19 May

Spiritual Guide: Malt – Wood Finishes

A new guide for spiritual enlightenment by the pious team at Glengarry. Join us monthly as we explore everything spirit related. View the full issue online here.

Malt: Wood Finishes

Much of a whiskies personality and temperament, like that of our own, is shaped by the environment in which it develops. A choice oak cask is not only a storage vessel, but the nurturing hand by which the whisky is led down the path of maturation.

Traditionally, many whiskies had the sherry casks of Spain as the main role model during their journey to adulthood (maturity), delivering spice, dried fruits and nutty characters to the malt. A downturn in the global consumption of sherry has made these casks rarer and therefore more expensive, leading to the search for alternatives. With the Bourbon industry of America forced to use a barrel only once and once only, the leading form of maturation swung from sherry casks to ex-bourbon casks imparting coconut, vanilla and caramel.

In our April Malt Club, we delved into the influence cask selection has on a whisky, with a focus on the act of ‘finishing’ a whisky in a cask different from that it first started its maturation process in, using the latest range of limited releases from the BenRiach and Glenglassaugh stables.


Hamstrung by the periods of closure at the Glenglassaugh distillery, the malts are either in excess of 30 years old or under 10 years of age. The newest releases are of youthful expressions, featuring two malts aged in ex-bourbon casks and finished in port wood, one from peated malt, the other non-peated malt. These are joined by a third malt, aged in ex-bourbon casks before being rounded out in a Pedro Ximenez sherry cask.


BenRiach has long been a spiritual home for the weird and wonderful, with Warehouse 13 hosting malts maturing in an obscure selection of casks. The most recent releases are all aged 22 years, featuring two malts finished in dark rum casks and, like Glenglassaugh, one from peated malt, the other from non-peated malt. This release also features a whisky finished in a Pedro Ximenez sherry cask.  Whilst ‘finishing’ is often done for a short period of time, ranging from the last 3-12 months of the whiskies maturation, in BenRiach’s world this process is extended over many years, with the finishing casks having a profound influence on the style and character of the malt once it has reached maturity.

Tonci Jakicevich