What is the difference?
Cask strength whisky is named so because it is bottled directly from the cask, no diluting, filtering or watering down. Simply, a tap is inserted into the cask and it pours directly into the bottle. The result of this is a much stronger and some would say purer whisky. You can expect cask strength whisky to be a lot stronger than regular bottlings. Typically with 55-60% alcohol content.
On the other hand, there is the far more common bottle strength whisky which has a huge range of alcoholic content from a mere 35% to 50% and possibly even more. It is for this reason that bottle strength whisky is the most common of the two. The reason why the alcoholic content is lower is because, prior to distribution, the whisky is polymerised with distilled water.
Why cask strength whisky is better.
Bottling whiskies straight from the cask is a practice usually reserved for the most premium whiskies. This is because it is more expensive for both the bottler. As the product is more concentrated, the distiller’s can obtain fewer bottles from each cask. To counteract their loss, cask strength bottles sell for a much higher price. Some cask strengths are almost double the price of the regular edition!
There is an upside however, cask strength whiskies are often more economical as you get more actual whisky and less water. In addition, buying a whisky at cask strength allows the drinker to play the ‘blender’ themselves by controlling the amount of water that is added to each glass.
As a side note, cask strength whisky bottles usually have much cooler branding than their regular alternatives. Just look at the difference between the Douglas Laing Scallywag whiskies.
How to drink cask strength whisky
To repeat myself, you (the consumer) has the ability to add any amount of water you would like instead of having this pre-done by the distiller. If you do ever get the pleasure of tasting cask strength whisky, make sure that you know what to expect. The experience will be full of flavour but also a lot stronger than what you are used to. Unless you are making a habit of drinking cask strength, in which case I’ll tip my hat to you sir! Essentially, you are buying whole, fresh spices rather than a pre-blended supermarket mix so proceed with caution.
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