Whether from Scotland or America, whiskeys finished in wine barrels are old news by now. Nevertheless, I was curious how an American straight rye would act in a wine barrel. I contacted America’s greatest dessert wine maker, in Napa Valley, for some help with the barrels. This wine maker's top quality French oak barrels, inflected with their splendiferous botrytized dessert wine, conferred a terrific amount of flavor to my single barrel of rye, yet the whiskey charges through with its signature spice notes.
Rye 'n Barrel Tasting Notes
Well, here it is at last, over 18 months in the making: the first of my experiments in American whiskey. It's a Buffalo Trace rye whiskey i.e. Sazerac, seasoned in a French oak barrel from Napa Valley’s top producer of botrytized dessert wine. At 122 proof, so as to be bottled unfiltered. If you drink it straight up, you will not be punished, as the whiskey, while strong, is also admirably controlled, composed and quite expressive, finishing with wine barrel notes and late spice. Added water brings an off-dry entry that quickly turns to interplay between rye spice and wine barrel notes. The French oak botrytized wine barrel gives waves of melon, grapefruit, orange, pear, while the rye pushes back with lifted, airy, clove candy spice. The finish moves from wine to rye, as these two elements jockey for position, a back-and-forth that pretty much defines this whiskey.