From whiskey to whiskey
It was not until another 300 years later that small distilleries sprang up in America. The owners were of Irish and Scottish descent, and they supplied their own whiskey. When, following the Wars of Independence, the U.S. Senate imposed a whiskey tax, the bulk of the whiskey distillers fled to Indiana and Kentucky. In Georgetown and Bourbon County, corn was used to make whiskey for the first time instead of the previous grains. The drink was called "Bourbon Country Whiskey," and to this day, whiskey made from corn is called "bourbon."
If one takes it very exactly, actually only the Scotch is entitled to the original name "Whisky". The other producing countries take this legitimate claim into account to the extent that they usually add a small "e" before the "y" to their varieties - so Bourbon Whiskey is spelled exactly the same way.
This also applies to Canada: Canadian whiskey is sometimes distilled from corn, but mostly from rye. It is stored for at least 24 months in fresh and internally untreated holm oak barrels. This develops its flavor, which is similar to cognac. Canadian is often mixed with neutral alcohol. In Canada, as in other countries, the whiskeys of the various regions have all developed certain taste- and odor-specific characteristics over time. This is primarily due to different base products, the method of distillation and storage.
Scotch whiskey is distilled from malt, i.e. barley malt, and often blended with grain whiskey made from unmalted grain, rye, wheat, barley and malt barley. Its flavor is smoky. This comes from smoldering peat or coke used to dry the swollen barley. Its light brown color comes from the old oak barrels in which the Scotch is stored for at least three years before it is also sold here in the Cask Strength Shop. The three-year storage period had been prescribed by the legislature in 1916, at that time quite ostensibly because grain was scarce and the armament workers should remain sober in the years of the First World War.
The Scotch is often sold as a blended whisky, i.e. as a mixture of several distillates. Thus, each brand has its own unique flavor nuances and its special lovers. Distillery-produced Scotch, on the other hand, comes on the market as a single malt, is not blended, and often becomes a multi-layered palate adventure. Scotch distilled two or three times sometimes appears mysterious. Here, both the shape of the copper stills and the shape of the cooling coils that snap off from them, i.e., the "swan necks," seem to have influences on the final taste.
For Irish whiskey, on the other hand, the grains are not smoke-dried, but only dried. Therefore, Irish whiskey seems milder. In addition, there is the soft and spicy grain aroma. Irish Whisky is also barrel-aged until it is ready for consumption. Cask Strength Irish Whisky is one of the favorites of the whisky community.
The soft wave
If Scotch and Irish whiskey as well as Canadian whiskey and bourbon whiskey are compared with each other, bourbon clearly appears as the "soft wave" among whiskeys - and while Scotch is quite popular in the U.S. despite higher prices, bourbon is clearly on the rise according to German market analysts. Bourbon is made mild on the one hand by the high corn content and on the other hand by the charcoal coating of the always new storage barrels made of holm oak: Before the barrels are allowed to absorb the noble corn juice for the first time, their staves are strongly singed on the inside. This gives the bourbon a large part of its aromas and dark color during its storage period. This makes it clear what is important after distillation - the importance of the storage time, the barrels and the bottling in order to achieve the special quality of Cask Strength.
Cask Strength - bottling at cask strength
The term Cask Strength stands for a certain way of bottling whiskey and especially proportionally considered single malts, which is becoming increasingly popular among connoisseurs and aficionados. While in the early days, bottling whiskeys at cask strength was primarily a tried and tested means of catching up with the once existing image advantage of Cognac, Cask Strength quality is now particularly popular among whiskey lovers who like to enjoy higher percentage or even vary with a little water. You can buy good Cask Strength here in the Cask Strength Shop.
The Cask Strength term means that the whiskey is not reduced by the addition of water to an artificial or even to a legally prescribed alcohol content of usually 40, 43 or 46 percent, but comes with just the volume in the bottles, which he has reached in a natural way through storage. However, this barrel strength results in immense differences, which can range from about 50 percent to 70 percent alcohol content and even higher in some cases. But how do these differences come about?
