Wine Cask-Finished Spirits

Distillers resting whiskeys, rums and Tequila in wine barrels are creating deliciously rich and complex spirits.



If you’ve already read the May issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, you know that a growing number of distillers are resting whiskeys, rum, Tequila and other spirits in barrels that were previously used to age wine. The end result of this cask-finishing, as the technique is commonly called, is a richer, more complex spirit with a little something extra, such as the rich touch of Port or a honeyed brush of Sauternes.

Here’s a selection of wine cask-finished spirits worth seeking out, including many that we didn’t have space to print in the original article:

Angel’s Envy Bourbon. Port-barrel finishing yields a seductively rich, raisin and dried cherry aroma and a big finish with vanilla, bitter chocolate and espresso tones. It’s easy to see why this Bourbon brought Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson out of retirement.

Canadian Club Sherry Cask. Blended Canadian whisky double-matured in Spanish Sherry casks, aged at least eight years. Mellow, silky, refined with warm flavors of dark chocolate, Guinness/stout and hazelnuts.

Del Maguey Chichicapa Cask Mezcal. This “single village” mezcal is aged for 14 years in glass bottles, then finished in a Stags Leap Cabernet barrel for 43 days. The result: a light nut-brown mezcal with beautiful aromas of raisin, vanilla and dark chocolate, with a mellow pepper note in the background. But it’s a limited edition, priced at a hefty $320.

Dos Maderas PX Rum. A velvety, aromatic rum aged in multiple Sherry casks.

Eades Small Batch Double Malt Whiskey, Speyside. A spicy whiskey with a honeyed, lightly smoky finish. The unusual finishing approach will appeal to those who appreciate robust reds: Half of the whiskey is finished in a Zinfandel cask, the other in a Callejo (Tempranillo) vessel.                  

Eades Small Batch Double Malt Whiskey, Highland. This deep-amber whiskey is smoky and crisp, finishing with warm cinnamon and ginger spices, and a faint toffee note. Half of the whiskey is finished in a Château Lafite barrel, the other in a Grenache Blanc cask.

Eades Small Batch Double Malt Whiskey, Islay. Overall, this is very peaty whiskey, with a massively smoky aroma and flavor. Just a touch of ripe fruit points to a wine influence. Half of the whiskey is finished in a Château d’Yquem vessel, the other in a Grenache barrel.

Excellia Tequila. An unusually delicate, fruity Tequila finished in Cognac and Sauternes barrels. Try the reposado version, which also has light vanilla notes.

Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18-Years-Old. A special-occasion Highland single malt, finished in Oloroso Sherry casks. The Sherry influence is definitely evident in the rich fragrance and honeyed, faintly peaty finish.

Glenmorangie The Nectar d’Or. This Sauternes-finished 12-year-old whiskey has a distinctly smooth, honey-and-apples quality with a slightly smoky, lingering finish.

Glenmorangie The Lasanta. Finished in Oloroso Sherry casks, the spirit has rich almond and dried-fruit notes and a deep amber, Sherry-like cast.

Glenmorangie The Quinta Ruban. Ruban is Gaelic for “ruby,” which makes perfect sense for a whiskey finished in barrels that once held Ruby Port. The Port influence shows in the ruddy tinge and a subtle cherry-vanilla fragrance. Smoky but smooth.

Gran Patron Burdeos. This limited-edition aged Tequila is finished in Bordeaux barrels—the final result of a side-by-side comparison by Patron’s master distiller, Francisco Alcaraz, who also tried out Porto and Madeira finishes.

Laphroaig 25-Year-Old. An Islay single malt finished in Oloroso Sherry barrels, sourced from sister company Harvey’s. Look for mouth-coating dried apricot, raisin and cinnamon notes beneath a soft, smoky veil. 

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