Cask are a vital part of the whisky making process and here at Shed Quarters we’ve had our highs and lows with our oaky friends. In recent years ‘finishing’ whisky – transferring the whisky to a different cask for a final period to pick up additional flavours – has become de rigueur, especially since changes to regulations in 2019 expanded the options available to spur innovation. So it seems high time that we asked James Angus, the roving and somewhat agitated reporter, to see what it’s all about…
By James Angus
Your man Ian Logan told a few people (I’ll be nice and call them people instead of stupid backward shit kickers who still wanted to argue against him) during a Facebook discussion that the current quality controls to produce new make whisky are unbelievably high and to essentially make bad whisky is pretty difficult. After it’s made it’s up to the casks.
I first remember seeing a cask finished whisky in the late 80s early 90s from Glenmorangie when they had a port cask bottle. Then fast forward to a time when I was legal to drink and cask finishes weren’t a thing.
Everything was bourbon or sherry cask maturation because that was just the done thing. Maybe the occasional rum cask if you were really adventurous.
Then one or two interesting things happened.
Balvenie did a double cask maturation. Yes the pioneers of MEH really did pioneer stuff. They did the double cask maturation.
Bruichladdich started to put Whisky in other casks like red wine. OMFG! (They have a huge cask programme, Additional cask evolution)
And from there it’s just gone chicken oriental in a short space of time.
One of smallest distilleries out there Edradour have a brilliant cask policy and has loads of different cask bottles and have done for ages. Deanston have a huge selection of different finishes all at reasonable prices and Billy Walker at Glenallachie must have bought half the casks that were on the market in order to revamp Glenallachie after he bought it with a selection of new cask edition bottles.
This wasn’t the norm of course but then with time little things started to appear.
Glenfiddich of all producers did something.
Aldi put three bottles for £20 each and made it very clear on the label that they were from certain casks and then slowly everyone is now doing it.
Indie bottlers such as Hyde and James Eadie are now finish their juice in a selection of casks. Our own Dan at Sipping Shed had an Aultmore in a refill sherry cask which lost 2/3 of the contents but it made a lovely sip as a result. Which also reflects the necessity of re-racking casks.
I’ll make it easier. Almost everyone is experimenting like a middle aged couple after reading the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy.
Now some out there are opposed (i have the urge to name names but this could result into a long drawn out slanging match) to these developments. I imagine that to them it takes away the absolute purity that they are after and how chicken used to like chicken.
A simpler time.
Any how how. Fuck their ideas.
What to expect from your cask finish…
Think cake but not a fruit cake.
Think a Vicky sponge. Jammy, vanilla etc. More-ish liquid. If a good film comes on and bottle is next to you move it away as you drink the lot too easily. See Waxhouse Linkwood and Rampur Asava.
Big thick heavy flavours with dark liquid.
Raisins, Figs, dark fruit. More powerful than heavy peated stuff and will happily induce blunt force trauma by knocking the blood out of your gums. See Kavalan.
Can be light, floral, easy going, toffee and sugar. Making it an ideal sugar substitute in your coffee. In the morning. In your dressing gown. See Clynelish and life is always better with Clynelish.
When done right it’s like Christmas fruit cake in a glass. It’s also substantially nicer than Christmas fruit cake because that stuff is shit. See the plethora of bottles available and pick one.
Nope. No idea.
So far I’ve found this to be a bitter sweet coffee-esq kind of flavour. Use it in an espresso martini. Like a fucking wanker. See a bastard hipster in Shoreditch.
Peated whisky cask
Gives a slightly peated edge to whisky unsurprisingly. Tried two versions. One great. One took a light whisky and made it limp with ashtray undertones. Do not see Scapa Glansa.
I like rum. Dark, molasses, heavy, unsubtle and with rum you can be a pirate. Everything is better when you’re a pirate! See lots of different Irish bottles as it seems to work well for them.
Yes there’s loads more information out there and there’s a long list of people who know a lot more than me. If in doubt ask one of them.