Second maturations are huge in whiskey right now. That means that after the first barrelling, the whiskey goes back into a different barrel for a matter of days, months, or years. The allure of a second barrelling is found in the potential flavors imparted by barrels that recently held other spirits, wines, fortified wines, beer, or even spice extracts or honey.
Sherry is one of the most common vessels used in second barrellings, most often with Scotch whisky. And the principles that make that work aren’t too far off from a similar concept, which we’re focusing on today — port wine casks being used to finish bourbon. Not unlike sherry-finishing, bourbons that go into port wine barrels often feature flavors of dried fruits, ripe berries, and various fruity jam-like flavors (stewed cherry, etc). Like sherry, this technique adds to the overall sweetness without being cloying and works well with the spirit’s base flavors, creating a sublimely complex expression.
Below, you’ll find eight bottles of bourbon that completely encompass port cask-finished bourbon style and would be a welcome addition to any home bar cart. Click on the prices to give one of these a try for yourself!
Breckenridge Port Cask Finished Bourbon
Average Price: $60
Breckenridge Distillery is well-known for its award-winning bourbon. The distillery decided to take this juice a little further and finished some in 59-gallon Tawny Port casks. The result is a sweeter, fruitier, spicy whiskey that you won’t soon forget.
The nose is filled with aromas of dried cherries, butterscotch, vanilla beans, and a nice, gentle hit of spice. The palate is highlighted by notes of vanilla, caramelized sugar, dried fruits, toffee, and spicy cracked black pepper. This finish is a combination of sweetness and warming spice.
While we enjoy drinking port-aged whiskey any time of year, this expression has a nice mixture of fruity sweetness, creamy caramel, and slight spice that make it well-suited to the season.
Thomas S. Moore Port Cask Bourbon
Average Price: $75
This whisky from The Barton 1792 Distillery starts with the brand’s high-rye bourbon that’s originally matured in new, charred American oak barrels before being finished between one to three years in port wine casks. The result is a truly unique, fruity, caramel-filled limited-edition expression.
The nose is loaded with aromas of dried fruits, honey, robust port wine, and caramel. The palate unveils hints of port wine, baking spices, dried cherries, vanilla beans, toffee, and cinnamon sugar. It all ends with a nice, warming finish of spices, toffee, and dried berries.
This is a very well-rounded whiskey. It starts with caramel, vanilla, and cinnamon and moves into a nice, spicy, fruity finish.
Woodinville Port Finished Bourbon
Average Price: $52
Washington State’s Woodinville has gained a lot of fans in the last few years because of its award-winning whiskeys. One of its best is Woodinville Port Finished Bourbon. It begins with the distillery’s five-year-old aged bourbon that’s finished for an extra six months in ruby port barrels.
A lot is going on with this whiskey’s aroma. There are myriad scents, including cherries, ripe berries, vanilla beans, wood char, and slight spice. The palate is loaded with flavors like oaky wood, caramel malts, ripe berries, and vanilla. The finish is dry, warming, and ends with a nice combination of fruit and spice.
This is a well-made bourbon that’s only ramped up by the addition of six months spent finishing in port barrels. It’s sweet, fruity, and warming. A great slow sipper on a cold night.
Isaac Bowman Port Barrel Finished Bourbon
Average Price: $49
The award-winning Isaac Bowman Port Barrel-Fisnished bourbon is first aged in charred, American white oak casks. It’s then finished in port barrels (some from local wineries). The result is a whiskey with the caramel and vanilla highlights of a classic bourbon with the added fruitiness from the port.
This whiskey has a very fruity nose with hints of berries, cherries, as well as caramel, and slight spices. Taking a sip, you’ll find notes of candied pecans, dried cherries, fudge, cinnamon, and baking spices. The finish is warming, sweet, and slightly spicy.
This award-winning bourbon is loaded with nutty sweetness, caramel, and a gentle fruit that makes it a complex, well-balanced whiskey for fall sipping.
Litchfield Batchers Port Cask Finished Bourbon
Average Price: $75
Litchfield took its award-winning straight bourbon and matured it for an extra year in casks that had previously held port wine. What you get is oaky, caramel flavors from the bourbon and ripe fruit and spices from the port wine.
The nose is filled with hints of toffee, vanilla beans, cherries, and a nice, nutty sweetness. The palate is surprisingly spicy — with with cloves and cinnamon predominating. It also hits on notes of dried fruits, caramel candy, and wood char. It all ends in a dry, warming, sweet, slightly spicy finish.
While not as well known as many of the other brands on this list, if you can find a bottle, snatch it up. You’ll be glad to have a bottle of this unique expression when the holidays are finally upon us.
Angel’s Envy Bourbon
Average Price: $55
There is definitely no American port wine finished whiskeys more well known than Angel’s Envy. Its Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon gets its unique flavor from being finished in port wine casks between three and six months. This small-batch whiskey is popular among bartenders and whiskey aficionados alike.
On the nose, you’ll find varied aromas including toasted marshmallows, maple candy, candied almonds, caramel, and holiday spices. The palate is piled high with chocolate fudge, buttery toffee, vanilla beans, candied orange peels, dried fruits, and a gentle hit of smoke.
There’s a reason this is one of the most popular bourbons on the market. It’s mellow and filled with a nutty sweetness, slight fruitiness, and just a hint of spice.
Chattanooga Tawny Port Cask Bourbon
Average Price: $50
If you’ve never tried a whiskey from Chattanooga, now’s your chance. This non-chill filtered bourbon is finished for more than six months in Tawny port barrels. It’s produced in small batches of no more than six to seven barrels to guarantee a complex, nuanced final product.
The nose begins with scents of dried berries, oaky wood, vanilla, and slight spice. The palate features notes of dried fruits, berry jam, charred oak, honey, and toffee. It all ends with pleasing heat and a sweet, fruity finish.
This whiskey is a tremendous combination of sweetness and oaky, caramel flavors. It’s complex, exciting, and perfectly suited for slow sipping neat or on the rocks.
TX Bourbon Whiskey Port Finish
Average Price: $65
While Garrison Brothers and Balcones get all the press when it comes to Texas whiskey, you definitely shouldn’t sleep on Firestone & Robertson. Its line of TX whiskeys is not to be missed. Its foray into the port finished world is its TX Bourbon Port Finish. First aged in new, charred American oak casks, it’s finished in barrels that formerly held Tawny port wine.
The nose is highlighted by hints of dried cherries, caramel, cloves, cinnamon, vanilla. The palate has a nutty sweetness, toffee, baking spices, dried fruits, and butterscotch. It all ends with a warming, sweet, fruity finish that will leave you wanting more.
This is a great example of a bold bourbon that’s even more heightened by being finished in port casks. It’s fruity, nutty, and highly memorable.
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