Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Over a barrel: Does cask size really matter?

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For craft whiskey makers, this could be a big deal. At The Whiskey Wash, distiller Matt Strickland wades into the U.S. debate over barrel size. His beef: the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s recent proposal to define the capacity of an oak barrel as roughly 50 gallons.

Some American craft distillers use casks as tiny as three gallons, Strickland explains, partly because the greater volume of surface area to liquid lets them get to market faster. As he points out, small-cask whiskey can be gutrot—but barrel size is just one factor.

The unkindest cut of all

 

“Mash bill and distillation cuts are two of the biggest culprits for small cask ignominy,” Strickland says, referring to grain mix and the separation of distillate. “If the TTB wants to make a size demand on the definition of a barrel, then I’d say they’re losing touch with some talented distillers (and possibly listening to the opinions of too many large distillers).”

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