By Will Abner
In my adventures in all things booze, I always look for new and unique variations on classic ideas. One that I have picked up on in the past year or so is “finished” whisk(e)ys. It’s not a new idea, but one that I have noticed becoming more prevalent on the shelves and much more sought after. By “finished,” I mean a whiskey that has been aged in its traditional cask, then finished in a cask that is unusual for its regular aging regimen.
This began in Scotland where whiskey makers there were traditionally using sherry casks to age their product. Sherry barrels were easily purchased at a low cost and were readily available. Well, changes in the bottling process of sherry in the late 1800s made these types of barrels harder to come by. Faced with this challenge, Scotch distillers looked toward American whiskey makers. Law requires that American whiskey be aged in new American oak barrels. This means after American whiskey is aged, the barrels have done their part, so Scotch distillers began buying them used. This ended up changing the final product flavor profile of many types of Scotch, ever so subtly. So, back into the wine barrels the whisky went, only for a brief period of time however. This imparted that fruity, nutty characteristic that was missing from the whiskey that only spent time in the ex-bourbon barrels.
In short, whiskey makers, American and Scotch alike, are finishing their booze in barrels to impart unique characteristics that don’t come from the typical aging regimen. This is allowing distillers to connect to new markets, and appeal to a greater range of tastes. Subtle differences in whiskeys are now profound, making for fun tasting experiences and new opportunities to collect whiskey not based on age, but by finish.
Some of my absolute favorites come from Scotland…
My favorite being the Auchentoshan Three Wood, aged in ex-bourbon barrels, then sherry, then Pedro Ximenez casks
Glenmorangie has a good line up: Nectar d’Or, aged in Sauternes casks; Lasanta, aged in Sherry casks; Quinta Ruban, aged in Port casks
As for bourbon, Angel’s Envy takes the cake with their Port-finished bourbon and the rum-finished rye.
I am always up to talk about some whiskey, so stop by and we can work out a tasting just for you!