Eclectic casks

Posted by John Shearlock on

When we think of whisky maturation we typically think of two main cask types - ex-bourbon and ex-sherry… and there’s good reason for this.

By law, bourbon has to be aged in new charred American oak barrels prior to becoming bourbon and so the world is awash with these casks; they get one shot at doing the bourbon thing and then have to be sold on. As for sherry, until the mid 80s it was shipped abroad from Jerez in shipping casks and so these casks were also an abundant source of oak for maturation. These factors may well explain why these two styles rule the whisky world, but times are changing.

Now that sherry is shipped in bottle, sherry casks have become expensive to source with many distilleries commissioning bespoke casks that are filled simply for that purpose. On another note, the sherry filling these casks is most likely inferior to what historically went into the shipping casks which were basically filled with the “finished article” but that’s a topic for another day. Cost and availability are certainly factors in why we now see a broader range of casks used, but innovation and individuality in a market that is saturated are driving forces too.

In 2019 the Scotch Whisky Association relaxed its rules allowing a much broader spectrum of casks to be used in the maturation of Scotch. There’s a few theories as to just why this happened (not least to do with Diageo’s influence and its access to a world of different spirit casks) but there has definitely been an unstoppable progression towards “eclectic” casks with the rise of new world whisky and, well, if you can’t beat ‘em - join ‘em.

There will always be the purists who turn their nose up at the less traditional casks now being used to mature whisky but, at the end of the day, anything that progresses whisky along has got to be a good thing right?

Check out our Sunday Specials here to see a nice assortment of different wine casks.

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