Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Regarding whiskies, you’ll encounter single, double, and triple cask whisky. While experienced drinkers probably know these terms, beginners might find this confusing.
Simply put, these refer to the number of casks used in a whisky that has been aged in. But aside from numbers, let’s see what sets each whisky apart.
Here’s our single-cask vs double-cask vs triple-cask whisky guide. Keep reading.
Comparing Single Cask, Double Cask & Triple Cask Whiskies
Single-cask whisky has matured in a single cask in a set period before bottling.
This means the spirit maintains its cask strength and does not undergo filtration. So, nothing interferes with the spirit, and goes straight to the bottle.
On the other hand, a double-cask whisky is a spirit that’s been aged first in one cask and then transferred to another cask to finish the aging process before bottling.
Meanwhile, triple-cask whisky is a spirit aged in three casks before being bottled.
While you can always see the bottles labeled as single-cask, double-cask, or triple-cask, some whisky bottles are labeled in a different standard due to loose legal definitions.
For instance, it’s acceptable to label whisky a single-cask, even if it has been aged in two casks (or barrels), because the second cask is the same type as the first.
This also applies to spirits matured in the same type of cask and barreled together in a larger cask before being bottled.
Production & Maturation
Single-cask whiskies have been distilled within the same distiller where it was crafted.
Once barreled, it can age anywhere – but still within the regions of Scotland.
Then, it is bottled at cask strength, which contains high alcohol proof compared to double and triple cask spirits.
“You can die from drinking too much of anything – coffee, water, milk, soft drinks and all such stuff as that. And so long as the presence of death lurks with anyone who goes through the simple act of swallowing, I will make mine whisky.”— W.C. Fields, American Comedian
As for double and triple-cask whisky, after distillation, they’re barreled for the aging process.
After some time, the spirits are transferred to another cask to finish their maturation.
In some circumstances, a double cask also means two whiskies from different casks are combined into the same barrel to age for more months or years – called “finishing.”
Meanwhile, triple-cask whiskies used three different types of casks prior to bottling.
And in some cases, three whiskies matured in different types of casks are combined in the fourth, bigger barrel to finish maturation before being bottled.
Palate: Triple-cask features layers of flavors, usually with notes of butterscotch and vanilla, while double-cask balances sweetness and fruitiness.
On the other hand, a single-cask tastes malty and a bit spicy.
Nose: Single-cask smells more alcohol than double-cask and triple-cask. The nose of the double-cask is fruity, while the triple-cask is a blend of different scents (due to the combination of barrels .
Color: Single-cask is typically deep gold in color; a double-cask is usually golden amber in color, while triple-cask has a yellow-gold color.
Finish: All single, double, and triple cask whiskies can provide a lasting finish, but the triple-cask is more on the complex and warm side.
The single-cask can be harsh (for some) due to its high ABV, while double-cask has some fruitiness.
American oak casks are usually used in the first maturation process.
But for double-cask and triple-cask whiskies, their second processes typically use ex-sherry casks, ex-port casks, or ex-Madeira casks.
Cask finishing is usually applicable to double-cask and triple-cask whiskies.
It’s the process of transferring the whisky from one cask to another cask for another maturation period.
This process uses a different type of cask (depending on the distillery), like ex-wine casks, as mentioned above.
FYI, double-cask and triple-cask are typically called “finished” whiskies.
Price & Value
Single-cask and triple-cask whiskies can be more expensive than double-cask spirits.
Since single-cask came from one cask only, it can only produce around 180 to 600 bottles, making the stock limited, which is why it’s on the pricier side.
These bottles are usually the aim of whisky collectors and enthusiasts due to their uniqueness and rarity.
In the case of triple-cask whisky, it’s also rare because it’s challenging to balance the flavors, so only a few bottles are being produced (depending on the distillery).
Double-cask spirits are affordable among these three types due to their wide availability.
Also, it is the typical process to produce whisky, nothing complex, unless it will be launched as a special edition or limited-release.
Which is the smoothest, single, double, or triple cask whisky?
The smoothest type is double-cask whisky. The flavors are not complex, and there are sweetness, fruitiness, and nuttiness, which is suitable even for beginners.
Is a single-cask whisky more expensive than a double and a triple-cask?
Single-cask whisky can be more expensive among the three due to its alcohol strength and rarity. But the price still depends on the brand.
Single-cask, double-cask, and triple-cask come in different in terms of the number and type of casks used, the production, finishing, flavor profile, and price – but they’re all whiskies .
Each type has its unique character setting itself apart from others. So they serve different whisky drinkers, depending on their preferences.