When you go to purchase whiskey, you may notice the type of whiskey barrels or casks that were used to mature the alcohol. You are especially likely to find this information on the label if it is a product from an independent bottling company. The size and type of cask tells us how much contact the bottle has had with the wood, as well as what kind of flavor it imparts. If a smaller cask is used, the whiskey has more contact with the inside of it. It is easy to become confused if you do not know all of the terminology. The following is a guide for you to learn about the main types of cask that are used in the whiskey industry, the first being the largest.
Gorda (a capacity of 700 litres)
This barrel is typically used in the American industry of whiskey making. It is made out of American oak. Gorda barrels are sometimes used for maturing whiskey, though they mainly are designed to marry different whiskies to create a vatted or blended production.
Madeira Drum (a capacity of 650 litres)
The fat and short barrel has a wide diameter to it. It is designed from French oak, using the thick staves. The drums are primarily used within the Madeira wine industry, as well as the occasional use in the finish of some whiskies.
Port Pipe (a capacity of 650 litres)
The thin and tall barrel is made out of European oak, using the thick staves. It has the appearance of a barrel that has had its ends stretched. These barrels are for making mature Port wine, as well as for the finishing of whiskies.
Butt (a capacity of 500 litres)
This narrow and tall cask is made out of the thick staves of European oak. They are mostly used in the sherry industry in Spain. These sherry casks are the ones that are used most often in the whiskey industry.
Puncheon (a capacity of 500 litres)
Two styles of the puncheon cask exist. The machine puncheon is the more common one. It is designed from the American oak, using the thick staves, and it is short and fat. The sherry type puncheon features the thinner staves of Spanish oak, and the casks are more elongated. These casks is mainly used within the sherry and rum industries, and they are used for finishing whiskey.
Barrique (a capacity of 300 litres)
The barrique style cask is the one that is widely used in the wine industry. They are not bound with the typical metal hoops. Instead, wood strips are placed around them to bind them. They are used to create a delightful wine cask finish.
Hogshead (a capacity of 225 litres)
Hogshead comes from the English term from the 15th century, “hogges hede”. The term is meant as a unit of measurement that is equal to 63 gallons. They are made out of American white oak today. The main use for them is to mature bourbon before it is sent to Ireland and Scotland. This type is one of the more common for maturing whiskey.
ASB (a capacity of 200 litres)
The American Standard Barrel (ASB) is a type of barrel that has been derived from the hogshead. The major difference is that is has been made smaller for easier use. The cask is made out of American white oak, and they are for the bourbon industry and the maturation of Irish and Scottish whiskey.
Quarter Cask (a capacity of 50 litres)
This cask is a quarter of the size of the American Standard Barrel. It is one that is highly reactive with the alcohol, because of being smaller and having more contact. It provides flavor quickly to the whiskey.
Blood Tub (a capacity of 40 litres)
This cask is small, and it is mainly meant to brew beer. It also is used by distilleries for maturing some runs of whiskey. The oval shape is great for them to be carried on horseback.