Celebrating just over 4 years since opening their doors in August 2016, The Single Cask is an independent whiskey bottler and cask broker whose bottles can be purchased in over 15 countries world wide. With an ethos of picking only the very best barrels available and bottling the whiskey in its pure and natural state as they were found in the barrel, they have bottled around 150 casks for everyone from retailers, to specific markets, and the bars that they work with. As independent bottlers, cask brokers, and the owners of an award-winning whiskey bar in Singapore, they scour the globe for casks that fall into either of three specific categories : a great example of what a particular distillery does so well; a top case-study in a certain maturation technique; or a unique and unusual whisky. According to their website they describe themselves as follows:
“The Single Cask bottle unique whiskies, one cask at a time. We carefully select every single cask, and bottle at cask strength, always keeping our liquid natural colour and with no chill filtration. Great whisky meant to be opened, shared, and enjoyed.“
With its headquarters in Bardstown, KY, and distilling operations in Louisville, KY, Heaven Hill is the largest independent family-owned and operated producers of distilled spirits products in the US, and the second largest holder of ageing American Whiskey in the world. Producing five distinct mashbills, the distillery and company has seen massive growth since they were first established after Prohibition with their numerous brands consistently picking up top awards across the board.
Today I’ll be looking at this independent bottling of 10 year old corn whiskey sourced from Heaven Hill by The Single Cask. As part of their 5 distinct mashbills Heaven Hill produce a unique straight corn whiskey under their Mellow Corn brand. Typically aged much longer than other corn whiskies on the market (4 years +) this whiskey is aged in used Heaven Hill cooperage and has been a Bottled-in-Bond product since its introduction in 1945. Today’s bottling falls over the 50% requirement to be labelled Bottled-in-Bond and instead was bottled at natural cask strength of 62.5% ABV (125 proof), without added colour or chill filtering, and with the barrel having completed the majority of its maturation in Kentucky before a final maturation stint in UK. Once matured the barrel yielded a total of 130 bottles.
Before I get into my review I thought I’d quickly run through what corn whiskey is for those readers who have either overlooked it as a category or are yet to come across it. Like other types of whiskey produced in the US, corn whiskey is defined under US Federal law as a distinct whiskey that has to follow a set of rules as follows:
“Corn whisky” is whisky produced at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 80 percent corn grain, and if stored in oak containers stored at not more than 125° proof in used or uncharred new oak containers and not subjected in any manner to treatment with charred wood; and also includes mixtures of such whisky.https://www.ttb.gov/images/pdfs/spirits_bam/chapter4.pdf
In a nutshell it has to come from a mash of at least 80% corn and be aged in a used or uncharred new oak container (such as a barrel).
Name: The Single Cask American Corn Whiskey (Barrel #152724)
Age: 10 years old
Proof: 125 Proof (62.5% ABV)
Type: American Corn Whiskey
Mashbill: 90% Corn, 10% Rye and Malted Barley
Producer: The Single Cask (sourced from Heaven Hill)
Nose: The nose opens with big sweet vanilla, faint earthy spices, a touch of ethanol, and faint caramel corn.
Palate: The palate opens sweet and viscous with corn-forward caramel syrup before a wave of fiery rye spice builds on the tongue bringing with it alcohol burn, toasted marshmallows, and some faint herbaceous oak notes. Once these fade earthy rye continues to dominate the flavour profile alongside very faint corn and herbaceous notes. As you continue to sip this vanilla also emerges on the palate and those herbaceous notes build up on the cheeks and palate giving a grain-forward experience of malted barley.
Finish: The finish opens with some residual rye spice and oily corn lasting into the aftertaste.
Drinking Heaven Hill’s corn mashbill at barrel proof really is an interesting experience. Unlike Heaven Hill’s Mellow Corn whiskey which is also quite viscous but really carries those thick corn notes alongside some malt, caramel, and peppery rye notes, at barrel proof this was all about the rye which burns a path across your palate and dominates the flavour profile once the intensity fades. There also weren’t many flavours in the finish and aftertaste outside of some lingering rye and alcohol spice which left the cheeks and tongue in a delicate state. Overall, I think this was definitely an interesting cask strength drinking experience and not one bourbon drinkers get to experience very often outside of the US. From speaking to the Single Cask guys this whiskey had aged in Scotland for a period of time which no doubt had an impact on it’s profile and also explains why we’re not seeing more cask influence coming through as the colder climate would have slowed the ageing process right down when compared to the wide temperature swings of the Bluegrass State.
Try or Buy?
With only 130 bottles, this unfortunately isn’t available to buy anymore, however, it still comes up in UK auctions from time to time and is hopefully not the final American whiskey cask we see from The Single Cask. If I saw this at auction for around the £80 mark I’d definitely take a punt on something truly unique within the UK American whiskey market.
For those who are curious about The Single Cask, it’s also worth mentioning that they have started doing miniatures of some of their single cask bottlings which give curious drinkers the chance to try some of their exceptional casks without forking out for a full bottle. If you’re like me, it also gives you the chance to try something that’s sold out in full bottle size, which is always nice!