You should never underestimate the power of a strong finish, as these whiskies from the Spring 2020 Buying Guide prove. Where sherry, port, and madeira cask finishes have dominated the world of scotch, American and Irish whiskeys are getting in on the trend as distillers experiment with new types of wood, finishing length, and barrels that previously held a different spirit altogether.
As the world of finishing has expanded, so too has our Buying Guide categorization. The new release of Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Port Barrel-Finished (93 points) is not classified as bourbon by the distillery in its filing with federal regulators (our feature on “whiskey imposters” in the Spring issue explains why). However, the flavor profile of this whiskey—a bourbon finished in port barrels—clearly appeals to bourbon drinkers. We’ve decided to group these “finished bourbons” with traditional bourbon in the Buying Guide for that reason.
Not all of these finished whiskies are bourbons, but they all bear a noteworthy final touch. Brush up on the different types of finishes using our guide and grab one of these whiskies to taste the effect for yourself.
From Maple to Mizunara, These Finishes Add Flair
Teeling Chestnut Cask-Finished Single Cask Irish Single Malt (No. 29555)—92 points, $100
Teeling has cleverly exploited Ireland’s whiskey regulations that specify maturation in wooden casks, not just oak, to release the first chestnut-cask Irish whiskey in the U.S. Crushed cloves, wet rocks, mint chocolate, vanilla seeds, dark roast coffee beans, Brazil nut, and antique leather on the nose. Partaking unshackles gingerbread, treacle, clove, black coffee, black fruits, and plain chocolate. Dark, gothic whiskey from a shadowy part of the warehouse to devour at midnight. (846 bottles for U.S.) —Jonny McCormick
Kaiyo The Sheri Mizunara Oak Finished Japanase Whisky (First Edition)—91 points, $129
Don’t get me wrong, this is delicious, but while the mizunara oak subtleties cannot match the intensity of the sherry influence on the nose, its flavor contribution to this multidimensional whisky is rather wonderful. Strawberry, sherry, fig, prune, and nuts on the nose and palate, enriched with fragrant spices, millionaire’s shortbread, vanilla tablet, base notes of pepper, and a finish of sherry, fig, and spice. —Jonny McCormick
Manatawny Still Works Small Batch Port Barrel-Finished American Whiskey (Batch 19)—91 points, $45
Made with a mashbill of malted barley, malted wheat, oats, and rye, aged in new charred oak, and finished in a port-style wine cask. The result of this complex recipe is an equally complex sensory experience, with tropical and candied fruit on the nose, including dried mango slices, pineapple chunks, raspberry and blackberry jelly candies, and grape jam, as well as matcha, rose petals, and dark chocolate. Floral flavors run almost to soapy, but are tempered by cedar, layered spice, nuts, chocolate, and tobacco. A lovely finish, with persistent dark fruit, spices, and lengthy bitter-sweetness. —Susannah Skiver Barton
Heaven’s Door 26 year old Mizunara Cask-Finished Canadian Whisky (Bootleg Series Vol. 1)— 89 points, $500
The nose is minty and herbal, with a fragrant note of potpourri. It’s powerful on the palate, with honey, coconut shavings, vanilla frosting, and spice. Lots of robust age on this one, with a finish that offers almonds, dark chocolate, vanilla cream, oak char, and good length. The barrel influence is strong, as would be expected from a whiskey of this age, but is restrained enough to let the flavors emerge. —David Fleming
Dogfish Head Alternate Takes Vol. 2: Palo Santo Marron Ale Cask-Finished American Single Malt—88 points, $50
The nose is herbal, with notes of bitter lime, lemon peel, hops, peppermint, green apple, and hints of salinity. The mouthfeel is smooth, with flavors of honey, chocolate cake, and cinnamon, plus notes of lemon blossom, confectioners’ sugar, and baking spice. A long finish offers vanilla cream and crackling bitter herbs. Light and fruity—sometimes almost tropical—with a grip of appealing spice on the finish. (6,000 bottles) —David Fleming
Templeton Maple Cask-Finished Rye—88 points, $35
A pleasant, honeyed nose of brown sugar, lemon peel, candied clementine, cherry hard candy, and light notes of herbs. The palate is liltingly sweet with an overlay of spice, as well as flavors of orange peel and marmalade. Water brings out notes of vanilla wafer, orange, spice, licorice, and black pepper. The finish is spicy but sweet, with hints of candied orange and vanilla cream, all punctuated by a spice-note finale. (24,000 bottles) —David Fleming
FEW Alice in Chains All Secrets Known Tequila Barrel-Finished Bourbon (Batch 19H19)—87 points, $75
A fragrant, mellow nose of vanilla cream and root beer, with hints of lime, wood char, and oak. The palate offers racy red fruit, berry skins, desert herbs, chocolate, licorice, and oak tannins, with a minty, peppery note. The finish presents a new round of dry oak, peanuts, rich chocolate, cracked pepper, cedar, and red fruit. The tequila-barrel finishing creates an almost rye-like spiciness in this unusual, creative offering. (900 bottles) —David Fleming
Middle West Spirits 5 year old OYO Double Cask Sherry Cask-Finished Bourbon (Batch 11)—87 points, $70
Delicate and dessert-like on the nose: pistachio and vanilla rice pudding, milk chocolate, cherry pie filling, grape soda, honey-roasted peanuts, and iced tea. Naturally, it’s very sweet and almost syrupy at times, with powdered sugar, orange, cherry, rose water, milk chocolate, and cinnamon; the mouthfeel is silky, bordering on light. It finishes simply, with milk chocolate, candied nuts, and vanilla. —Susannah Skiver Barton