 12% respectively.

Gourgues said the results were higher than pre-Covid levels, with “very broad-based growth”.

“It’s a good mix between mature markets, which are growing at 22% and emerging markets which are growing at 24%,” he said. “The quality of growth is very value driven, led by premiumisation, and the prestige part of the range is growing at 28%.”

The firm’s North American business saw a 6% sales increase. Gourgues said the US market is “normalising” after growing strongly over the last three years. “The US is growing at plus-6%, in line with the average growth of the market (3% to 5%), which is almost entirely value driven.”

Gourgues also highlighted a number of emerging markets for the business, including Brazil, which rose by 40%, and Mexico (up 21%).

He pointed to India – “the largest whisky market in the world, which is growing strong and has been plus-25%”.

Gourgues also cited Korea, where there is “real growth in the luxury part of the market”.

He added: “We have enjoyed very, very high growth of almost 60% to 90% in those markets.”

The Glenlivet has “historically been strong in the US, but is now growing at a very fast pace in Asia, in particular Taiwan and China,” he added.

The brand will celebrate its 200th birthday next year and Gourges hinted there will be several announcements planned for the coming year.

Gourgues also said the company is “globalising” the Aberlour whisky brand, citing markets such as the US and Asia.

Industry challenges

Scotland’s consultation on restricting alcohol advertising and promotion is also due to close on 9 March.

“I think the fundamentals are right, the desire to have responsible consumption, not to target young people, pregnant women, etc. I mean, it’s absolutely right.”

However, he warned that the consultation could deter the industry of two things.

“The first one is to support our local communities,” Gourgues explained. “We have distilleries in many villages and small cities, and we have been providing local support to them for decades. We wouldn’t be able to do that.

“And the second thing is investment in tourism in Scotland. In pre-Covid times, there have been around two million visitors coming to Scotland for the whisky trade. Other industry players are heavily invested in tourism facilities and brand homes. So this [proposal] will prevent us from advertising anything to foreign visitors.”

Gourgues noted that supply chain disruption has been the biggest challenge over the last year. He added: “The implication of the cost of the energy crisis and the necessity to move into very tangible action with short-term concrete results on the decarbonisation roadmap. These two elements are linked together.”

He also cited the “tremendous” cost of freight, which has impacted the company’s exports to markets such as the US, Southeast Asia, Australia and South Africa.

The firm is looking at how it can reduce the amount of energy it needs across its distilleries, including using MDR technology to lower energy by 50% to 80%.

Gourgues said the company will “fast track a number of initiatives” and aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2026.


Best Whisky Investment Management Specialists 2023

Whisky Investment UK® is an award-winning company dedicated to the wholesale of cask whisky. The firm is approved and licenced by HMRC to store both bulk and casked whisky in duty suspense at any approved Scottish warehouse. We speak to Darren Hughes to find out more about the appetite for this unusual investment as the firm celebrates success in the UK Enterprise Awards 2023.
Dear WIUK,
As you are aware, it has been a long journey from initially being nominated, undergoing the research and judging stages, and finally being recognized for an award. We are now at the stage where your award can be shared with the world.
I am happy to announce that we have gone live on the SME News website with this year’s winners of the UK Enterprise Awards 2023.
The official press release –


Kind regards,
The Awards Team

Whisky industry launches Water Stewardship Framework

The Scotch Whisky industry has launched its Water Stewardship Framework as part of wider sustainability commitments.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has published a Water Stewardship Framework, offering research-based guidance for the Scotch Whisky industry as it works to improve efficiency and make reductions in its water use across the production process.
Water is one of just three ingredients for making Scotch Whisky and is used extensively across the production and cleaning process. Distilleries’ water use varies greatly according to capacity and location, but all are committed to using water as responsibly as possible in line with the industry’s wider sustainability commitments. As part of its Sustainability Strategy launched in 2021, the SWA set a target range of 12.5 to 25 l/lpa (the amount of water used per litre of alcohol produced) by 2025, depending on distillery size and production.
The Framework focuses on three key areas: Responsible use, Engagement and Collaboration, and Advocacy. These three themes aim to provide SWA member companies with clear direction on how they can address water use and efficiency improvement in their operations, while incorporating wider collaboration and advocacy activities. The Framework encourages a collaborative industry approach to deliver on-the-ground improvement projects and influence future policy to ensure the protection and preservation of a vital resource. Previous data analysed by the SWA showed that water efficiency – measured in l/lpa – had improved by 22% since 2012. The SWA will continue to gather data from across the industry to re-benchmark progress and set ambitious targets to take the sector beyond compliance on water.
Ruth Piggin, Director of Industry Sustainability at the SWA said: “Water is a precious resource which is vital as both an ingredient for making Scotch Whisky and a tool in its production. The Water Stewardship Framework is an action-orientated commitment to the industry’s continued work to improve water management, and a serious acknowledgement of the importance of water to nature and the wider environment surrounding industry sites.

