A rich, fortified wine that hails from Portugal, port—like its counterparts sherry and madeira—boasts sweet, ripe fruit flavors and sometimes notes of nuts and dried fruit. Whisky makers have used port casks for finishing for many years, though the practice requires a delicate touch, according to Dewar’s master blender Stephanie MacLeod. Whiskies that have been finished in port casks often have dessert-like notes, such as figs, berries, toffee, and chocolate. Talk about a decadent dram!
This trio of port cask-finished whiskies comes from our Spring 2021 Buying Guide, and with one single malt scotch, one bourbon, and one blended scotch, each bottle showcases a different facet of the fortified wine. Port casks aren’t the only type of wine finishing casks featured in the Spring 2021 Buying Guide; we also reviewed whiskies finished in chardonnay, bordeaux, pinot noir, rosé, and sherry casks, so you can compare how they stack up to their port-y peers.
3 STUNNING PORT CASK-FINISHED WHISKIES TO TRY
Thomas S. Moore Port Cask-Finished Bourbon
93 points, 49.45% ABV, $70
The port casks give an arresting nose of saline, like a tidal pool, but rich with raisins, figs, hazelnuts, brown sugar, and orange peel. Tart yuzu appears, a curiosity, but not unwelcome. The full-bodied palate is spicy, rich, sweet, and nutty, resplendent with baking spice, brown sugar, Coca-Cola, dark chocolate, candied orange peel, fig jam, and toasted pecans and hazelnuts. Gingersnaps, Italian hot chocolate, brown sugar-encrusted pecans, and polished oak on the finish. —Susannah Skiver Barton
GlenDronach Port Wood Single Malt Scotch
91 points, 46% ABV, $90
The rose-gold tint of this natural-color whisky serves as a visual hint of its heavy port cask influence. Dominated on the nose by butterscotch and caramelized sugar, maple syrup, pralines, candied pecans, dates, and syrupy stewed plums. A silky but weighty palate revels in raspberry jam, raisin bread, semi-sweet chocolate, toasted nuts, dark sea-salt caramel, and gentle spice, concluding with a balanced finish of raspberry-dark chocolate squares, tobacco, and ginger. —Susannah Skiver Barton
Dewar’s 8 year old Portuguese Smooth Blended Scotch
89 points, 40% ABV, $22
A beautiful blush-toned whisky with red currant, cranberry, and light toffee; the delicate spices beautifully integrated with the soft fruits on the nose. Flavors of dried apricots, honey, and vanilla sugar offer a sweet smooth creaminess with hints of butterscotch, cherry syrup, and lingering fine-ground pepper. Adding this latest port finish to its range, Dewar’s bolsters the resurgence of the 8 year old age statement in scotch whisky. (Best Value) —Jonny McCormick