5 Cask Strength Whiskies That Give You A Serious Bang For Your Buck
Felipe is an award-winning London-based whisky writer, tastings host, drinks competitions judge, and author. He is also a musician and co-founder of The Rhythm and Booze Project, a duo that fuses live music and whisky through gigs, tasting events and multimedia.
Did you know that almost all the whisky (and whiskey) that you drink is diluted with water before it gets bottled? This includes everything from Jack Daniels to Glenfiddich 18.
If you see a whisky that's 40-49% alcohol by volume (ABV), then it's likely that water was added (although there are exceptions). It makes the whisky taste smoother, can often add flavors, and also means that by diluting the alcohol, more bottles can be sold.
A good cask strength whisky is a beautiful thing. You're guaranteed an intense flavor experience. Also important is that you can decide how much water you want to add to your whisky (or ice if you must, you blasphemer), instead of a distillery company deciding for you at the time of the bottling. Water will loosen up the oils that provide flavors in the whisky, and you have full control over getting the balance just right.
Or just drink it neat if you’re feeling tough.
So what are some of the cask strength whiskies out there? The ones I’ve listed below are superb examples, and not too much of a dent in the wallet, either. They cover a wide range of the incredible variety of flavors to be discovered in Scotch whisky, and they also make excellent presents for whisky-loving friends and family.
The whiskies are listed in alphabetical order, and their prices are from The Whisky Exchange, one of the top online shops for whisky. It's likely that a few of these will probably be pricier in the U.S. and other countries.
1. Aberlour A’bunadh - £46.95 (US$58)
I’ve written before about the A’bunadh, and for good reason. This Speyside (in Northeast Scotland's highlands) is one of the best sherry-matured whiskies around, and also happens to be one of the best cask strength whiskies as well. It’s rich, velvety, and fruity. It’s well known among whisky geeks, and none of us would ever turn our nose up at this superb tipple. This whisky gets released in batches, and each new one is eagerly awaited.
I loved this lowland (in whisky terms, that means everything, more or less, south of the city of Stirling) whisky when I first tried it a few years ago. It’s got everything a good, punchy, bourbon cask-matured whisky should. It has a thick creamy consistency with flavors that blend vanilla, cookies, and buttery pastries.
3. Ardbeg Uigeadail - £53.75 (US$66.75)
Ardbeg is one of Islay’s iconic distilleries (all the Islay distilleries are pretty iconic), and its Uigeadail is a smoky monster. But then again, so are almost all the whiskies that come from there. Meaty, leathery, fruity, delicious. Get this whisky if you like the idea of being punched in the face by your drink.
A recent release from one of the first of the modern Scotch whisky microdistilleries, the latest edition of the Kilchoman Original Cask Strength is matured entirely in small casks called quarter casks. It’s a great whisky, and probably a little harder to find than the other ones. You can read my full review of it here.
This one is getting bought up quickly. It was a smash hit when it was released and Springbank is a popular distillery as one of the few independents left in Scotland and family owned for generations. The 12-year-old cask strength has the thick oiliness typical of Springbank, and a whole lot of nutty and toffee/caramel richness, as some of it (about 40%) was matured in sherry casks.
Enjoy these beasts.
By Felipe Schrieberg
Felipe is a London-based whisky writer, musician, tastings host, drinks competitions judge, and author. He writes for internationally renowned publications such as Forbes, Whisky Magazine and The Whiskey Wash. For his work, he has been named the Whisky Magazine's 2022 Icons of Whisky Communicator of the Year, and the 2021 Alan Lodge Young International Drinks Writer of the Year.
He is the co-founder of The Rhythm and Booze Project, a duo fusing live music and whisky through gigs, tasting events, and multimedia. His past projects encompass performances at the Edinburgh Fringe of the band's own show Two Guys, Three Drams which combined live blues with whisky tasting, and building the world's first bass drum made from an entire Scotch whisky cask with a barrel of Lagavulin.
He is also a judge for the World Whiskies Awards and The Independent Bottlers Challenge. Through his online tastings hosted at The Virtual Whisky Masterclass, he has welcomed over 3,000 guests across 250+ tasting events.
His first book, London Cocktails, is now available worldwide. Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @schriebergfr, or at www.felipeschrieberg.com
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