Please tell us a little about the background and inspiration behind Cask Strength.
“Cask Strength was born when we dumped our very first barrel of ANGEL’S ENVY. I loved the color and the texture, and I put it in a glass—I actually took a picture of it that moment—and as I tasted it and saw the way it looked, I knew in that moment that it would be our first special release.”
“As you know, all of our bourbon is finished in these nice, beautiful port barrels that we get from Portugal. We let it sit for about six months to really gain that richness. As we were going through and tasting these barrels, we realized that there were really a few that my dad, my grandfather and I enjoyed, maybe a little bit more than the normal barrels. We set them aside, and about a year after we first filled them, we realized that we still had six left from the very first fill we did. They were excellent. So we were able to get a few samples, send them out to some trusted industry friends and let them taste it. Everybody was amazed with the quality of the product. So we were able to make that a very limited release line extension, and that was our 2012 Cask Strength. It was 123.7 proof, and it was an excellent product. We kind of thought that it would be a one-off. We bottled three of those six barrels and it did exceptionally well.”
So how did the first year go? Were you surprised by the reception—either critically or commercially?
“I think we were absolutely surprised, mainly with Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal Review. He named the 2012 Cask Strength the best spirit in the world, which, for us, was absolutely astounding. We didn’t expect it to do as well as it did. We thought it would be a great product, and maybe we’d be able to do more if people loved it. They snapped it up and it has continued to do exceptionally well ever since.”
“I was surprised by the reaction the first year because it was something we really didn’t expect. We knew that we had something special, we knew that everyone was watching because this was our first foray into a special release and was our first cask strength release. We knew we had an audience, and we knew we had anticipation for good things. But when those reviews started coming in and our consumers started saying “Wow, this is something special,” which we had known as well, it really validated our work, and I’m still excited to this day that first year received such amazing coverage. Every year since then, it’s been phenomenal as well.”
How is the 2015 release different? What excites you about this year’s offering?
“It’s a step in a little bit of a different direction. There’s less emphasis on the port notes this year, although the port notes are definitely very relevant and still a huge part. But there’s a little more emphasis on the bourbon aspect, so it’s going to be a little more bourbon-forward and a little less fruit-forward, but still one of the most amazingly complex releases we’ve had to date.”
Any unique notes this year that previous releases might not have had?
“Yeah, there are a few. For one, I got a lot of root beer out of this year’s release. A lot more bourbon notes, so of course the vanillas and oaks and caramels. The higher proof certainly lends itself towards that bourbon note. But you definitely have the dry fruits and fig and dates and dark chocolates that you get from the port barrels as well. It’s reminiscent of past years, but it’s more unique than previous releases.”
How do you recommend enjoying the 2015 Cask Strength?
“I think the only way to enjoy the Cask Strength is to pour a nice, neat pour, and really delve into the complexity of the spirit. Some people add water, and that’s fine. But before you do that, make sure you give it a chance as it is, even at 127 proof, it’s still very smooth. You’re going to get alcohol, as you would with anything at 127 proof, but that alcohol dissipates quickly and it jumps right into all these crazy flavors that explode in your mouth.”