The SOMM Journal

April / May 2018

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Page 40 of 108

40 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2018 { spirit scholar } Sometimes confused with "single cask," "cask strength" means something entirely different. A single cask whiskey, for instance, is quite simply a whiskey that has not been mixed with other casks. The whiskey is taken directly from one barrel and reduced with water to about 40–50% ABV before it's bottled. Cask strength whiskey, on the other hand, has not been diluted with water. Distillers will typically barrel the whisky around 64% ABV, and although the alcohol will reduce via evaporation during the maturation process, what remains can be quite tenacious. In both respects, however, single cask and cask strength spirits are truly as pure as they come. Much like single-vineyard wine, spirits bottled from a single cask are limited by their physi - cal geography. From rum to whiskey to Cognac, spirits matured in a single cask are like snowflakes: No two are quite the same. This means a spirit aged in the same type of cask at the same distillery for the same amount of time can vary drastically. Single cask spirits are, by definition, unique. Once their limited yield is gone from the barrel, it's gone forever. Nothing quite like it will ever appear again. Granted, the greatest attributes of these one-of-a-kind spirits can also be their biggest downfalls. The bold flavors of a cask strength spirit can be polarizing, but cask strength spirits are an absolute dream for connoisseurs who can dilute them to the proof of their sipping preference. A special example I've come across lately was a 16-year-old single cask Jamaican rum. It tasted like the Islay of rums—floral and smoky with a long, vegetal finish that, with just the right amount of water, kept my interest piqued all night long! The Purity of One DEFINING SINGLE CASK AND CASK STRENGTH SPIRTS SPIRITS HAVE TAKEN me around the world. I've been teaching people about them, as well as about cocktails and wine, since 2010, and I recently founded Aperitif Hour, a beverage communications company. I've also worked in some of the world's most notable bars, includ - ing Please Don't Tell and Pegu Club in New York City. Spirits have linked cultures together for centuries and have, in many ways, molded the societies we live in. My passion is not only for the people who produce and enjoy them, but for the experiences and rituals they create as well: From multiple generations of family distillers to bartenders who create the perfect cocktail in just the right ambiance, I've become obsessed with the hands that carry spirits from the distillery to the back bar to the table. story and photos by Amanda Victoria "As Pure As They Come" A colorful collection of casks.

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