Question: What exactly is single cask whisky?

Answer: A single cask whisky is the ultimate in whisky purity and exclusivity. It is the product of just one cask, holding just one whisky, resulting in a once off, extremely limited in number, never to be repeated bottling. It is that solitary, lonesome, single – oh-so-single-and-oh-so-proud of it – cask of whisky that has been sitting in a warehouse maturing for years and years, just waiting for the right person to find and appreciate it. So, where a blended whisky (eg. a Johnnie Walker) is a mix of casks from multiple distilleries, and a single malt whisky (eg. The Glenlivet) is a mix of casks from a single distillery; a single cask is just that one solitary cask that has not been touched by whisky from any other cask from anywhere.

Did you know? Whatever was in that one barrel that produced the single cask whisky you’re looking it, well, that’s it. When the limited number of bottles that one cask produced are sold out, there can be no more. Ever. Sorry for you. This can range from as few as 228 bottles, as with the Private Barrel Glenburgie 16 Year Old, to maybe 688 bottles.

You could be forgiven for getting confused between a “Single Malt” and a “Single Cask” whisky. And who cares, really, as long as you’re enjoying the whisky in your glass. But for those who like to know things:

Single Malt: when producing a single malt, after the whisky is matured, casks (or barrels) from a single distillery are typically emptied into a vat and mixed together with other casks from that same distillery to ensure consistency of flavour. They still classify as ‘single’ because they are a single type of whisky, just from more than one barrel or cask. This whisky is then usually diluted to about 40-50% ABV and bottled.

Single Cask: A whisky labelled single cask is one that has not been combined with other casks in the distillery. Instead, it is taken straight from one cask, diluted with water to the desired ABV, and then bottled. The result is a more distinct and unique flavour – unique even from the usual flavour profile of its home distillery. These bottles will usually have a label which details the date the whisky was distilled, the date it was bottled, the number of bottles produced, the number of that particular bottle, and the number of the cask that produced the bottles.

So now you know. Or, as Suzelle DIY would say, “There’s it.”


ACCLAIMED WHISKY AFICIONADO: Karen Chaloner