6 Compelling Cask Strength Whiskies to Try Now

Whether it’s labeled cask strength, barrel proof, batch proof, or something similar, whisky straight from the barrel provides potent flavor and loads of possibilities. With a higher alcohol content there is simply more whisky to taste, and if the heat gets to be too much, you don’t run the risk of overdiluting when adding water or an ice cube.

Our Fall 2020 issue examined how barrel proof whiskey means big flavor and we listed 14 of our favorite barrel proof bourbons (and one rye), but there always new whiskies to try, including these from the Summer 2021 Buying Guide. While familiar names like Elijah Craig and Booker’s appear, so too do lesser-known producers like Backbone and Black Button. No matter the proof or province, these whiskies all pack a punch and earned high scores to boot.

These Whiskies Are Strong in Proof and Score

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight bourbon (Batch A121)
94 points, 61.8%, $60

A generous nose, with chocolate-covered cherries, candied orange peel, menthol, cola, pine nuts, caramel, corn bread, and varnish. Piles of baking spice and dark chocolate shavings on the palate mingle with raspberry jam, orange peel, gingersnaps, cinnamon, and mint; water amplifies and brightens the fruit character. A lip-smacking finish of dark chocolate, mint, tobacco, and polished oak. —Susannah Skiver Barton

booker's batch 2020-03 bourbon pigskin batchBooker’s 2020-03 “Pigskin Batch” Kentucky Straight bourbon
93 points, 63.65%, $90

Roasted herbs, peanuts, and fragrant oak start things off on the nose, followed by notes of dried cherries, cornbread, vanilla frosting, and blueberry pie. A chewy palate offers honeyed almonds, cherry pie, and allspice. Water unlocks dark chocolate, more cherry pie, cinnamon spice, and tobacco leaf. A long spiced finish shows lively herbs, cinnamon sugar, and strawberry jam. Water is highly recommended—it takes this already superb whiskey to even greater heights. —David Fleming

Larceny Barrel Proof A121Larceny Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight bourbon (Batch A121)
93 points, 57.4%, $50

Complex aromas of peanut butter on toast, dulce de leche, strawberry hard candy, lemon iced tea, dark berry jam, orange cake, and cola spices. More spice on the palate—cinnamon and dried ginger—along with peanut brittle, milk chocolate, mint, orange peel, green tea, and ample oak. The finish is lengthy, drawing out all the highlights of the nose and palate: cinnamon candy, peanut butter, peppery spice, baking chocolate, and sweet oak. —Susannah Skiver Barton

Backbone Uncut Decade Down Anniversary bourbon
91 points, 55%, $76

Distilled in Indiana from a mashbill of 74% corn, 21% rye, and 5% malted barley, the nose has notes of toasted bread, almond butter, honey-roasted peanuts, and caramel topping. The palate is creamy and sweet, with rich oak, well-integrated spice, and peanuts—densely packed flavors that compose a full and rich body. The finish boasts admirable length, with savory nuts and semi-sweet chocolate. This has delightful sweetness throughout; everything is perfectly ordered and arranged. (2,700 bottles) —Ted Simmons

Black Button Distilling Cask Strength Straight bourbon (Batch 4)
90 points, 55.1%, $75

Complex and layered on the nose; what starts off as herbaceous, with pine cone, tea leaf, lemon oil, and toasted nuts, develops into sweet aromas of candied nuts, cinnamon challah bread, maple syrup, and toffee. A full-bodied and chewy palate is heavily spiced with cinnamon, pepper, caraway, and roasted elements once water is added. A mouthwatering finish shows good length, herbaceous oak, licorice, and coffee bean. Time and water both help this whiskey’s full plumage to emerge. —Ted Simmons

alberta premium cask strength whiskyAlberta Premium Cask Strength Rye
88 points, 66%, $70

There is a pronounced graininess up front, with toasted coconut, brioche bun, and cereal box on the nose. Add water, and toasted nuts, brown sugar, and pastry case aromas emerge. Take a sip and there’s a rich interplay of mint and chocolate, Andes mints along with some herb and spice notes, lemon curd, and candied nuts. The finish is sweet, spicy, and slightly minty. There’s an in-your-face boldness to this whisky—one that reveals complexity over time. —Ted Simmons

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