“We have a duty of care to ensure our use of water is as efficient and responsible as possible.”

Ruth Piggin, SWA

“The impact of the climate crisis is already being felt in Scotland’s water supply chain, and while distilleries manage this well, we understand that we have a duty of care to ensure our use of water is as efficient and responsible as possible. We’re committed to working closely with stakeholders including SEPA, government bodies and other relevant parties, to further improve the industry’s water stewardship.”

Nathan Critchlow-Watton, Head of Water and Planning at SEPA, said: “Scotland may be renowned for its rain but, as we’ve seen already this year, it can be extremely vulnerable to periods of prolonged, dry weather and with climate change these are expected to become more frequent in the years ahead.

“The businesses that thrive in the face of this challenge will be those that recognise the link between environmental and economic prosperity. They will work with SEPA and others in their industry to build resilience, reduce their water use and have a well-established plan for when we experience water scarcity. These actions will reduce the need for SEPA to impose restrictions on their business.

“It’s reassuring to see the whisky industry being proactive, taking their responsibility to help protect Scotland’s water environment seriously, and contributing to its long-term sustainability for all those who depend on it.”

Download the Water Stewardship Framework here



Win an 18-year-old bottle of Bowmore (Aston Martin) special edition from Islay


Whisky cask ownership is a great way to hedge against inflation and low interest rates
At Whisky investment UK, they advise that in this unsettled market, whisky does seem the safe bet. It naturally appreciates over time, and evidence can be found all over that purchasing the right cask, stored in the right conditions by a reputable wholesaler
(not a sales broker), can offer average returns per annum of 10% to 12%, with most cask returns ready to maximise within three to six years.

Click button below or image to the right to Win an 18-year-old bottle of Bowmore (Aston Martin) special edition from Islay worth over £300!

How to Purchase a Whisky Cask Safely


It is impossible to think of Scotland without thinking of Scotch Whisky. Its roots are firmly embedded in Scottish history and traditions but today it is drunk in the most stylish bars in the world’s biggest cities. For more than 500 years the Scots have successfully taken the natural ingredients which our country has been blessed with – barley, cool clear water, peat and pure clean air – to create the world’s leading international spirit drink.
Distilled in over 130 distilleries dotted around Scotland from the Northern Isles to the Borders it is exported to around 180 markets across the globe – an unrivalled reach for the product of any one country.
Scotch Whisky makes up more than a fifth of the UK’s food and drink exports and the value of annual exports has grown consistently for more than a decade. All of this creates considerable interest in investing in Scotch Whisky, driven by a desire to share in its success.

A personal investment opportunity?

Several companies promote individual ownership of a Scotch Whisky cask as worthwhile and potentially lucrative.
The Scotch Whisky Association is not able to offer advice on the purchase or sale of casks as an investment. Nevertheless, it believes that potential investors, to assess these opportunities, should understand something of the structure and operating methods of the industry.

Scotch Whisky and its market

World exports of Scotch Whisky are currently worth more than £4.9 billion. The majority is used to produce Blended Scotch Whiskies which can contain spirit from many different distilleries.
To meet this demand, Scotch Whisky blenders, who need whiskies aged for different lengths of time, contract with individual distilleries for the supply of the spirit that they require, laying down their stocks several years in advance. This enables Scotch Whisky distilleries to plan and maintain production at appropriate levels.

As a result, there is no regulated market for mature or maturing casks of Scotch Whisky, no officially published list of buying and selling prices for casks from different distilleries or at different ages and no established mechanism for selling. Scotch Whisky casks are not a regularly traded commodity on an open market. It is traded within the industry, sometimes through Scotch Whisky brokers, but primarily by contract between blenders and distillers who will sometimes exchange casks with no money changing hands.

It is possible, subject to availability and willingness, to purchase casks of Scotch Whisky, either newly distilled or maturing, from distillers for personal use. Casks are sometimes also purchased from time to time as a form of speculation with the intention of re-selling them at a profit.

However, it must be emphasised that only a tiny proportion of the total amount of Scotch Whisky produced in Scotland is bought and sold in this way.

Therefore, any investment in a cask made by an individual with a view to selling it on at a profit must be made based on their personal assessment of the risk and the value of the investment to them.

The promotion of investment opportunities

Opportunities to invest in casks have been promoted by several companies both in and outside the Scotch Whisky industry. Sometimes these have included indications of the return that the investors might hope to make.

Scotch Whisky casks however are no different from other commodities, whose values rise and fall according to supply and demand. The only certainty about owning a cask is that it will lose 2% of its contents through evaporation each year. This is something to keep an eye on during a long period of maturation because Scotch Whisky must be bottled at a minimum strength of 40% alcohol by volume.

Warehousing your cask

You are highly likely to be charged for storage and insurance for the time the cask is in the warehouse. There may also be charges if your cask requires to be moved or its contents measured to check, for example, its alcoholic strength. Movement of the cask under bond is strictly controlled and can only be carried out by authorised operators.

Bottling your cask

You will need to factor in the cost of bottling. (Single Malt Scotch Whisky must only be bottled in Scotland.) If a private owner decides to bottle their cask, excise duty will normally be due when the bottles are dispatched to the owner. The duty due will be based on the rate of duty applicable at that point and not when the cask was purchased. Thus, the purchase price of the cask is only the initial outlay.

In 2020 the rate of duty in the UK is £28.74 per litre of pure alcohol to which value added tax at 20% must be added. This will require a further outlay of several thousand pounds on the average cask.
Finally bear in mind that most bottlers are set up to bottle large volumes of spirits and it may take some effort to find one who is willing to bottle a single cask.

Other things to consider

If you decide to make a personal investment in a Scotch Whisky cask you should consider taking the following steps:

  • Clearly identify the whisky on offer. Any company offering Scotch Whisky for sale should be able to confirm whether it is a Scotch Malt Whisky or Scotch Grain Whisky, the name of the distillery where it was produced, the year of distillation and a cask reference number.
  • Check that the offer price is realistic by contacting the distillery or company whose whisky it is or speak to an established whisky broker or specialist auction house.
  • Also check any claimed return with an established whisky broker, but even then, you should treat this with caution as the figure for which your cask might be sold depends on many variable factors.
  • Most distillery names are trademarked and sometimes there will be a contractual limitation on the use of the name should you sell or bottle your cask. Before purchasing, you should check whether any conditions apply, particularly if you are not purchasing directly from the distillery.
  • Consider whether there are any limitations on how you can dispose of your cask. Some sellers may include, for example, a contractual term that it may only be bottled for personal consumption at their premises.

Other things to consider (continued)

  • By law, Scotch Whisky may only be matured in an Excise Warehouse in Scotland which has been verified by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Therefore, you should check the location of your cask before going ahead with the purchase. You can check to see if a facility has been verified on the HMRC website here: https://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/sdvlookup/index
  • Insist upon receiving a receipt for the purchase price and a copy of the contract of sale which should:
  1. Provide a full description of the whisky purchased i.e. type, distillery, and year of distillation;
  2. Identify the cask purchased and the cask number, the type of cask (ex-Bourbon, ex Sherry etc.) and the volume of the contents;
  3. Identify the warehouse in which the casks are stored and the warehouse keeper; and
  4. Explain the costs connected to the storage of your cask.
  5. Your contract of sale represents your legal title and is proof of ownership of your cask.
  • Check that your insurance is adequate for your needs. Does the insurance cover, for example, loss of spirit because of a leaking cask?
  • If the cask is in a warehouse that belongs to someone other than the seller, you should ensure that the transfer of ownership is properly recorded and acknowledged by the warehouse keeper.
  • Traditionally this was done by way of a delivery order, a document setting out the details of the cask to be transferred, signed by purchaser and seller and then delivered to the warehousekeeper. Nowadays an invoice or owner’s certificate may suffice. Before completing the purchase you should check with the warehouse keeper what documents they require and ensure that the seller can deliver them to you.
  • As the owner of a cask stored in an excise warehouse, you should satisfy yourself that the warehouse and warehousekeeper are approved by HMRC. This also includes ensuring that the warehousekeeper is registered with HMRC under the Warehousekeepers and Owners of Warehoused Goods Regulations 1999 (‘WOWGR’). You might also be required to register with HMRC and obtain a WOWGR approval if you are deemed to be a ‘Revenue Trader’ . Further information can be found in HMRC’s Excise Notice 196 (in particular, section 5).
  • Be aware that as well as reducing in volume, the contents of your cask will reduce in strength over time. It important that you monitor the strength of your cask, particularly if you are maturing it for a long time because if the strength falls below 40% abv, you will no longer be able to bottle it as Scotch Whisky.


When purchasing a cask, you should be aware of the special nature of the trade in Scotch Whisky and the costs involved.

Investors should recognise that there are risks involved, both as regards the potential value of their investment and the opportunities to sell it on.

Nevertheless, purchasing a cask for your own personal use can give you immense pleasure and enable you to create a unique Scotch Whisky to your own specifications.


‘Forgotten’ cask of whisky expected to set world record price

The Macallan 1988 is being sold by Whisky Hammer.

A rare “forgotten” cask of whisky, bought for £5,000 more than 30 years ago, is expected to set a world record when it is sold in an online auction.

The 374-litre cask, originally filled on May 5 1988, has been held in bond at the Macallan Distillery in Moray for almost 34 years.

The whisky is being sold in an online auction

It was bought on a whim by an expat who then forgot about it for more than three decades until they were reminded by Macallan that it was still maturing in the warehouse.

Bids for the rare cask have already reached 170,000 dollars (£130,000) since the auction went live at 7pm on Friday and are expected to soar before the sale on the Whisky Hammer site ends on Sunday.

The Macallan Distillery in Moray

It is expected to break the record set in 2021 by Bonhams for the sale of a 30-year-old re-racked Sherry hogshead from Macallan, which fetched 574,000 dollars (£439,000).

This is, without doubt, one of the most exciting casks we’ve seen come to auction in recent years

Daniel Milne, Whisky Hammer

Daniel Milne, co-founder and managing director of Whisky Hammer, said: “Casks of this age and size are extremely rare, especially from The Macallan.

“This is, without doubt, one of the most exciting casks we’ve seen come to auction in recent years and we expect it to set a new world record by the time the auction closes on Sunday.”

If bottled today, the cask would yield 534 70cl bottles.

The Whisky Hammer April auction, which includes more than 2,000 lots, is live until 7pm on Sunday.

Whisky Hammer is a family-run auction service founded by brothers Daniel and Craig Milne.


Whisky on the table as Boris Johnson heads to New Delhi

Leading Scotch maker Chivas Brothers wants to double exports to India if New Delhi eliminates whisky tariffs, a top UK demand in bilateral trade talks ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to India this week.

India is the world’s largest whisky market and the second-largest Scotch export market by volume. But the industry blames 150 per cent tariffs on imported liquor for holding back growth in the country of 1.4bn people.

Levies on whisky makers have become a sore point in UK-India trade relations and a core issue in trade talks that began earlier this year.

Johnson will travel to India this week and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he looks to advance the negotiations and broaden security co-operation in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Jean-Etienne Gourgues, chair of Chivas Brothers, part of France’s Pernod Ricard group, told the Financial Times that “the odds have never been so high” that a trade deal would be reached

Most Indian whisky is locally produced and high levies on imported liquor are an important source of revenue for Indian authorities

Scotch “is a very small portion of all the whiskies which are being enjoyed [in India]”, he said. “The midterm target would be to at least double the size of the market. And with the size of the population of the middle class, I’ve seen the appetite is extremely high. It should become one of the top markets.”

Trade between the UK and India was worth £18.5bn in 2020 but has stagnated over the past decade. By comparison trade between the UK and Belgium in the same year was £38bn.

India accounts for 1.2 per cent of British exports — it is the UK’s 21st-biggest export market — and UK companies sell more to countries including Singapore, Sweden and Norway.

London and New Delhi last year agreed a UK-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership to boost investment and jobs as part of a plan to double trade by 2030. But analysts remain sceptical that a long-mooted free trade deal could be finalised in time for general elections in both countries in 2024.

New Delhi’s longstanding demand for easier access to British visas for Indian students and skilled workers has also proved politically contentious in the UK.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK trade secretary, has said that “everything is on the table” as the countries look to finalise a deal.

Sam Lowe, director of trade at Flint Global, said the UK had already given India “a lot of what they want” on immigration after Brexit and that a trade deal was possible.

The removal of the so-called Tier 2 cap on skilled workers in December 2020 and the UK’s decision to put Indian workers on the same footing as their EU counterparts was crucial.

But India is expected to push for greater access, to the discomfort of some Conservative MPs and immigration hawks in the Home Office.

“Boris Johnson could do this, but it would involve a bit of a fight with the Home Office,” Lowe said, adding that any trade deal between India and the UK might initially be “quite shallow”.

But Lowe said the politics “were not in the right place” for an early and ambitious agreement, given New Delhi’s refusal to criticise Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Indian authorities have long been wary of opening up domestic industry with free trade deals but the country recently signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates and an interim deal with Australia. Most whisky consumed in India is produced locally and high levies on imported liquor are an important source of revenue. But the country has also long taken an antagonistic view of the alcohol industry, with outright prohibition imposed in several states. The Scotch Whisky Association said it hoped the two countries could reach an interim “early harvest” agreement ahead of a full trade deal.


Drinks firm plans carbon-neutral distillery after gaining new investor

A drinks firm is planning to build a new carbon-neutral, whisky distillery after winning a major new investment.

Edinburgh-based, specialist, consumer-brand investor Inverleith LLP has just secured a majority stake in the Eden Mill St Andrews craft gin and Scotch whisky company.

The drinks firm plans to build a new whisky distillery in St Andrews, with founder and managing director, Paul Miller, describing it as a “really exciting moment” for the business.

He stated: “Having secured Inverleith LLP as the majority investor into the business, we will be able to realise our distillery ambition and unlock the potential of Eden Mill St Andrews as a premium, craft gin and premium, single malt, scotch whisky here in the UK and overseas.

Eden Mill founder Paul Miller said it was an exciting time for the firm.

“With their consumer-strategic-brand and commercial expertise, I  am confident that we have found the right partner to drive and support the next and most significant stage of the Eden Mill journey.”

Eden Mill, which was founded by Mr Miller and Tony Kelly in 2012, hopes to open the new distillery in late 2022.

Meanwhile, the investment will also enable the company to expand its distribution in the UK and internationally.


Paul Skipworth, managing partner at Inverleith LLP, hailed the deal as a “fantastic addition to Inverleith’s portfolio of premium, consumer brands.

He said: “Eden Mill St Andrews has one of the most exciting futures within premium gin and whisky and we are delighted to be supporting the realisation of its vision.

“As a team, we have a long heritage in the development of premium spirits, both operationally and as investors, and we believe we will be a strong partner for Paul Miller and the wider Eden Mill team over the coming years.

“We admire the work that Eden Mill has done to date in developing high quality, great-tasting gins and scotch whiskies and we look forward to helping the brand and its products achieve international success.”

Paul Skipworth


Scotch whisky on the table in trade talks with India

  • Trade talks between the UK and India are now under way, with Scotch whisky on the table as one product with huge potential gains.
  • Experience of failed talks with the EU point to many obstacles to cracking the world’s biggest whisky market, going beyond the 150% tariff.
  • Scotch is only one product among many that Britain wants to export more, including finance and cars, but the compromises required with India’s demands could be difficult for the UK Government.

A bottle of Scotch whisky arriving in the port of Mumbai faces a colossal 150% import tariff, yet it hasn’t stopped Indians from being enthusiastic drinkers of a dram.

India is the world’s biggest market for whisky, most of it termed “Indian-made foreign liquor”. The big brands sound more Speyside than sub-continental: McDowell’s, Royal Stag, Bagpiper, Peter Scot.

Domestic distillers have lobbied fiercely and successfully to limit Scotch imports. If the bottle is sold in Mumbai or elsewhere in the state of Maharashtra, it used to carry a further 300% tariff, though that was recently halved.

Among other parts of the Indian union, some don’t allow alcohol sales at all, except to those who know how to get round the rules.

Scotch makes up only 2% of India’s market. Yet the value of Scotch whisky sales to India has risen from below £60m in 2011 to more than £150m in 2019. That has been on the soaring growth of the economy and the country’s burgeoning middle class, with its drouth for prestige international products and brands.

By volume, last year saw India become the third biggest market for Scotch. But as 60% of that is in bulk, for bottling in India or for blending with local spirits, that is lower value Scotch than exported to other markets.

Unpredictable rules

So imagine what could be sold with lower tariffs. There’s a big prize from getting them removed, or at least slashed. And that puts whisky firmly on the table of the talks, which began this week, aimed at a free trade agreement between the UK and India.

Oxford Economics doesn’t imagine what could be sold: it models it. Commissioned by the Scotch Whisky Association, it assumes that the import tariffs come down to around 25%.

With that, it estimates £1.2bn more exports within five years, and that could generate 1,300 jobs in the UK.

And part of the pitch to the Indian government is that such trade liberalisation would only take Scotch from 2% to to around 6% of the nation’s consumption, while boosting Delhi’s government revenues by more than £3bn. That way, everyone wins.

But trade liberalisation isn’t that simple, particularly in India. One of the first problems is getting to an agreement on the valuation of an import consignment before it even leaves the port. That can take a very long time, and a free trade deal would have to simplify that process.

The application of rules can be, let’s say, unpredictable. One key part of any free trade deal would be a court of arbitration. But as Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy found (it recently rebranded as Capricorn), such existing international rules on investment can get stuck in Indian bureaucracy and legal obstacles.

Having developed the country’s biggest oil field and sold its stake, Cairn’s attempts to reclaim at least $1bn owed by the Delhi tax authorities only began to make progress after it started action to seize the government’s overseas assets.

Lost empire

After leaving the port, imports of whisky into India then hit 30 different markets, across India’s states, requiring different labelling, with different duty and retail rules. Some states have a government monopoly in retailing alcohol, which is open to abuse by those in power.

Those in the distilling industry who have been trying to break down the barriers to trade have low expectations of those internal trade barriers being removed under a deal between the UK government and the federal trade ministry in Delhi.

A deal between national governments would be a big breakthrough, but just the start of a new chapter in trying to crack this market.

After 10 years of the European Union trying, but failing, to get a free trade deal, in which Scotch whisky also played a prominent part, there is some optimism that the mood in India has shifted.

A crucial part of that is that the domestic distilling industry now has more international ownership.

The flamboyant businessman Vijay Mallya, who bought Scotch distiller Whyte & Mackay to add to India’s biggest distiller, United Spirits – along with his empire of brewing, a large airline, premier league cricket, a Formula 1 team and a seat in India’s parliament – is out of the picture now. Living in London, the sun has set on his empire, and he is fighting extradition to his homeland to face charges of money laundering on a vast scale.

Much of United Distillers is now owned by Diageo, the London-headquartered global drinks giant which happens also to own around 40% of Scotch production.

So it is now a big player in Indian distilling and in Scotch, plus gin, tequila, rum and Guinness, which it would dearly love to get into the Indian market. By no coincidence, Indian distillers seem to be putting up less lobbying resistance to imports of Scotch.

Skills and flair

So could this now be the breakthrough for Scotch into the world’s biggest whisky market?

The UK government, with a new-ish trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, is eager to show progress post-Brexit on reaching beyond European trade to “Global Britain”. There isn’t much prospect of a breakthrough deal anywhere else.

Whitehall brings inexperience to the table, while India’s trade negotiators have lots of experience, much of it in refusing to compromise due to domestic politics and an under-current of belief that India can be self-sufficient.

The trade talks are likely also to feature the desire of Britain’s financial sector to get into the Indian market, to which it currently exports only a 10th of its sales to Japan.

That would require dismantling of massively complex regulatory barriers.

Its lead trade body, CityUK, wants to see fewer restrictions on data flows, and visas for British nationals to work at least temporarily in India. Having seen Cairn Energy and others snared, it is also seeking protection for investments.

The car industry, including Indian-owned Jaguar Land Rover, wants to get access to wealthy customers on the sub-continent.

And India has its own negotiating priorities, starting with much lower barriers for its professionals to work in the UK.

Its view of world trade is the projection of the power of the Indian diaspora – a huge English-speaking pool of technical skills and entrepreneurial flair.

But welcoming many more Indians into Britain could be seen as running counter to the spirit of Brexit, which was to keep foreign workers out.

That would be a tricky political compromise for the UK government to sell to its supporters. It’s one that the Home Secretary, Priti Patel – herself a daughter of that Indian diaspora – is reported to be firmly against.