As we near the end of National Wine Day 2022, I thought I would pay tribute to the marriage of whisky and wine. More and more distilleries and Independent Bottlers are sourcing and using wine casks to finish their whisky, offering a wider variety of flavour in the Scotch Whisky Industry than ever before.
Like everything, some work better than others and it is impossible for me to sit here and write to tell you which wine styles work the best for finishing and which to avoid. You’ll have to discover that for yourself. I can, however tell you how excited I am about the quality and variety that is coming from well known and new brands alike as they discover the fruits of past experiments and bottle some terrific combinations of flavour.
While they certainly didn’t start the trend, Bruichladdich definitely made experimental finishes with wine trendy and desirable under the ownership of Murray McDavid and the stewardship of Mark Reynier and Jim McEwan. Indeed the pioneering movement of ACEing (Additional Cask Enhancement) was something that the Islay distillery embraced when they discovered that they had taken on a lot of poorly matured whisky in their warehouses. This whisky needed a flavour boost and while the name didn’t exactly catch on, the same practise of ‘Finishing’ certainly did.
As with the quality of the cask, the original wine that was in the wood makes a huge difference to the outcome and therefore your preference to which work best for you. For example a Madeira wine cask might give the whisky a sweet spiciness to the flavour but a long and dry finish whereas a Sauternes wine cask would offer a similar character but with a lemon zestiness. A Bordeaux Red Wine cask could add blackcurrants and red summer fruits, however bolder red wine casks could offer oakier, more tannic notes to the whisky.
Wine cask finishing is certainly here to stay, and as we see more and more of the initial casks used for finishing, these will indeed filter into the warehouse for fully matured whiskies to enjoy a slower, longer maturation. There are some great examples already out there and I am certain that one day the wine sector, albeit with more variety will be as big as the two stalwarts of sherry – PX and Oloroso.
Here are some whiskies available just now that have been finished, or fully matured in wine casks that definitely deserve your attention.
Lindores Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
‘The Casks Of Lindores, Shaved, Toasted and Recharred Red Wine Barriques’.
A Limited Bottling from Lindores Abbey Distillery. Matured exclusively in STR Red Wine Casks of exceptional quality for over three years, developing a distinctive profile.
Nose: Mellow fruity apricot jam, toffee notes and a hint of cinnamon combined with butter and custard
Palate: Sweet and spices. Mellow plums, red berries, treacle, cinnamon spice and a pleasant woody smoked note. Very soft silky mouthfeel.
Finish: Medium to long with spices, honey and caramel notes.
Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice
Glendullan 2009 Côte-Rôtie Casks
Single cask bottling from Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice from the Speyside Distillery Glendullan. Matured in Ex-Bourbon Casks before spending 3 years in Côte-Rôtie casks.
Nose: Sweet dried strawberries pieces give way to aromas of roasted peanuts. Crystallised violet notes develop alongside subtle honey and a faint herbal edge.
Palate: Smooth raspberry compote combines with subtle liquorice and red apple. Demerara sugar comes to the fore, balanced by soft white pepper.
Nose: Medium-bodied with sweet citrus and lingering red berries.
Sinclair Series Rioja Cask Finish
Made with heavily peated barley before being matured in ex-bourbon casks, and finished in hand-selected Spanish Rioja casks.
Nose: Notes of Turkish delight and rose petals balanced with candied fruits and grapes followed by rich leather and a beautiful peppery spice. A hint of chocolate comes through at the back.
Taste: Creamy mouthfeel packed full of almonds, barley and sweet malt with notes of peppery Ledaig, which give way to black raspberries, sweet vanilla and cocoa interspersed with cinnamon spice and hints of freshly cut grass.
Finish: Lingering smoky finish with red fruit and sea spray.
A limited-edition 2002 Deanston single malt that has been finished in Pinot Noir casks, creating a fruity, honeyed character.
Nose: Freshly sliced green apples, with a hint of leafy forest floor earthiness and soft vanilla.
Palate: More vanilla and apple, now with subtly sharp green grape coming though.
Finish: Milky tea, lemon and malt.
Glenrothes Distillery 2009 12 Year Old Marsala Hogshead
This single cask distilled in 2009 at the Speyside Distillery of Glenrothes was finished in a Marsala Hogshead Barrel as part of Alastair Walkers 7th release of Infrequent Flyers.
Nose: Almond praline, raisins, toffee and coconut.
Palate: Viscous. Rich sweetness. Peanut brittle, cinnamon buns and Demerara sugar.
Finish: Very spicy white pepper, long and lingering with subtle sweet nutty notes popping up.
Killer Queen 11 Year Old Glen Elgin
Killer Queen is elegance and grace in a glass. This is a beautifully balanced un-peated single malt whisky from Glen Elgin. The 11 year maturation has been finished in decadent first-fill ex-Madeira octave casks.
Nose Ripe freshly peeled oranges, touch of tart and lemon with faint aromas of delicate white wine, stone fruit and white blossom.
Palate Soft and dainty sweetness arrives first which gradually unfolds itself. Watered honey and blossom emerge accompanied by fresh lychees and a fresh and elegant white wine fades to an orange oil warmth.
Finish The orange fragrant warmth fades mingling with the rest of the Summer fruit basket for a long, smooth and utterly silken finish.
15 Year Old Bordeaux Red Wine Cask
One of Scotlands best known blends worldwide, the Antiquary gets a new lease of life with this stunning 15 year old release which has been matured in Bordeaux Red Wine casks.
Nose: Fresh, juicy red fruits like Gala apples, red grape and pomegranate.
Palate: Fresh delicate fruits, plums and cherry with citrus and a pinch of cinnamon
Finish: Clean and smooth with lingering apple and grape
Cu Bocan have again expanded the boundaries and created another excellent malt creation using unusual but very complimentary casks. Creation #3 has been finished in both Moroccan Cabernet Sauvignon and North American Rye Casks.
Nose: Aromas of a Moroccan Souk are brought to life with the exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon casks used for this innovative Creation.
Palate: Light smoke with a touch of strawberries in balsamic vinegar, exotic spices, citrus and tropical fruits.
13 Year Old Sauternes Wine Cask
The single malt in these casks has been expertly married then finished in the finest Saunternes wine barrels sourced from France.
Nose: Tangy aromas of fine-cut marmalade and poached pears mingled with acacia honey, peach blossom yellow fruits and sandal wood.
Palate: Layers of baked peach, dried mango, manuka honey and chocolate orange followed by lemon drizzle cake, mandarin sorbet and crème anglais.
Finish: Apple compote, agave nectar and candied peels bound in sweet baking spices and candied cloves that linger long on the tongue.
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