SpiritsHandpicked by IWSC

Award-winning cask-finished whisky

From Scotch rested in sherry butts to world whiskey aged in ex-wine barrels, here are 10 top cask-finished whiskies from the IWSC 2023

Words by IWSC Judges

cask-finishing whisky
Handpicked by IWSC
The type of cask in which a whisky is aged has a significant impact on the flavour profile of the finished liquid

Given that at least 60% of a whisky’s flavour comes from the barrel it’s aged in, it’s no surprise that distilleries have been busy experimenting with a variety of cask types to add extra nuances of flavour to the final spirit.

Whisky is typically aged in barrels that once contained bourbon or sherry, but everything is fair game these days, whether it’s Cognac casks, rum barrels or port pipes. Even when a cask is emptied, a proportion of the original liquid will have soaked into the staves, so if you refill it with whisky – a process known as ‘finishing’ – over time, that liquid will blend with the spirit. Wine and port casks will add a fruity dimension to whisky; rum will add depth and richness; while sherry butts will vary depending on their type. Oloroso sherry adds richness, whereas a leaner, drier style such as fino will add briney, maritime notes.

The Balvenie distillery, where David Stewart helped pioneer the use of cask-finishing

Cask finishing was pioneered by two powerhouses of the Scotch whisky industry: David Stewart of The Balvenie, and Dr Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie. The latter is particularly known for his wild experimentation, finishing his Highland whisky in casks that used to contain Sauternes, Madeira, and even Côtes du Rhône red wine.

It’s fitting, then, that The Balvenie won a Gold medal at the 2023 IWSC, scoring 98/100 for its 21 YO Portwood Single Malt Scotch Whisky, captivating judges with a creamy mouthfeel and sweetness that evoked stewed apples and vanilla cream.

Other top-scoring cask-finished whiskies included Redbreast’s 27 YO Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey and Glencadam’s Reserva Andalucía Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish Single Malt Scotch Whisky, offering a further flavour of the many ways producers are maximising on the trend to create exciting new expressions. Read on for a selection of the best cask-finished whiskies from 2023’s IWSC.


We run a tightly structured, rigorous spirits tasting process. That means that each spirit sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC spirit judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the drinks industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.


Only the best spirits sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, spirits have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.


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