The Straight Goods on Cask Strength

No enhancements. No dilution. Cask strength whiskies result from a mix of their core elements — the quality of the spirit and the character of the cask.

If you’re a whisky purist, cask strength whisky is a must-try. You could say it’s the most authentic expression of the spirit, influenced only by the barrel’s qualities and the passing of time — no enhancements or dilution. While most standard label whiskies aim for relative consistency, cask strength offerings promise a unique experience every time. There’s something to be said for the distinct character each cask strength whisky offers, as no two barrels will ever be the same. 



When a whisky is initially produced and stored in barrels or casks, it typically carries an alcohol content of 60 to 75%. Robust, definitely. Aging reduces this number slightly, and then most whiskies are diluted with water before bottling, bringing the alcohol by volume (ABV) count down to a more approachable 40%. Cask strength takes a more direct — and less diluted — route from barrel to bottle. The resulting spirit registers somewhere between 50 and 65% ABV.



Cask strength whiskies are distinct, so there are a few tips to enjoying them to their fullest. Start by pouring a dram neat, if only to note the differences between this and a standard whisky. That first bracing sip will establish a baseline measure for the tasting to come. Now add just a few drops of water to open up the fragrances and flavours. The fun of cask strength whisky comes in being able to be the blender — you have the ability to control the level of dilution. For a slower reveal, add an ice cube and try to detect how the character gradually changes as it melts.