What makes a good single cask whisky?

What makes a good single cask whisky?

Cask 88 is the home of rare and old whisky and we not only appreciate, but truly honour, the fact that every whisky has its own unique story. In this case, we aren’t referring to the wonderfully deep and rich history that each region or distillery has to offer, but the very particular aspects that make each individual cask special. Not every whisky is rare or old, but every whisky is unique, no two barrels or casks produce the same spirit. A newly distilled liquid can be divided and poured into two casks that were at the same time, potentially from the same wood from the same oak tree and yet each cask will create a uniquely distinct scotch whisky after the minimum *3-year period. If this liquid is allowed to continue to rest and mature, the potential difference between them increases over time, creating infinite possibilities.

It is with this infinitely complex environment that we seek out the truly remarkable – a single cask of whisky.

Single Malt or Single Cask?

Something commonly misunderstood is the difference between a single malt and a single cask whisky. To clarify:

Single malt

A single malt whisky is defined as a whisky that was created by a particular distillery and its stills and, unless otherwise stated, is likely to be made up of a number of different casks to achieve a particular flavour and colour profile. The age statement of these kinds of blended whisky is a reflection of the youngest cask used, but may include selections from a range of different ages or barrel types to achieve the desired result. These releases often create large quantities with their cask strength reduced to somewhere between 40-46% ABV. Some ambiguity can arise in that some of these distillery bottlings may have come from the blended mix being given a final maturation in one cask, which gives the impression that the whisky is now a “single cask”. This is not the case!

Single cask

A single cask whisky is just that – a whisky that comes from just one cask and is not blended with any other spirit. As the contents of just one cask, numbers are naturally limited by the size of the cask. Releases are almost always bottled at cask strength and are not reduced or chill filtered, which means whisky is sold in what most collectors would agree is its purest form. Bottles are individually numbered, and labels record the specific cask details, along with the cask strength, which is significantly higher than that of a blended and reduced whisky. Casks are originally filled at around 63.5% ABV, as it is commonly believed that this is the ideal strength for the whisky to interact with the cask. The longer the whisky is matured the greater the interaction. As the years pass, the strength will diminish as the cask loses some of its contents to the wood, and to evaporation, a percentage that the industry lovingly refers to a “the angels share”.

The enigma – What makes a good single cask whisky?

In truth, it is the desire to answer this very question that drives the increasing interest and demand in single cask bottling.

You can select a region, a distillery and even a particular year, but due to the almost infinite combination of factors, from the original ingredients and water sourced, the unique character of the wood and seasoning of the cask, to the location in the warehouse and the weather, you can never truly know what the whisky will taste like.

The result is that, if you are drinking a single cask whisky, you know that you are experiencing a truly unique spirit that has been a lifetime in its making. When you buy a bottle from a single cask, you are not just buying the liquid the bottle holds, but the result of all of those different factors coming together to create something unique – a whisky that is truly inimitable.

Buy a bottle of Single cask Whisky today

The cask 88 bottle shop has number of bottles of single cask whisky, we suggest the following:

Ardbeg 1974, #107/133

Tomintoul 1973, 30 Year Old

Or if you are looking to purchase a ready-made collection of single cask bottles then you need to check out:

Golden Decanters Collection

So, if you are as much of a fan of Single Cask Whisky as we are here at Cask 88, you should be able to find that perfect bottle.

Fancy more than a bottle? Buy a cask?


If you are planning to become the ultimate fan and purchase your very own cask, then talk to us today.



*3-year period is the minimum time that spirit should mature in a bonded warehouse in Scotland for it to be legally classified as scotch.

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