Everything you need to know about single cask whisky
We love a good single cask here at the Club. But what exactly is a single cask? And what are the different types of single casks? First up, let’s cover what a single malt is before we get to the ins and outs of single casks.
What is single malt whisky?
Single malt is familiar territory to Club Members. ‘Single’ means that the whisky was created at one single distillery and ‘malt’ means that it was only made from malted barley.
Master Blenders skillfully bring together many different casks to make a whisky. And they can use many different types of casks for that release — think ex-Bourbon, Sherry and Port casks, just to name a few. But the opportunities are endless with many different cask types and ratios available at the Master Blender's disposal.
The majority of the whisky people drink around the world is the result of the incredible mastery and skill of the whisky maker — it’s the liquid collision of art and science that is the result of balancing whiskies of different styles, ages and cask types to achieve something beautiful.
Alright, that brings us to the topic at hand.
What is single cask whisky?
Single cask whisky is one that is decanted from one single cask. In this case, the distillery’s whisky profile is on full display. Single casks are usually selected for two reasons: they’re either an example of the distillery’s flavour profile at its ultimate best or they differs from the distillery’s usual house style.
That’s why only the absolute best whisky is chosen to be bottled as a single cask. Think of a single cask as showcasing the distillery’s finest work, it's the cream of their crop, their magnum opus if you will.
Some distilleries put down enough whisky to fill 10,000 casks a year but only release a handful of these as single casks.
This means single casks are very, very limited due to their rarity, the size of the cask and the portion whisked away by the angels (this refers to the amount of whisky that evaporates every year the whisky ages).
Even casks laid down side by side, at the same time and in the same type of wood, can vary and will never taste the same.
You’ll often spot a single cask by the wealth of information on the label including details such as the cask number, distillation and bottling dates, and often the bottles will be individually numbered.
Types of single cask whisky
Single cask whisky
The whisky spends its whole life in one cask, from the day the cask was filled to the day when the whisky is decanted from that cask, soaking up all the characteristics of the wood the cask’s made from.
Single finishing cask
The whisky matures in one cask and is then filled into a different cask before it’s decanted. Whisky makers do this to add new flavours and characteristics to the whisky.
Here’s a perfect example: our Loch Lomond Inchmurrin 2010 Madeira Single Cask was matured in traditional oak, and then it was transferred into Madeira. These casks were then bottled separately, so each whisky is from a single cask.
Re-racked single cask whisky
When those angels get too thirsty and when two casks are below half full (usually after a couple of decades maturing), the distillery re-racks two casks into one.
The benefits are twofold: it saves space in the bond store and slows down the angel’s share because there’s less head space in the cask and it allows the distillery to release the full amount of bottles from the cask once it's been decanted.
If you’re anything like us, all this talk of single casks makes us feel like a dram. And we know just the thing.
This November, we’re sending Members a bottle of Starward Pedro Ximénez Cask made exclusively for the Club. The Starward love continues! Get your hands on either our Starward Cognac Single Cask or our Starward Tawny Fortified Single Cask and you get a free Two-Fold (worth $79) this upcoming Whisky of the Month weekend (Nov 3–5).
Not a Member yet? Join Australia's home of the biggest local and international whisky exclusives free now!