Sample The Sweeter Side With These 11 Rum Cask Finished Whiskies
March 22, 2023 –––––– Danny Brandon
Cask finishing whisky is an art dating back centuries—and it is indeed an art, as any whisky maker will tell you that there’s a fine line between finishing and over-finishing. But its origins are rooted in practicality: Britain’s wine and spirits importers filled their emptied wine casks with whisky as a matter of thrift but soon discovered that it improved the taste. The barrels in question mainly held sherry and various other wines, but rum casks were in the mix too, albeit far less prominently.
Revived in the modern era by such whisky luminaries as David Stewart of Balvenie and Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie, cask-finished whiskies are often a fan favorite, and while rum finishing remains less widely seen than port or sherry, the practice has spread far and wide. Hans Stafsholt, head distiller at the Colorado craft player Breckenridge Distillery, praises its unique benefits. In addition to making whisky, Breckenridge produces rum and then uses the rum barrels to finish its rum cask-finished bourbon. “Rum imparts such a beautiful, sweet, intricate, and unique flavor when it’s introduced to other spirits,” he says. “The rum cask brings a whole new addition to the whiskey–flavors of cola, cinnamon, tropical fruit, and chocolate.”
As noted, the process is not without its hurdles. One of them is matching the right barrel with a given whiskey. “Finding the perfect extraction of spices is key in creating the unique flavor of the spirit,” says Stafsholt. “It all comes down to timing, and requires a lot of patience.” Provenance can also matter, as Caribbean rums can carry vastly different flavor profiles from their cousins from Central America and elsewhere.
But whether you’re a whisky lover looking to substitute your usual sipper for something different, or if you’re a rum fan looking to trek into the world of whisky, check out some of these 11 rum cask-finished whiskies.
11 Rum Cask Finished Whiskies to Try
Angel’s Envy Rum Finished Rye, 50%, $90
Angel’s Envy finishes all of its whiskeys in barrels that held other types of alcohol. This rye spends up to 18 months in Caribbean rum barrels.
Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year old Single Malt Scotch, 43%, $90
Following a 14-year maturation in traditional oak barrels, this Speyside scotch is finished in West Indian, Caribbean rum barrels for 5 to 6 months.
Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Collaboration Series Plantation Rum Finished Bourbon, 52%, $160
Released in collaboration with Plantation Rum, this 10 year old Tennessee bourbon is finished in Jamaican rum barrels for 22 months.
Breckenridge Rum Cask Finish Bourbon, 45%, $60
This blended bourbon is finished in Breckenridge Distillery’s own Colorado rum barrels.
Chicken Cock’s Island Rooster Rye, 47.5%, $200
This Kentucky straight rye is finished in Caribbean rum barrels for at least 6 months.
Glenfiddich 21 year old Gran Reserva Single Malt Scotch, 40%, $250
Following its 21-year maturation, Gran Reserva is finished in Caribbean rum casks for 4 to 6 months.
Pike Creek 10 year old Rum Barrel Finish Canadian, 42%, $30
Hailing from Windsor, Ontario, this undergoes a year-long finish in rum casks. The barrels are sourced from the Caribbean and come from an even mix of Navy and Amber rums.
Redemption Rum Cask Finish Rye, 47%, $50
Redemption put their signature 95% rye through a finishing stage in Jamaican and Barbadian rum barrels for up to 14 months.
Sagamore Spirit Rum Cask Finish Rye, 49%, $80
This blend is made from a selection of 5 and 6 year old ryes. Before the whiskeys are blended, they are each finished separately for 10 months in Jamaican and South American rum barrels.
Teeling Small Batch Irish, 46%, $35
Comprised of a 3:1 ratio of corn-based and malt-based whiskeys that are matured separately for up to 6 years in bourbon barrels before being married together in Central American rum barrels over the course of 6-12 months.
Westward Whiskey Rum Cask-Finished American Single Malt, 50%, $100
Westward chose Casa Magdalena rum barrels from Guatemala to finish this expression.