Taste Guide: Octave / Quarter Cask

On 26 September 2016, after the “Original Cask Strength Release” of 2014, Kilchoman presented a very special cask maturation with the second edition of the series: a “Quarter Cask Release”. As the name suggests, quarter casks are only a quarter of the size of a 500 litre cask, and the significantly larger inner surface area of the cask compared to the volume leads to more intensive wood contact of the maturing distillate. For this reason, some distilleries like to use quarter casks for finishing – the Laphroaig Quarter Cask Release, for example, is certainly familiar to every whisky lover.

For the “Original Cask Strength – Quarter Cask Matured Release”, 95 of the 100 or so casks Kilchoman filled in October 2010 as a first maturation experiment were used. The yield was 12,000 bottles, bottled in September 2016 with an age of just under 6 years and an alcohol content of 56.9 %.

Anthony Wills wrote about the release: »The Original Cask Strength releases allow us to show off Kilchoman at its natural powerful best. By bottling at cask strength, without chill filtering or colouring, the natural full bodied texture and character of the single malt shines through on both the nose and the pallet.«

Prior to the Quarter Cask Matured Release, two single cask bottlings had already been released: the first in May 2014 for the Islay Pipe Band sponsored by Kilchoman, then at the end of 2015 an almost five-year bottling for Master of Malt.
The Islay Pipe Band bottling was confusingly called Octave Cask, the terms Quarter Cask and Octave Cask are used very inconsistently by Kilchoman. Normally, a cask with a capacity of about 50 litres is called an Octave Cask, but it should be noted that Kilchoman always uses casks with a capacity of about 100 litres which were made for Kilchoman by a cooperage from bourbon cask staves.

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The few casks not used for the Quarter Cask Matured Release were not further matured – there was a risk that the whisky would have tasted extremely woody very quickly – but either subjected to a sherry finish (Sherry Cask Finished Octave for Milroy’s of Soho) or – somewhat curiously – decanted in bourbon barrels. We have the latter to thank for the extremely interesting almost 10-year-old bottling for Roco Wine & Spirits from Sacramento, which was first matured for 5 years in two quarter casks and then for almost 5 years in a Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel. The term Double Maturation is more appropriate than Finishing here.

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In addition to the ex-bourbon quarter casks discussed here, Kilchoman has also been using port quarter casks for finishing for some time. The resulting bottlings are listed in the Taste Guide: Port Cask.

However, the curiosity of a private Quarter Sherry Cask bottling should be dealt with here:

The German whisky lover Arno Dittel managed to convince Anthony Wills to fill his private Quarter Sherry cask with Kilchoman New Make in 2010, one of the few cases where Kilchoman filled a foreign cask.

He had acquired the fresh sherry quarter cask from the Springbank distillery and let it mature there from May 2001 to the beginning of 2010. The Springbank Private Bottling was then released under the name “Arno`s 1st” (Springbank 2001 Private Bottling – Ratings and reviews – Whiskybase). He then had the cask transported to Kilchoman and there it was filled as a now Refill Sherry Quarter Cask on 13 May 2010 and bottled again after a good 8 years under the name “Arno’s 2nd”. The yield was 87 bottles of a very intense sherry whisky.

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Kilchoman Bourbon Octave / Quarter Cask Releases:

ReleaseCask No.FilledBottledMaturation
Octave Single Cask for Islay Pipe Band581/201007.10.201022.05.20143.5 years
Quarter Single Cask for Master of Malt582/201007.10.201005.09.2015nearly 5 years
Kilchoman Original Cask Strength – Quarter Cask10/201009/2016nearly 6 years
Octave Single Cask for Drinks by the Dram566/201007.10.20102016over 5 years
Sherry Cask Finished Octave for Milroy´s of Soho568/201007.10.201025.10.2016over 5 years, Sherry Finish
9 yo Single Cask for Roco Wine & Spirits1004/201020.10.201001.10.20205 years in Quarter Casks, nearly 5 yeas in a Bourbon Barrel

Kilchoman Sherry Quarter Cask Release:

ReleaseCask No.FilledBottledMaturation
Private Refill Sherry Cask for Arno´s 2nd262/201013.05.201025.02.2019over 8 years

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