6 Diverse Cask Strength Whiskies to Try Now

Regardless of style, cask strength bottlings are prized by whisky drinkers for the forceful flavor from the high proof. In some cases, distillers offer whisky drinkers a chance to experience a core expression straight from the barrel, like our 2017 Whisky of the Year, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. Rather than add water at the time of bottling to bring the proof down, the distiller empowers the drinker to add water or ice as they see fit, or not at all, finding the ABV that best suits their palate. Sometimes, these whiskies even offer better values than their lower-proof counterparts.

Those who choose to add water to these heavy-strength whiskies may find new flavors and complexities emerge as the proof changes. These six whiskies from the Winter 2021 Buying Guide span five different styles— single pot still, single malt scotch, straight bourbon, wheat whiskey, and American single malt—proving that there is more choice than ever when it comes to cask strength.

High Proof Whiskies From the Winter Buying Guide

Redbreast 12 year old Cask Strength Irish Single Pot Still (Batch B1/21)
94 points, 56.3%, $84

Golden sultana, fragrant spice, dried orange slices, star anise, baked apricot, and hints of flaked chocolate bar. Spices leap from a butterscotch and red berry base, vociferously showing clove, star anise, and ginger root, which part to welcome flavors of milk chocolate, vanilla pod, oak, and juicy nectarine. The cask strength is rarely less than spectacular, but this batch is singularly distinctive.—Jonny McCormick

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch
93 points, 60%, $90

Sweet scents of Boston cream pie, citrus, and fresh forest, growing more fragrant as the liquid rests in the glass. On the palate, the citrus sweetens to baked orange tart and lemon meringue pie, with underpinnings of chocolate malt, raisins, and pepper spice. The mouthfeel is creamy and concentrated, and the finish is like a rich, full, spiced chocolate dessert. Water enhances things, bringing out more spice and chocolate.—David Fleming

Booker’s 2021-02 “Tagalong Batch” Kentucky Straight Bourbon
93 points, 63.95%, $90

The fifth edition of distiller Freddie Noe’s signature annual release. This is a weighty one, in classic Booker’s fashion—rich, full, and powerful, loaded with chocolate, cocoa powder, candied orange slices, dark chocolate, melted caramel, and cinnamon spice. Water quells the flavor riot, softening to notes of vanilla and vanilla malt, chocolate candy bar, and leather. The finish is spicy, with more chocolate and orange. There’s nothing shy about this tasty sipper.—David Fleming

Parker’s Heritage Collection 11 year old Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey
90 points, 61%, $140

Fresh-baked cinnamon-raisin bread and generous baking spice on the nose, plus hints of coffee and chocolate babka. Pleasant and inviting, with lots of warmth and flavor. The palate is filled with cinnamon, brown sugar, bitter coffee, dark chocolate, and savory spice. Water brings out the spicy heat of jalapeño pepper. Smooth and flavorful on the finish, with cooked orchard fruits and melted caramel. A big one for sure, but enjoyable.—David Fleming

Still Austin Limited Release Cask Strength American Single Malt
90 points, 59%, $60

Sweet scents of candied apple and caramel on the nose. The palate offers cinnamon Red Hots, bananas, cherry, allspice, and toasted oak. It’s hot but well knit, with emerging notes of candied nuts, buttered popcorn, and black pepper. Creamier with water and still flavor-packed, with emerging country fair notes of hay and cotton candy. A long finish brings melted caramel, candied cherries, and spice, against savory hints of cigar ash and barrel char.—David Fleming

Whiskey Del Bac Distiller’s Cut American Single Malt (Fall 2021)
89 points, 55.7%, $90

Chocolaty up front, with notes of Fudgsicle, cacao nibs, and cocoa powder as well as brown paper bag, ripe banana, honey, and oats. The palate is syrupy and zings; cinnamon Red Hots, lemon candy, fruit pastry, and chile pepper give it added dimension. There is a bitter oak note that softens with water. The high proof makes this spiky and hot at times but there’s great underlying flavor.—Ted Simmons

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