the whisky lounge - a journal tracking a whisky maturation project involving a newly-acquired oak cask and a significant amount of patience

Friday, February 22, 2008

Show and Tell

A little while ago I got a letter from Alex in Vancouver. He excitedly reported that the cask he'd ordered from the Thousand Oaks Barrel Company had finally arrived. I thought it would be interesting to compare Alex's cask to the one that I got in the Whisky Works kit by Premium Bottlers. Alex kindly sent in a handful of photos, some of which I've posted here so we can all have a look.

And there it is! Apparently it's available with a few different colours for the metal hoops. Alex selected black. Mine has plain steel hoops, and I wasn't offered a choice (not that I am the type of person who cares about the colour of metal hoops as long as the kit works).

Everything seems to be the same shape as the kit that I received. The stand might be a bit different, but everything else looks precisely the same, even the material of the rubbery bit of the bung.

The biggest difference is that my cask is unadulterated wood, while Alex's barrel - and apparently the spigot and bung - are covered in a thick, shiny varnish. It gives his cask a nice warm colour, but neither of us knows what the effect of the varnish will be on the spirit. I'm going to guess that it will have a negligible effect, but one can never tell.

Finally, Alex also chose to treat the cask with sherry to start, rather than just going for whisky right away. His sherry of choice: Harvey's Bristol Cream. I had a shot of this about ten years ago in a university bar in the UK, but I can't dig up a memory of what it tastes like from the cobwebby recesses of my mind. As long as it does good things to the whisky, we'll all be happy.

It's interesting that the kits are essentially identical other than the varnish. Either Premium Bottlers is getting their barrels from Thousand Oaks as well, but ordering them without varnish, or every little cask produced by any cooper will look basically the same. Come to think of it, that's pretty darned likely.

Thanks to Alex for sharing the photos of the cask. Good luck with the whisky!


Will said...

Awesome. Thanks, Ian and Alex! I'm seriously thinking about buying one of these. I don't yet know what kind of whisky to put in it though. Expensive new make? McClelland's? Decisions, decisions...

Ian said...

You should just go ahead and buy a cask, either from 1000 Oaks of your friendly local barrel company. I've been having a whole lot of fun with mine so far, and as far as I'm concerned, any experiment that results in delicious whisky is well worth trying! :-)

Are there any American distillers that do scotch-style whisky (rather than bourbon- or rye- or JD-style) who might also be able to supply you with something interesting for a cask experiment? Premium Bottlers are the only ones in Canada in that market, and I don't know if they sell in the states.

Will said...

The only thing I can think of that's anywhere close to that is Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, which I have been meaning to try...I'll see if I can't pick up a bottle soon. If it tastes about right, maybe I'll drop them a line. Thanks for the idea! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Will, I would recommend you buy at least a pair of barrels, I'm kicking myself in the rear end cause I only bought the one. I'm really enjoying the process (though getting impatient..haha).

The Bristol's sherry comes out this weekend and the whisky goes in. (though at this point I'm sitting on the fence on wether to use Glenmorangie 10 year old or to try Johnny Walker Black).

Do I take a great scotch and make it better or take a run of the mill and turn it into a star? Hmmmm.

Good Luck. Alex.

Ian said...


Are you still thinking of setting up a mini-Solera? I can see it now: a room filled with barrel after barrel, with a sweet smell of whisky filling the air. You'll have to start marketing it. :-)