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What does 'single cask' mean?
'Single cask' has a simple meaning. Single cask means the whisky came from only one barrel of whisky.
The vast majority of whiskey on the market are 'blends'. Blends are made from whiskies from a range of different distilleries, mixed together. For example, Johnnie Walker. The minority of whiskies are 'single malts'. That means all the whisky came from one single distillery. But, the distillery will use a wide range of casks to make that release.
The tiny minority of bottles sold will be single cask. By their very nature they're rarer. Not all casks are good enough to be bottled by themselves; they need to be mixed with others to balance flavours. A single cask release is unique; something that is so special, it had to be bottled by itself. And, they are fleeting. Each cask will only result in around 300-600 bottles. Once those bottles are gone, that whisky is gone forever.
Brands and Companies
There are two kinds of companies that release single cask whiskies. The first are the distilleries themselves. Most of the whisky they sell will be single malts. But, some distilleries will occasionally sell a single cask whisky. These tend to be limited edition bottles.
The second, and more common, source of single cask whisky are independent bottlers. Independent bottlers will go around all the distilleries. They'll look through the warehouses and find the best casks. They'll buy and then bottle these casks under their own brand. Independent releases can be a great way to get quality whisky at a fair price.
Single malt vs single cask whisky
Single malt whisky and single cask whisky are both types of whisky that have specific production methods and characteristics.
Single malt whisky is made from 100% malted barley and is produced by a single distillery. The barley is mashed, fermented, and distilled in pot stills before being aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years. Single malt whisky can be aged for longer periods, and the ageing process contributes to the development of its unique flavour profile.
Single cask whisky, on the other hand, refers to whisky that is aged in a single cask and bottled directly from that cask. Single cask whiskies are typically produced in small batches and are not blended with whiskies from other casks. Because of this, single cask whiskies tend to have a unique flavour profile that is influenced by the type of cask in which it was aged, the location where the cask was stored, and the length of time it was aged.