How Many Bottles Are In A Cask?
Casks come in all shapes and sizes, and so the answer to the question ‘how many bottles are in a whisky cask’ yields a fairly long answer.
The most commonly found cask of whisky in Scotland is a hogshead which holds 357 70cl bottles or 333 75cl bottles. However, different cask sizes produce different numbers of bottles, and there are a number of different factors that can contribute to the number of bottles that come out of a cask.
Unless you work with casks on a regular basis it can be much easier to measure the volume of a cask by working out how many bottles can come from a cask of whisky.
Read on for a detailed breakdown of the number of bottles, drams and more in each cask type as well as important information on how the number of bottles in a cask can drop over time.
DISCLAIMER: You should not use bottle counts as an indicator of which cask is best to purchase.
All of the calculations below are estimates based on maximum fill volumes. There are lots of different factors that can affect the number of bottles that come out of a cask and if you are thinking about bottling a cask of whisky you should also check out our cask calculator.
What Are The Most Common Cask Types?
The most common cask type used in maturing Scotch whisky is an American standard barrel, or just a barrel for short. These casks are most often used to mature bourbon before being passed over to the Scotch whisky industry for use in maturing whisky.
Another very common cask type that is used in maturing Scotch whisky is a hogshead. Hogsheads are slightly larger than barrels and you can read about the effects of cask size on maturation rates here.
There are some cask types that are used primarily for finishing whisky instead of maturing it. These include puncheons, butts, barriques, port pipes, and Madeira drums.
Below I have outlined the different types of casks, and how many bottles they can produce when the whisky is matured, finished, and released.
How many bottles are in a Quarter cask?
The quarter cask holds approximately 45-50 litres of liquid, meaning that they can produce up to 71 70cl bottles. In the USA they use 75cl bottles as standard so a Quarter cask can hold up to 66 75cl bottles.
Quarter casks are the smallest cask size used in maturing and finishing Scotch whisky. Their small size makes them perfect for rapid maturation.
How many bottles in a Barrel?
The American standard barrel is known as the barrel for short. Barrels can hold 190-200 litres and yield 271-285 70cl bottles, or 253-266 75cl bottles of whisky.
These casks are named because they are the most common barrel size used in maturing bourbon. After the casks have been used to mature bourbon, they are dismantled and shipped to Scotland to be used to mature Scotch whisky. Ex-bourbon barrels impart flavours of vanilla and caramel on the whisky.
How many bottles in a Hogshead cask?
Another commonly used cask size for maturing cask whisky is a hogshead. Hogsheads hold approximately 225-250 litres of liquid, meaning that they can yield up to 357 70cl bottles of whisky. In the USA they use 75cl bottles as standard, meaning that a hogshead can produce up to 333 75cl bottles.
Hogsheads are commonly made by adding extra staves when rebuilding American standard barrels.
How many bottles are in a Barrique cask?
The next biggest size is a barrique. This barrel is most commonly used in the wine industry and can hold 250-300 litres. They can yield 357-428 70cl bottles, or 333-400 75cl bottles of whisky.
How many bottles does a Puncheon hold?
Puncheons are up next! Puncheons can yield 408-500 70cl bottles or 381-400 75cl bottles due to their 450-500 litre volume. Puncheons are most often used to mature sherry and rum before they are passed on to the Scotch whisky industry.
How many bottles are in a whisky Butt?
The next biggest barrel size is a butt. Butts can hold 475-500 litres of liquid and are the most common ex-sherry casks to be used in maturing Scotch whisky. From these casks you can expect 678-714 70cl bottles or 633-666 75cl bottles.
How many bottles are in a Port Pipe?
Next up are port pipes. Port pipes are most commonly used for finishing whisky rather than maturing it. They can hold 550-650 litres of liquid, yielding 785-928 70cl bottles or 733-866 75cl bottles.
How many bottles in a Madeira Drum?
And finally, Madeira drums are the giants of cask sizes that are generally used to finish Scotch whisky. Madeira drums can hold 600-650 litres of liquid and yield 857-928 70cl bottles or 800-866 75cl bottles of whisky.
If you would like to read more about the different types of casks and how important they are in the whisky-making process our comprehensive blog on casks will tell you all you need to know. Alternatively, our Romance of the Cask series is split into four digestible parts for you to read at your leisure.
Different Cask Types, Different Measurements
So, that is how many bottles of whisky you can get from the most common cask sizes in the industry. But what about if you want to size up your whisky cask in measures?
How many 35ml measures can you enjoy from a single cask of whisky?
Firstly, there are numerous different sizes of casks.
