I speak a lot on this site and at tastings about the influences of casks on maturing whisky. Many people high up in the whisky industry have told me their research shows that a cask can contribute up to 55% or more to the final product, making it an incredibly important element in the journey of a whisky. And no more so, for me at least, than in the use of Port casks for finishing or maturing whiskies.
Now, of course ex-sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks are the industry standard and, of course, both have a mighty impact as well – anyone who’s tried a true ‘sherry bomb’ can attest to that.
But it is in Port casks (aka: Port Pipes, so called for their distinctive shape) that I find you get the biggest influence not from the oak (mostly, European or American) but from what was previously held in that cask. Whiskies finished in Port casks take on a very distinct hue, and most clearly show (across the colour, the nose and the palate) the influence of this type of fortified wine on the final product.
I’ve had a few over the years – one of the longest standing in the market is The Balvenie PortWood 21, which has been on shelves for over 20 years and is delightfully delicate and well-balanced. And I recently sampled the lovely Tomintoul Port Finish while in a bar in Scotland – it was stunning and I really recommend giving it a try as it was one of the most surprising whiskies I’ve come across this year (ie: I liked it a lot more than I thought I would).
Both of those whiskies are, however, slightly pricier with The Balvenie now sitting at around the £140 mark, and the Tomintoul still coming in at £39, which may be more than you’d want to pay if you’ve never had a Port-finished whisky and aren’t sure if you like it.
As such, I was keen to take a look at the new release from Glen Moray. This brand is often seen on supermarket shelves and, as many of my whisky friends also agree, is often surprisingly well-priced for its quality levels.
The new Port Cask is a great example of the influence of Port on whisky and at the price – £25 – not a bad way for you to explore this whisky space if you’re curious.
Here’s what I thought of it:
(n): Winey and sharp when first poured into the glass. Needs a second to mellow out. Then golden raisins and candied almonds, before milk chocolate, vanilla and rose.
(p): Very floral: light and delicate, loaded with Turkish Delight and incense sticks. Oak spice and pink peppercorns follow.
(f): Fairly short: candle wax and cardboard.
In conclusion: I loved the nose on this. It’s delicate but really opens up in the glass. Palate had good depth but the finish is a bit too short for me. However, for the price it is a great way to be introduced to port-finished whiskies.