One of the trends that’s been picking up over the last few years in the Scotch whisky world, especially single malts, is a diversification of casks used for the maturation of whisky spirit.
While used American bourbon casks remain the mainstay of the industry, with sherry casks (or ‘sherry seasoned’ casks) also often being used, other casks are also now squeezing their way into the whisky market. Casks that held port, rum, Cognac, and fortified wine are all now being used, amongst others.
This also includes an includes a wide variety of 'regular' unfortified wines. With so much wine being produced around the world, it makes sense to secure a steady supply of casks from vineyards that can be used to help create new and unusual whiskies. Using wine casks, both red and white, in whisky is still far from common. A lack of a regular large supply of casks also means that so far, most wine releases are limited editions of some kind.
So the whiskies listed here comprise most of the wine-matured whiskies that you can still find fairly easily or have been released in larger quantities, either online or in shops. There’s not too many! The prices I’ve listed here come from a variety of sources, but you might be able to find a better deal. Keep an eye out for other harder-to-find bottles that might make their way over to your neighborhood as well.
Here they are in alphabetical order.
Bunnahabhain Eirigh Na Greine
It used to be easily available in airports (it was originally released for the travel retail market) but it’s a tricky find these days. Partly aged in French red wine casks, this no age statement (NAS) whisky is a fruity delight. The price may seem high for a young whisky but keep in mind that this is usually found in full liter bottles, as opposed to the usual 70 cl. It’s won a few awards too. ($96)
Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition
This is a great whisky, usually bottled at 11 or 12 years old, it varies over the years. Finished in Moscatel wine casks, Caol Ila’s usual gentle but firm smoke, oily saltiness, and malty goodness is complimented by the citrusy sweetness. A very rare example of muscatel wine being used in whisky. (Price varies)
Cotswolds Single Malt
An English whisky has snuck into this Scotch list. The first whisky ever distilled in the Cotswolds in England, the Cotswolds Single Malt uses locally grown barley malted on site (a true rarity in the whisky world). Matured in both first fill bourbon and reconditioned red wine casks that have been shaved, toasted, and recharred. It’s one of the most exciting releases to come out of England so far, and manages to balance a host of lovely gentle flavors, including vanilla and bread dough, around a truly citrusy core. ($62)
Glenfiddich 19 Year Old Age of Discovery Red Wine Cask
Part of Glenfiddich’s Age of Discovery travel retail series, this particular release (the third one in the bunch) honors the 1831 voyage of the HMS Beagle’s trip to South America. As a result, the red wine casks used as part of the secondary maturation of the whisky come from South America as well. Unfortunately, I’ve never actually had the chance to try this one though it gets good reviews and is noted as ‘rich, warm, and spicy’ on The Whisky Exchange. ($196)
Glen Moray 10 year old Chardonnay Matured
I’ve been happily banging the drum about this incredible budget-friendly whisky for a while. It seems it might be discontinued soon, so get a bottle or few while they are still relatively easy to find. Aged entirely in ex-chardonnay casks (the only whisky to my knowledge that has done so, definitely the only one that has been in a distillery’s core range), it’s nippy and delightfully fruity. ($40)
The last of the Islay distillery’s limited edition releases of 2018, most of the 10,000 bottles for this barbecued fruit beauty sold quite quickly though there’s still a few places where you can find it. Initially matured in the usual bourbon casks, the whisky spends its final 5 months in Sauternes wine casks and is bottled at a stronger-than-usual 50% ABV. A great mix of smoke, salt, and tangy fruit, it’s certainly a unique tipple. ($100)
Raasay While We Wait 2018 Edition
I reviewed this one not too long ago. Though it bears the imprint of the new Raasay distillery from the remote isle of Raasay, this whisky actually is made in Loch Lomond (a great distillery) while Raasay ages its stock. Two Loch Lomond expressions, peated and unpeated, are made and then mixed together, aged in bourbon for a time before finished in Tuscan red wine casks, sourced from three vineyars that produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This is the 4thedition of While We Wait, and I highly approve of its taste combining oranges, wine gums, and bacon. However, the best version of it, in my opinion, is the 1st edition. ($70)