The one you like the most. That’s it. End of post…..
But, let’s go into a bit of details for those of you who need a hand in getting into Whisky drinking. This is data which most whisky lovers already know but let’s give a chance to our newbie friends and make it a bit easier for them to sail this magic world.
Scotch or other Countries Whisky can be often found having been aged in different kinds of wooden casks, each kind of cask gives the whisky a different flavor, character and complexity. By kind of cask we mean that each had previously contained something else before hosting the whisky. It is rather rare to see a whisky which has been aged in a virgin cask, this is because the oak influence would be so strong it would risk ruining the whisky completely. Tasting the “barrique” in a wine is a good thing, in a whisky, not so much. Tannins and high alcohol % do not go well together.
So the most used cask types are one which previously contained american Bourbon Whisky, these and all kinds of casks can be used more than once, this operation is called “refill” and in my humble opinion it is the best since the second time you fill a cask with Scotch lessens the influence of the previous host even more leaving you the chance to taste the whisky almost as it was when poured, just “aged”.
The most sought after kind of cask (and most expensive, sometimes 5x or more compared to a Bourbon cask) is the Sherry Cask. A large cask (aka butt) previously used in a Solera system (or single) in Jerez Spain where Sherry, a fortified wine, is produced. Many different kinds of Sherry exist and they go from the very sweet, dark and “thick” Pedro Ximenez to white dry sherry of the Fino type. The color of the Sherry will influence the final color of the whisky as well.
Somehow whisky plus sherry, and, (if done well and very few can) peat, go really well together, so much so that some Distilleries like Macallan and Glendronach have built their reputation out of this combination, Ardbeg has released some fantastic peated sherry single cask bottlings distilled in the 70’s. The very fortunate marriage Sherry/whisky was not born out of the need for a better whisky, it was born out of the need to save money, “used” casks cost less!
A few words about strength: Whisky when poured in a cask for the first time can reach over 70% in alcohol, time and weather conditions lessens this volume, this is called “the Angel’s Share” and depending on time and many other factors, when a whisky is finally bottled it could have lost a large percentage of alcohol and straight liquid. Most distilleries at this point add water to bring the alcohol volume down to 40% or 43% to make it drinkable for most. Of course connoisseurs prefer whisky which has not been watered down, this is called “cask strength”.
OK so these were some very easy info for newbies, apologies if it was boring for most of you but it was due.