Cask strength whisky

Cask strength whisky

Ever ordered a single malt whisky and the bartender gives you a glass of water next to it with a pipette?   Well first of all your in a good bar and second your bartender knows you want to add some water to your whisky.  For all the whisky snobs out there … Yes sometimes you want to add water to your whisky.  This to lower the alcohol strength. If you order or bought a cask strength single malt whisky, you can drink it without adding water but you will definitely feel it go down, this because of the high alcohol strength that your whisky contains.  If you add a few drops of water the whisky and alcohol strength will dilute and will go down. Therefore you controle the alcohol strength of your whisky.  It will also (in some whiskies) opens the whisky and gives you more aromas and flavors to your whisky.  Cask strength whisky will have a alcohol content of at least 50%- 60% (sometimes even higher)  Cask strength whisky simply means: Whisky that is bottled directly from the cask that it matures in. 

So how much is enough water?

There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind. If you add too much water to your whisk(e)y, your whisk(e)y will be too thin and diluted too much.  1st tip: Always first drink your cask strength whisky neat so you can taste the complexities in the whisk(e)y and the flavors straight from the barrel. It can taste and be different from brand to brand and from batches or bottles.   2nd tip: Never put too much water in you cask strength whisk(e)y. Always start out with a few drops and then add more. If the alcohol strength is still too much for you add some more water and taste it again.  You don’t want to over-dilute your whisk(e)y! 3th tip: Always swirl your whisk(e)y when you add water to your glass. This so the whisk(e)y and the water will mix together. The whisk(e)y and alcohol strength needs to adjust to the added water and it will settle in your glass.  4th tip:  You’ll often see a cloudy haze to your whisk(e)y depending on the temperature of the bottle or if you add water to your glass. Don’t be alarmed! this is a good thing it means your whisk(e)y isn’t chill filtrated.  Read more about Chill filtration here 5ft Tip:  Please keep in mind you will use quality water when added to your whisk(e)y. If you live in an area with a high mineral content, don’t just add water from the tap, add filtered mineral water.  6th tip:  The temperature of your added filtered mineral water. If you live in a warm climate or where you add its summer, you maybe want to add some cooled mineral water so your cask strength whisk(e)y will be cooled as well.  But if its already cold you maybe want to keep a contained temperature of you whisk(e)y and want to add it at normal room temperature. This because if you drink your whisk(e)y too cold it will close its flavors and taste. if you drink it too warm it will evaporate your alcohol too much and the flavors will be affected as well. 

So why not all whisk(e)y at cask strength? 

Most bottled whisk(e)y is diluted with water to reduce its strength (i.e., ABV level) to a level that makes it less expensive to produce, more bottles for the distiller to fill and more palatable to most consumers. Usually the distillers will dilute the whisk(e)y to about 40% – 43% ABV, which is the statutory minimum in some countries. The degree of dilution significantly affects the flavor and general drinking experience of the whisk(e)y. Therefore a bottle of cask strength whisk(e)y will cost more than a normal bottle from the same brand or distillery.  Cask strength whisk(e)y is also non-chill filtered, a process that usually removes chemical compounds following maturation. That’s why cask strength whisk(e)y can go a bit cloudy, which is perfectly natural Whisky fact: “Cask strength whisky simply means: Whisk(e)y that is bottled directly from the cask that it matures in. ” Livingbythedram Whisky Blogger

We need more than Cask strength !

Cask strength is not the highest proof for a whisk(e)y. There are other even more methods to get a higher alcohol strength:  Still strength whiskies: Still-strength whisk(e)y is typically a higher proof. Pot still whiskies:  Whiskies produced by a pot still increases in strength with each distillation and is typically distilled to about 70% ABV. Spirits distilled in pots top out between 60 and 80 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) after multiple distillations. Column still whiskies:  Column stills are capable of producing much higher alcohol levels. A column still, also called a continuous still, patent still or Coffey still, is a variety of still consisting of two columns. Column stills can produce rectified spirit (95% ABV). Most distillers reduce the proof by adding water to the whiskies prior to casking it.
Column still at Purity Vodka / Photo Credit: Purity Vodka

What happens inside the barrel? 

The alcohol level tends to change somewhat during the aging process, depending on storage conditions. Scotch whisky is typically aged in used barrels, and due to the relatively cool climate in Scotland, the alcohol level typically stays the same or goes down during maturation. In contrast, American bourbon whiskey is produced using new barrels, and storage conditions in Kentucky and Tennessee where nearly all of it is produced allow the proof levels to rise during aging. Older whiskies will be lower in alcohol strength, this because of the angelshare (evaporation). But the alcohol strength will never be lower than 40% ABV. This because to for whisky to be called whisky legally, whisky needs to be at least 40% ABV. So master blenders and storage mangers needs to keep a good administration of the alcohol strength of the barrels they poses in their warehouses.   

Some cask strength whiskies to try


The Macallan Classic cut

Glengoyne cask strength

Laphroaig cask strength 

Highland Park Cask Strength

 Aberlour A’Bunadh

Glenfarclas 105

Arran Cask Strength

Glendronach Cask Strength

Tamdhu Batch Strength 

Kavalan Solist 

Tomatin Cask Strength

Lagavullin 12 years caskstrength

Redbreast 12 years CaskStrength

Benriach Cask Strength

Benromach cask strength

Springbank 12 years cask strength

Connemara Cask Strength

Kilchoman Original Cask Strength

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