There are approximately 7,142 35ml measures in a hogshead, which means that there are 7,142 drams of whisky in a hogshead for you to enjoy. 35ml is the standard UK measurement for a dram, although pubs are free to choose to serve a dram at 25ml. As a hogshead can hold 250 litres of liquid, it can yield 10,000 25ml measures.
In the USA the standard measurement is 1 US fluid ounce, which equates to approximately 29.5ml. Therefore, a hogshead can yield 8,474 US fl oz or 8,474 29.5ml measures.
Confused but still with me? Good. Onwards and upwards.
From a quarter cask you can fill 1,428 35ml measures, or 2,000 25ml measures. Across the pond, this equates to 1,694 29.5ml measures.
American standard barrels can fill 5,714 35ml measures or 8,000 25ml measures. You can fill 6,779 29.5ml measures for American drinkers.
The ~300 litres in a barrique can translate to 12,000 25ml measures, 8,571 35ml measures, or 10,169 29.5ml measures.
Approximately 500 litres can be held in a puncheon, meaning that from this sized cask you can fill 20,000 25ml measures or 14,285 35ml measures for whisky drinkers in the UK, or 16,949 29.5ml measures for US drinkers. Butts can also hold up to 500 litres, and therefore yield the same maximum measurements.
Port pipes can hold up to 650 litres, and so contain the equivalent of 26,000 25ml measures, 18,571 35ml measures, or 22,033 29.5ml measures. Madeira drums can also hold up to 650 litres, meaning that the same number of measures can come from the cask.
The Other Factors Affecting Bottle Count
The number of bottles that come out of a cask is dependent on many factors. The ranges discussed so far are just based on the maximum fill level, but actually the fill level in a cask drops each year, whisky can legally be diluted to a minimum of 40%, and some liquid is lost during bottling.
Hence you really need to be careful when looking at a bottle count.
How does the Angel’s Share affect the number of bottles in a cask?
The Angel’s Share is the term for the whisky that naturally evaporates during its time in the cask
As whisky matures in a cask for a minimum of three years, some of the liquid in the cask evaporates due to the porous nature of the casks. The loss is around 2% per year, but this number can go up or down depending on the porousness of the individual cask and the climate in which the cask is maturing.
Water and alcohol evaporates each year meaning the ABV of the whisky changes as it matures. In Scotland alcohol evaporates more, transforming the high-proof spirit into Scotland’s staple drink. But in Tennessee water evaporates preferentially, causing the ABV to increase.
Of course, if the liquid is evaporating the level of liquid in the cask will drop. And so does the number of bottles in the cask. Do not despair, though. This is a normal part of whisky making and the liquid that is left will be a smooth and robust whisky.
If you would like to read more about how to keep an eye on the health of your whisky cask click here.
What does Cask Strength mean for the number of bottles in a cask?
Whisky can be diluted with pure Scottish water and still legally considered whisky as long as the ABV remains above 40%.
If you’re looking at the bottle count of a cask it is important to discern or decide whether or not bottles are being filled at cask strength. If they are, then the bottle count will be a simple division as we have done above.
If the whisky is diluted then there will be a higher bottle yield from the cask. It is important to realise that the value of the bottled whisky will be less than if it was cask strength.
How does the bottling process affect the number of bottles in my cask?
When you come to bottle a cask between 1% and 5% of the whisky can be lost during the process. This loss comes from the filtration processes used in bottling and also some lost in the pipes etc.
So it is important to also add this loss in when you are looking at the overall number of bottles that a single cask can yield.
To watch our comprehensive video guide on bottle counts and the factors that affect them click here.
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Want to Buy Your Own Whisky Cask?
Bottle counts can be misleading, so it is important that you do your research before buying a cask. Here at Mark Littler Ltd we are experts on all things concerning buying and investing in whisky casks.
If you are thinking of buying your own whisky cask and bottling it in the future make sure you check out our other resources on bottle count and bottling costs.
If the number of bottles from a cask seems daunting to sell or drink then just remember it is possible to have just a few bottles or cases bottled for yourself and sell the rest of the cask in bond.
Mark Littler Ltd can help you buy a cask for immediate or future bottling, including custom bottle designs. In addition, some distilleries have cask buying schemes, some of which include the cost of bottling your whisky at the end of the maturation period.
Our comprehensive cask buying guide, cask investment video guides, and whisky education blog will tell you all you need to know before taking the plunge. Our cask calculator can also help you to work out how much it could cost you to bottle your cask. If you have any questions or worries we are more than happy to help, so please do get in touch.