Cask-strength whiskey skips one part of the distillation and maturation process, making it one of the most interesting types of whiskey available today. BLACKENED Master Distiller Rob Dietrich explains.

Some say cask-strength whiskey is whiskey in its truest form. Others call it the extra strong stuff. So what is cask strength, exactly? While typical whiskey is diluted with water before bottling, cask-strength whiskey goes straight from the barrel to the bottle, retaining its full strength and natural grain character. Also referred to as barrel strength or overproof whiskey, cask-strength whiskey can clock in between 50-75% ABV, with the typical dram being 60-65% ABV. On the other hand, regular whiskey is diluted to a standard ABV, usually 40%, to keep each batch consistent.

Another clear distinction? Cask-strength whiskey skips out on chill filtering, a cosmetic process that removes chemical compounds after maturation. The spirit can get cloudy without chill filtering, but connoisseurs love it for this reason: It’s not missing anything.


Cask-strength whiskey (also known as barrel proof or barrel strength) is distilled and aged whiskey bottled directly from the cask at the distillery. It hasn’t been diluted, so it has a much higher ABV. As a result, cask-strength whiskey has substantially more robust flavor and strength.


Since cask-strength whiskey is untouched from barrel to bottle, it retains the full spectrum of flavor compounds it picks up from the wooden cask over time during maturation. And since these flavor compounds bind to alcohol, cask-strength whiskey packs more flavor punch than its lower-proof counterparts.


There are no rules on how to drink whiskey, but there are different whiskey-tasting methods people use to experience the full flavor of the whiskey better:

  • Before tasting, begin by nosing the whiskey, keeping your lips parted slightly, and lightly inhaling through your mouth and nose. Through this method, you’ll dissipate the heat of the whiskey and pick up much more of the olfactory notes.
  • Next, sip your cask strength whiskey neat to experience the spirit in its natural form. Brace yourself on your first sip if you’re new to high-ABV spirits!
  • After tasting neat, slowly add water between tastings to experience the cask-strength whiskey at different dilution levels. Use room temperature water for best results.
  • Make sure you have the right glass for the job. A glass with a wide brim for nosing is a safe bet, but you can also use a tulip-shaped glass to concentrate aromas further.

Remember, how to drink cask-strength whiskey comes down to personal preference and how you like your whiskey.

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Owner/President at The Bourbon Flight, LLC | + posts