Installment number two in the ‘is it wine or is it Scotch?’ trio takes a look at another popular flavor combo-finishing Single Malt Scotch in barrels from some famous wine regions. This time, the common thread is Porto wine from Portugal’s Douro River Valley.
Many of the more popular spirits, brown liquors especially, have created their unique and distinctive flavor profile with the use of barrels, mostly oak; so integral a part of the flavor that many of us would probably not recognize the liquor without the wood… same goes for wine, although to a lesser extent. Bourbon is American oak. Cognac is French oak. The mellowing and flavor/nuance imparted by the wood can be vanilla or toast, but can’t be eliminated. Another world class spirit that owes much of its reputation to barrel aging certainly has to be Single Malt Scotch.
In wine, the varietal character needs to shine through, otherwise the true character of the grape and place are erased. Not that this does not happen, it happens all the time, but too oaky a wine is pretty tiring, and not terribly refreshing. But the oak, when used judiciously, can impart subtlety and nuance that compliments the variety. Barrel fermented and barrel aged Chardonnay is still the rage. Rich Napa Cabernet would not even resemble itself if not for new oak, usually French oak. The world’s greatest and most age-worthy red wines all spend a good deal of time locked away in this controlled oxidative environment, softening, picking up tannins and flavors. Perhaps the one wine that can benefit from extended barrel age, due in part to the huge extract and high alcohol, has to be the famous Porto wines of Portugal!
Quinta Nova CLA’ Porto Special Reserve non-vintage $28.99
“With a strong red color and dark orange hints, this wine presents an intense balance and mature red fruit aroma, with vanilla and balsamic notes. It shows some volume in the mouth, smoothness and good fresh flavors, especially from the red and black jammy fruits. The finish is long and very elegant.” Wine Spectator 86
Glen Moray Speyside Single Malt Scotch Elgin Classic ‘Port Cask Finished’ $32.99
“A Glen Moray Classic selected from the finest American Oak barrels and finished for 8 months in Porto pipes”
Color: Light gold
Nose: First impressions are of toasty vanilla and subtly hints of oak. Aromas of rich dried fruits and leather follow, laced with dark chocolate and blackberry.
Taste: A wonderful burst of spice hits the tongue combined with a refreshing lemony citrus tang. As the taste develops, a rich caramel sweetness with traces of cinnamon come to the fore.
Finish: The finish is smooth with soft oak and honey sweetness lingering gently on the tongue. The spice continues to tingle and dark chocolate flavor develop to give luxurious texture and a fitting finale to an elegant whiskey.
Shayne Hebert, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine & spirits supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineShayne