A START-UP company which helps whisky fans to buy their favourite malt by the cask is planning to open an office in the Far East after growing at a stellar rate in its first year.
Edinburgh-based Black Stag Trading – named after a beast that gored co-founder Alexander McGregor – was initially aimed at dram-lovers looking to personalise a cask for a special occasion.
But the service has also proved popular with investors looking for alternatives to stocks and shares, who are using the company as a brokerage to buy up casks and keep them in bonded warehouses owned by the distilleries.
Although casks start from around £1,000, the firm has bought up to £1 million worth at a time for wealthy investors.
The firm is primarily owned by former Robertson Group executive Stephen Brown, who brought in family friend McGregor in light of his City experience. The pair started out as the company’s only staff, but it now employs 14 people and is set to take on a further ten.
McGregor said the firm has received a flood of interest from Asia since it hired a PR firm to promote it internationally. He expects to open its first overseas office next year, probably in Hong Kong.
He estimates about 70 per cent of business is with those buying as an investment.
People are also buying a cask with the intention of having the whisky served at their own funeral. “People are buying casks for funerals, weddings and anniversaries,” he said. “It’s amazing that nobody else has done this before.”
When looking for a name for the firm, McGregor was reminded of the time he shot a magnificent stag and went to retrieve it, only to find the animal still had some fight in it. His arm was torn open by its huge antlers, and his ghillie treated the wound with whisky from his hip flask.
“I must admit I had a swig as well,” recalled McGregor, who was only 19 at the time.
With so much trade being done with investors, Black Stag is being run using Financial Conduct Authority guidelines, even though it is not regulated.
The company is even looking into the possibility of offering investment advice, although it does not currently do so.
However, McGregor is confident that a cask of whisky has at least one advantage over conventional investments. “If the market goes down, you can always drink it,” he said.
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