101 Whiskey

Cask Strength or Barrel Proof

Cask strength and barrel proof whiskey explained along with their importance.

Questions You May Be Considering

  • What is the difference between cask strength and barrel proof whiskey?
  • What does cask strength mean?
  • What does barrel proof mean?
  • Why is cask strength whiskey higher proof?

Cask Strength vs Barrel Proof

Cask strength and barrel proof (or rarely barrel strength) are interchangeable terms that have the same meaning. Distilleries leverage the terms based on preference and joy of confusing consumers. This is similar to the words regardless and irregardless, which incredibly mean the same thing. Throughout the remainder of the article, we will maintain use of the term cask strength since it is more commonly used.

Cask Strength Meaning and Why It’s a Higher Proof Whiskey

Cask strength refers to the production process after a whiskey’s maturation phase (i.e. aging in used barrels for scotch and new barrels for American bourbon; the difference in barrel selection is related to climates). Cask strength eliminates a commonly added step of diluting whiskey with water to reduce the ABV, often between 40-47%. The purpose of diluting/ruining the whiskey is to reduce the heat level for those with softer palates and cutting the production price by increasing the volume of whiskey. This benefits consumers by making bottles cheaper and meets the palate expectations of a broader audience. Cask strength whiskeys are typically 52-67% ABV and have limited production after aging in barrels. A fun fact for U.S. distilleries labeling a whiskey as ‘barrel proof’ is the whiskey must be within 1% of the ending maturation ABV, which significantly reduces additions to the liquid.

Importance of Cask Strength

Cask strength is a commonly sought feature due to the higher ABV and removal of water from the whiskey. The Degenerate community is especially fond of cask strength bottling as it gives more flexibility and power to the consumer. When whiskey is diluted with water to 40-47% ABV, there is no ability for you to ‘add more whiskey’ to the glass to increase flavor. The convenience of cask strength is you can add water or ice to dilute the whiskey; giving you full control of the palate as water/ice will manually reduce the ABV. We recognize many Degenerates simply prefer their whiskey cold and place it on ice. If this is your style, we highly recommend cask strength to retain the delicious flavors of the whiskey.

Degenerate Discussion

Drinking cask strength for the first time is like losing your virginity or an addicts first line of cocaine; you’re never the same person after and all you can think about is how to get your next fix. This is a complete game changer in whiskey, especially for those that have a developed palate or are Degenerate humans looking for quick results (we don’t judge or hate here). There are considerable differences in taste that extend far beyond the heat level and the flexibility of adding ice/water, which makes higher proof whiskeys a common preference. This is a great opportunity to provide clarification that a 40% whiskey on ice is a mix drink – whiskey and water. Please don’t confuse it for anything else.

List of Recommended Cask Strength Whiskeys

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