Information regarding whiskey barrels or casks used to mature the alcohol is typically right there on the label, especially if the product came from an independent bottling company. The type and size of the whiskey barrel has a lot to do with the flavor it imparts due to the amount of contact it had with the contents affecting each bottle. Since it can be confusing understanding the terminology of this industry, here is a guide that can help.
Gorda (700 Liters Capacity)
These whiskey barrels are typically used in the American whiskey industry. Made of American oak, Gorda whiskey barrels are utilized to mature whiskey, primarily using various blends or vatted production.
Madeira Drum (650 Liters Capacity)
These short, fat whiskey barrels are wide in diameter and constructed from the thick staves of French oak. Madeira Drum whiskey barrels are used in the Madeira wine industry, but occasionally are used as whiskey barrels to finish certain whiskies.
Port Pipe (650 Liter Capacity)
These tall and thin whiskey barrels are made from European oak and constructed from the thick staves and appear to have had their ends stretched. Their primary use is for maturing Port wine and finishing whiskies.
Butt (500 Liters Capacity)
These are tall, narrow whiskey barrels or casks constructed from the thick staves of European oaks. Their primary use is in Spain’s sherry industry and in the whiskey industry.
Puncheon (500 Liter Capacity)
The puncheon cask exists in two styles. The most common of these is the machine puncheon designed from thick staves of American oak. They are short, stout whiskey barrels. Thinner staves of the Spanish oak are used to make the sherry type puncheon which is an elongated cask and are used primarily in the rum and sherry industry but also as whiskey barrels for finishing whiskey.
Barrique (300 Liter Capacity)
Widely used in the wine industry is the Barrique cask. Wood strips are used to bind these casks instead of typical metal hoops. They impart a delightful finish to wine.
Hogshead (225 Liters Capacity)
The 15th century English term “hogges hede” is where the name hogshead originated and refers to a unit of measurement equal to 63 gallons. Constructed of American white oak, these whiskey barrels are used to mature bourbon prior to it being shipped to Scotland and Ireland. It is one of the more commonly used to mature whiskey.
ASB (200 Liters Capacity)
Derived from the hogshead, the American Standard Barrel is smaller and easier to use. Constructed of American white oak, these whiskey barrels are used to mature Scottish and Irish whiskey.
Quarter Cask (50 Liters Capacity)
A fourth the size of the American Standard barrel, the quarter cask is very reactive to alcohol since there is more contact between liquid and wood imparting more flavor into the whiskey.
Blood Tub (40 Liters Capacity)
This is a small cask intended for brewing beer instead of being used as whiskey barrels. It is also used in distilleries to mature whiskey. Its oval shape makes them ideal for carrying on horseback.