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A Tale of Two Tequila Casks

Tequila casks are just beginning to become popular as finishing vessels in American spirits. These casks usually end up in Mexico after at least one use but more often several uses. Sometimes the cask was originally used for Bourbon, sent to Scotland for multiple rounds of Scotch, and then finally ends up in Mexico where it can be used many more times. This means that if that cask is then used again for whisky, the wood is quite spent and has little impact. So it is mostly residual tequila still soaked into the oak that actually brings some additional layers of complexity to the whisky. I had the privilege of tasting two American single malts finished in tequila casks. One from Westland is a single 7 year old cask (5710) and another from Stranahan’s which is a small marriage of casks that were 4-7 years old and then finished in tequila for 2.5 years so they’re a similar age. The Stranahan’s was proofed down to 45% while the Westland is still cask strength at 58.8% so there’s a significant abv difference.


Color: Light amber

Nose: Citrus honey, dried lime rind, dried cherry, overcooked pastry, tart and sweet, green apples.

Palate: Loads of honey, honey drizzled over a cherry hand pie, background notes of margarita (this past Cinco de Mayo I had a prickly pear margarita made with a jalapeno simple syrup and this has a note of that drink). Syrupy sweet agave finish.


Color: Golden straw

Nose: Malt dust, guava, dried summer fields, fresh hay, strawberry jam, key lime pie.

Palate: Sticky buns, dried red apple, bready, faint hint of lime zest and smoke, honey syrup, and a hint of chipotle and cloves on a long finish.

The Stranahan’s is much more tequila forward with agave and tart fruits shining through. It’s also sweeter and darker. Westland’s is more subtle and resonates with summer notes. Both are very good whiskies and tasting them side by side is intriguing. I find it hard to pin down specifically "tequila cask notes" they way you might with sherry or brandy. So I'll be curious to see how this develops as more distilleries find ways to utilize these casks.


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