9 Sublime Cask Strength Whiskies To Try Now [List]

When whisky comes straight from the barrel, it often means big flavor. Because of the higher concentration of ethanol in the glass, your nose and palate can pick up more intense notes, and when the whisky is distilled and aged correctly, there’s not too much alcohol burn—even at the highest proof levels. If you’re looking for a bold dram that brings the heat, you’ll want to seek out one of these top-scoring cask strength whiskeys.

Barrel Proof Whiskies With Top Marks

Writers’ Tears Cask Strength Blended Irish (2021 Release)
93 points, 54.2%, $145

Rich, malty, and bursting with pot still spices, time enables the appearance of deeper layers of toffee, Brazil nut, cherry, sultana cake, espresso foam, and the aromas of a dark cigar wrapper. Mouth-filling flavors of dark caramel, nuts, orange, clove, milk chocolate, and toasted almond, with firecracker pot still spices. A drying finish with malt, amaretti, and espresso. This is epic stuff. (1,500 bottles for the U.S.)—Jonny McCormick

booker's donohoe's batchBooker’s 2021-01 “Donohoe’s Batch” Kentucky Straight Bourbon
92 points, 62.65%, $90

Vanilla custard, pie crust, peanut brittle, rich oak, dried oranges, old leather, and raspberry jam on the nose. Loads of sweetness on the palate, with pecan pie, dark chocolate, brown sugar, PayDay bar, and cherry cordial. The finish is long and spicy, with pine and mint fragrance alongside nutty almond notes. Add water to unlock a lovely mix of fruit, nuts, chocolate, and spice.—Ted Simmons

Ranger Creek .36 Cask Strength Texas Straight Bourbon (Batch 560)
91 points, 67.1%, $90

Pleasant grapey and oak-influenced berry aromas on the nose. Sizzling and spicy on the palate, but water ushers in a rich array of flavors—raspberries, chocolate, bitter espresso, walnut, and pepper spice. Heat and lots of spice reemerge on the finish, with the berry and chocolate notes lingering. Hot and powerful, but it’s worth braving the heat for this one. A bit of water turns a sledgehammer into a flavorful, friendly whiskey.—David Fleming

Whiskey Del Bac Distiller’s Cut Sauternes Cask Finished American Single Malt (Summer 2021)
90 points, 57%, $85

A blend of the distillery’s two flagship whiskeys, Dorado and Classic, finished in sauternes casks. Licorice, cedar, and sandalwood, with Del Bac’s signature campfire and mesquite influence presiding. Powerful and chewy on the palate, led by lush flavors of blackberry tart, cooked peaches, figs, dark chocolate, and campfire smoke. A long finish offers more dark fruits, chocolate, and coffee. A big whiskey with plenty to savor. (751 bottles)—David Fleming

Bowman Bros. 10 year old Virginia Straight Cask Strength Bourbon
90 points, 70.55%, $100

Dry notes of bitter herbs merge with grape jelly, cooked blueberries, candied oranges, vanilla custard, and tobacco pouch, all gently muffled by fragrant oak and antique shop maturity. The palate is powerful and hot but creamy, and filled with orange, cherries, and spice, while water brings out softer oak, caramel, and baking spice. More of the smooth texture on the finish, which highlights fudge, honeyed almonds, and chile peppers.—David Fleming

stellum bourbonStellum Cask Strength Blend of Straight Bourbons
90 points, 57.49%, $55

From the minds at Barrell Craft Spirits. The nose is fruity, with notes of mixed-berry preserves, cherries, blackberries, and Smarties, with additional dessert-like aromas of tiramisu and milk chocolate-covered caramel. A velvety mouthfeel showcases more caramel, plus orange and berry flavors, while also providing a good deal of spice that carries over to a slightly underwhelming finish. Enough complexity and proof to handle water well.—Ted Simmons

Tahwahkaro Cask Strength Straight Bourbon (Barrel No. 18-0076)
90 points, 64.3%, $65

Alluringly dark and fragrant, sending forth aromas of grape jelly, dried strawberries, and apricots. The rich palate is loaded with blackberry tart, cooked prunes, buttered popcorn, malt, and vanilla cake. More berries and luscious dark fruit on a finish that kicks in with rich chocolate and spiced oak, all tinged with char and aged barrel notes. This is Texas bourbon’s answer to a top-flight jammy California cabernet.—David Fleming

Devils River Barrel Strength Texas Bourbon
89 points, 58.5%, $40

Fruity and grain forward on the nose, like grape jelly on an English muffin. Blueberry yogurt, mixed berries, sweetened almonds, plus hints of caramel and lemon with water added. The palate is honeyed up front, with gummy candy sweetness, vanilla, and baking spice. Water helps bring out chocolate and cinnamon powder. Vanilla fudge and spice notes on the finish, which is improved with water.—Ted Simmons

Kings County 6 year old Blender’s Reserve Bourbon
88 points, 70%, $125

Syrupy in appearance and aroma. Barrel char, raw honey, orange marmalade, honey-roasted peanuts, and candied raspberries on the nose. Add water, and zesty lemon and lime, fresh oak, and chamomile tea emerge. The palate is jammy—warm notes of vanilla and strawberry preserves—with a peppery spice underneath. Spiced wood on a big and powerful finish. Heft and heat are present, as is a woody bluntness. (300 bottles)—Ted Simmons

More From Whisky List

5 Great Irish Whiskeys to Try Now

Sample single pot still or some of Ireland’s inventive finishing techniques with one of these selections from the Fall 2022 Buying Guide.