The influences on cask strength
"New Makes" are the names of the raw distillates that already enter the barrels with the aforementioned different alcohol strengths in each case. The distillates already have an aroma base. However, in addition to the pronounced alcohol content, these aromas are correspondingly pungent and completely colorless. The storage in the barrel then gives the spirit its unique and rounded flavor - experts believe that between 60 and 80 percent of the flavor comes from the barrels. That's why distillers try to generate the best balance between aging, character, and spirit nuances.
Barrel aging processes occur in three steps:
It begins as soon as the distillate is bottled in the barrel. Then the distillate begins to draw aromas and color components from the wood of the barrel and distribute them within the liquid. Vanillin, eugenol or syringa aldehyde all come from a previous heat treatment or from the heartwood of the barrel. In addition, the former contents of the barrel, such as sherry or bourbon, still play an important role. In the course of additive maturation, the whiskey acquires an expanded spectrum of different aroma nuances.
Within these processes, undesirable flavor components are reduced. For this, the charcoal layer, which was created by the burnout of the respective barrel, is of particular importance. This layer absorbs metallic nuances and sulfur notes gradually. In the process, the barrel secretes certain molecules that can overlay pre-existing aroma components and thus make them unrecognizable. In the course of subtractive aging, alcohol molecules also evaporate through the pores of the barrels - and this goes into the atmosphere as "Angels Share". The Gaelic term for angels share is "ullage."
The amount that actually disappears depends on various factors, such as the heat and humidity to which the barrel is exposed.
During the interactive aging process, various chemical reactions occur between the oxygen entering the barrel and the molecules in the distillate. The distillate releases unwanted flavors and odors during the aging period, and the alcohol releases various aromas from the wood, which also breathes. As a result, additional chemical reactions take place with the oxygen in the air. This results in a particularly complex aroma spectrum in the finished whiskey.
This is why the selection of barrels and the type of wood are of such immense importance to distilleries.
Storage time and place: the time of maturation
Whisky is stored in wooden barrels. Water and alcohol escape from these over the years. The dimensions of the Angels Share from the subtractive maturation processes depends on the climate in which the barrels are stored. During a year of storage, up to 5 percent of the barrel can escape as Angels Share. In cooler environments, more alcohol than water evaporates from the barrels, causing the final mature product to lose alcohol percentages. If the environment is dry and warm, more water than alcohol evaporates and alcohol strength increases.
Thus, the storage time and location affect the flavor and aroma of the particular whiskey.
During the maturing years, the alcohol flavor of the maturing distillate gradually continues to degrade - the whisky becomes milder and loses the sharpness that comes from alcoholic distilling. However, some of the smoky flavor is also lost. The woody and spicy flavors from the wood, on the other hand, counteract this. In addition, there is a certain dryness that comes from the tannins. Given these processes, the distillery decides on the storage time of its whiskey. Once it has reached its desired character, bottling is carried out - usually after storage periods of between three and ten years.
At the storage location, the prevailing temperatures should be relatively cool, at around 10 to 15 °C. Then the wood can breathe best. The air absorbed from the surroundings has an effect on the complexity of the respective whisky: For example, storage locations near the seashore make for whiskies with quite maritime notes of seaweed and salt, while the Highlands environment generates aroma hints of the scent of heather.
Cask Strengh becomes more and more popular
Whiskies that are labeled Cask Strength have thus been bottled directly after being aged in wooden casks. In America, this circumstance is called "barrel proof". Typically, whiskey in the trade has an alcohol content of about 45% and whiskey in cask strength is above that, because it is not additionally diluted with water before bottling to be brought to drinking strength. Often Cask Strength whiskies are bottled without the addition of colorant and without cold filtration, but this is not a requirement. Cask strength whisky could be described as purer and cleaner, but the stronger alcohol content may also mask subtle nuances in flavor. Whether you go for Cask Strength or conventional whisky is entirely up to your personal taste. In any case, let yourself be inspired by our significant selection of various Cask Strength Whiskies from different regions of the world. You can buy top products here in the Cask Strength Shop.
Scotland's pioneer in cask strength bottling used to be, among others, the whisky club "Scotch Malt Whisky Society". In the meantime, numerous distilleries have followed suit.
All about Barrel Proof
But also in the USA, whisky is increasingly bottled in the cask-strength quality "Barrel Proof". The word "barrel" simply stands for "cask" and is used as a synonym for "cask".
