The Cask is Whisky Maturation
Anyone interested in whisky production will be aware of the whole host of variables that go into making a fine Scottish whisky, and their importance. Most distilleries have tours where they will guide you through their own particular process, from the source of the water and the barley, usually from a local source that has been used for years, to their specific techniques of malting, distillation and finally racking. To many people, the process may seem like it has finished, but to those in the know, it has only just begun.
Most, but by no means all, distilleries’ first choice of cask type is American Oak that has been used once in the creation of bourbon whisky. For a new make to be officially recognised as Scotch whisky, it must, by law, have matured in a cask in Scotland for at least 3 years. Once it has achieved this status, maturation can be considered to have started.
Many whiskies will continue to sit in their original cask for years, silently developing and maturing, with occasional checks to make sure they are progressing as expected. Finally, when the time is right, they will be drained and the whisky bottled, at which point the maturation will stop.
For others, the journey has only just begun. Master distillers working with their expert teams will carefully select a new cask for the whisky, but the cask itself may have its own detailed history. The choice of which of these casks to use is a responsibility that lies with a few highly skilled distillery managers, who draw on years of experience and skill.
Choice of Cask
The choices made by the distillery manager, on which cask to use for what whisky, can include, but are not limited to:
Previous contents – casks may have been home to Sherry, Port, Wine – in fact, any drink where casks are used to store and mature liquid. Each type affects the whisky in very different ways, for example, ex-Sherry cask imparts a reddish colour and sweetness to a whisky.
Shape and Size – usually defined by what they previously held, casks come in a range of sizes and shapes that include Hogshead, Octaves, Pipe, butt – in fact, we came across a wonderful exhibit in Glengoyne Distillery whilst visiting with clients that illustrate this perfectly, see below:
Wood type most casks are made of oak, with American Oak being used to created bourbon barrels, whilst European Oak is used heavily in the wine and sherry industry across Europe. The different oaks impart very different flavours and characteristics to the whisky in the cask.
By using this understanding to choose a cask that combines these various factors you can create the very best and truly unique whisky because as an owner of a cask those choices are yours.
Your Cask, Your Way.
Owning a cask is every whisky lover’s dream. It’s your opportunity to purchase an entire cask of whisky from the distillery you love. Cask 88 has dealt with casks with fill dates ranging from 1964 to 1997, and everything in between. Whether you’re looking for Macallan, Bunnahabhain, Glenlivet, or Dalmore, we offer casks from over 40 distilleries across all major regions.
Cask 88 helps its customers to fully appreciate every aspect of cask ownership and this includes the ability to re-cask and alter the journey that your whisky is on. If you have a cask of whisky from a well know distillery, you are not restricted by its recognised flavour profile, you can choose to make it truly unique and make it reflect your choices, not its original distillery.
Cask 88 has been great at recommending different options given the parameters that I gave them. I love whisky; For me this will be something to share with friends and family for years to come.
Christian Vandendorpe / Tech Project Manager in Amsterdam
If you are interested in knowing more about cask ownership and what that means, to the choices you have over the destiny of what would be your whisky, talk to us today.