Wimp vs Connoisseur – Whisky strengths

Recently I was part of a short clip for a travel and leisure program. During our whisky sampling, the topic of whisky strength was raised.

Now, for a Scotch whisky to be considered a whisky, it requires a minimum alcohol strength of 40%.

I was reminded of an amusing exchange over a set of whiskies all at 40%:

“For some time now I’ve found that anything that’s around the low 40s%…. I’m like…” 
“You pansy?”
“Yes” 
“You wimpy excuse of a whisky?”
“Well yes…” 
“You why don’t you get some balls and up the strength??”
“Err… yes actually. At least 46%.”

Today when you look at whisky bottles, you will see a range of strengths from the 40% minimum, to many at 43%, to quite a few at 46% and then varying strengths leading up to powerful ones even higher than 60%!

Whisky strength? 46%

Whisky strength? 46%

I will admit to a personal preference for cask strength whiskies as it enables me to calibrate through trial and error to discover as the optimal balance between alcohol and water for my palate.

However there is something to be said for the ‘experts’ making this call.

Hence I quite appreciate when distilleries up their strength beyond 43% to find the ‘optimal’ level for that particular expression.

It has even been said that the default ‘connoisseur’ level is 46%. Two reasons:

  • For many, this is an ideal strength where one can comfortably have it neat yet also ‘open’ the whisky with a few drops of water
  • Typically at 46% and above, there is also no need to chill filter to keep the whisky from looking ‘cloudy’

It is no surprise then that many independent bottlers start at 46% and many distillers too are opting to bottling at 46%… Think Arran’s 12 year, Kilchoman’s Machir Bay and Glendronach’s 15 year.

Would you agree?

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2 thoughts on “Wimp vs Connoisseur – Whisky strengths

  1. Absolutely agree! I definitely gravitate more towards the cask strengths, barrel proofs, what-have-you. Which is why I suppose it’s not surprise my favourite (I know, it’s hard to choose just one) scotch is Laphroaig 10 CS and my favourite (also arguable) bourbon is Booker’s. – Peat

    Liked by 1 person

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