In the whiskey industry, however, it means a specific barrel size: a barrel has about 180 liters and thus lies between the "quarter" and and the "hogshead". A quarter has about 125 to 130 liters and is therefore about a quarter of a "butt". Butt is the name of a certain size of barrel, which goes back to the Latin word "butta", which is also in "bottle". Butt has been used since the Middle Ages, but for quite different barrel sizes. Today, a butt comprises about 500 liters and thus about twice as much as a hogshead. The 500-liter cask is usually made of Spanish oak and has often contained sherry before it is used for Scottish malt. This makes it the second largest cask after the "puncheon," the largest cask used in Scotland for storing whiskey. It holds about 550 liters.
Last, but not least, the hogshead is missing from the list of five cask types. This is also a common designation of a barrel size in Scotland. However, it is not clearly defined, but rather depends on the contents of the barrel - depending on whether it is beer, wine or even tobacco. Barrels used today to age whiskey and called hogsheads have about 250 liters of capacity and are often made of American oak. The term, derived from "hog" = pig, has been used for many centuries. Nevertheless, the exact origin is unclear.
British Proof vs. American Proof
Finally, there is still some information missing about the term "proof", which may be quite "dry", but should not be withheld from those interested in the theory: The term "proof" generally refers to the standardized measurement of the alcoholic strength of beverages. Until the beginning of the 1980s, the term was also used in Great Britain - today it is still used in North America. There too, however, it is increasingly being replaced by the modern measurement based on the method developed by the French physicist and chemist Joseph Louis Guy-Lussac and used by the influential Organization of Legal Metrology. According to this method, alcohol strength is measured in percent by volume at an ambient temperature of 20° Celsius.
A fixed temperature was also previously used as the basis for the determination. It was 51° - but in Fahrenheit and it was only used in Great Britain. In America, on the other hand, the benchmark was 60 °F - and that's why there are confusing differences between British and American proof.
It's easy with the American measurement, which is always exactly twice that in percentages, so 50% is exactly 100°. According to the old British definition, however, 100 °= 57 %.
In 1952, it was determined that "spirits are of normal strength when the volume of ethyl alcohol contained in them, together with the distilled water to which they are made up, is equal in weight to twelve thirteenths of that which an equal quantum of distilled water weighs." This is admittedly more accurate than the method used far before, which was to determine the strength by moistening gunpowder (!) with alcohol and testing it with a burning candle to see if it ignited.
The hydrometer then made more accurate methods possible, but tables were still needed to determine how much alcohol and how much water a bottle contained. Complicated formulas explained why 70 British proof equaled 80 American proof.
From this info, there's always one insight: giving up habits can sometimes be a step forward, even when it comes to whiskey. In this case, it makes life easier.
Very easy are also the possibilities to buy Cask Strength in our Cask Strength Shop. Choose your favorite when buying Cask Strength from the special and large offer in our Cask Strength Shop.
The whole Cask Strength pleasure
Choose your favorite when buying Cask Strength from the special and large offer in our Cask Strength Shop. Then nothing stands in the way of the Cask Strength enjoyment - and that already begins with the selection of the right glass.
The right glass will namely ensure that as many aromas as possible can be perceived. Noising glasses are often recommended, but Glencairn or other small, tulip-shaped glasses are also suitable. All of them are designed in such a way that they allow the diverse aromas to be perceived directly. Ordinary tumblers, on the other hand, are better suited for whiskey on ice. This is because the wide opening of the glass also leads to wide dispersions of flavor and aroma.
After opening the cask-matured whisky, the spirit should first breathe. Connoisseurs pour a glass and then give the whiskey time to do so. One probably calculates one minute per year of maturation of the whiskey. However, more than 20 minutes is not necessary to soothe the initial intensity of the whiskey.
Water is added quite individually. Initially, the whiskey should first be tasted neat, then water is added virtually drop by drop. In the process, the personal gusto is gradually tasted. The water should be at room temperature. This allows further aromas to be released, which somewhat reduce the alcohol content as well as support the complexity of the spirit.
Ultimately, it should be achieved that the Cask Strength whisky comes pleasantly powerful to the palate. Extreme nuances should be eliminated and the wonderful, distinctly varied flavors perceived quite pleasurably.